Fletch calls me and asks if I want to see an advanced screening of COLLATERAL at 7PM. It's playing at the HBO screening room in Times Square. Frustrated by the drawing board and the humidity, I'm down to escape for an air conditioned popcorn flick and we meet up for the show. COLLATERAL is better than I thought it would be as I had very low expectations. Which is a shame because I'm a fairly allegiant Michael Mann fan. I dug THIEF, MANHUNTER, HEAT, THE INSIDER, and ALI. But, I was afraid of this new collaboration w/Tom Cruise. As much as I unabashedly enjoy Cruise's energy and charisma, my radar was warning me to stay away from this. Still, it was an okay movie with some good scenes and represents the Los Angeles I've come to visit and know. So, in that respect, it does for true L.A. what a ton of blockbusters has done for New York City.
Credits roll, lights rise, and suddenly they're setting up four chairs and microphones on stage. Bear in mind, this screening room only seats about 200 people, maximum, and I'm sitting dead center in the second row. Before I know it, the host of the event is introducing Jada Pinkett Smith, Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise, and Michael Mann, for a 45-minute Q&A! They end the informed Q&A for a reception and the actors and director come off stage to meet & greet. I shake hands w/Cruise first and the only words I could muster were "Iron Man?" He looks at me w/genuine regret and explains that he "just doesn't think it's going to happen." That he'd "love to play IRON MAN in a movie but they haven't gotten it right, yet" and he "wants IRON MAN to be right." I can dig it. I respect that. I told him "You are Tony Stark" and he appreciated the vote. I shared a few solid minutes w/Jada and Foxx, congratulating them on their performances, citing specific moments, and Foxx told me a story about how a thug came up to him w/a gun once, threatening to blow him away. He told me the only thing he could do was whip out his cell phone and try to call some friends from down the block. The thug was so pissed off that Foxx wasn't scared, that he eventually walked away. When Foxx looked down at the numbers he'd been dialing, the digits read something like: 333*##**333 -- etc. Foxx was so terrified by the possibility of dying, that he postured like a bad ass while dialing gibberish, believing he was calling his friends for help, mere seconds away from shitting his pants. There is a moment in the movie where Foxx's character has to posture like that and that personal event was what he referenced.
I asked Michael Mann if he read Manga or if he was influenced by Japanese cinema because his movies indulge a sense of pace that allows for extended character development and often lets the environment become an important protagonist. Mann denied any Asian influence but agreed he indulged in such narrative vistas. We discussed what happens when you introduce violence into narrative. I recently discovered that 85% of my DVD collection involved a gun and was freaked out...wondering if I had a secret fetish for arms. When I thought about the stories that revolved around the presence of such violence, I was able to justify my interest because I'm perpetually curious by what happens to character when faced by an extreme situation. Character is revealed by circumstance and what better a way to reveal your true nature than by discovering what you're willing to do and/or capable of when a gun is introduced to the room?