In City of Ember, directed by Gil Kenan and based on the book by Jeanne Duprau, Bill Murray plays the corrup mayor of Ember, a city that's powered by a giant hydro-electric generator that has been mysteriously malfunctioning, leaving its citizens in blackouts. Lina (Saoirse Ronan), a teenager, along with her friend, Doon (Harry Treadway) go on an adventure when they discover a potential escape route from the city. Tim Robbins plays Doon's father, an inventor. Saoirse Ronan has previously starred in Atonement while Bill Murray is best known for his performance in Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Rushmore. Tim Robbins has previously starred in Cadillac Man, Jacob's Ladder, The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River and, most recently, in Noise and The Lucky Ones. He has also writted and directed films, namely, Bob Roberts and Cradle Will Rock, which he also starred in, and Dead Man Walking. It was a real privilege to interview Saoirse Ronan, Tim Robbins and Bill Murray together.
Twentieth Century Fox and Walden Media release City of Ember on October 10th, 2008.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Bill, how did you end up with the role of the mayor in City of Ember?
BM: Someone sent me the script and I opened it and it said, “written by Caroline Thompson.” She’s a writer I met a long time ago when I first went to California. I called her [when] she was on a horse somewhere in the valley. She said, “You’re gonna love the director, Gil Kenan.”
NYC MOVIE GURU: What kind of research did you do for your role?
BM: I dug a hole and then went inside of it. Then I covered myself and had a little light and then waited until the light was extinguished. [Seriously, though], I did a little research. I felt that the book was a book that kids read in America in middle school. And when I told my sons that I might be in City of Ember, they said, “Oh! You're gonna be the mayor?” When I read it, I read it from their point of view. I tried to think of what they made of what this mayor was [in] both the book and the script. To the degree that a mayor can be a father who can disappoint you, I’m a father figure and I’ve probably disappointed on occasions. When you most disappoint is when you talk-the-talk but you don’t live up to it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What about you, Saoirse?
SR: I was sent the script as well and my dad put me on tape and sent it over to Gil [Kenan] who was in London at the time trying to look for [actors] to play Lina and Doon. I met [him] and we immediately clicked. I got a call a week later [saying] I got the part. Of course, I was thrilled.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Tim, would you consider this to be a movie with a message?
TR: I didn’t really think of it as a message [movie]. For me, it was more about that spirit of the human being that finds a way to survive in the midst of the direst of circumstances. There are some people [who] can still hold hope when others [don’t] and if they believe in it, anything is possible. When I met Gil [Kenan], I realized that he was not going to fall into the traps of the movie that would be all the darkness and nihilism. He had a real super-positive energy. I felt like he was going to make a movie that would accentuate the human spirit of Lina and Doon.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did any of you experience a blackout or an earthquake before? What was it like being in Ireland during the production?
SR: I live in Ireland and we don’t get anything like that, so, no, I haven’t been in an earthquake or a blackout or anything like that. It was great for me to work in Ireland, being in Irish person and being around an Irish crew who I thought were fantastic and professional. It was nice to go somewhere that you already knew.
TR: I was in the blackout [of ‘77]. I was also here for the last one. That was fun. The people started barbecues on the street. I got out my camera and stayed up all night to take pictures. [As for] earthquakes, I’ve been in a couple of those. I was in a hotel once and it moved. I was way up high. That was really scary. [As for] Ireland, I’ve been there several times and absolutely love it.
BM: I missed all the big blackouts, but I was in a pretty good-sized hurricane that came years ago and the power went out in my neighborhood. I left my home and moved to the Plaza Hotel with an entire group of kids, and a dog, and they gave us the Presidential Suite.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Bill, what was it like eating all those sardines in the movie?
BM: I’m not really a sardine guy. I can eat copious amounts of eggplant and caviar, but this is the most amount of sardines I ever had.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think you’ll come back for the sequel if there will be one?
BM: I may have been injured by the mole.
TR: When you’re eaten by a mole, it doesn’t really digest. You just get regurgitated. You’re able to breathe within their digestive tract.
BM: You become regurgitated. They are aerobic, they’re not anaerobic, so you are even able to breathe within the digestive tract, and procreate. I see myself in a sling in the sequel.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What about you, Saoirse?
SR: I asked Gil [Kenan] when we were on set whether we were going to do a sequel or not and he said, "Get all of your friends to go and see it and then we’ll see." I think it’s basically how this one goes and then we’ll see. If Gil was still going to do it and we still had all of the cast, then yes, [I’ll be in it].