Cast of ‘Sunshine’ discuss film’s genesis

    The cast of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” has such an unforced camaraderie that it’s easy to see why the film is such a success. The players — Jim Carrey, Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson — sat to discuss the unorthodox approaches they took to make the film as well as answer personal questions about the individual choices they’ve made as actors and filmmakers.

    Guardian: I’ve read about a certain technique used to get you guys to act in a certain way. You had to be surprised or confused on set…

    Jim Carrey: What the hell are you talking about? We’re professionals!

    Michel Gondry: I liked to make sure the cameras were always rolling. We didn’t use a real technique.

    Carrey: Michel definitely flouts convention. At a certain point, he didn’t want to say “Action!” or anything. He just wanted to completely rewrite the whole rule-book and the cameras were rolling and Kate and I were like, “…are we?”

    Kate Winslet: He would still run the camera and I would stop talking in English and go back into American just in case.

    G: Is it true that the camera was once kept rolling all day?

    Winslet: Ask the producers!

    Gondry: I think we shot more time than we were physically there. We had two cameras rolling and I guess one shot more than needed to be shot.

    G: Would you consider this movie kind of like “Lewis Carroll meets the movies?”

    Carrey: “Alice in Wonderland,” right.

    Tom Wilkinson: In my humble opinion, it’s in the honorable surreal tradition of “Alice and Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”

    Winslet: So much of what we ended up shooting was not only brilliantly written by Charlie but was in Michel’s mind. Michel would be like, “now just do it completely emotional, let’s just do something wild.” Joel and Clementine’s relationship, as Charlie had written it, is very real. It’s actually a very simple love story about two people who are really meant to be together in spite of this horrendous thing that they do.

    Carrey: It’s romantic and yet it’s not romanticized. It’s a real love full of compromise and everything else that love comes with.

    G: If in fact the procedure was a reality, would you go through with it yourselves? What memories would you erase?

    Carrey: Probably the second-to-last night of filming.

    Gondry: You mean the one where you were really nasty to me?

    Carrey: Yeah. The one where you were a passive-aggressive genius.

    G: This movie is so bittersweet and surreal, what do you think will entice college students to go see it?

    Carrey: Spider-Man’s girlfriend dancing in her underwear.

    Kirsten Dunst: Not just me [Ruffalo appears partially nude].

    Carrey: He could take his clothes off at any time!

    G: (To Carrey) This is probably the least over-the-top character you’ve ever played. You really didn’t have the kind of bombast and craziness of previous roles.

    Carrey: Fortunately Kate was really good at that. She was the outward manifestation of Joel’s insanity, the things he can’t express. For me, the special effect in this movie is the film.

    G: (To Dunst and Wood) You both had success as child actors and now have taken projects and been fortunate in those choices.

    Dunst: I love what I do. I’ve made wrong choices sometimes for the wrong reasons. It’s not something I would do with my child. I just choose intuitively, it depends what I’m going through in my life.

    Elijah Wood: I’m the same. Just with the talent involved, I just wanted to be part of the film. It changes from film to film.

    G: (To Gondry) Your approach to this film was very different to that of videos, which seems very precise and planned out. Can you compare that to making the film?

    Gondry: We didn’t want explosions of effects or a show-off of technology. We thought that the memories should feel like the memories are vanishing physically, not just like a simple illusion. I try to be invisible as a director and let people exist.

    Carrey: [Gondry’s ideas] were always different, always challenging. I argued with him a couple times about how I didn’t think I could accomplish certain things. The scene in Lacuna where I’m in two different places in the scene and I had to run behind the camera …

    Winslet: We never thought it would work.

    Carrey: I know, but Michel was like [affects a French accent] “Well why don’t you try?” This is why the French discovered the hot air balloon.

    Winslet: (to Ruffalo) The part where you were in the closet …

    Mark Ruffalo: He put me in a closet and then never let me come out. That was my part in it.

    Carrey: (French accent) “And you go there in the closet.”

    Wilkinson: This is a movie that is very cutting-edge, but in fact, the techniques we’ve described were how they used to make films.

    G: What was your reaction seeing the finished product?

    Winslet: I knew that Michel had changed the order of things, but it completely freaked me out. The scenes shot at the beginning now come at the end. But at the end of the movie, I just thought, “God that just works.”

    G: (To Kaufman and Carrey) You are both known for comedic films, and this film is very funny in some places, but the focus is on the romance and the drama. How much of a pressure is there to be funny?

    Charlie Kaufman: When I was writing the film, I realized it wasn’t coming out the way I had thought, but I was fine with it. There was no real pressure.

    Carrey: I don’t feel it either. I get that question all the time because that’s what you’d naturally think, that there’s two different worlds going on at once, but there really isn’t. For me, the story’s the star. It doesn’t matter if it’s funny or not. Things come out of a chemistry with someone, but it’s not a “yuckfest.” You’re looking for what’s real about it.

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