Having come to film writing and directing fairly late on in his career, Source Code is only the second feature to have been produced by Duncan Jones. Having written and produced the sci-fi Moon back in 2009, Jones has now moved onto bigger budgets and CGI wizardy with his latest Hollywood blockbuster, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Here he talks to View’s Matthew Turner about amazing special effects, the influence of Hitchcock and Quantum Leap, and why he dislikes happy endings.
Warning – this interview contains spoilers which are clearly marked.
I really enjoyed the film. What attracted you to it and how did you get involved?
I was actually doing international press for Moon and I had the chance to stop in Los Angeles and get to meet some of the people that I really wanted to work with in the future. And Jake [Gyllenhaal] was right at the top of the list. He had seen Moon and wanted to meet me as well, so it was kind of an opportunity for us to discuss if there was something we could work on together. Jake had been sent a script – Source Code – which he liked, but he was trying to find the right person to collaborate with and he said that maybe I'd be the right person.
So I went home and read it and got very excited – I thought that there were some really interesting ideas and I loved the pace of the movie and the fact that it really did try to juggle romance, action, mystery, science-fiction and it seemed like it could be really good fun. And I called Jake up and I told him that I'd like to do it and I told him what my take on it would be, you know, the fact that I found it quite serious and my input would be to lighten the tone and find ways to inject some humour. And he loved the sound of it, so that's how we got started on it.
I think if it had just popped out as a Scott Bakula cameo it couldn't have worked...
I take it you're a big Quantum Leap fan?
[Laughs] What? You think? [Laughs]
The mirror shot is a direct lift, is that right? Plus you've got the cameo. How did you go about sorting that out?
The mirror shot? Yeah, absolutely. Well, when I read the script for the first time, it just leapt off the page that this is Quantum Leap, you know, “He looks in the mirror and sees a different face” – that's Quantum Leap! So as a fan of the show and as a science-fiction fan, there's no way you can do that scene and pretend that people who are science-fiction fans are not going to think Quantum Leap. So I thought, well, maybe there's an opportunity here, maybe there's a way we can have a little doff of the hat at this moment.
I was able to get in touch with Scott Bakula and talk to him and he said he'd come in and do a recording for us. And we tried it and it sounded great and what I loved about it is that he really got into the moment and treated it with the pathos that I think the scene needed. And because of that we were able to use it. I think if it had just popped out as a Scott Bakula cameo it couldn't have worked. But the fact that it really does feel legitimate and there's a real heartfelt conversation going on at that moment, that's the reason it works.
What other influences were there on the film? Did you look at any other films in preparation?
Not so much. I mean, I felt like I understood what a lot of the influences were from Ben Ripley, who wrote the script. The only one that we tried to get in there was Hitchcock, really. Just because, again, it's about an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances, sitting on a train across from a mysterious dame and that's the perfect Hitchcock set-up. So that and the fact that I tried to inject the humour – Hitchcock always had humour running through his films – it felt like this was the perfect opportunity to make a very classic thriller. So there are a few things we did in the movie that sort of reference Hitchcock a little bit.
I wonder what a Hitchcock sci-fi movie would have been like?
A bit like Source Code, I hope! [Laughs]