The Knockturnal was on the red carpet for the New York premiere of HBO’s new original movie Fahrenheit 451 held at the NYU Skirball Center.
Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451 portrays a dark future where the media is an opiate, history is rewritten and “firemen” burn books.
Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon star in Fahrenheit 451. Directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes) and written by Bahrani and Amir Naderi (Vegas: Based on a True Story), the film is a modern adaption of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel. It depicts a future where the media is an opiate, history is rewritten and “firemen” burn books. Sofia Boutella stars as Clarisse, an informant caught between the competing interests of Montag and Beatty. An HBO Films presentation of a Noruz Films, Brace Cove, and Outlier Society production; directed by Ramin Bahrani; written by Ramin Bahrani & Amir Naderi; executive producers, Ramin Bahrani, Sarah Green, Michael B. Jordan, Alan Gasmer, Peter Jaysen; David Coatsworth produces. The film Debuts on SATURDAY, MAY 19 (8:00-9:40 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
We spoke with some of the cast: Michael B. Jordan, Khandi Alexander, Lily Singh, Ramin Bahrani, Sarah Green, Saad Siddiqui and Edsson Morales on the red carpet. Check it out:
The Knockturnal: This is one of the new films out of your production house. What do you love most about storytelling?
Michael B. Jordan: Making people think and feel. Feel things I think is truly incredible. To tell those stories on film and television is fascinating, I really enjoy it.
The Knockturnal: Thank you. Congratulations sir, it’s a good film.
Michael B. Jordan: Thank you, I appreciate you.
The Knockturnal: What is it about the script that really attracted you to say yes, cause you pick great roles, obviously.
Khandi Alexander: Well, it’s Tony Morrison and the interpretation for me was close to Gloria Foster from the Matrix.
The Knockturnal: Oracle
Khandi Alexander: Yes!
The Knockturnal: She did have an Oracle vibe.
Khandi Alexander: Yes and I loved it, I loved everything about it, I loved what it was saying. I loved the cast. Huge fan of Michael Shannon’s and Michael B. Jordan, huge fans. And this director, Ramin, I watched his film, 99 Homes. Okay, okay, please let me be a part of this.
The Knockturnal: What did you learn working with this director?
Khandi Alexander: I’m not so sure if it’s that they pull something different as much as they place things and talk to you in a way that makes you the instrument of their vision.
The Knockturnal: So, a different coach almost.
Khandi Alexander: Yes, this is how you want this. This where you want to feel that. It’s almost like you’re playing with a high-level coach and you’re a high-level athlete. So, it’s a game.
The Knockturnal: You’re a high-level athlete.
Khandi Alexander: Okay, I’ll take that home.
The Knockturnal: I watched the film last night and I took so much away from it.
Khandi Alexander: Tell me, I haven’t seen it.
The Knockturnal: Oh my gosh, the importance of knowledge, the importance of books, the importance of the media and how you judge the media, how you watch the media. When you read the script, what did you take away from it meaning-wise and message-wise?
Khandi Alexander: What I took away from the script is that we’re closer than we may think to this world.
The Knockturnal: That’s the scary part.
Khandi Alexander: It is scary, it is scary.
The Knockturnal: I was so happy to see you when I watched the movie last night. I was like, “Oh my gawd, there goes Lilly.”
Lilly Singh: Thank you.
The Knockturnal: Talk about getting this part and entering the big screen and HBO.
Lilly Singh: It was amazing. Fahrenheit 451 is a book I read when I was in school, so to get the opportunity to be in the making of the film was really special to me. Alongside Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, there were times I was on set I was like, “Let me just absorb what’s happening right now.” I learned so much just from watching them create magic on set.
The Knockturnal: In the film you play a reporter, what reporter did you channel when playing her?
Lilly Singh: Honestly, none of them and I have a very good reason for that. My character changed quite a bit when I got on set. I initially wasn’t a reporter, I was a vlogger type character. The next day when I turned into a reporter, I just had to come up with it on the spot, and that’s what I channeled. I channeled a very dark version of myself. A sleep-deprived dark angry version of myself.
The Knockturnal: Well you did amazing. Congratulations
Lilly Singh: Thank you so much. I appreciate it love.
The Knockturnal: Congratulations on tonight. What initially attracted you to this project that said this is my project?
Ramin Bahrani: I loved the novel since I was in ninth grade. Ray Bradbury, one of the genius American writers. I thought about the project in 2015, because of the state of the world and the state of technology and of social media and the internet. I turned to HBO to help get the rights for me. That’s what started the whole process.
The Knockturnal: Then you got to put this all-star team together. H
Ramin Bahrani: I did my last film, 99 Homes, with Michael Shannon, and we really got along. Before I even started writing, he agreed to play Captain Beatty. It helped because I could write it for him. Then I loved Jordan in The Wire, and when I saw Fruitville, I was blown away. And then creative took it to another level. I went down to meet him, he was finishing Black Panther. We talked, we met, we connected, and then I started tailoring the part for him and his ideas, how he saw things. Then the two Mikes really clicked.
The Knockturnal: They did, great chemistry. A ping pong game between the two of them the whole film.
Ramin Bahrani: Jordan won Shannon over in about three seconds. He can do that. The fact that they liked each other so much made their betrayal very difficult because neither one wants to betray the other one.
The Knockturnal: That works so well.
Ramin Bahrani: It works really well in the film.
The Knockturnal: What was the most difficult part about directing this film? What was the hardest scene for you to direct?
