George Miller Talks The Sprawling Fairytale Romance In Three Thousand Years Of Longing [Exclusive Interview]

This movie is so rich with meaning, and, obviously, there’s so much going on. I know the script is based on a book, but could you take me through anything else you were thinking about while making this?

Gosh, hello. First of all, I tend to give long-winded answers.

That’s fine. That’s great.

I first came across the story when someone gave me a small anthology of fairy tales that AS Byatt had written. One of them was a little longer than the others, about 40 pages, called “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.” And I read it, and it was one of those stories that wouldn’t let me go. Here was a story that, ostensibly, was a conversation between two characters in a hotel room in Istanbul, and the stories that they told each other span 3,000 years. So, already, there was that paradox of something that, in a sense, was small, it was almost a “My Dinner With Andre” type of conversation, really. And yet, it was very expansive. It was a conversation between one character who was highly rational and a creature of reason, and the other was a creature of emotion and desire and passion and so on. And, to some degree, of desperation. It was essentially a fairytale, and it had some profound resonant truths. Also, one of the characters was mortal, like the rest of us, and the other could live indefinitely.

At the core of it, though, because of how the story unfolds, it goes to various central ideas, like, what’s the nature of reality? What’s real, and what’s not real? Why do we tell each other stories and make meaning of a bewildering universe through stories? What’s the nature of love? What are the gestures that really define love, one for another, and all of that, in a relatively short story and a relatively short thought. That was the thing that really got me going in the first place.

I remember reading it in the late ’90s, and went on to make other films, but always intended to make the film. I was lucky enough to make it with a wonderful cast and crew. I just was so proud of everybody’s work. In particular, when I met, in person, Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in Brazil, I immediately saw them as the characters. I knew their work. I had no idea, other than the characters I’d seen onscreen, who they were. When I actually got to talk to them and had conversations, recreational conversations, I suddenly thought, “Oh my god, they have the vividness and the qualities of these characters.” The Venn diagrams of the characters and the actors overlap for me. I was very fortunate that they were engaged enough with it to want to make the film. Really a very fun time for me. Eventually, from there, it was about the process. So that’s the long and short of what I went through to make this film.

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