Monday, June 18, 2007

Eric Bana, Robert Duvall and Curtis Hanson on "Lucky You"

Actors Eric Bana ("Munich", "Black Hawk Down", "The Hulk"), Robert Duvall ("Mash") as well as academy-award-winning Director Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential", "Wonder Boys", "8 Mile") talk about their poker movie “Lucky You”, how they learned to play poker, the role of luck in their lifes and about career choices.

On “Lucky You”

Eric BanaRobert Duvall

Eric Bana and Robert Duvall presenting "Lucky You" in Taormina

Eric, what did you learn from Mr. Duvall?

Eric Bana: When you dream of being an actor in a film you sure don't dream of acting next to the people you admire – you’re just happy to be in a movie.Bob is my favorite actor in the world. I grew up admiring his performances. When Curtis said he was approaching Bob, I nearly fell off the chair. Bob actually looks a lot like my grandfather, who has passed away and who I was very close with. I was very shocked the first time I met Bob since the resemblance is stronger in flesh than in film. Even though we've had to do lots of takes because of the nature of poker, we were always mocking around and greatly enjoyed working together.

Robert Duvall: Actually, the relationship between father and son was major drawing factor for me to do this movie.

What’s the main idea of this film, in your mind?

Curtis Hanson: “Lucky You” is a film about differences. As far as poker goes it’s about the difference between people that play it as a game and people that play it as professionals. It’s also about the difference between Las Vegas as a destination for visitors and as a town where people live. It’s about the difference between winning and losing and giving and receiving. Most importantly, it’s about the difference between how people appear and how they really are, that is, the difference between the face that people show to the world and the truth that's behind it. What’s interesting about poker is that this face is such an important part of the game, and it's called a poker face.

Curtis Hanson

Curtis Hanson, Director of "Lucky You" and Academy Award winner

How did you go about making the movie?

Curtis Hanson: Poker you play sitting down - there is very little cinematic action. What I tried to do is begin the movie with a scene where a young man walks into a pawn shop - we see him gesturing, and demonstrating all of the skills he will later show at the poker table: He is seductive and in a way bullshitting. The scene climaxes with him looking at this women, and accurately reading the truth behind her eyes, and calling her bluff.This scene is there for all non-poker players so that they will understand what goes on at the poker table. We wanted to let the audience feel what it is to sit in a chair for eight to ten hours a day and all of the activity is in the brain.

On Poker

Were you poker players before you made this movie?

Robert Duvall: When I first met Curtis, I didn't know much about poker and the whole world around it. Sometimes I don’t' really like to rehearse, but here we had to. Up until the final day of the shooting, we played every day. You have to do your homework, and indeed we did it.

Eric Bana: I knew a little bit about poker because when I was a kid my family used to play cards and argue about it. By the end of the film I was a pretty good poker player, but not stupid enough to take on the experts that we had on as extras - Robert and I only played each others.

You had so many real poker players cast as themselves - did they rush to you to be in the movie, or did you cast them?

Curtis Hanson: There’s tournament poker and the cash games. We went to great length to accurately recreate these worlds. Nearly all real poker players you see in the film we cast out of casinos in LA in and in Vegas.We went to great length to recreate the “Big Game”. This has gone on for years and is the highest stake poker cash game. We went to Vegas and observed the “Big Game”. A relationship was formed and we invited the players there into the film. Then, word got out, and the professional tournament players wanted to be in the movie as well. This way, we arrived at an astonishing array of well-known poker players that make cameo appearances the movie.

On Luck

Do you believe in luck?

Eric Bana: I think I have a little bit of a hand in my own luck as well. I’m a little bit of a control freak. Good work is good work because of effort, and bad work is result of bad work.

Curtis Hanson: That’s one of the other differences I should have mentioned: the difference between luck and skill. All of the good players when you watch them they all have the same attitude about life - the longer you play, the less luck gets into the game. The great players beat the people that rely on luck

Robert Duvall: I don't know - luck is such an abstract word. You've got to make your own breaks. Luck comes along with that. It's an abstract word … You mean in a game or in life? In general, life is so elusive and abstract you can't nail it down. If you talk about poker: At one point Curtis threw it open and said: let's just play and see what happens. We had experts all around us. And I guess I had my own streak of luck then: I won 200,000 to 300,000 Dollars – but fictional Dollars only.

Eric Bana Curtis Hanson

Eric Bana and Director Curtis Hanson in Taormina

On Career Choices

What rules do you follow when accepting a project?

Eric Bana: I don't really have any rules when it comes to choosing projects. Although I can say that I never chose a project on a second read of a script. I also very rarely revisit choices. I've never been talked into a role. I have strong reactions to the work that I do. I don’t have any general rules - there’s' nothing I wouldn’t do other than maybe porn - soft or hardcore. Other than that, I'm open.

Mr. Hanson, your work reminds me of older Hollywood directors - you always tried your hands on several genres. What's your feeling when you go into a new genre? Do you study what was done?

Curtis Hanson: I do not study other pictures prior to making a picture, since I try to not have other pictures entering my mind when I do mine. But I am a film lover and know a lot of pictures. I envy the filmmakers that did their career during the heyday of the studio system. Howard Hawks could do a film noir like "Big Sleep" and a western like "Red River" within a couple of years.Back then, the studio system was invested in a talent. Today, that's not the case anymore. It's one picture to the next. There’s no commitment over a career as it used to be - they don't nurture your career. Back then, an actor like Eric would have accompanied by a studio to developing into the biggest star possible. Today, everybody figures it out for themselves.

Mr. Duvall, you played very different roles in your career. Is there a role that you still want to play?

Robert Duvall: The way I look at my career is that you plan things down the road but surprises come out at you. This comprises at least my career. This movie was a surprise to me from Curtis. For the future, I don't know - but I'm always looking.

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