Duncan Jones admits he’s a late bloomer. The son of superstar David Bowie, his first full-length movie, Moon, which was critically acclaimed, came out when the director was 38 years old.
His new movie Source Code is a sci fi thriller, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens, who wakes up on a train, not knowing how he got there. He discovers that he’s part of a government experiment called ‘Source Code,’ which can inject a person into someone else’s body for the last eight minutes of their life. His mission is to find the bomber that blew up the train, killing all on board, but he only has eight minutes to do it. When he fails on his first attempt, he is injected back into the body again and again until he can solve the crime.
Duncan spoke about his unusual thriller at the press day for the movie.
Were you overwhelmed at all by this script, because it does repeat itself over and over again, even though it’s a different ‘Source Code’ and even if it’s slightly different it could be boring?
Absolutely. My biggest fear when I read the script was the repetition is intimidating. How do you get through that without the audience halfway through feeling like, ‘Ha, I know what’s coming, I’ve seen this before?’ There were a few things that I felt we had to do.
One of them was making sure that I broke down the repetition on a chart to ensure that visually we were able to distinguish each recurrence from the other, so that there was no repetition visually, and also narratively that there was always something new happening.
Can you talk about working with Jake? You got the script because Jake said he wanted to work with you. How did that feel?
It was fantastic. I was actually on the international part of the press tour for Moon at that time. I had the chance to stop here in L.A. and meet some of the people I really wanted to work with and Jake was on the top of my list.
Fortunately he’d seen Moon so he took the meeting. We discussed projects that we could work on together, and he was the one who suggested I read Source Code and I got very excited about it.
You have Scott Bakula do the voice of Jake’s father. Was that an intentional nod to Quantum Leap?
Oh, massively, yeah. In fact, if you pay close attention to the dialogue, we actually managed to slip in there him saying, “Oh, boy.” I think the fact that we got away with that is probably the thing I’m most proud of all in this film!
Where did the idea to use him originate?
When I first read the script. You couldn’t help but think of many, many influences that obviously must have been there when Ben [Ripley] was writing, and there was that moment where he sees himself in the mirror. That’s a Quantum Leap moment to me.
We were working out the voices for the father and it just occurred to us, “Wouldn’t it be great if Scott Bakula did that?” We brought him in and he was so lovely and willing to take it seriously, and I think he got why we wanted to have him do it. It was great.
Was filmmaking in your blood at an early age?
Absolutely, right from the start. I was on the set Labyrinth when I was a kid, and I was around film growing up. I knew what was possible. My imagination had been fired, but I think I felt a certain responsibility to try and take the academic route as far as I could until I wilted.
Did your father’s accomplishments hinder you in figuring out what you were supposed to be doing?
I think I probably could have let it go if my dad hadn’t said, “You’ve got to find the passion in your life,” which was a gift and a curse, because I completely agreed with him, but it meant that I really had a long hunt to try and get the right thing for me. It’s a real struggle; I know how difficult it is.
Some people are very, very lucky and they find the thing that they really want to do early on in life. It took me a long time to come to terms with it and actually go with it.
Do you feel any pressure because your dad is so famous? Do you feel the need to prove yourself?
He’s always been incredibly supportive. I think it really does help that we work in different areas. It would have been really horrible to try and have a career in music. That would have been difficult. I know other people who’ve tried that. Julian Lennon, who’s John Lennon’s son, did it, and he’s a very, very talented man, but for his whole career he’s going to be living in the shadow of his dad.
Fortunately my interests were never musical. I don’t have a musical bone in my body. It really helped me that I was working in a different area, and also there was a decent gap in time between when my father was casting his biggest shadow and when I was releasing my first film. There was enough time there that people were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and see what it was that I was doing.
He’s also an accomplished actor. Would you ever collaborate?
Maybe. I think I’m not the director that I would want to be to work with my dad. I think if I ever got to the point where I really felt I could be supportive in the way that I want to be to him, I think maybe, but I need more experience before I ever take that on.