Elizabeth, The Golden Age: Shekhar Kapur Interview
We caught up with director Shekhar Kapur to get the low-down on the sequel to his critically acclaimed 1998 film Elizabeth. After an almost 10 year gap, Kapur is reunited with Cate Blanchett, whose Oscar nominated performances in both pictures shine. Kapur gave us the inside track on the troubles of persuading Blanchett to reprise the role, Elizabeth's similarity to Princess Diana and why cinema is most definitely not dead.
LOVEFiLM: Were you always going to go back to Elizabeth at a later date?
Shekhar Kapur: The film is about what happens if you become an icon, and what the consequences are. That was the reason for writing the film. She's not only a virgin queen, she's human. The whole idea of this film is how you become an icon in your own life. It happened to [Princess] Diana.
Diana became an icon and myth. She became her only invention. People started to see Diana with divinity. That false sense of divinity. Then they followed her and they killed her. The same was happening to Elizabeth.
LF: It has been said that Diana possibly played up to her vulnerability, Does Elizabeth realise she can't play on hers?
SK: Yes, the vulnerability of loss of youth and the vulnerability of where she's going to go, that's what this film was about. Painful.
LF: Was Cate Blanchett ever doubtful for the role?
SK: She was. She went through a period of great doubt about whether she would or whether she wouldn't. Was the last film enough? Was there something that we could do more of? Don't forget the last film became an icon; it became larger than it was. It put an actress onto the world that everybody started to worship, then Cate is worshipped, it's very interesting to watch how people react to Cate - they worship her. They call her a force of nature and in the film she's a force of nature. She can't do anything wrong.
LF: How much research did you do in pre-production this time around?
SK: On my website [ShekharKapur.com] there is something called 'Creative Adda' which in Hindi means 'Pleasure to accomplish act'. In Creative Adda are our first thoughts. You can find my first ideas for the film and the first paintings we did with my production designer. There's also a site from Justin Pollard; he's a writer and a historian. I preserved everything he said to me on 'Creative Adda'. If you want to know about that period [pre-production] then it's the best thing I've ever written. We did a lot of research.
LF: Did you work with David Starkey again?
SK: No not this time.
LF: What are the films that inspire you?
LF: Why do you go back to Kurosawa. What is it about his films?
SK: Because I keep finding different things; each time it's a different experience. The Godfather each time is a different experience, as is 2001 A Space Odyssey. 2001 Space Odyssey is essentially a Buddhist film. I'm not even sure he thought he was writing a Buddhist film. It's the possibilities. It's one of the most spiritual films I've seen. I also like Hayao Miyazaki films like Spirited Away and all of his early films. I write comic books. I have a company called Virgin Comics, we write and we research comic books from all over the world and franchise them. I watch a lot of Japanese Manga films.
LF: Will you do a third installment of Elizabeth?
SK: No, because it's about the Icon now. So it's a story we are telling in terms of being divine. You know Diana's story ends because she dies.
LF: You are quite progressive in your attitudes towards the film industry, with all this talk about downloads do you think cinema as we know it is dead? with your website - There's talk of being able to download films. Do you think that is the future of film?
SK: No. I don't think cinema is dead. I'd like to experiment in my next film or maybe the film after. You know they say please switch off your mobile phones, [I say] please switch on your mobile phones! Suddenly there is a discussion going on in film circles because you can have your mobile phone with you and people can start posting their comments. I'd like to be able to experiment with that idea of being able to relate through mobile technology in your mobile phones and texting everybody else and saying: 'I love that bit'.
I think film will last because you can eat at home or you can have take away. You still go to a restaurant right? But that's not the only way; take away is there. All platforms of cooking are there. So film will survive.
LF: What's up for you next?
SK: I'm doing a film that is 'hyper-reality', but it's to do with an issue that's very current. I'm doing an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet but in the future; in 2025 when there's no more water. It's a futuristic city of 20 million people where water has run out and those that now have water are dominating those that don't.
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