Director Doug Liman presented a special preview screening of extensive footage from his new science fiction epic Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is based on the cult classic book All You Need Is Kill and follows one soldier’s quest to win a war against an alien invasion after he discovers an amazing ability t be reincarnated on the eve of battle every time he dies.
Q. You’ve made eclectic films in the past, but what was it about this story that you wanted to explore?
It’s so rare these days to find a film that both fulfils a big studio appetite and at the same time is wholly original. You tend to see a lot of very big movies but it feel like you’ve seen it before, usually because you have! Or you see eclectic and original movies but they’re much smaller. Occasionally a project comes along that has the scope of Edge of Tomorrow but at the same time is 100% original.
I live in New York I don’t live in Hollywood and I hang out with a more eclectic artsy crowd. It’s the kind of crowd who I’m going to talk more about Emily Blunt when I’m pushing the film. They’re a snooty artsy crowd so otherwise they’d be like you’re doing what? There’s time travel and aliens? They’re very judgmental.
I was at a party in Williamsberg over Christmas and this woman was like “Oh Tom Cruise.. Emily Blunt.. Big Hollywood Movie… I bet they live happily ever after at the end of the film even though he’s so much older than her”. I told her how the film actually goes and this woman’s jaw just dropped. People just expect such a formulaic thing from Hollywood so when you have the opportunity to break the mould you should.
I’m in a really unique place because when I got my first studio film in Bourne Identity I was so terrified of selling out I was deliberately trying to b as contrary as I could at every stage. I was changing things for no other reason than because other people had done it before a certain way. I went into the film determined it wasn’t going to be like other movies. Even though I didn’t know what it was going to actually be like. Many stories have been written about the turmoil on set but the end result was because of me saying I’m not going to make a cookie cutter movie and fighting the studio along every step of the way. It ended up with a film I was especially proud of and spawned a whole franchise. So it put me in a unique place where people expect me to break the mould a bit.
With a project like Edge of Tomorrow everybody wanted me to change it up. There was no pressure from Warner Bros to make this look like a standard studio film. They wanted to do something fresh and occasionally I’d pitch them an idea and they’d tell me it wasn’t ‘Doug Liman enough’. They meant that when people think of me they expect something more contrary and maybe a bit more rebellious.
I didn’t plan it but I’m in this really unique place where the people around me push me to try and shake it up and do something you haven’t seen before.
Q. Tell us about the tone of the film and how it balances real laughs with a lot of sci-fi action and war drama?
Everyone knows that Emily Blunt is a great comedic actress but Tom is a truly brilliant comedic actor. He’s really the gutsiest most courageous actor I’ve ever worked with. He will try anything. He’s made so many films, but it’s not like working with someone like Brad Pitt who often makes films that mass audiences don’t always see. It’s unusual for Brad Pitt to do a big commercial movie like Mr & Mrs Smith, a lot of the time he chooses artsy stuff. But with Tom the world has seen every single movie he’s ever done. So with Tom needs to find the opportunity to play a character he hasn’t played before and be a Tom Cruise you haven’t seen before.
Tom is a total coward in this movie not just in the beginning but all the way through. He doesn’t just become a hero. He squeals so many times throughout the movie, though he does have an amazing squeal! Other movie stars in my experience would be more hesitant about being that vulnerable.
We have something for everybody because if you love Tom Cruise this is Tom giving a genius performance and if you hate Tom Cruise he dies like 200 times in the movie!
Q. What was the first Tom Cruise film you ever saw and what excited you about him as an actor?
I’ve seen every film Tom has ever done, but maybe Risky Business may have been the first one I saw. He is a true movie star. You go on the journey with him whatever happens. You’re in his shoes and care about him. He’s s ridiculously charming, not just on screen but in real life. He’s just gusty, not just in the way he’ll hang off of tall buildings, but he’ll be emotionally gutsy in trying something he’s never done before. He’s not just doing the same character over and over again. I’ve always love him from afar.
People in the film business always have to say nice things about people they work with. But you’ll never find anyone who has worked with Tom who doesn’t rave about him. He was extraordinary. The level of excellence he brings to set and expects everyone else to bring was inspiring. He’s so hard working and we shot seven days a week because we wanted to make a film that was bigger than the budget could afford.
I suggested we shot seven days a week and used two crews to get an extra 20 days of shooting in and Tom agreed to it. I remember at one point early off in the shoot I heard Tom talking to the producers about having one day off early in November. I finally realised was not a week day off, just one day off sometime in the whole month of November because he had something else he needed to do. Other than that one day we shot the entire month!
Q. What made Emily Blunt such an important part of the project?
She was really my partner in this because Tom and I working together is a little bit like a Reece’s peanut butter cup it’s the peanut butter and the chocolate meeting. Tom comes from mainstream global box offices, while I come from a place where I care much more about this niche audience and more intelligentsia types. He cares more about making sure a mainstream audience gets it. Emily was my partner because she comes from the same place so she gets me. It was an amazing partnership and collaboration because I think what we’ve accomplished is something that appeals to Tom’s traditional audience but allows me to hold my head high when my friends in Brooklyn see it.
Q. The film was originally expected to be called All You Need Is Kill can you tell us why it changed to Edge of Tomorrow?
We never actually called it All You Need Is Kill, we called it AYNIK on set in the course of making the film. All You Need Is Kill was the title of the original Japanese novel the film is based on but it has nothing to do with the movie at all. Right from the beginning I knew we were obviously not going to call the movie that. Titles changes are always tough and it’s always better if you have the title before you start. But in this case we also were finding the tone of the film as we went along.
I genuinely believe in humour. I come from a Jewish family and among my relatives I find we bring humour to some of the darkest moments. But I didn’t know that Tom was going to be as funny as he was in the course of making this film so the tone of the film didn’t get defined until we started shooting it. Once we found that tone All You Need Is Kill was way too dark for a film that has a huge amount of humour all the way through. The film is not a comedy but in absurd moments I believe in characters that turn to it.