Ramin Bahrani: Watching books burn. It was very painful. It was very painful to do that. Then what made it more disturbing was at a certain point it became almost hypnotic to see the pages curling up over one another. Bradbury oddly warned about that. He predicted so many things. He thought we would want to be happy instead of thinking. He thought we would not want to see two sides of a question, only one or none. Bradbury warned us about so many things that are happening now, we put all our trust and have given up all our thinking and ideas to internet. Who’s controlling that internet? We’ve elected for this, I think it was a really amazing warning, it’s time to think about Bradbury again.
The Knockturnal: Tell me how does a producer like you pick a project, because you can pick any project to be a part of. How do you pick a project to be a part of it?
Sarah Green: There’s several things; the most important thing for me is the people I work with, because this is my life, and I spend years making a movie. I get really involved and I need to know that I’m going to want to spend time with those people and that I respect the creative people involved. Then the story has to speak to me, it has to reach an obsession level. It’s got to be one of those stories that you cannot forget and as soon as I heard Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Ramin Bahrani, Michael Shannon, HBO, I was like that I can’t forget.
The Knockturnal: What about the story? What did you identify with most, what resonated with you most?
Sarah Green: It was fun, it was great to read it again. I remember reading it as a teenager and just being like, “that’s terrifying, that will never happen.” Reading it again a year ago, I thought wow, that’s terrifyingly pathetic, because it did happen and here we are. I started thinking, Boy, look how isolated we are in our earbuds and our pads, and having the news fed to us because of what we read before. I started to think if I don’t get out of my comfort zone, I’m going to go brain dead. It made me get sort of excited to be around people who think very differently than me so then we can challenge each other.
The Knockturnal: The movie is so important for today like you mentioned in the world, in society. What do you hope people take away from that?
Sarah Green: I hope they just remember not to take anything they’re fed from the news for granted. They’ve got to make sure…check your sources, think about things and don’t isolate yourself. I also want them to just be entertained because it’s a great story and these actors are so good. You’re not going to be able to close your mouth for the entire movie.
The Knockturnal: Let’s talk about these actors. We have Michael squared here, Michael Shannon and Michael B. talk about working with these two to put this film together.
Sarah Green: Well, it was very exciting. Me and Ramin had worked with Michael Shannon before. He had him in mind right when he was writing Captain Beatty, and then you cast around when you’re thinking about who can be a mentee to mentor Michael Shannon. You cast around all these younger actors and have a million names out there. What was exciting about Michael B. Jordan was that he is lovely and sweet and a very calm presence, and very strong. I got so excited thinking about the power balance between him playing Montag and Michael Shannon playing Beatty. That was a power balance I could understand because of course the power shifts during the course of the movie. And you had to have someone strong enough. It’s like a father son thing, and then they are best friends, then they part. Michael B. is strong enough and smart enough to stand up and hold his own with Michael Shannon, and that’s not easy.
The Knockturnal: What was your first take on this script?
Saad Siddiqui: First take was a) I love the book. I read it in high school in Baltimore, and I had just before reading the script saw there was some things in the news that there are some high schools that are banning it in the states. 1984 got banned in some places, too. That’s 2017, so when I read the script, Ramin’s take on it and the writer’s take on it, I just was like I’ve got to be part of it man. When I knew Michael Shannon and Michael B. Jordan were attached, I’m a huge fan of both, but especially Michael Shannon. I wanted to go up against that force and both of them, wow. It was great working with both of them.
The Knockturnal: Talk about working with both of them. What did you take away from working with both Michaels?
Saad Siddiqui: The serious dedication. I’m very dedicated when I’m on set and it’s just great working with other people who making it, who are really doing the things that I want to be doing. They are very dedicated on set. Doing justice to the script, the story, and the story will always be number one and very giving. It was just such a good time working with them.
The Knockturnal: The role was very physical as well.
Saad Siddiqui: Yeah, we burn a lot. Our first day was a lot of burning. All of our first day was the same and it was a lot of burning, flamethrowers, heat, sweating. We have these amazing costumes that our costume designer made, but also you’re hot inside. It’s leather, right? It’s this special leather and you’re also protected with fireproof protectant, but that also keeps all of the heat in. That was a challenging part of it, but I used to be a martial arts champion, so I love physicality.
The Knockturnal: What do you hope people take away from the film?
Saad Siddiqui: I think read, read and question things. Always question. I think Socrates said it well. You’ve got to question things, questioning things and looking at different point of views, which is what all of these books and art and music give us.
The Knockturnal: Talk about how you became to be involved in the project.
Edsson Morales: Man, I actually got super lucky.
The Knockturnal: Not talent, determination?
Edsson Morales: Well, you know, fair enough. I think that has something to do with it, but I’m from Toronto, it was filming in Toronto. I had actually- A year before this was filming, a lot of life happened and I actually saw an interview of Michael B. Jordan given live on YouTube, inspiring and talking about his process, and it encouraged me so much that I was like one day I’m going to work with that guy. I have to, I want to work with him so bad. That was a year ago, and then my team got word that Fahrenheit 451 was going to be filming here, then I found out Michael B. Jordan was going to be the lead on the film and I told them, “you guys have got to do whatever you gotta do to get me an audition.” Had I been filming in New York or in Europe, I might not have had a chance, but it was filming right in my own backyard. I auditioned, callback, after callback, after callback. Luckily for me they pulled the trigger.