DJ Caruso takes us behind the scenes on this weekend’s big budget thriller
Following on from last year’s sleep hit ‘Disturbia’, director DJ Caruso and Shia LaBeouf are reteaming this weekend for their own special brand of suburban-paranoid chic in the intense thriller ‘Eagle Eye’. With an all star cast and a $100 million-budget, this chase-heavy thriller follows our unlikely hero, who as a dangerous domestic terrorist and must go on the run and stay one step ahead of the authorities until he unravels the conspiracy and confronts the bad guys… We talked to Caruso about the film, those elaborately constructed car chases, its origins in the brain of Steven Spielberg and how he got one of Hollywood’s biggest names back a second time…
How did you become involved in this project? We heard that Steven Spielberg actually had the initial idea.
CARUSO: This was an idea that Steven Spielberg had going on in his head. I think he banged out the first story idea for it about ten or twelve years ago but society wasn’t quite ready for it yet because technology hadn’t fully melded and become part of who we really are. Last year after DISTURBIA, they approached me about directing it. I read the script and really liked it.
What did you respond to?
CARUSO: I responded to the concept. I also responded to the first sixty pages because I had no idea what was going on. That was the most intriguing thing for the film for me because you don’t know what is going on. Too many times we all get ahead of the story. I also felt it was a real cautionary tale in a way because we are so reliant and fall in love with all our technology machines like the iPod and iPhones and I don’t think people realize how vulnerable we are making ourselves. I don’t think people realize how easy it is for the government or anybody else to figure out what we do on a daily basis.
It seems ironic that you needed the technology to tell a cautionary tale about technology.
CARUSO: Yes, that is true. It is one of those things that at the end of the film, people walk out and turn on their phone or their Blackberry. I hope they will at least think about what we are saying. I want this to be a good piece of entertainment but it is a cautionary tale about what we deal with. The last three tickets I received I never saw a policeman. I just got the tickets in the mail because I was photographed going through a light. Technology has made our life great and more efficient but there is a lack of communication because of all of that. We don’t look each other in the eye anymore because we are texting and on e-mail. What I liked about the story was that Shia’s character represents this new breed of young American who is unsure of where he is going. Jerry Shaw is just as much a great American as his brother, even though he didn’t serve in the military.
How much of the premise that we are can be viewed or listened to at any moment is actually current technology and how much is dramatic license taken?
CARUSO: A lot of it is the current technology that is out there. What we have done is manipulated the technology that we have fabricated as far as can they really get into a security camera and make it zoom in. We took liberty with that but having access to the security camera is true. Look at the London bombings. I think there are over 4,000 security cameras around town and they literally had the movements of the bombers tracked and then caught within 48 hours. That, to me, was in the middle of prepping this movie and that was very telling to me because if you have enough of these cameras out there, you really can do a job and it is Big Brother watching. The FBI can turn on your cell phone and listen to you even if your battery is off because they have access to do that with the phone company. Yes there is some paranoia but it is really more than just that. It is about that big government conspiracy that people think they know everything that we are doing. This movie taps into that and is a cautionary tale.
Did you have a technical consultant on the film?
CARUSO: We had many technical consultants on the film. We had people involved in super computing and processing. We had FBI computer cyber terrorists working with us telling us how cyber terrorists have hacked into systems and what they can do. We had about 5 or 6 experts helping us, particularly in the script phase.
Having a great script, you need actors to be able to interpret that story. Having just worked with Shia on DISTRURBIA, did he immediately come to mind?
CARUSO: No. The reason for that was because the screenplay had called for someone older, like 27 or 28, and at the same time while doing some research and investigating for the casting, both Stacey Snider and I just felt that Shia would be perfect. We just played him to age up and don’t make it a romantic movie. If this was made in the 80’s, of course our two leads would have to sleep together with some Bon Jovi music playing (laugh). We just felt we could age Shia up and it would still be interesting. Here is a young man that is 21 playing 25 but the film now deals with the American dream and what we hope to achieve after college. Shia might be viewed as a slacker in the new America just exercising his freedom. So here we have this 25 year-old guy who dropped out of Stanford and travels all over the world trying to find himself. Shia nails that and so he plays about 25 and Michelle plays 29 to 30 so it works well. There is a great scene later in the movie where they are in this dire circumstance and they are locked in a crate and they are getting claustrophobic and Michelle is freaking out. Shia has to talk her down and shed wisdom beyond his years. Maybe a year ago he couldn’t have convincingly done but he did a great job.