Skip to main content

Interview: The Time Traveler's Wife Director Robert Schwentke

The last film Robert Schwentke was the Jodie Foster vehicle Flightplan, a thriller that, in some ways, was about love. But for his next film he's going all out with the romance, directing The Time Traveler's Wife, a story about a marriage and a lifelong love affair that spans decades.

Schwentke said during a roundtable interview for the film that the made the movie for his wife, specifically wanting to make a film about being in a long-term relationship. Check out the rest of what he had to say about the film, casting Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, and some odd musical choices, in the interview below. The Time Traveler's Wife opens this Friday.

Who's idea was it to have Broken Social Scene singing "Love Will Tear Us Apart" at the wedding?

That was my choice. I actually collect versions of that song or have done that for a long time and I like Broken Social a lot. I met them in L.A. and I very early on thought that we should use that kind of a song because in the novel there's a lot of music. Most of the music mentioned in the novel is the kind of music that I tend to listen to. So I connected to that and I felt if Ma and Pa pay for this affair and if we cast extras as guests who don't look like Henry's and Clare's friends then at least they get to pick the song.

What do you say people who see a lot of movies and say that a film is not as good as the book even though it's not the book and couldn't be?

There are very few films that work like a novel. They're more like a short story, a symphony versus sonata. Our narratives kind of move towards a cataclysmic event at the end.So we committed to the love story for obvious reasons. It's the backbone of the book and it's what I fell in love with about the book, what we all fell in love with. No pun intended. It's not like there's not plenty there already.

Can you talk about the casting? Rachel McAdams was attached to this even before you came along, right?

Yes, and I thought that was a great choice because she has that kind of vulnerability that you need. I mean, here's an eight year old girl in a meadow playing by herself and a guy shows up and says, 'I'm going to be your friend for the rest of your life –' or a version thereof. You have to be open and available to that kind of insanity. I think she made that very believable. Then I met Eric [Bana] and I was really taken with how grounded and accessible he was. He's a very dedicated family man. He's a dedicated husband. He's a good and decent, really truly decent man. Those are qualities that I felt were important for the character. Also, given his masculine persona from past films I felt that he would never play Henry as a victim which was very, very important to me. Even though time travel arguably is a metaphor for affliction, any kind of affliction I didn't want him to play him as a victim.

You obviously cut stuff for the film. What might make it onto the DVD?

I commit to one version and that's it. I don't do deleted scenes. So far I've always felt that the movies have arrived at a certain form and there were reasons why they arrived at that form. Insights were being gathered along the way. I think it's okay if there's just one film out there.

Do you see this film as being specifically for a women's audience?

Despite the fact that we were adapting someone else's work to make the movie it's a very, very personal film to me. When I read the novel a lot of the things in it resonated with me and I felt that if we just trusted those things that touched us then we would be halfway there. Then I'd been looking for a love story very specifically because I wanted to make a film about a stage in my life. I have a family. I'm married. I'm very, very happy. I wanted to make a movie for my wife and a movie that speaks to what it is to be in a long term, very, very committed relationship because at the heart that's really what it is. It's very grounded that way.

What does your wife think about the movie?

She hasn't seen it yet because in the past, for every single film I've ever made, have put her through the ringer. I would show her dailies. On my first film I made her sit through every single shot I'd ever done and that was terribly traumatizing to her. Then the second film I showed her out of sequence. I can't even fathom why I did that but I did. I showed her the ending first. I mean, it was bizarre. The third movie she had seen, I would bring home these cuts and edits and so by the time she went to the premiere she was like, 'Okay, fine.' Since this is aimed at her, this is for her I made the decision along with her to spare her the pain until she actually has to sit through the premiere. So she hasn't seen it but I hope she enjoys it, obviously.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend