Michael Fassbender Sings With Us And Dishes On Frank
Frank's cast recorded the movie's music live. Paired with Maggie Gyllenhaal, director Lenny Abrahamson told me the screenplay from Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan described the music Frank's band plays as "beautiful and ridiculous at the same time." With composer Stephen Rennicks, Abrahamson began feeling out the sound of the Soronprfbs. But the actors were what brought the sound to life, playing live and embracing the strange but lovely style they'd had outlined. For Abrahamson it was crucial "that we really create a proper band. It was a leap of faith…proudly I feel that the band in the film is something I can believe. And a lot of that down to Maggie and the rest of the cast."
Maggie Gyllenhaal learned to play the Theremin for Frank. I would have believed her if she had told me it's just a skill she'd picked up along her path of unconventional artistry. She also learned how to play the Moogs and synths that Clara favors in the film. "Miles Davis's MIDI guy taught me the synths," she offered. But when it came the Theremin, she demurred about her accomplishments. "Luckily, I didn't have to play any of it with great precision because I'm playing someone who is trying to make noise," she said. "I think the idea was that Clara could do whatever she wanted on those instruments, but I couldn't do whatever I wanted on them. But I got into how to make the sound I wanted."
Abrahamson interjected before Gyllenhaal could play down her talents, "But there are beautiful pieces of Theremin playing in the film which are from…the live takes that you really played. So you were able to play really beautiful melodic stuff on the Theremin." With a laugh Gyllenhaal put that up to luck.
Gyllenhaal's Clara is a Godard character in her own mind. In coming up with the look for the pugnacious Theremin player, Gyllenhaal and Abrahamson had discussions about Clara being anti-fashion, "super severe" with a ponytail. But ultimately they decided on a look that was romantic but squalid. "I guess I thought Clara thinks she's in a Godard film or like a French New Wave movie all the time. But instead she's in like a muddy cabin in Woodrow…Her clothes are super dirty and probably she hasn't washed them…but she lets people open the door for her." Gyllenhaal summarized, "If you can choose have style or not have style, have style!"
The inspiration for the look of Frank's head was not Fassbender, but Buster Keaton. Lenny Abrahamson said the design process for Frank's paper mache head involved a lot of variants of small model heads. Fassbender's actual face was never a reference point. Ultimately, they settled on the one you see in the film from pulling from the silent film era's slapstick. "What's good about the head we chose," he explained, "we felt that it's got this sort of naiveté to it and a simplicity. It's on the border of a kind of gentleness but also slightly startled…I'm a big fan of early Hollywood physical comedy and there's something about the Stan Laurel or the Keaton or the Chaplin that although they were real faces they were also sort of masks."
Maggie Gyllenhaal is curious about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. But that's about it. She's hasn't read the book. She hasn't seen the trailer. But she knows people are associating it with her breakout romance The Secretary, as fans have been tweeting at her about it. "I'm sure it'd be a great pleasure," she said of reading the erotic novel, "I should totally read it…I'm curious about it. First of all I should probably read the book. I would probably have a lot of fun…I'm interested that it's making people think of Secretary. I don't know anything about it."
Frank opens August 15th in select theaters.
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