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May 2010

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DIRECTOR’S CHAIR James Ivory— The City of Your Final Destination N By IAIN BLAIR His first film without Ismail Merchant is based on a book by the same name. EW YORK — For over four decades, director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant of Mer- chant Ivory Productions endured as one of the most respected and fruitful collabora- tions in cinema. In fact, their acclaimed adap- tations of such novels as “A Room With a View,” “Maurice,’ “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge,” “Howard’s End” and ‘The Remains of the Day” virtually established a whole genre of filmmaking — “the Merchant Ivory film.” Now, following the untimely passing of Merchant, the team of Ivory and two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose early novel “The House- holder” was the basis for the first Merchant Ivory production of the same name, has re- leased its 24th collaboration, The City of Your Final Destination. Based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Peter Cameron, it reunites the di- rector with Anthony Hopkins in a story about a young American academic, Omar Razaghi (Omar Metwally), who attempts to persuade the reluctant heirs of a celebrated Uruguayan novelist, Jules Gund, including his gay brother (Hopkins), widow (Laura Lin- ney) and young mistress (Charlotte Gains- bourg), to allow him to write an authorized biography of the writer. Here, Ivory talks about making the film, his love of post and his long, prolific partnership with Merchant. POST: How do you go about deciding what Actress Laura Linney stars in the film, which was edited by long-time Ivory collaborator John David Allen. your next project will be and what made you choose this? JAMES IVORY: “It was one of those rare things that happens when someone comes up to you and says, ‘When you read this book you’re going to want to make it into a film.’ And that only ever happened once be- fore, when someone gave me ‘Remains of the Day.’ So I read this and I was immediately attracted to it. “I loved the whole story and that it was set in South America where I’d never been, and all the relationships, and the long con- versational dialogue. It all really appealed to me. But it wasn’t actually our next film at the time, around 2003, when I read the book. We went off to Shanghai to make The White Countess first, and then came back to this.” POST: You shot on location in Argentina’s pampas.What were the biggest challenges? IVORY: “Over the years we’ve shot all 12 Post • May 2010 over the place — it’s what we do, so we’re used to ending up in locations where we’ve never been before. We didn’t shoot in Uruguay, where the novel is set, because it doesn’t have much in the way of film infra- structure and experienced crews, whereas Argentina has a long history of filmmaking you do on the shoot — and this was partic- ularly unrushed.There was no one pushing us to get this ready for a festival or what- ever. So we were just able to take as long as we wanted, and often the post process does feel a bit rushed.That leisurely pace really helped the final film, as we shifted a lot of James Ivory (left) on set in Argentina, which, he says, has wonderful and experienced crews. and it has wonderful crews who’re very expe- rienced. It’s interesting because the two coun- tries used to be one, until they were sepa- rated by the British, so you find it’s really the same people on both sides of the border, and they’re fairly similar in geography and land- scape, except that Uruguay’s a bit more hilly. So it just made sense to shoot in Argentina. And it’s relatively cheap to shoot there.” POST: Where did you do the post? How long was the process? IVORY:“We did all the post right here in New York.We had our cutting room at DuArt, and then we did all our visual effects and all that kind of thing at Molecule, who are right down the hall.Then we did the mix at Sound One. Because we weren’t pres- sured by any of the usual deadlines,we were able to take about nine or 10 months to work on it all.” POST: Do you like the post process? IVORY: “I do, very much. I think my fa- vorite part of making any film is the actual shoot, but I love post as it’s when you finally get to see what you have to work with and you can begin to see the film emerge. And you’re not feeling rushed in the same way things around in post and had the time to experiment more with structure and so on.” POST: This was edited by John David Allen, who also edited such films as The White Countess, Le Divorce andThe Golden Bowl for you. How does that relationship work? IVORY: “It’s a great advantage collaborat- ing with someone you know well from other projects, so we have a sort of short- hand. He didn’t come on the set at all.The cutting didn’t start until we all got back to New York, and then I’m usually around while he does the assembly. I like doing the assem- bly, and then I’m there for the whole process.” POST: How involved is Ruth Jhabvala in the editing process? IVORY: “Quite a bit. She comes in once we’ve got our first successful cut and then we all go over everything together and dis- cuss how a scene or whatever can be im- proved, and she often has excellent ideas about structure and so on. People are completely surprised that the writer comes in the editing room with us.The whole idea is unheard of, but we have always done it this way.”

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