ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE – Behind the scenes with director Jim Jarmusch

We catch up with the director to find out more about his vampire love story…

Vampires are big business, just ask the makers of TWILIGHT, who created a global phenomena with their teenage friendly take on what was previously seen as very dark source material. Right now, the latest TV shows are sinking their teeth into vampire themes, such as DRACULA starring Ireland’s own Jonathan Rhys Meyers, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, THE ORGINALS and TRUE BLOOD to name but a few. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch puts a fresh take on the vampire legend this month with his latest film ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, a love story between two vampires who have been in love for centuries, played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. We checked in with the director at the Cannes Film Festival to find out more about his plans…

What made you decide to make a vampire film?
Jim Jarmusch: Well we heard you could make a lot of money with these kind of things! [laughs] It’s a thing I wanted to make; a love story with vampires, and it’s something that took maybe 7 years to actually make. It was a long process. I haven’t really seen any of these current vampire films, but I have a love for the whole history of vampire films; many beautiful films. Tilda and I were talking about this, and I had a script 7 years ago and shortly after that, there was a character for John Hurt and somehow they stayed with this project the whole time. It was very difficult to do it, but Tilda would never give up; when things would fall apart, she would say ‘That means it’s not the right time for us to make the film, that’s a good thing’. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, but I think in the end it was! John and Tilda really stuck by this project, and John said ‘You just tell me when we’re gonna do it, and I’ll be there’, and he was. I am very grateful.

How did you go about creating a new vampire lore?
JJ: All these mythologies come, kind of arbitrarily, throughout vampire lore; garlic, reflection in silver or a silvered mirror, the cross… It’s funny, if you study vampire films, the first time fangs are even visible in a vampire film isn’t until the 1950s in a Mexican film; EL VAMPIRO! This is not true in NOSFERATU or VAMPYR or COUNT DRACULA, so these things change and we wanted to have one that was our own, so we had the gloved hands. They just look cool!

Was it a conscious decision to have such a British cast?
JJ: Yes, very definitely, a very British intention. It comes from the fact that primarily, at least to my knowledge, vampire stories as a literary form come from the Romantic poets, come from English literature; although there are certainly some Central European mythologies and German vampire stories. For me, it comes from this first story that Byron initiated that was then written by John Polidori. There was, of course, Bram Stoker, but this connection to the Romantics and in particular, something British; these people and their perception of the world was something that was exceptional and still affects our perceptions. It was a strong intention for there to be a British undercurrent to these vampires.

Can you talk about the visual style of the film?
JJ: The visual style of the film is a very strong collaboration with Yorick Le Saux who shot the film, who I had not worked with before, who is incredible. Something we found with each other that was really inspiring to me; we become one mind… I don’t know how to explain that either, but something fantastic from Yorick Le Saux. Also, Marco Bittner Rosser, the production designer, an amazing person to collaborate with. I just feel so lucky. For me, although there aren’t a lot of characters in the film, clothing and style is very very essential as details, and Bina Daigeler, who I worked with before on THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, did the wardrobe design, and these are just such amazing collaborators.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is at Irish cinemas from February 21st

Words: Brogen Hayes