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Demme reflects man’s struggles, addictions

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After a question and answer session, director Ted Demme signs autographs for fans Mirjama and Jelena Marincic. Demme, director of movies such as "Beautiful Girls" and "Life," spoke about his newest movie "Blow," starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. The movie traces to the real-life dramas of George Jung, who was responsible for much of the American cocaine trafficking in the 1970s and early 1980s. / photo by Jason Cooper

After a question and answer session, director Ted Demme signs autographs for fans Mirjama and Jelena Marincic. Demme, director of movies such as “Beautiful Girls” and “Life,” spoke about his newest movie “Blow,” starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. The movie traces to the real-life dramas of George Jung, who was responsible for much of the American cocaine trafficking in the 1970s and early 1980s. / photo by Jason Cooper

by Jazmine Ponce
Features Editor

In the ultra hip hotel The Standard on the Sunset Strip, Ted Demme, director of such films as “Beautiful Girls” and “Life” sat before a crowd of college journalists March 19 to discuss his new edgy and emotional drama “Blow” which hits theatres today.

The film based on a true story revolves around George Jung, a man searching for the American dream of money and fame. He finds it in importing and selling, the late 70s and 80s drug of choice: cocaine for the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. His life of excess soon leads him into a lonely downward spiral sacrificing his love, life and freedom.

In “Blow” Johnny Depp takes on the role of Jung. Depp is well-known for movies that transform him into extremely different characters such as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Donnie Brasco.” Demme after analyzing the character of Jung needed a person with a range and ability to change themselves.

“I knew we needed an actor who is a chameleon, someone who loves going through the riggers of transforming himself into his part. I didn’t want someone who was just starring in the movie because this movie is a real special one for me I’ve had it for so long and it’s a true story.

“I thought of Johnny Depp because I guess when you think of putting ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ ‘Ed Wood,’ ‘Donnie Brasco’ and George Jung in the same room and if you tell me they are all the same guy I probably wouldn’t believe you. He is an incredible chameleon I knew I needed someone to do that for me but who could also be sexy, funny, and scary and make me cry at the end of the movie. So Johnny was kind of my first natural choice,” he said.

Depp is accompanied by an assortment of experienced and international actors. Penelope Cruz plays Mirtha, Jung’s wife. Last December she starred in “All the Pretty Horses” and is a popular actress in her native Spain. Franka Potente of last year’s critically acclaimed German film “Run Lola Run,” plays Barbara, Jung’s first love that meets in California. Paul Reubens and Ray Liotta also star.

“The rest of the cast, well once you get Johnny Depp it is amazing the people who want to work with you suddenly. I always wanted a Latin actress to portray the Latin roles so in my casting I looked a lot to the overseas. I loved the idea of giving it this international flavor it felt special to be like it wasn’t the same faces that we are seeing in movie after movie after movie,” Demme said

The film is adapted from the book by investigative reporter Bruce Porter. Demme had optioned the rights of the book seven years ago. After meeting with the real Jung in prison Demme said it was his first encounter with him when he decided to really make it into a movie.

“I met with George in prison about six years ago. I met with him for about five or six hours after I left the meeting with him I was completely exhausted he is very intoxicating as a person. He is very funny, really smart, quotes Bob Dylan, Jack Kerourac, he has great movie references has amazing stories as you may imagine and he’s also very sad, he’s very lonely by himself. I couldn’t stop thinking about him days after I met him and that kind of made me realize that I wanted to make a movie to get him out of my head,” said Demme.

Along the way Jung became a source of reference for the directors screenwriters and actors. They were able to ask and delve into the real Jung’s personality. Having the source of the movie still alive allowed the director to make the most of his meetings and relationship with Jung.

“During pre-production I introduced Johnny to him and put him on tape so the whole cast could see him and have him talk about every single character in the movie. So I had a lot of George stuff with me because I knew a lot of people would not be able to see him in jail. He was an amazing inspiration for the project,” he said.

“Actually two pieces of the film were written actually more than two pieces he helped me write. The scene where he says goodbye to his dad n the tape recorder I had the actual taping and I took that word for word so that is all really George’s word and the poem at the end of the film George wrote for us as well. So he was really active in the process,” said Demme.

The process of getting the movie took such a long period because Demme said he did not know exactly what story to tell there were so many facts and stories in the book and did not want to make a straight laced bio-pic.

Through out his meetings with Jung, Demme said he would constantly talk about his daughter and ask if she would be visiting him. Jung is set to be released in 2014 and has not seen his daughter since his arrest in late 80s.

Demme said Jung often talked about the pain of being alive “when your family’s alive and they won’t see you, to him that was his hell there was no greater punishment.” Jung also would talk about the relationship with his father. A lot of the emotional elements in the film are not included in the book.

“Once we realized that the story was a kind of a triangular love story of sorts between a father and son and the son and his daughter. Then we knew what this movie would be and hopefully it would stick out. So I think we used George a bit more,” he said

“I really love the movie you don’t get work with the people I worked with maybe once in a lifetime. I had an incredible team behind and in front of the camera.

“I worked really hard on this since it is a true story based on real people I worked a little harder on this. So I am really pleased in the way it came out. People seem to be enjoying it and are touched by it,” he said.

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