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Interview: Nicholas Jarecki, director of 'Arbitrage'

After sampling US writer, filmmaker and producer Nicholas Jarecki's thrilling narrative debut, Arbitrage (2012), featuring the acting talents of Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling and Tim Roth, CineVue's Russell Cook had some questions for the man behind the lens (and pen, in this instance). Despite the film's serious tone concerning the global economic crisis, family betrayal and criminal deception, it turned out that Jarecki's also quite the character - making our questions about his steering of the directorial ship all the more colourful. We caught up with the inimitable Jarecki to discuss his first foray into fiction, working with legendary Hollywood stars Gere and Sarandon, and his next film, entitled Fuel.

Russell Cook: Do you have any fond memories from the making of this movie, seeing as this was your first full feature?

Nicholas Jarecki: The rehearsals actually. Richard would come over to my place everyday and make tea - he's really into tea. We'd sit at my kitchen table and just talk about the script, and we'd bring the other actors in, one by one; Susan Sarandon came in, Brit Marling came over, and so on. Tim Roth and I rehearsed pretty much one-on-one.

RC: It sounds like you had a lot of fun making your debut.

NJ: Arbitrage was a very hard film to put together, but we finally cleared everything out and my producer turned to me and said, "No compromises and no gimmicks. We're going to make the film our way." We had a great crew and a great cast, including a fantastic cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux, whom I met here in London. It was also an independent film, which meant that I had final cut and control over who was going to distribute it. All kinds of innovative things were happening, but it really felt like the lunatics were running the asylum.

RC: In terms of character, who is Gere's Robert Miller?

NJ: Richard chose to play him - having worked on the script a lot together - as someone who wasn't to the manor born; he didn't have a silver spoon in his mouth growing up. We chose to play him like a Jay Gatsby, a man who invented himself and came from nowhere. We wanted to create a mystique about him, like he rose up at an investment bank or something and started his own firm. He's just a very smart guy and a great salesman who could inspire the people around him and build this empire. However, what happens is, the more powerful he gets, the more arrogant he becomes; like a classic Greek paradigm or Shakespeare's King Lear, where he becomes drunk with power, forgetting he's only human.

RC: How well do you think Gere conveys this sense of being "only human"?

NJ: You don't have to be a billionaire to identify with this character, and that's because of Richard. We all face these kind of moral questions - every time we do our taxes at the end of the year or every time we report into our partner about our whereabouts today. I've done all these things wrong myself, so that's how I know the length to which we will go to protect our own self above the people we love. I think people have connected with that in this movie.

RC: What about the casting of Brit Marling? Did you go after her specifically?

NJ: I had seen in the order of around 30 actresses for the part [Brooke, Miller's daughter], and I didn't meet Brit until late in the game. My producer had seen Another Earth at Sundance and Richard had also seen it, but when I finally managed to see some footage I thought, "Wow!" I got on Skype with Brit and she started to tell me the story of her life. She'd given up this very reliable life and decided, "I'm going to write my own films. I'm going to raise the money. I'm going to produce them." Once I heard her story, I asked if she could come and see Richard and I.

RC: Finally, can you tell us anything about your next film, Fuel?

NJ: It's a detective story - I've been working on it for quite a while now. I'm somewhere between the middle and the beginning. It's about a surveillance expert who's hired to investigate crime in the electric car industry and the theft of confidential patents. It's going to be a California story, but I'm really trying to get the narrative right first; the more research I do, the harder it becomes. There's a great revolution coming in the electrification of vehicles. I don't think we’re going to be seeing the gas car for too much longer.

RC: So again, it's grounded in something extremely topical?

NJ: Yes, something that's on people's minds. But the trick, of course, is to find the personal story amongst all of that. I hope to make it later in the year when things all become a little clearer.

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Russell Cook
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