What They Said: Tarsem Singh on Why His Old Films are "Crap," Plans for the Future, and His Vision

What They Said: Tarsem Singh on Why His Old Films are "Crap," Plans for the Future, and His Vision

Mar 29, 2012

Filmmaker Tarsem Singh’s Snow White adaptation Mirror Mirror opens in theaters tomorrow, but the director is already thinking about the future. Fans expecting another film full of lush visuals and a questionable narrative (hallmarks of the director’s previous output) may be in for a bit of a surprise.

THR caught up with Singh recently and he revealed some interesting tidbits about his upcoming project (a war-time thriller entitled Eye in the Sky), his intention to shift focus from visuals to more narrative driven stories, his thoughts about cinematographers, and more. Read on for some of the choicest quotes from the lengthy piece.

In the most controversial statement in the interview, Singh essentially calls all of his earlier projects “crap.” However, he claims this was by design, stating that he chose these less complex stories on purpose so that he could put his own visual stamp on the resulting films.

“I told the guys involved at CAA that it’s going to get difficult for them, because from now, guess what? I would like to read responsible scripts. People were like, 'wait a minute? You mean we’ve given you crap?' and I said yes. And I was okay with that because I was very much into trying work it along as we were going. But when the money is little and it's a contemporary event and I didn't have any visuals to fall back on, it had better rock on paper."

We’re firm believers in the idea of director’s having a vision – but we’re not really buying this whole “I took scripts I knew were awful so I could show the world how amazing I was as a visual director,” thing. This reeks of revisionist history from a guy who’s finally heard the oft-repeated criticism of his work (basically that it’s an exercise in style over substance) and now wants to change it. Change is good, but don’t try to convince us that those earlier films were all part of some elaborate master plan.

While Eye in the Sky promises to be a departure for the director, a film with a more realistic aesthetic than his previous work, don’t expect it to look like what passes for realism in today’s movies and on TV.

“I think enough people know my DNA and how I shoot," he said. "As much as I love some of the Paul Greengrass films, it's not going to be Law and Order shaky-cam stuff. I'd rather go much more [Michael] Haneke, I'd rather go much more [Roman] Polanski; it's not going to be something where you shoot tons of footage of and have the editor direct it for you."

Tarsem comes across as a little arrogant when the conversation shifts around to cinematographers. First, he doesn’t even refer to them as cinematographers, but instead calls them “cameraman” and then offers up this observation about how “specially attuned” he is.

“I just think now if you're going to a cameraman to tell you what you want the film to feel like, I think you already lost the battle, especially if you come from the visual background I do," he said. "I think I'm very specially [attuned] to what it needs to look like, so I'd say it doesn't look very shaky, but it isn't going to be so image-oriented.”

We suspect many directors (and cinematographers) would disagree with Tarsem's sentiments. 

Tarsem has much more to say in the discussion – including some thoughts about potential upcoming projects, his thoughts on working in the studio system, and more. Swing by THR to check out the full interview. 

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