Set in feudal Japan, this film presents an intriguing tale of violent crime in the woods, told from the perspective of four different characters — a bandit, a woman, her husband and a woodcutter. Only two things about the incident seem to be clear — the woman was raped and her husband is now dead. However, the other elements radically differ as the four participants and/or witnesses relate their own stories (with the dead man, eerily enough, speaking through a medium). As each account is revealed, what seemed black-and-white turns to various hues of gray, leading to surprising — and confounding — revelations.
It topped the US Charts since its release and the card counting Las Vegas smash hit comes to Irish Cinemas Friday, April 11th. The film stars Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) as a shy but brilliant M.I.T student in need of money to pay Harvard medical school tuition. He finds the answers in the cards, so to speak. After dazzling his unorthodox math professor and stats genius Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) with some mathematical prowess, Ben is quickly indoctrinated into Rosa’s group of “gifted” students, who head to Las Vegas every weekend with the know-how to count cards and beat the casino at the blackjack tables. We caught up with the film’s leading lady Kate Boshworth to talk blackjack, Kevin Spacey and her possible return to Superman.
Q: Who first approached you about 21?
A: It was Kevin (Spacey). I had just finished a beautiful little film with Sigourney Weaver and directed by David Auburn called, “The Girl In The Park.” I was actually in the midst of planning a road trip across America when I received a call from Kevin saying, ‘come play with us in Vegas!’ How do you resist that? (laughs).
Q: Does your character exist or is she a composite?
A: Well, my character was based on one of the original members of the team, but we’ve made additions and changes for the sake of the film. For example, the love story (between my character and Jim’s character) is fictional. I met a few of the original students and it must be strange for them to see their lives being turned into a film. I think they were all looking at us going ‘oh wow, actors! And they’re making a film!’ and we were looking at them ‘you’re geniuses! What was it like?’ We had an equal fascination with one another.
Q: From spending time with the students could you understand how card counting works?
A: Yes, but that doesn’t mean I could do it! (laughs). Card counting at the level at which these students were playing would take an incredible amount of time combined with a mathematically genius mind- both of which, I did not have! Ironically, math was my worst subject in school. Learning to card count- and to make money from it was something that randomly happened to these students; they certainly were not expecting that twist in their lives. They were selected for their minds to be a part of a genius team- and to make money purely from their mathematical skills. Perhaps we can all relate to an experience in our life where something incredibly unexpected happens and you just go with it, there’s very little time to think. You ride the wave. That’s what it was like for these students. They started winning an extraordinary amount of money, living double lives. It was surprising to see how casual they were about the whole thing now, looking back on their own experience. I would say to them ‘but you scammed Vegas! You beat the system! It must have been so exhilarating.’ They didn’t seem too impressed with themselves- they didn’t seem to see what the big deal was. I found that pretty funny. Perhaps they were just trying to down play it. What was also fascinating to me is that they had such extreme double lives – the life in Vegas, staying in the glitziest hotels in the best penthouses- and then their life back in Boston as sweat pant clad, regular students. They had to be entirely different people when they were in Vegas – so in that way, they were themselves actors!
Q: What was it like filming in Vegas?
A: Everyone describes Vegas as the adult Disneyland, which I can kind of understand although I think it’s a bit more debauched than that! (laughs). To be honest, Vegas is not my cup of tea. I’m a big fan of the Cirque du Soleil shows. Each one is outstanding. (The “LOVE” show is my favorite). Staying in Las Vegas for a short period of time is fun, but residing there for six weeks is too long for me. I was surrounded by great people and we had a lot of fun together but I think at the end of it we all felt like we’d been living in a big parking lot and we were happy to get out of there. You know, I missed trees- it’s as simple as that.
Q: Did you gamble at all?
A: A little bit. But I know when to stop. I have that cautious instinct, a good antenna that says, ‘OK, this is the exit point, leave now!’ Vegas is, in many ways, intoxicating and alluring. I can see how it would be easy for many to get caught up in it’s web, not knowing when to stop- in that way, becoming a horribly destructive addiction. And that is the dark side to Las Vegas.
Q: When you did gamble, did you play 21?
A: That was the only thing I really did play. I mean, with craps I have no idea what is happening. I stood there, I rolled the dice, and I actually ended up being quite lucky. But I have absolutely no idea how to play that game. But I do enjoy 21. I had a very cool uncle who taught me to play 21 at an early age, so I suppose it’s the game I’m most comfortable with- and clearly, the game I was meant to focus on for the film.
Q: Did you win or lose?
A: Overall, I won. But I’m a pretty safe gambler. I was one of those people who would make twenty bucks and go ‘OK, I’m going to leave for the night.’ And the next night I would make 40 and go ‘OK, I’m done.’ Playing it safe does have it’s benefits though- I left up about $200! (Not millions, but better than losing!) I think Jim left with quite a lot of money, you’ll have to ask him.
Q: It’s the third time you’ve worked with Kevin….
A: We have worked together three times, and they have been three very different films! From singers and movie stars (Beyond the Sea), to comic book characters (Superman Returns), to genius card counters (21). That’s the fun of making films… to be able to play. It’s an added benefit when we get the chance to play with people we know and love. We have had such a laugh together. Kevin is a true professional, but he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. He’s one of those highly intelligent, witty people who clearly love to make other people laugh. He’s especially funny when you get him going after a couple of cocktails. I just adore him.
Q: Will you play Lois Lane again?
A: I hope so. I wish I could tell you more but I don’t really know. Bryan has been working on Valkyrie in Germany, and he’s clearly focused on that at the moment. Bryan executed the first Superman so well, keeping the classic feel and yet bringing Superman back into the modern world. And Bryan’s the sort of person who won’t do a film unless he feels it’s absolutely right. I think he’s just getting all the pieces put together.
’21’ is in Irish Cinemas Friday, April 11th.