Rock Daily has brought you exclusive photos from the set of the Ian Curtis biopic Control and a report on the fim’s screening at the Toronto Film Festival — now we’re back with a Q&A with the movie’s director, famed photographer and music-video director Anton Corbjin. Control, Corbijn’s debut feature film, opens in New York on October 10th and in L.A. the following week.
What was your impression of Ian when you first photographed him?
He was somebody who kept a bit to himself, I thought, but very friendly, and the second time I met him he was a bit more distant, but that was very close to his suicide. I didn’t speak English very well then and of course I had a bit of an accent, so we didn’t have lots of conversation. The photographs I took of [Joy Division] at the time suggested I had a very deep relationship with him because the picture has its own life, they become synonymous with the music that people think I live with them. Photography, beautiful photography, quite often, can be taken in a short period of time and the first session was ten minutes and has lived on forever.
What’s the film’s appeal for the person not familiar with Joy Division?
It’s not a music film. That was not really my goal, to make it relevant to anybody in that sense. It’s a film about a boy; it’s a dramatic loss story and you go with him from the age of seventeen to twenty-three. He happens to become the singer of Joy Division, so Joy Division plays a part of the film. And Joy Division music is quite simple music, but it’s very hauntingly beautiful and it’s quite timeless, so if you like music, I think you’ll come away with a lot of the band. I seriously believe that because they were era-defining but they’re not specific for an era or to that era in another sense, they don’t sound like the Seventies; they don’t sound like the Eighties; they sound like now. They sound very modern and quite simple, straightforward music, but incredible, beautiful melodies underneath and poetry that I don’t think we’ve seen the equivalent of in the last decade.
There’s a great sadness watching the film, especially towards the end.
That’s the beauty of some of the acting. It’s so believable. The end scenes are very strong and very beautiful. There’s also the reason why over the credits I put on a poppy version of “Shadow Play” that The Killers had made for the film, because it helps you lift the mood a bit.
Can you talk a little about the actors and how they handled learning Joy Division music?
Sam Riley [who plays Curtis] is a musician, dropped by Warner Bros. a few years ago, and was a barman and folding shirts and was still trying to make music, and he felt it was in a no-hope kind of job and he decided to try acting again, which is what he had done in his teenage years a bit. I didn’t cast him as a musician. I cast him as a person. I never thought that I would be able to get [Joy Divison’s music] re-created, so I never aimed for that. But then the actors I found, they were such stubborn bastards that they insisted on doing it for real which was amazing. I can’t believe that I found actors that really went for it [laughs] because I asked them to learn it so that they looked believable for playback. But they rehearsed every single day, even on weekends, and they just went for it. They pleaded with me to do it live and, of course, they did, and thank God they did, and thank God I gave in because it made the film a lot stronger.
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