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Paranoia is healthy – A conversation with Robert Luketic

09 March 2014

An entry-level employee at a powerful corporation finds himself occupying a corner office, but at a dangerous price: he must spy on his boss’s old mentor to secure for him a multi-billion dollar advantage.

Ahead of the home entertainment release of Paranoia, The Fan Carpet had the privilege to speak with director Robert Luketic about Fellini and Italian cinema, the insanity of the film business, questions that connect the film to the real world, the collaborative art form and the role of paranoia in our society.



Why a career in filmmaking? Was there that one inspirational moment?

There was. I got into filmmaking by chance. I was involved in a horse riding accident when I was fourteen and I broke my leg very badly. I spent a year getting better, and because there wasn’t a lot I could do there was a lot of lying around time. So I started reading these Italian cinema magazines that my mother would get. I started reading about this director called Fellini, and I told my mother that I was interested in seeing these movies. Of course she’s Italian so she knew all about them, and she went to the local Italian video library and rented these out. But the copies she got me didn’t have subtitles, though fortunately I spoke Italian, and I ended up watching these films that opened my eyes to a world that seemed very exciting. I began to understand the role of this person called the director and what it is it they do, how they work and that was it. I made them buy me a Super 8 camera and that’s how I started.


The film that always comes to mind when Fellini’s name crops up is 8 ½ which was a reflection on the role of the director. When you are directing do you reflect on 8 ½ and contrast your experiences to those of 8 ½?

The insanity of my business; the extreme personalities in my business, and the weirdness of my business – yes. I think about 8 ½ all of the time, but I also think of La Dolce Vita also.


Paranoia is a timely story, particularly with how technology is invading people’s lives and the questions that are now being asked. What was it about the project that drew your interest?

I’ve been fascinated by how rapidly technology has developed, and where we have found ourselves with it. In terms of generating data and storing it which we are good at, what has not followed in quite the same advanced way is the process of what we should do with the data, how we should protect it and secure it and of course the question of who owns it? There are so many questions that the Snowden leak raised and which occurred two weeks into production on our film. All of a sudden we were making this movie that was a direct reflection on events – people hoarding data, keeping it, storing it and giving it value. I just found all of these things interesting, and as it was happening in real time it shaped the direction of the script.


Do you look at Paranoia as having the potential to be timeless as well as timely? In twenty or thirty years’ time will it serve as a record of our time or do you think it will have the capacity to resonate with the future audience’s contemporary society?

I think that’s a very interesting question, and I wonder if in ten or fifteen years’ time whether we will have the same sense of privacy. Will privacy still be of relevance? I wonder how much liberty we are going to give away before we say, “Okay that’s enough. We draw the line here.” I don’t think we know where the line is yet; I don’t think we’ve drawn it, and I think it’s going to take ten or fifteen years to work its way out. These things we are asking to change and to protect take societies and cultures many years to debate and work out. It’s all very new and we are generating all kinds of new data every day. We now have these things on our phones that can basically pull up a map of everywhere you’ve been that day. So it’s going to be something that is going to continue to evolve and develop, and I don’t know if we are even sure yet of what we are going to protect and what’s going to be considered private. But I don’t think there is privacy anymore right now. Maybe in the future we’ll see that return, and perhaps the film is a reminder of where we could end up if we are not careful – maybe.


We only know filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter and the Coen Brothers through their work, but it seems as if creative individuals are required to be a part of that big publicity machine more so than ever. With an emphasis placed on personality do you think the magic of that reclusive, mysterious artist is gradually fading?

We have somewhat lost that because the world is so cine-literate now. You have eleven or thirteen year old kids who sit in the cinema commenting on CGI that doesn’t look quite right. We’ve revealed a lot about our business and ourselves; we’ve shared a lot. I’ve been guilty of it, and I do think that there is a generation now that doesn’t see film as magically as we did. It’s an interesting question, but I don’t quite know how to answer it.



Does that present an interesting challenge in that the ball is put back into the court of the artist who must find a new way to surprise the savvy audience and take them to new places?

Absolutely and I find myself being challenged by that every day. Now going forward I’m looking at how I can make my next movie Expendabelles – which has a very serious action edge but also a female point of view – fresh and unique. We are constantly challenged, but I like that and that challenge comes from the audience more than anybody else. They vote with their wallet and that’s the reason we make movies. I make movies for an audience; I don’t make them as a discussion piece. I make them as a form of entertainment for people, and that’s the mission that I always approach a movie with. As I get older maybe that will change.

Whilst we always consider the collaboration that takes place on set, filmmaking is a collaborative art form that stretches beyond the screen. It is this collaboration that is often overshadowed and which fails to receive the attention it deserves.

I don’t think it does get enough attention, and I don’t know if people understand the work involved for the director. It is a year or two out of their lives. Whilst an actor can do three or four movies a year, we can only do one every two or three years; one every year if we’re lucky. There is an incredible amount of effort, and it’s a real skill to make the collaboration work; to bring so many people together for that one vision. The director doesn’t carry everything on his shoulders because he relies on others to bring something. Everybody is contributing and the cast are huge contributors to the formation of a character. The actors are the ones who hold the key to that. I still think the contribution of the writer and director is not celebrated as much as the contribution of the actor, and that is something I find to be very interesting.

It is one of those conflicts. Cinema was focused on the producers before the focus shifted to the director, and once again the focus has shifted, this time towards the actors. It’s an interesting evolutionary course cinema has taken.


I want to you ask you a question – what do you think about that? Is it may be a benefit?

Well, actors are tools for the storyteller, but more than that they take what the writer has created and what the director’s attempting to create on set, and they become the incarnation of those characters; the visual image. I do believe there should be more of a balance between the writer, director and the actors, and it frustrates me the way it seems to evolve in such a way that someone is always displaced. I tend to be in favour of a balance where the contributions of everyone involved are both respected and appreciated.

It’s always been important to me, and I’ve always strived to make sure that we all get celebrated, and that everybody’s contributions are seen as important. That’s something you’ll notice on all my sets – there is that feeling, and that feeling is genuine. Everybody is important and we should all listen to each other. My writers get comfortable chairs and they sit right beside me when they visit, and they are welcomed with open arms.


Every generation seems to believe they are worse off than previous generations. Do you consider the world to be more of a paranoid place now than it has been in the past, or do you think paranoia plays an important part in society in general?

I think it plays an important part and it keeps you aware. It is healthy to have some sort of paranoia and that you don’t trust everything to be true or to just be between you and I. There must be some healthy scepticism and some paranoia with this stuff, and I believe that. In terms of the generation, if I was in this generation I’d be pissed off. People have got some explaining to do because where did my future go? Where did all my money go? It’s those sorts of questions.


Paranoia can act as a catalyst to compel us to ask questions and to scrape away the veneer or smokescreens that are put there for us; to try and ask those questions and get those answers. After all we need to be informed as individuals within our society.

Exactly, and we keep our politicians honest by doing that.


So paranoia isn’t a bad thing if it is used in the right way.

As long as it doesn’t completely shut your life down and impede you then I have to say go for it. Paranoia is healthy.



Paranoia Film Page