Director Tony Kaye talks about New Film “Detachment”

Multi-award nominated video director Tony Kaye, who has worked with such artists as Soul Asylum, Roger Waters and the late Johnny Cash, made a big splash with his first feature film, “American History X.” The film, about a white supremist gang member trying to keep his younger brother from following in his footsteps, featured Edward Norton in an Oscar nominated performance. The studio, New Line Cinema, asked Kaye to re-cut his original version, which he did. Unsatisfied, a third edit was done without Kaye’s approval. Outraged he asked the studio to remove his name from the credits and replace it with Alan Smithee, a common pseudonym for directors whose film was taken away from them and re-cut against their wishes. The name has appeared on such films as “Hellraiser: Bloodline” (directed by Kevin Yagher), “Catchfire” (directed by Dennis Hopper) and the television film “Riviera,” which was directed by the great John Frankemheimer. When the studio refused he asked that his credit be listed as “Humpty Dumpty.”

Despite the controversy, Kaye is still a talented and much sought after director. He has earned six Grammy award nominations for his video work, winning the award in 2006 for his video of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” His second feature, an abortion documentary entitled “Lake of Fire,” was praised by critics and named to the short list (Best 15) of documentaries by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His third and most recent film, “Detachment,” recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, again to high praise. During a long day promoting the film Mr. Kaye took the time to sit down with Media Mikes to talk about art, working with his daughter and the meaning of life!

Mike Smith: How has your day been?
Tony Kaye: Quite hectic, thank you. But I enjoy these different experiences in speaking about my work.

MS: “Detachment” is a very deep and dark film. How did you become attached to the project?
TK: I’ve always had an interest in being a teacher…maybe art school or film school or something. I’m very interested in social issues. So when my agent sent me the script and I saw what it was about I was immediately intrigued. It was really the wonderful writing of Carl Lund…it was so good that I wished I had written it. I felt it would give me a wonderful opportunity to get some great actors and some great performances.

MS: The film features some of Adrien Brody’s best work. How did you attract him to the film?
TK: Adrien’s father has been a public high school teacher for 30 years. And he reads a lot of the scripts that are sent to Adrien. And he said, “son, you have to do this one!” (laughs) It was really an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve got a teacher that wrote the movie and then I get the son of a teacher as the star of the movie. Plus I had the opportunity to cast an Oscar winning movie star. Adrien is such a cool guy and he brought that dynamic to the set. All of the other actors were saying, “well, Adrien seems to be listening to Tony so I might as well do the same!”

MS: Speaking of the other actors, you have a great supporting cast, including James Caan, Blythe Danner and Marcia Gay Harden. Were you involved in the casting? Were you able to pick and choose the actors you thought best for the roles?
TK: When you have a script that’s as good as the one Carl wrote it’s very easy…it’s certainly not difficult…for great actors to want to give their time.

MS: The animation sequences in the film are quite original. How did you come about the decision to include it?
TK: The idea of the animation came to me during editing. I wanted the school to be a character. I wanted the school to talk. And the way I thought it could talk would be if the blackboard became animated. And there was no texting in the movie…there was no “smart” board. There was a blackboard. There are no computers…in fact the teachers don’t have lap tops, they write in composition books.

MS: The film also features the screen debut of Ms. Betty Kaye, your daughter. What was the experience like, directing her?
TK: It was an incredible gift and opportunity for a father that’s a director to actually work with his oldest daughter on her first film. It was an incredibly challenging role for her and she’s so brave. It makes me cry…I weep…and I’ve seen the movie fifty times! And I still cry when I see what she’s exposed herself to. Really unbelievable. She’s a great artist and she’s finishing her education now at University. I should add that I had every intention of not giving her the role if she wasn’t the best. I saw a couple hundred girls for that role and she really was the best. I gave her the script two or three years before we made the film so she really knew the movie. She really knew that character from every single angle.

MS: You have a book coming out titled “Epicomedy.” Tell us a little bit about that project.
TK: I was originally an art student…I had to study filmmaking when I was in college. My initial calling was to pain. I’ve been painting all my life. I did a couple of conceptual shows in the late 1980s. I’m doing a book…a couple books…which will include all of my scribbling and paintings and things.

MS: IMDB lists your next project as “Attachment.” Any similarities in that film and this one or just in the titles?
TK: Well, nothing is an accident, you know? I believe that everything is predestined…worked out…in your life. But yet your choices are what your choices are. And it’s up to us how we deal with them….re-actively or proactively. Hopefully not re-actively, as I’ve learned in my own life. There is a similarity in the underlying theme. I didn’t write “Attachment.” I actually thought it was a joke when it was sent to me. The underlying theme of both movies is love. And that love beats death. So there is an underlying theme, but it’s buried eight million miles deep!

