Max Minghella is visiting with Movie Fanatic at the Toronto Film Festival for an exclusive chat about The Ides of March and lets us in on how it was being directed by the one and only George Clooney.
Minghella had seen the play Ides of March is based on, Farragut North, several times. So, when word got out there was a movie being made, he made sure he could be in the film. As the son of a director, Best Director Oscar winner Anthony Minghella, he keenly knew what a good director can do for a film. He saw that quality in Clooney and trusted him completely to not only direct him as Ben Harpen - a political aide to Clooney's presidential candidate - but also to bring a play he adored to the big screen.
Movie Fanatic: When you first read the script for The Ides of March, what was it that first spoke to you about that film?
Max Minghella: I had seen the play in New York twice and in L.A. twice. I found out there was a film happening. There were various attempts at the movie and I didn't think it would ever come together. Then I found out it was going to happen. I just wanted to read it out of curiosity as a fan of the original material. Then I remembered there was this little part in the play that carried over to the movie. I just wanted to play that part really badly so I put myself out there.
Movie Fanatic: How do you think the film fits in with our current political climate in the U.S.? It's kind of volatile to say the least.
Max Minghella: It's incredibly pertinent in a very on the nose way, but, also in other ways. What was interesting about the film, and politics for that matter, is you've got a mass group of people you're trying to convince of an ethical position. It's normally a good thing that comes from a good place. But, then you have to figure out how to manipulate everyone to get everybody on board with this idea that for whatever reason, they might not understand it's the right thing. I think somewhere in that process, you lose track of what the original idea was in the first place and it becomes about the game. It's kind of a fun game. I think that's interesting. I hope it will make the world more passionate about the role of politics in our lives -- how it is and how it dissolves and how it gets confused. Anything that sheds light on something in a smart and honest way is helpful.
Movie Fanatic: Like you said, there's a game that starts with ideas. Do you think that the same ideas raised by the play made it into The Ides of March?
Max Minghella: Absolutely. The film is mesmerizing. Sometimes plays on film feel like plays on film. George has done a great job elevating the material and making it something different. It's bigger. It feels like a movie to me. It doesn't feel like you're watching a play made into a movie. Yet, it still maintains what I loved about the play Farragut North.
Movie Fanatic: Two questions about George (don't miss our George Clooney Ides of March interview). How did you find his set and him as director?
Max Minghella: He's very practical. He doesn't do a lot of takes. He has a very clear idea of what he needs to get out of the scene and what he doesn't need to get out of a scene. He makes his actors feel really safe. Plus, his movies are really good. He is so intelligent and you feel that he has amazing taste and you can relax and give yourself up to somebody. At the same time, anytime he gave you direction, it always felt right to me. It always felt smart and helped me get to where I was trying to go.
Movie Fanatic: The second part of the question is, as an actor, what does it mean to have a director who is an actor?
Max Minghella: Yeah, he probably gets it a little more. He always exactly understood what I was trying to do. It helped me figure it out. Some very practical things that were astounding -- like he would say, "Take the cell phone out a little bit later." Tiny little things, but those are the things that can really help an actor. Those little bits, moments, that make it all feel real. He's very good at pinpointing the little things.
Movie Fanatic: For a movie like this where you were a fan of the play and worked so hard on the film, as an actor, what are your feelings and emotions as the world is about to discover The Ides of March?
Max Minghella: You have no idea how people are going to react to something. It doesn't change how I feel about it, honestly. I think all I care about is what I think of it. If it's something I'm proud of that I want my family and friends to see, those are the thoughts I have. I could love this film and think it's brilliant and people could find ways to dislike it. This is a movie that people could want to hate. It's a really easy movie for people to hate. It's like a political campaign. It's got nothing to do with what the message was in the first place. It's about how do you manage the politics of it. It's funny, over time you realize that. It doesn't make you happy when people love it and it doesn't make you depressed when they don't.
Movie Fanatic: What do you look for in a script that makes you want to be a part of it?
Max Minghella: It's a lot of things. Am I going to want to go to work with these people? I am excited about it. Do you trust the director? As an actor, you have very little control over the final product. So, is this someone you trust? Also, I ask myself: Am I the right person for this? Sometimes you're not. It's about how you can contribute usefully.