William Friedkin’s ‘Caine Mutiny Court-Martial’ Collaborators On Working With Late Director & How Guillermo Del Toro Became Involved – Venice

The late William Friedkin’s last project, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, will have its world premiere out of competition at the Venice Film Festival this evening. This afternoon, collaborators on the Showtime/Paramount Global film including producer Annabelle Dunne and editor Darrin Navarro, offered insight into Friedkin’s style of working and what it was like during the shoot. Dunne also spilled more details about Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the project.

Friedkin, who died at age 87 on August 7, adapted the film from Herman Wouk’s play which revolves around the trial of a U.S. Naval First Officer for orchestrating a mutiny after his captain starts to show signs of becoming unhinged, jeopardizing the lives of his crew.

The ensemble cast features Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Clarke, Jake Lacy, Monica Raymund Lewis Pullman, Jay Duplass, Tom Riley and the late Lance Reddick.

Friedkin, Dunne told the Venice press corps today, was adamant about casting Sutherland in the role of Captain Queeg. “He really had his heart set on Kiefer, who was the linchpin, and everything grew from that. In his mind, he said, ‘Kiefer has a long slow fuse and that’s what I want for my Captain Queeg’.”

The Caine Mutiny Court Martial

Jason Clarke in William Friedkin’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial

The Republic Pictures

Dunne also recounted that on the first day of shooting Sutherland did 20 pages of dialogue for the first scene and nailed it in one shot. Friedkin “was a one-take director, if there were more than two, there was a problem,” said Dunne.

At the start of the version of the film screening on the Lido, there is a tribute to Friedkin which the producers added posthumously. 

Navarro, who had worked with Friedkin for nearly three decades, explained, “In every story he pursued or found interesting there was that blurry line between what he called our inner demons and our better angels, and he was always looking for a way to present the banality of evil but also to find good things about people you might be inclined to dislike and to look at heroes and see their darker nature as well.”

Navarro also commented, “I have never worked with a director that was more prepared for every stage of production and post-production than Billy was. He only proceeds when he has seen the movie in his head.”

Overall, the production went “incredibly well and smoothly because Billy is what we like to call a game player. It doesn’t matter about practice because on game day he just shows up,” said Dunne.

Still, there was a slight roadblock early on. Dunne explained that since Friedkin was in his late 80s, she could not get him insured. “That’s very common and it’s ageist; in Hollywood it’s sometimes hard to pass the insurance.”

However, a compromise was reached with what’s called a back-up director, a person who basically goes on the paperwork and serves as a kind of completion guarantee.

Said Dunne, “So I gingerly say, ‘Billy, we need to do this. Is there anyone maybe someone younger maybe somebody that you mentored that you want to fill in just on the paperwork?’” After a gruff reaction, Friedkin called back the next day, and said, “OK, I have the guy. OK, honey, it’s Guillermo del Toro, you got that?”

Del Toro, Dunne explained, “Graciously said not only yes but despite just having put out Pinocchio he went to set every day to sit next to Billy. He said he was our mascot.”

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial will premiere on Showtime domestically, and on Paramount+ this fall in markets where the service is available. 

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