Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has been making the rounds in France lately, plugging his latest film, Micmacs à tire-larigot (trailer here). In an interview, which I translated below, he talked about his experience in Hollywood, directing Alien: Resurrection in 1997. A bit of context: Jeunet was hired to work on the fourth installment in the Alien franchise after he directed Delicatessen and City of Lost Children; he went on to make Amélie and A Very Long Engagement (in the interview he also mentioned that Emily Watson was originally cast in the latter movie, only to be replaced by Audrey Tautou).
Interviewer: Was it nice to work in the US?
JPJ: Do you have two or three hours? It was a great adventure. I remember at the time I said it was the hardest day of my life, every day. I had almost total artistic freedom but they constricted me from a financial viewpoint, which is exactly the opposite of what I had expected. I can still hear the producers telling me, Can you do this in one shot instead of three? Can you trim? It was really reductionist. It's a perverse game. On the one hand I had actors like Sigourney Weaver who wanted perfection, on the other hand I had producers who wanted me to go as fast as possible. It was difficult to negotiate. And in Hollywood there's the good ones and the bad ones. I saw the Hollywood myth collapse like the towers on 9/11. Nothing worked. Aside from the aliens themselves, which were amazing, the special effects didn't work — I'm talking about explosions, doors that are supposed to be blasted. Nothing worked. I felt I was in The Dictator when —
Interviewer: — are you serious? I feel like you're talking about Albania.
JPJ: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Albania in 1972.
JPJ: Just a bit below that, Albania in 1967. Maybe I didn't get the best crew… A symbol: my first day of shooting. The first time I'm saying "Action!" — the camera didn't work. It never did, we put it out to pasture. That was a symbol for the entire shoot.