DIRECTOR: Nick Hamm
WRITER: Colin Bateman
CO-SCRIPTWRITER: Alejandro Carpio
CAST: Jason Sudeikis
A fast-paced, comedic crime thriller of a bromance gone wrong between John DeLorean, played by Lee Pace (Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book of Henry, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), and Jim Hoffman, played by Jason Sudeikis (Colossal, Booksmart).
Set in early 1980s California, the story follows the meteoric rise of the golden boy of the automotive industry, John DeLorean (Pace) and his iconic DeLorean Motor Company, through the eyes of his friendship with charming, ex-con pilot turned FBI informant, Jim Hoffman (Sudeikis). DeLorean turned to unsavory activities to save his financially troubled DeLorean Motor Company, and it was Hoffman who was all too willing to lure the car designer/engineer into a cocaine trafficking ring set up by the FBI. Isabel Arraiza is Cristina DeLorean, DeLorean’s fashion model wife, Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Jurassic World, War for the Planet of the Apes) is Ellen Hoffman, Hoffman’s direct, no-nonsense wife and Corey Stoll (First Man, Ant-Man, Midnight in Paris) is ambitious FBI Special Agent Benedict Tisa.
I like stories that are ambiguous, that ask questions and defy genre.
Stories that teeter on the edge of truth. This is the story of a man who embodies this. A man so desperate to succeed, he gambled everything and lost.
And I'm not talking about John DeLorean.
I'm actually talking about his neighbour. Jim Hoffman.
But first let's talk about DeLorean: eccentric and debonair, the Prince Charming of GM, car designer and friend to the rich and famous. He dared to oppose the American auto oligarchy by striking out on his own, inventing himself as one of America's earliest Celebrity-CEOs. He branded his lifestyle with his car. He was the car. Slick. Cool. Outwardly attractive. You could have his life, if you bought into the dream.
This, in itself is a great story. But a conventional biopic was uninteresting to me.
Enter, Jim Hoffman: a low-life and convicted criminal turned FBI informant who just so happened to be DeLorean's neighbour. He joined DeLorean's gilded, sun-kissed social scene by befriending the family and passing himself off as something else.
I was fascinated by this toxic relationship and the cinematic possibilities it created. Here were two guys who needed to win so badly that it drove their friendship to a farcical and heart-breaking conclusion. The writer and I built on this real premise and imagined a relationship that became the beating heart of the film, creating a twisted buddy-comedy set against the backdrop of the frivolous 70's. At first glance, it’s a universal story of betrayal, but it's really about dishonesty and trust. And asks with a wink: how well do we really know our friends?
So - was John DeLorean a con man with shiny hair or a creative genius? Was Jim Hoffman a depraved scumbag or a friend whose past damaged those around him?
To be honest, I don't know.
The fun of the film is not knowing. I want the audience to enjoy a cinematic rock-n-roll adventure and make that decision themselves.
Q&A WITH THE DIRECTOR
Other than the DeLorean being featured in the Back to the Future films, were you familiar with John DeLorean and his sports cars before becoming involved in the project?
DeLorean was clever enough to secure over 100 million pounds from the UK government to help him build his dream car. The condition was that he had to build it in Northern Ireland. I come from Northern Ireland and was always aware of DeLorean as a carmaker. The idea that an American sports car tycoon would build a factory in the middle of The Troubles was in itself an absurd plan. So, I'd been aware of DeLorean and the story for a few years, but had never before found a way into it until now.
How did your collaboration on the script with writer Colin Bateman evolve – in terms of the story you were looking to tell?
I like the way Colin Bateman brings a comedic and sometimes farcical eye to historical events. We worked together before on THE JOURNEY and we enjoy deconstructing history, mixing the real and the fiction--inventing our own cinematic language of "what happened." We knew we had an interesting, comic character in Hoffman. He was a chameleon. There was very limited information on him, so there was a certain latitude to how we interpreted him. He was a liar and a cheat. We felt dramatically free to explore his character and play with that potential humour.
What was the appeal of focusing on a particular period in John DeLorean’s life?
It's a big story that stretches over a long time. So, focusing on a particular moment in his life, in a perverse way, helped us to go deeper.
How was it working with Lee Pace, Jason Sudeikis, Corey Stoll and Judy Greer?
I like to rehearse before and during production. It helps me understand the characters, but also provides the cast with a safe environment in which they can explore ideas without the pressure of being on set with a tight schedule and limited number of takes. They test out ideas and play with the character, this then frees them to make great decisions on set. Every actor came prepared.
LEE's challenge was that he was playing a much older man. But Lee is naturally charismatic. He used that part of himself to shape his interpretation and found his own way to embody him. Lee had studied DeLorean but never once did an imitation; he was always focused on the complex emotions at the center of John's journey. When he first walked onto set in full costume, the whole crew got the chills. It was quite a moment.
