Wednesday, October 26, 2016
  • Monday, Jun. 6, 2016
Michael Grandage's "Genius" Marks His Feature Directorial Debut
In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo, director Michael Grandage speaks during a press conference for his film, "Genius," at the 2016 Berlinale Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt, File)
Noted theater director hits the big screen with cast including Jude Law, Colin Firth, Laura Linney and Nicole Kidman
  • --

Michael Grandage, the noted theater director, has made his first movie. And it's about another world of the arts entirely — books.

"Genius" is a biopic about literary editor Max Perkins and his client Thomas Wolfe, who wrote "Look Homeward, Angel" and "Of Time and the River." The screenwriter is John Logan, the playwright of "Red."

Grandage has enlisted some big stars with his debut: Jude Law plays Wolfe and Colin Firth portrays the man with the red pencil. The cast also includes Laura Linney, Nicole Kidman, Dominic West and Guy Pearce.

Grandage, who led the Donmar Warehouse and has directed such plays as "The Cripple of Inishmaan" and "Frost/Nixon" on Broadway, told The Associated Press about which director he most stole from and what secrets he put in the film.

Q: This film is a valentine to an unlikely sort of hero — book editors.

Grandage: Yes. I see it every morning. You get on the subway and you see someone reading a book or you pass a park bench and see someone reading a book and you know that most read the book and don't ever consider the process behind the book they're reading. They don't need to, either, but I would love it if this film made someone who opens their next novel to consider the blood, sweat and toil that's gone into it.

Q: Do you read things with an eye for stage or film?

Grandage: Even when I'm reading a stage play or a novel, I read and think visually. Pictures and images accompany everything that I read. When I'm reading a play, I'm not just following the narrative and working out whether I'm enjoying it or not. Part of my enjoyment will be working out whether I would actually enjoy staging it.

Q: Did you borrow much from other directors you admire?

Grandage: I think we all, as directors, spend our lives stealing and we hope we steal the best and then make it our own. And then somebody else comes along and steals that idea and then makes it their own.

Q: Anyone in particular you watched closely?

Grandage: The cinematographer Gordon Willis. He worked with a number of great filmmakers, most obviously on 'The Godfather' movies. Whoever the great director is, whenever they use Gordon Willis, he always puts a camera where you would like to be.

Q: How did you get ready to film?

Grandage: I did know that it would involve a lot of preparation, including visiting film sets of colleagues and going into editing rooms of other people and learning the language of filmmaking. It was film school training but condensed into about a year.

Q: Did you also binge-watch films?

Grandage: I've always been a great film fanatic but, of course, when you know you're making your first film, you become even more fanatical. I went from watching perhaps two films a week to watching a film every day.

Q: Have you hidden anything special in your film?

Grandage: I have my friends in the background in non-speaking parts. Literally, in every part of the movie, the camera just glimpses — for me — a colleague, a friend, a collaborator, somebody I've worked with, somebody I've loved. Somebody. There's always something there.

Q: Did you make a cameo yourself?

Grandage: No. I didn't put myself in it. I thought that was too much. That's why I've put all my friends in it instead.