Brian De Palma has, throughout his career, been closely associated with the stylistic leanings and larger thematic ideas of Alfred Hitchcock.
But, truly, the man behind “Carrie,” “Scarface” and numerous other classics, is his own man with an expansive, emotional approach to filmmaking that stands apart today as powerfully as it ever has.
He’s the subject of the documentary “De Palma,” by Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) and Jake Paltrow (“Young Ones”), which opens tomorrow. amNewYork spoke with de Palma.
Why sit down and revisit the past on camera like this?
Well, it comes out of our dinners. We’ve been having dinners for 10 to 15 years. And I would tell these stories, and I guess the guys thought it’d be important to get it down, I guess, for the time capsule.
What do you get out of the experience of revisiting not just your successes but your failures in this much depth?
It’s very unusual because you have directors asking me questions that are very cognizant of the directorial process, so that’s kind of inside baseball. And very informal. They just told me to wear the same coat everyday.
These guys are very different filmmakers than you.
I like their kind of movies too, because they’re so different. They’re driven by character, they’re driven by very personal stories that they tell. And they’re cinematic movies. I start with structure and visual ideas and work characters into it backward, basically.
You’ve made some expensive Hollywood movies with a personal touch — from “Scarface” to “Mission: Impossible.” Is that remotely possible these days?
It’s different because the business is different. I’m not interested in what the big blockbuster comic book movies are today. The subject matter doesn’t interest me. And with the advent of the Sundance generation — which is basically these guys, the Coen brothers, Soderbergh and Tarantino — they came up completely working outside the system and making inexpensive movies, very personal, and they had no desire to go to Hollywood and work in the studio system, which my generation did.
There’s no question that some of your movies, like “Mission to Mars,” didn’t find initial audiences. Is there some satisfaction when they’re re-considered later?
The problem is they’re not used to me having such idealistic ideas. When I work as a director, I’m trying to articulate the ideas of the material. If you’ve spent anytime with astronauts, they’re extremely idealistic. They’ve seen things that we’ve never seen. You’re almost in some kind of spiritual world, which is reflected in “Mission to Mars,” which a lot of people laughed at. They don’t get it. I was very much keeping to the idea.
Audiences are being trained these days to look at movies in certain ways.
Well, I’m amazed by the whole comic book thing. Superheroes? Historically, this must be quite interesting. Why are we so obsessed with these superheroes with superpowers.