JASON had a very nuanced take on Jim. He had an instinctual understanding of the story’s structure and the way the character should be approached. He was very intelligent about his choices. He would play a funny beat in one take, and an emotional beat in another, all with this great sense of humanity. There’s a wonderful every-man quality about Jason, he is very engaging. He understands that there is tragic in the comic and his performance reflects that in a very entertaining way.
COREY, simply put, is just a powerhouse. He is detailed and focused on set. He liked to rehearse and enjoyed experimenting with humour. There’s a level at which serious actors aren’t trusted to play comedy. But I've never accepted that rule. One of the great comedic threads of the film is watching him struggle to manage Jim's bumbling attempts at espionage. And it's hilarious.
JUDY is original. She's idiosyncratic and off-beat, and always authentic. She can make you laugh out loud and break your heart in the same moment. She's warm and real, and captured Ellen’s fire and wit. Her take on Ellen became the moral compass of the film.
How would you describe the relationship between John DeLorean and Jim Hoffman?
Toxic. Can a conman con a conman? What’s always fascinated me was just how someone like Jim Hoffman integrated himself into DeLorean’s rarified social circle. DeLorean lived in a country-club estate in San Diego. It just so happened that Hoffman lived there too, and eventually their kids played together. Initially it’s entirely social, eventually professional, becoming poisonous for both.
How did you find the balance between showcasing the flawed sides of these characters, while also ensuring they remained likeable?
I don't judge characters. I'm more interested in flawed characters because they're real. I never sat down and said, “I’m going to make these characters likeable.” Jason portrayed Jim as a conman who cons with a wink and a dashing smile. He's real but he’s never evil, his judgment just isn’t what we’d call sound. Lee too was aware of DeLorean's hubris and never shied away from his moments of ego.
Can you tell us about the women in the film played by Judy Greer, Erin Moriarty and Isabel Arraiza – who are strong in their own right?
We wanted a strong feminine presence in the film. Jim’s saving grace was that he was a family man whose sole motivation is to support and protect his wife and kids. Ellen had to not only be a moral anchor for Jim, but our truth-teller too.
Isabel played Cristina, John DeLorean’s wife. She was a strong businesswoman who survived John’s legal mess and came through it as one of the earliest and most successful life-style tycoons. In a way, Isabel brings us through that journey.
Erin’s character, Katy, was based somewhat on a historical person. But more importantly, she embodied a bold freedom that was emblematic of the time, and she approached that role with complete fearlessness and fun.
Can you tell us about filming in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of the hurricanes, how that affected production and how the community came together?
We filmed this on location in Puerto Rico. We were interrupted by two hurricanes. The first hurricane damaged production but not significantly. The second was Maria.
Imagine living in a country with no electricity, no running water, no gasoline, and a shortage of food and money. Now imagine shooting a film there.
The filmmaking process normally comes with some inherent frustrations. But this was like nothing else I'd ever dealt with. The normal comforts of filmmaking had been stripped away. Petty problems were insignificant when faced with the real tragedy taking place all around me. I had to be specific. Careful. Thoughtful. Above all, conscious about what we filmed, how we filmed it and where. There was no room for error. Making the film this way became a testament of faith. Faith in cinema and in the people who make it. Here's what happened:
The day before Maria hit, I, along with the cast and non-local crew were evacuated. I then watched, stunned, as Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. I honestly thought the film and everything we'd hoped to create was over. We had shot five days, and I knew what we had was special. But I saw no hope of return and was devastated by what was happening on the island.
Maria had destroyed the island's entire power grid and cell towers. Production struggled to contact the local crew but slowly phone calls were made and we confirmed that everyone was safe. We then had a decision to make. But how could we possibly return? I spoke to the actors and producers, and the decision was made that if it was at all possible, we should continue making the film. Not only because it was the right creative choice. But it was the humanitarian choice.
We were employing over 200 people locally who needed a pay check now more than ever. To their great credit, not a single actor, producer or non-local crewmember refused to return to the island. In fact, they were determined not only to finish but to help in any way possible with reconstruction.
We were fully cognizant of what our local crew was going through. Our 1st AD had watched the roof of her house get peeled back like the top of a sardine can, while her family huddled in a corner. Our make-up artist waded through floodwaters with her son. Our picture car coordinator sat up through the night with a shotgun for fear of looting. These are just a few of the stories of Hurricane Maria, and there are countless others. But our crew adamantly believed in the story we were telling and at a time when the entire economy of Puerto Rico came to a standstill, this film was a way to recover their homes and lives.
Using whatever resources we had, working without power, gasoline, rationed water, eight-hour ATM lines, police curfews, even basic communication - we came together to make our film a reality. We worked six and seven consecutive days. There was a collective desire to create a great movie that we could all be proud of.
I believe, more than anything, that their faith, dedication and determination made the film what it is.