Wong Kar Wai on his ambitions for My Blueberry Nights: "The main thing is the challenge for this film, because it is in English, which is not my language. All through the years we have seen a lot of films made about Chinese by foreign film directors, and sometimes it looks very embarrassing. Because a lot of these Chinese characters have been distorted and are too exotic. I always wanted to make a film in another language but I want to avoid these problems. So when I was working on this film, I always asked Norah, Jude and all the crew sometimes some questions, which may seem kind of silly, but I had to make sure, because a kiss means different things for Chinese characters than for Western characters. There’s a subtle undertone, which I have to make sure of, because I want to do justice to America, to the characters. I believe there’s something we can all share even though we are from different races, different countries, different cultures; but some emotions can be shared beyond the language."
Jude Law on working with Wong Kar Wai: "Most of the conversations that Kar Wai and I had were about rhythm and pace. We were talking earlier that it was as if we were tuning an instrument between our different languages. The voices of Norah and I, it was like a duet when we were together, to have an ear that wasn’t always necessarily listening to the language in any other way than the rhythm or tone... And his process is so freeing for actors anyway. I felt so much of his invention... You may go 3-4 days and get a handle on the character and know where he or she is going, and then he’ll decide it needs a spice of this. We were into the film about four, five days when I felt I was really getting an idea of this peaceful, calm guy, and then Kar Wai decides that in the scene I would beat these guys up… It suddenly threw in the idea that we are impulsive animals, and that took the character down a whole different path."
Wong Kar Wai on the genesis of the film: "In fact, it’s true; the story of My Blueberry Nights is from the short film that I made, a 6-minute short film, which was supposed to be part of In the Mood for Love. I like the story a lot, so instead of remaking it, it’s almost like an extension. And one of the reasons I wanted to make the film in the United States at that point is because I wanted to work with Norah, and this is a very good story for Norah. I thought it interesting to do it in English and shoot in New York because she plays in New York, and because of her schedule at that time. So I took it as the starting point and we developed the story, which is quite different, because the short film is basically only the first chapter of the film… From the diner we go to Memphis, and then across the country… It’s not a road movie, it’s not about journey; it’s about destiny."
Norah Jones on her film debut: "I was not planning on making any kind of acting debut. He knocked on my door, out of the blue, I thought I’m not an actress and I’m on tour. And then I got off tour and I finally watched one of his films for the first time. I watched In the Mood for Love. I thought that it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. So I thought, 'Let’s have lunch, maybe he wants my music.' And he says, 'Do you want to be in a movie?' 'OK, you’re amazing.' For some reason I just had a blind trust… I just kind of jumped in and thought we’ll figure it out later."
Jude Law on working with Wong Kar Wai: "It was a huge learning experience for me, because even on the films I’ve worked on where there has been an element of improvisation or personal input, it really felt on this that a lot of the rules that perhaps we get used to applying to filmmaking were thrown out the window. It felt very, very free. You were ready to go to work not knowing what was going to happen, and that doesn’t become scary, that becomes really challenging and very exciting. You know that whatever happens, it’s going to be true, and creative, and it’s going to be right, eventually… A film is about collaboration. Everyone’s there to make the end product look and sound and feel as good as possible."
Norah Jones on working with Wong Kar Wai: "I don’t know any difference. This is the only way I know how to make a film, so I thought it was kind of funny, because I was in almost the entire film, so I would get to work with all of these great actors one on one, which was pretty amazing for me. As each actor came in for the first day, as we went on in the film, I felt more comfortable in the process."
On the music chosen for My Blueberry Nights:
"Nora Jones: "Before we started filming, before I even knew a lot about the story, he took a lot of pictures on the road of locations he wanted to use, and he gave me all those pictures,
and he asked me to pick the music that matched the mood of the pictures."
Wong Kar Wai: "At the very beginning, we decided we wanted everybody to look at the film and perceive Norah as an actor. Our understanding was that I wouldn’t put any of her songs in the film, because when you look at the film, you go into the characters and I didn’t want to remind the audience. I think her performance is strong enough to be seen as an actress."
Photo Copyright AFP