“Nine Days” Helmer Edson Oda Talks Work With Movie “Hero” Spike Jonze

Ever since “Nine Days” filmmaker Edson Oda won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, the award has been a big boost to confidence whenever a little lick syndrome. impostor declares himself.

“I’m keeping it on another table so I can see it,” Edson said. Variety on Zoom, pointing at the trophy, which is just off camera. “When I’m writing and I’m like ‘Oh, this page sucks,’ I can just look at it and at least I have some recognition for the writing that motivates me to keep going. “

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It makes sense for the aspiring filmmaker to use whatever talismans he can get, especially since the past 18 months have been a major test of confidence and patience. Sony Pictures Classics has kept “Nine Days” for over a year due to the pandemic, waiting for audiences to experience the film in all of its theatrical wonder. The film debuted on July 31, making a strong showing and earning $ 18,455 on opening weekend at just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The film expanded nationwide on August 6, adding more than $ 235,000 to its box office total.

It has been a long – and moving – journey for the Japanese Brazilian filmmaker, and not just because of the pandemic. “Sometimes I go back to when I had just moved to the United States and was just starting film school,” he says, recalling the past years. “For me, releasing a film nationwide was such a distant reality.”

“Nine Days” is a very personal project, inspired by the suicide of Oda’s uncle when the writer and director was only 12 years old. The tragedy deeply affected Oda’s family and the resulting film is an intimate and introspective feature film about a man named Will (Winston Duke), who is tasked with auditioning potential souls for the chance to be born afterwards. that a suicide opens up the opportunity. Benedict Wong plays Kyo, Will’s friend and neighbor in the far world before the world; Zazie Beetz, David Rysdahl, Arianna Ortiz, Tony Hale and Bill SkarsgÃ¥rd are the souls vying for a life change on Earth.

After his Sundance debut, Variety Chief film critic Peter Debruge described “Nine Days” as a film “of dizzying conceptual ambition”, writing: “At the risk of selling too much [Oda’s] The first ultra-original and meaningful director, there is a big difference between ‘Nine Days’ and just about every other movie ever made.

Another big admirer of the film was Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Jonze, whose praise sounds like kismet, as Oda spent time in pre-production analyzing Jonze’s 2013 film, “Her.” The creator highlights Scarlett Johansson’s vocal performance as Samantha, particularly inspiring for Oda’s film and its premise.

“When the movie was in pre-production, I was just analyzing every shot of ‘Elle’, in order to find inspiration and the confidence to know that I can do it,” Oda recalls, noting that humanity and the vulnerability of the characters in this film was thematically similar to what it aimed to accomplish with “Nine Days”.

“There’s something about Scarlett Johansson’s character, Samantha, she’s almost like a soul,” he explains. “She had never lived before and she was trying to figure out what it’s like to have a body and at the same time connect with people, find love and all these emotions in such a dramatic way. of course visually and how he shot was another thing that gave me [inspiration], which I just wanted to learn from that perspective.

After Sundance, Oda and her production team sent the film to Jonze, who fell in love with it. Jonze brought Oda to his circle to talk about “Nine Days”, forming such a close bond that Jonze asked Oda to help him with something new he is working on. Soon after, Jonze signed on as executive producer of the film.

“Edson is a special human with a special mind and heart. And ‘Nine Days’ is a film that comes straight from him and is therefore special in exactly the same way. Delicate and deep, like the man himself, ”Jonze said in a statement announcing his attachment to the project last October.

About working with Jonze, whom he calls one of his’ heroes’, Oda said: ‘It has been a great, great, great experience, just to be closer to him and I’m learning so much about it. every time we interact. “

Oda also praised the set of actors who signed on for the film (including Duke, who also served as an executive producer) saying that putting together a cast of this caliber is “amazing, especially for a filmmaker for the first time “.

“When you write something, it’s always on the page and it’s only one level,” says the director. “But when they read the words and you hear them spoken in their voice, it just elevates the material to another dimension, to say the least.”

And while the pandemic delay hasn’t been ideal, after this year of soul-searching, Oda sees the film with fresh eyes and surmises audiences might too.

“Looking at it now, it’s even easier to relate to Will’s journey, because I think we understand more than ever this isolation and where it came from,” Oda says.

“From this isolation and his struggles, he is able to find hope and find a different perspective on the things he loves and loves to do,” he explains. “I expect people who watch this movie [will be] able to identify with the characters and then see something in their life that they may find more optimistic. Or maybe they can see it in a different way, or find something they like and maybe like it more or feel it more intensely.

Early audiences sent messages to the filmmaker, writing about how closely they relate to Will’s story.

“Some people just say that Will reminded me of when I lost someone very important in my family,” he says. “Or people talk about experiences they had during the war. It’s very rewarding to see how empathy goes beyond [the surface]. The will is that vessel for people to feel the things they have been through or experienced, the loss or trauma, and somehow help them heal.

And, while the presence of a sensitive black man as the film’s protagonist is particularly noteworthy, Oda saw a broad cross-cultural response to the project. “People see themselves on screen, and they see themselves as Will, no matter what color their skin is,” he says.

Oda is currently writing her next film, describing the current project as purer science fiction (sci-fi) than the “spi-fi” (spiritual fiction) feel of “Nine Days”, but just as intimate. But right now, the director is relishing the unique experience of debuting his first film. Thinking back to one of his favorite days on set, the filmmaker recalls an interaction with Duke after the actor completed a difficult monologue for the film’s climax.

“We had a lot of days to go, but there was a kind of ‘Mission accomplished’ feeling because after the shoot everyone felt like we had something special in the box,” Oda says. “I remember Winston had just approached me – it was sunset, it was just starting to get darker – and he said, ‘Your uncle is going to be really proud of you, you know.’ It meant so much to me; it’s something I will remember.

“Nine Days” is now showing in theaters nationwide.

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