‘I’ve had a lot of luck with my career,” said Saar Klein, the Jerusalem-born director of the neo-noir thriller After the Fall, starring Wes Bentley and Jason Isaacs, which is just about to be released in the US.
Klein and Isaacs, a British actor with family in Israel, spoke at a screening of the film, then titled Things People Do, at the Jerusalem Film Festival last summer.
After the Fall tells the highly topical and suspenseful story of Bill (Bentley, best known for American Beauty and the Hunger Games movies), an insurance claims adjuster in suburban New Mexico who loses his job and turns to crime simply to support his family and make his mortgage payments. He is pursued, and, in a twist, befriended, by a police detective, Frank (Isaacs), who knows a thing or two about desperation.
The critically acclaimed movie, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, is Klein’s directorial debut, but he has had a long career as one of the top editors in Hollywood. He worked with directors Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone and Cameron Crowe, among others, and was nominated for his work as an editor on the films Almost Famous and The Thin Red Line.
Klein downplayed his success, insisting that, “I was in the right place at the right time and worked hard.”
Klein said he wanted to work in movies since he was in high school – his parents moved from Israel to the US when he was a child – and got interested in classic Italian films by Fellini and Antonioni, and American indies such as Repo Man.
“I wanted to direct, just like everyone else,” he said, but found his first job opportunity in editing.
He began working on the screenplay for After the Fall several years ago.
“I was fascinated by this idea of a neighborhood on the edge of the desert, where there is a kind of battle between nature and civilization, where everything is constantly changing,” said Klein. “And you have this character dealing with a reality that is also shifting, where one day he’s a successful insurance investigator with a beautiful family and home, and the next day, he’s losing everything.”
But being in the director’s chair meant that Klein had to adjust his outlook.
“Editing is a precise science. But with directing, if you try to control everything, it means you’re not going to get what you want. I had to adapt and trust the people around me. I had to give away some control... I spoke to Terrence Malick and he said, ‘It’s like waterskiing, you let them do the work and just hold on.’” Klein developed a rapport with his actors that helped him create the kind of work environment he needed.
“I read the script and realized Saar was an incredibly creative director,” said Isaacs, who is best known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, as well as for the Showtime series, Brotherhood. “He asks actors why they do things...
I’ve worked with people who try to control everything creatively and it’s a much less pleasurable experience.”
Klein encouraged Isaacs to create a backstory for his character: “Jason had a strong idea who this character was.”
“I play a policeman in the movie,” said Isaacs. “I play a lot of policemen and soldiers and perverts and drug addicts. With this guy I had to think: Why is he bowling alone? Why does he need to keep to himself? I came up with a history that explained who he was.”
Isaacs is passionate about the result of their collaboration.
Asked what he was working on next, he said, “Let’s just talk about this movie now.” When pressed, he mentioned that he would be starring in the upcoming miniseries Dig, created by Gideon Raff, the executive producer of Homeland.
Dig is about archeology and intrigue in Israel, and Isaacs plays an FBI investigator. Filming began in Jerusalem but was moved to Croatia and New Mexico because of the security situation. USA Network recently announced that Dig will premiere in 2015.
For Klein, editing his own work proved to be very different from working for other directors.
“I had a friend edit it with me...
Afterwards I called a few directors I’ve worked with and said, ‘I want to ask you to forgive me for being so angry. Now I know what you go through.’”