Indignation: Press Conference Coverage

Indignation is a story set in the 1950s where Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) went to college to ensure he doesn’t join the war in Korea. He is the model student, he works hard and stays focussed, he also falls in love with (and borderline stalks) Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) where we see their relationship develop.

We attended the Press Conference for Indignation at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival. Sitting at the table in the Grand Hyatt Hotel were Anthony Bregman (Producer), Sarah Gadon (Actress), James Schamus (Director, Writer, Producer), Logan Lerman (Actor) and Jay Wadley (Composer). Written below are some of the best and most interesting questions and answers.

Indignation was shown at Berlin Film Festival 2016 on 14th February 2016.
You can read our ★★☆☆☆ review of the film here

James, how did you discover the novel by Philip Roth and what made you turn it into a screenplay?
James Schamus – It was one of a few thousand airports I have been in over the last few years, there was a small mass market paperback with not too many pages and large type, I’m a slow reader and I had a long flight, so I picked it up and by the time I finished the flight I thought this could probably make a great movie for Ang Lee to direct, so I optioned it.

But Ang Lee didn’t direct it, why was it time for you to direct it yourself?
James Schamus – He was busy. The other reason was that I got fired from my studio gig, so I was unemployed and my youngest daughter was going off to college, so I didn’t want to be that guy sitting at home in his pyjamas at noon in front of the computer trying to sell people things, so I thought I’d try something else.

How did you connect with the story of a guy who’s in the 50s escaping from the Korean War by going to college?
James Schamus – Well, I really identified with him because he was obviously spectacularly good looking, really smart and Jewish, so that was very helpful in terms of my own personal identification with the character. But also what I think that I fell in love with, honestly and not cynically, with the novel was here’s Philip Roth really at the end of his career and he’s going back to a time before there was Philip Roth, before that whole character and all those other characters and persona that he created and he’s finding something both very innocent and very tragic about a human connection with another soul, even if it’s a missed one or a lost one or a tragic one, so it really was not just the main character, Marcus, but it was really also a little bit about Olivia and these two young people finding each other and not realising that they found each other. I don’t think they understood what the connection was while they were still alive. To me that was the essence of the movie.

Why is Logan the best Marcus Messner for you?
James Schamus – He’s Jewish, that helped. I have been a fan of Logan’s for a long time and there was something so transcending and honest in his ability on screen to relate, not simply to the camera, but to the other people in the room, in the frame. So he’s one of those actors who’s a very giving actor, he doesn’t take, he actually gives and for a first time film maker, such as myself, and honetsly I am, I’ve never worked with actors before, it was really important for me to find people on the team as collaborators, not actors, but as my fellow film makers who were essentially generous people and of course, so talented, but to me it was that sense of giving that was really my first connection to him.

Logan, what fascinates you about Marcus?
Logan Lerman - I would say he’s a very compelling character on the page, his intellect and his intensity from having to repress his opinions in order to stay out of trouble, I found fascinating and there’s this great centrepiece in the film where he kind of just explodes. All of this repression leads to this incredible clash between him and the dean of his college that I found better than anything I have read before for a character. I just had to do it. It was one of those great experiences where I picked up the script, couldn’t put it down and knew right away that I wanted to do it and it happened very quickly, it was very nice.

How did you experience the dramatic moment between Marcus and the Dean, this very long scene?
Logan Lerman - It was tough, I went through months of stressing out about it and learning about everything Marcus was saying to find the truth in it and having it truly make sense to me, so if I go and don’t know the lines exactly, at least I could make them up if I understood it. I was so nervous about that scene, [looking at James] I don’t think I ever told you this, there were literally moments where I’m like “I can’t do this movie, I’m not going to be able to get through this, I don’t know how I’m going to get this done” and I’m battling with myself and my own abilities. I think that’s necessary on any film really, it’s fuel for one’s ability to get through challenging material. I really stressed out a lot.

How did you dig into the world of the 50’s? How did you prepare yourself to get a feeling of a student in the 50’s?
Logan Lerman - I just did a lot of research and I had the luxury of time, the amount of time I had to really dive into that research and have it make sense to me. I did so many things, read a lot experienced a lot, went to museums and tried to put myself in the time period and really have it make sense to me. A lot of it was relatable though, being Jewish and coming from a Jewish family. I still had to learn a lot. Working with James was a gift, because he has a wealth of knowledge and gave me so much great material to read and learn from.

Indignation Press Conference

Sarah, how did you connect with Olivia as a character and with her emotions?
Sarah Gadon - I think Marcus and Olivia are outsiders and I think when you’re growing up, it’s common thing, to feel like you don’t fit in, so I really tried to use that as a point of entry, of course they’re really on a fringe with this movie, but for me that idea that they didn’t fit in was something they really connect to when they watch the film.

Was sex the only redemption she could have for herself?
Sarah Gadon – I don’t think so; I think she enjoys her studies. In a way her sexual expressions is kind of misguided because it seems to be one of her only kinds of expression in the film. I think she really plays with that in terms of power, honesty, in terms of expression all of those things.

Can you tell us about the French culture element of this character?
Sarah Gadon – I think it represented a certain kind of freedom, the left bank and especially that time, in the 50’s, that was really what is was, a kind of freedom.

Logan, you have been growing up on screen, from a child actor, was there a point where you had to decide whether this was going to be your career path?
Logan Lerman – There was a choice for a period of time where I decided to do this professionally. It was really just a hobby as a kid. I guess material like this is few and far between for someone my age and I am taking my time to find characters that are different to ones I played in the past and more challenging than other roles out there than the landscape of films for people my age.

Is this movie a breakthrough for you?
Sarah Gadon – It’s a breakthrough! It’s a breakthrough!
Logan Lerman – I guess, sure.

Jay, could you tell us how you got involved in the project and how you developed the score?
Jay Wadley – We started pretty early and experimented with various different sounds. I wrote a six minute overture to experiment with themes from the beginning. One of the interesting parts about the score, one of the parts that came across for Olivia’s theme was listening through piano preludes by Flores and injecting a little bit of French piano music into her theme. That’s one particular way that we approached the dramatic development. As far as the 50’s, James definitely wanted to go towards a more classical sound, a little bit rough around the edges, not so polished and traditional film score. We co-wrote a song together, we researched a bit of Dinah Shore and American standards and co-wrote in the style of a 1950’s style pop radio tune.

James, can you tell us about the song Bertram puts on the record player?
James Schamus – Flusser, the roommate, when he first arrives and he puts that song on, we were so lucky, just because I happen to know Harry Belafonte and he’s the guy who connected us with the Paul Robeson family who controls the estate, because I really wanted that song in there, it’s called Chee Lai it’s the anthem of The People’s Liberation Army of China and the title of the book, Indignation, is based on a mistranslation in the 1950s of a line from that song. So when Flusser’s singing the song, it’s actually where the title of the movie comes from. We will arise and do battle. Commy propaganda.


Indignation was shown at Berlin Film Festival 2016 on 14th February 2016.
You can read our ★★☆☆☆ review of the film here


Article Written On:
4th March 2016 15:50 PM

Interviewed On:
14th February 2016 11:00 AM

Words By:
George Armstrong
George Armstrong

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