Tribeca Film Acquires US Rights to Tony Kaye’s Detachment”

Photo Credit - Tony Kaye



Provocative Drama Features A Stellar Lead Performance From Adrien Brody, Anchoring An Ensemble Cast That Includes James Caan, Bryan Cranston, Blythe Danner, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, William Peterson, Betty Kaye and Sami Gayle


“Brody delivers his finest performance since ‘The Pianist’… an award-caliber turn.”

–        The Hollywood Reporter

“A wrenching and powerful achievement… tremendous cast I was swept along by the spectacular visual journey.”

New York, NY – September 8, 2011 – Tribeca Film announced today that it has acquired all US distribution rights, including theatrical, VOD, digital, TV and DVD, to Detachment, a vivid and compelling ensemble drama from acclaimed Director Tony Kaye (American History X, Lake of Fire) that had its World Premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca Film, supported by Founding Partner American Express, plans a 2012 release via a multi-city theatrical engagement, running day-and-date with nationwide VOD and digital distribution, followed by DVD, pay-TV, and a range of other platforms.

In Director Tony Kaye’s Detachment, Academy Award® winner Adrien Brody stars as Henry Barthes, an educator with a true talent to connect with his students. Yet Henry has chosen to bury his gift. By spending his days as a substitute teacher, he conveniently avoids any emotional connections by never staying anywhere long enough to form an attachment to either students or colleagues. When a new assignment places him at a public school where a frustrated, burned-out administration has created an apathetic student body, Henry soon becomes a role model to the disaffected youth. In finding an unlikely emotional connection to the students, teachers, and a runaway teen he takes in from the streets, Henry realizes that he’s not alone in his life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world.

Kaye, molding a contemporary vision of people who become increasingly distant from others while still feeling the need to connect, directs a stellar ensemble cast from a script by Carl Lund.  Anchored by an award-worthy performance from Brody, Detachment also features memorable roles by Christina Hendricks, Academy® Award nominee James Caan, Academy® Award winner Marcia Gay Harden, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, Bryan Cranston, William Petersen and newcomers Betty Kaye and Sami Gayle.

“I was personally drawn to make the movie because I wanted to take the character of Henry Barthes and make him universal, make him all of us, and learn myself from that journey. He is the baton in a relay race, an infinite piece of clay to sculpt, a human being formed out of pain and sent to the masses to teach in the education system. Our purpose in being born is to learn and teach, and to be happy,” Kaye said. “Looking at the ever changing landscape of film distribution, I think the Tribeca Film team is perfectly positioned to shepherd Detachment into this new exciting era.”

Detachment is a singular experience. Tony Kaye combines a range of filmmaking techniques, terrific ensemble acting and a wonderful lead performance by Adrien Brody,” said Geoffrey Gilmore, Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises. “The film truly demands to be seen; we look forward to bringing it to a wider audience through Tribeca Film.”

Detachment is produced by Paper Street Films’ Austin Stark, Benji Kohn, Chris Papavasiliou and Bingo Gubelmann, Kingsgate Films’ Greg Shapiro, and Carl Lund. It is executive produced by Brody, Peter Sterling and Andre Laport. Marco Frigeri is co-executive producer.

The US distribution deal was negotiated by Nick Savva and Randy Manis for Tribeca Film, and International Creative Management, which also represents Kaye.

Celluloid Dreams has recently acquired all worldwide sales rights. Mongrel Media has acquired the Canadian rights and will distribute the film in 2012.  Pretty Pictures has taken the French rights and is planning a winter 2012 release.  Detachment can next be seen at the 37th Deauville Festival.

About Tribeca Film:

Tribeca Film is a comprehensive distribution label dedicated to acquiring and marketing independent films across multiple platforms, including video-on-demand, theatrical, digital, home video and television.  It is an initiative from Tribeca Enterprises designed to provide new platforms for how film can be experienced, while supporting filmmakers and introducing audiences to films they might not otherwise see. American Express continues its support of Tribeca and the independent film community by serving as the Founding Partner of Tribeca Film.


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Q: Now on the third “Twilight” movie, you’ve worked with three different directors, what have been the pluses or minuses for that change each time?
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A: Kind of, I definitely was thinking in “Eclipse”, what is the consistency from the previous two. But also you think how to improve your performance. The look of the character. The way they move. You normally do not have opportunities to do that. It is always the same cast, so you can bring your experience from the last film in the new film. It is not an entirely new set of circumstances.

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Q: The tent scene has everyone talking. Was that a tough scene to do?
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Interview with Tate Ellington

Tate Ellington co-starred in this spring’s drama “Remember Me” opposite Robert Pattinson (“Twilight Saga”) and Emilie de Ravin (“Lost”). Movie Mikes had the chance to talk to Tate about his role in “Remember Me”, what it was like working with his cast and what’s in store for the future.

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Mike Gencarelli: What did you first think when you were going to audition for “Remember Me”?
Tate Ellington: I wasn’t aware of what the project was at first. I didn’t know it was a studio picture. I went in and didn’t feel I was right for it at first. I said “There is no way, they are going to cast me in this”. A few days later, they told me I did well but they were going to go to LA to look more and they would let me know. I said to myself that they are never going to call again. So a month goes by and they called and said the director wants to meet you. When I met Allen (Coulter), I thought i did awful. I left the room and thought this is definitely done now. I get another call a few days later and they wanted me to meet Rob (Pattinson). I never thought originally it was going to lead to me getting the job but it ended up being great.

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to the role of Aidan Hall?
Tate Ellington: I only had a chance to read half of the script before I had gone in. I liked the guy but normally I am really shy. So I had to make myself chat a lot and not be shy. I knew Aidan was suppose to be there for some laughs and keep things a little more lighthearted when needed. But also whenever he was needed to be serious and really show his sincerity and that he can be there. That is what drew to the character. I think he actually has a huge part. He cares a lot for Tyler (Pattinson), he will do anything for him. Also Tyler family is also like Aidan’s adopted family and he loves them without contingent too. Even Emilie de Ravin’s character Ally, was the same way. Once Aidan realizes Tyler was in love with her, then my character was like well she is my best friend too then. That is what I really like about him. He is like a puppy dog and is very loyal to whomever he loves.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it like working with Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin?
Tate Ellington: Yeah it was a blast. When I first officially found out I would be meeting Rob for screen tests, I was a little nervous. I hoped that he would be nice. Rob from the get-go was just as nice as can be. He is a very humble nice and sweet guy. He made me laugh and automatically I was knew this guy was going to be great. Same way with Emilie, during rehearsals before we started shooting it was me, her and Rob in a room and we all hit it off. We were all throwing out jokes. Emilie was hilarious. If I able to laugh with somebody they we are set. Every time getting to hang out with them on set was a blast. I looked forward to going to work everyday.

MG: The burning question, are you a “Twilight Saga” fan?
TE: When I found out a had a job, I hadn’t reach the books or seen the movies yet. I didn’t want to have any preconceived notations. I didn’t want to hate it and then lie to Rob and be like “Yeah you were great in that”. I was dating a girl way before this and she was a fan of the books. One afternoon I was given a synopsis of every single thing about all four books. I knew everything about it to some degree but I made sure not to watch the movies. Actually after we finished filming, I rented it and actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was really good. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel, but I really liked it.

MG: I am sure your set was swamped everyday with “Twilight” fans, did you find that difficult to focus?
TE: Initially getting there the first day of shooting, I was like “Whoa man, this is insane!”. But I got used to it really quick. I was more worried about getting fired after the first day. We did the first take and after that it was all fine. We would see some of the same fans who were waiting and it actually was nice. We always felt like we had people around, like going to Grandma’s. I remember one shot we did, the crowd moved around the corner and we couldn’t see them till we came around. Once we came around, it was like a mass of people screaming. It was dead silence till we crossed the corner and then it was just insanity.

MG: Tell me about your film “The Elephant King”?
TE: That was my first paying movie gig. It was still one of the best times in my life. We got to shoot in Thailand for for six or seven weeks. The director, Seth Grossman and I are actually still as close as can be. We also get together if I am in LA or he is in NY. Thailand was absolutely amazing. Plus I also got to work with one of my favorite actresses Ellen Burstyn. I found out she was in it and I was like “Ok, let’s do this”. I am very critical of what I do but I think I did ok on that role. I am really happy and proud of that one.

MG: Ok so whats’s next? Can you tell us about “Silver Tongues”?
TE: Right now, they are just finishing up that movie. I am maybe in the first ten minutes at most. A couple good scenes in there though. It is just great. I got to work with Lee Tergesen, who is just one of the nicest guys ever. I just finished up another thing, right now it is called “New York”. I have no idea if that will be changed or not. Then I had like two scenes in a movie called “Breaking Upwards”, which I think is currently showing at the IFC Center in NYC and it should be on DVD soon. I am barely in it for 10 seconds but it is one of those movies I would recommend to anybody. The guys did it on a shoestring budget and it turned out amazing. I have to go to LA next week, but I can’t say for what but it is a nice TV show and we will see if that works out.

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