Backstage Interview | 86th Academy Awards

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

CATEGORY: Writing (Adapted Screenplay)


Q.    What inspired HER?  How did that come to mind for you?
A.    Well, I had the idea this sort of, the concept for ‑‑ of a relationship with an artificial intelligent entity, but then I also had an idea just to write about relationships, and it was sort of the merging of those two things together.  And ultimately I think I was more inspired to write about relationships, and intimacy, and the challenges of intimacy.  Does that answer your question? 

Q.    I was wondering, I mean, you mentioned artificial intelligence.  This movie might be considered science fiction, but it could be like really close to stuff that could happen.  I mean, people have been talking about these things and artificial intelligence, stuff that can happen in the next future.  Are you like convinced that this could happen maybe exactly like you showed in the movie? 
A.    I don't know.  I have no idea.  I mean, I think anything is going to happen and everything is going to happen.  I think we're just at this point in history, and we're 13 billion years into this universe, and there's many more billion years after this, so who knows. 

Did you guys have a good night tonight?  Is that ‑‑ are you guys okay?  All right.  Good.  You guys look like you're hard at work.  I appreciate that.

Q.    Congratulations.  I noticed, it seemed a lot like man versus technology and what would ultimately win at the end if we could be dominated by technology.  What were you trying to say to the world with the ending of the film?
A.    Well, I mean, this is a bit of a cop out, but I feel like the movie has many different ‑‑ I tried to write many different things I was thinking about, trying to understand, confused about, interested in.  And then some of those are contradictory and, therefore, I put that into the movie, and the movie I think speaks for itself.  I don't think I could put it into a message in a sentence because I spent three years making the movie, and I couldn't ‑‑ I wouldn't want to try to reduce it.  I don't think I could reduce it into a sentence.

Q.    Hi, Spike.  You're primarily known as a director, and you've just won an Oscar for screenwriting.  How does it feel to win as a writer?  And have you talked to Charlie Kaufman about this?
A.    I talk to Charlie all the ‑‑ I haven't talked to him in the last ten minutes, but, yeah, he's really happy for me.  Yeah, I don't know.  I don't think I could have written a screenplay when I was younger, I don't think.  I think it took me a long time to understand how to write and understand how ‑‑ and I learned a lot from Charlie, from working with Charlie; and I learned a lot from Dave Eggers and Maurice Sendak.  And I think that ‑‑ I don't know, but now I feel like I'm ready to actually write what I, what's in my heart and what I have to say.  And so I feel like that's sort of this ‑‑ that's what this chapter of my life is going to be.

Q.    Was the inspiration of using Shanghai a vision you had when you wrote the script?
A.    No.  Actually, there's an idea of collaging two cities together to use ‑‑ the movie's set in L.A. ‑‑ and to use another city that has massive construction and development going on and collaging those together.  And then we went on ‑‑ we went scouting.  We went and looked for cities around the world, and Shanghai has this incredible chunk of the city that's been built in the last 10 or 15 years and so that just attracted us.  And so once we went there, it just seemed like the whole city started falling together.  And K.K. Barrett, our production designer, is the one who sort of brought Shanghai to us.  And once we found that, everything started jelling.

Q.    So I heard that the film was originally ran a little further in the future and then you took it back to about 15 years.  Is that true?  And, if so, how did that affect the screenwriting process?
A.    I don't think it's true, because I don't know what ‑‑ we just sort of ‑‑ I was always thinking about it as an abstract future, a slight future, and sort of creating a future ‑‑ using the future as a way to sort of making a heightened version of the world we live in right now where everything is easy, everything is convenient, we never get lost anymore, our phone makes that easy for us; but, yet, there's still loneliness and longing, and that seems ‑‑ and this sort of melancholy of that idea that we should have everything we want, but we're still looking for connection.  And so I think we sort of used the future as a sort of heightened version of those themes that are around right now.

Q.    Joaquin gave a great performance in this film, but so did Scarlett Johansson.  How do you feel about her performance not being able to receive a nomination, and have you talked to the Academy about them maybe changing the way they consider Best Actress nominees?
A.    I don't know.  I don't know enough about that.  I mean, I don't know enough about how the Academy decides that; but all I know is I saw what she did, and I loved what she did, and I was moved and affected by and watching her create that character even though it was just in a voice.  But I should let everyone else talk.  So thank you, guys; and nice to meet you.


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