Interview with 'Collaborator' Star Martin Donovan

Photo Credit: Photo by Julie Kirkwood – © 2012 - Tribeca Film
July 3rd, 2012

The new film Collaborator is the writing and directing debut for veteran actor Martin Donovan.  Amongst his hectic press day, Martin spent a few minutes with Movie Room Reviews to talk about the film.

Nick- Hey Martin, how are you doing? Busy day for you I bet.

Martin- Yeah, busy but I’m not complaining.

Nick- A good busy right?

Martin- Exactly.

Nick- So we are here to talk about your new film Collaborator, which you wrote, and directed,and star in as Robert Longfellow who is a playwright finding his career fall apart.  Why don’t you give our audience here at an idea of what the movie is about and your role as Robert Longfellow.

Martin- Sure.  Robert Longfellow is a playwright and was at one time considered to be the voice of his generation. He had a huge impact early in his career and now he’s hit the wall creatively and his most recent play has been brutally savaged by the New York Times.  He goes home to visit his mother, he is from the San Fernando Valley, and also to pursue some screen writing works out in LA.  His neighbor Gus, played by David Morse, who grew up across the street from him is still living there with his mother.  Gus comes to pay a visit and ends up taking Robert hostage in his own home and that’s when the fun begins.
Nick- David Morse plays Gus so what’s Olivia Williams role in the movie?

Martin- Emma Styles,  a movie star whose career was launched by Robert’s early plays and they have a history together.  That’s another complication that re-sparks in the film.  Robert is also married with kids but Emma is there to perhaps tempt him to get himself in trouble.  Meanwhile, Gus is a huge fan of Emma’s.  Gus is a complicated guy but he’s a huge fan of Emma Styles.
Nick-  When you wrote the film were you initially intending to play Robert?

Martin- Yes I was. The writing, directing, acting, the whole schibang.  This film, I should say, really sort of emerged as a package.  I’ve been acting for like 35 years and I’ve always wanted to write and direct.  This first time out is really the result of my whole life as an actor.  The writing part just took me so long because it’s just been very hard for me to clarify my thinking and the task of writing.  Once I got going on this screen play and developing it pulling it apart wasn’t a choice, it was a package deal.

Nick- That’s what I was going to ask you.  This is your first film that you’ve written and the first film you directed, was there a lot of preparation?  Did you make a lot of changes while you were doing the movie?  Did you have to work the kinks out a little bit?

Martin- No, there weren’t any changes once we got to the set but there was a lot of drafts of the screenplay over several years.  My producer, Ted Hope, is a very successful film producer and he’s one of the rare producers who is a creative, shall we say, producer and he was involved with this script and was very helpful, among a couple of other filmmaker friends of mine in developing the script.  Once we got to the set we didn’t change a thing but things did change in the editing room. That’s kind of always the case with films.  A lot of ‘re-writing’ shall we say, is done in the editing room. 

Nick-  I feel that it would be tough to draw the line between being the writer, and then being the actor, and then being the director.  Are these hard transitions to make?  Being an actor you are focused on your role and then as the director you have to focus on everybody’s role.

Martin- Yeah and that’s why I could have never done this when I was younger and that’s why it’s taken me so long but I was ready to do this.  I’m not a kid and I’ve been doing this for a long time, I could of never done this in my twenties.  There are a lot of people who have done this at a much younger age and I’m in awe of those people who have wrote, directed, and starred in their own films.  It’s just different DNA because it took me decades to clarify my thinking on how to write and what to write.  The directing and the acting, again, just emerged from being on a lot of sets with a lot great actors and world class filmmakers.  I guess maybe I have been paying attention.  I didn’t write an action film, it’s a set piece and it’s pretty simple and straightforward.  I wanted it to focus on the story and the characters and the situations.  I wasn’t interested in doing a tour de force ,camera heavy, kind of thing.  I was interested in developing a story that I hoped audiences would find compelling and they would be wrapped up in it and the performances.

Nick- The film came out nationwide on June 20th on VOD and has played at several festivals since last July and has won a couple of awards already, how do you feel the audience has received the movie and what awards has it won so far?

Martin- It won in a festival called the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in eastern Europe and is a very prestigious festival very close to Prague.  We had an incredible response there and David Morse won Best Actor and we won the Critics Prize.  I have been around to a lot of places in the country and to a lot of screenings and I’m very pleased with how the audience responds.  I’m particularly interested in people who don’t necessarily gravitate towards, for lack of a better word, arthouse fair.  Although, I don’t know what that means anymore, it used to mean something.  People continually tell me, 'I thought this film was going to be this, but it turned out to be that’ and because it doesn’t fit into any kind of a genre, somehow audiences get pulled in to the people and the situation and they go with it.  I have been very, very pleased with how audiences have reacted to this film and I couldn’t be happier.
Nick- That’s great and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.  What else are going to be able to see from you in the future Martin?  I know you are doing a new Silent Hill right?

Martin- Yeah, I am in Silent Hill and I’ve been working on a couple of series including the first season of Boss with Kelsey Grammer, which I’m very proud of and is a great show.  I just did a part in Mira Nair’s film The Reluctant Fundamentalist who did Salaam Bombay!, and Monsoon Wedding.  I got to go to India last fall and that was quite an experience.  I’ve been busy and I’m developing another screen play, so give me another ten years and I’ll have another film (laughs). 

Nick- Martin, thanks so much for talking with us here at Movie Room Reviews today and I hope everyone checks out Collaborator on VOD.

Martin- The movie is also going to open at The Egyptian Theater in LA on July 20th. 

Nick- Cool I hope it does well, thanks Martin.

Martin- My pleasure.