The Dangers of Clicking that Link

Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey and Nacho Vigalondo discuss Open Windows, and the dangers of Internet entitlement and antisocial media

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Our first look into the mind of Nacho Vigalondo came when his short 7:35 in the Morning was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. Then came his first feature, 2007’s fresh and innovative Timecrimes, currently being developed as a remake at Dreamworks with a script from Steve Zaillian. Paste caught up with Nacho to discuss Open Windows, the Spaniard’s most ambitious film yet. From WikiLeaks to the privacy invasion of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, the movie’s premise could easily have been taken straight from today’s headlines. Along with the film’s lead actor Elijah Wood and with lead actress and former porn star Sasha Grey, our conversation moved from the film’s plausible scenario to a frank and disturbing discourse on fan and media entitlement.

Paste: Nacho, one of the things I loved about the film was its attention to detail.
Nacho Vigalondo: All the time I feel this responsibility. I tend to get involved in these complex projects. But at the same time, I don’t think complexity is something that is good by itself. So yes, it’s been nice, but it took a lot of time. I have contradictory thoughts about the process. I love to pay attention to detail, but at the same time I love to make movies that don’t demand the same. In fact, this is actually my second movie. Extraterrestrial, which seems to be my second movie, is my third one because I made that in the middle of [Open Windows]. So I made Extraterrestrial, which is a movie about the lack of twists, as a reaction to this one. I made a movie about four guys in a flat with nothing because I needed to make something as a reaction to this complicated labyrinth I was working on. I appreciate that you focus on its complexity, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to repeat this again.

Paste: From the time you started Open Windows how long did it take?
Vigalondo: Too much time. (Everyone laughs.) The first draft was in 2008. I have 17 plots in mind, all the movies that I want to make. Not just ideas but whole plots. I saw the list, and I said I’m not going to have time do all of them. So, my time is getting more precious. So, even if the movie works perfectly, I feel a sense of failure when something takes so much time from your life.

Paste: And Sasha, how were you approached on this project?
Sasha Grey: I was a fan of Nacho’s, and I heard he was making a new film. So I got the script and I loved it.

Paste: And Elijah, you and Nacho met after Timecrimes?
Elijah Wood: We communicated via email first.

Vigalondo: He was so enthusiastic about Timecrimes. But he’s a star!

Paste: So you’ve always wanted to do something with him, Elijah?
Wood: Yes. And getting to meet him socially and then hearing about this crazy idea he had for Open Windows was thrilling, insane that the entire movie is made through the computer screen. I just wanted to work with him. Then he sent me the script. Despite that it’s all through the computer screen, the fact that it’s in real time is what I think is most interesting and exciting. I love movies that take place in real time. There’s an energy to that, a pace to that. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. As the events unfold, the characters start to lose control and you as an audience member are going along with that in real time. There’s something about that that’s very exciting.

Paste: Nacho, was Elijah always your choice for this?
Vigalondo: He was always my first choice. Later, things got complicated and he wasn’t sure if he could be in the movie because of the dates. But when he came back as the real choice it was kind of a blessing.

Paste: Did Jimmy Stewart’s character in Rear Window come into mind when you were doing the part?
Wood: Not really. I suppose the reference is there because it deals with voyeurism to a certain degree. But I think the character is kind of an innocent, average guy. I think what’s interesting about what he ultimately does at the beginning is that he allows for choices that are slightly morally ambiguous, that he probably wouldn’t do if he was actually facing the person at that very moment. And that’s something that happens online, that we’re complicit in one degree or another.

Paste: I was watching the film with two other critics, and we were all like, wow, this is real-life stuff.
Vigalondo: That reality is something that is a normal thing on the Internet. Sadly, because that means the Internet is playing tricks with our morals. We should be able to talk about this openly. One thing I like about this character—he is doing nasty things in the beginning. He’s being tempted in a bad way. His character is doing things that we reject. But at the same time, he’s a regular guy.

Paste: With Wikileaks and Snowden and all the things coming out recently, you had to be excited, because it became topical at the right time for your movie.
Vigalondo: I remember that thing with Scarlett Johansson when one guy stole photos from her cell phone. That is something horrible and so nasty. And that is the villain from the story. But at the same time, we want to see the photographs.

Wood: We won’t not click on that link.

Vigalondo: We know that someone else is being hurt. But at the same time, we participate in that damage.

Wood: I was thinking about that while watching the movie last night. When it’s apparent that potentially she’s going to die people log on even more to her site. And I thought to myself, “Would I be that person?” I’d like to think that I wouldn’t. But when it’s a click away, suddenly there’s no accountability.

Paste: And Sasha, with your background you’ve probably gone through experiences of your privacy being invaded. With people going too far?
Grey: Oh, definitely. But in Jill’s [Sasha’s character] case, she deals with fame in a different way than I do because I’ve already exposed myself willingly. There’s not much left to expose. (laughing) So there’s a weird dynamic between myself and the public. Yes, I’m still scrutinized; I’m still judged. We all put ourselves out for that.

Paste: But it’s one thing putting yourself out there physically. But another when someone’s invading your personal life, your home.
Grey: Yes, that’s a real thing, a scary thing. It goes along with this idea of entitlement. People think, “Well, I know you and you allowed yourself to be a public figure. Therefore I should be able to know everything about you.” I don’t think that’s the case.

Wood: The social structure that we get used to amongst normal human beings—there are levels of respect and there’s sort of a modicum of how we interact with each other that’s acceptable. Somehow, those rules change when it comes to a celebrity, to interacting acting with that celebrity. There’s a sort of, like, they feel entitled. I’ve literally been on the phone and someone’s like, “Can I have a photo?” And I’m like, “What?” The boundaries and the barriers and what people accept amongst themselves don’t apply somehow. It’s a very strange thing.

Paste: You talked about this, about your house in Austin. About people coming up to your front door.
Wood: That whole thing was such a bummer, too. I have this house here and it was put online—I think it was an Austin news source, initially. They posted photos of the house, the address, and the fact that I bought it, and it was kind of a tawdry thing, and they made it sound ridiculous. And as a result, it was spread across the Internet and I’ve gotten from letters from different parts of the world. And that’s a sense of responsibility from the journalistic perspective.

Grey: They’re putting out somebody’s private information.

Wood: Which is potentially dangerous.

Grey: Dangerous, and which you can buy for like $15 anyways. But somebody did that with my real name. For a long time, people didn’t know my real name. And that kept me, sort of, safe. I was doing a press tour, and I flew to Boston at the last minute. And I asked the night before, are there photos being taken? And they said no. So I didn’t do camera makeup or my hair. Then, the journalist comes in and says, “I need a photo, and if I don’t get a photo I’m not doing the interview.” Dude, I’ve been working six days straight with little sleep. So, the guy wrote the article and said, “Bad hair day, Sasha Grey” and then wrote my real name. This sense of entitlement. I had time, and you ruined my time.

Vigalondo: I wish I had a real name. (Everyone laughs.)

Open Windows is premiering at Fantastic Fest this week where, in honor of Mr. Vigalondo, Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse has added “Nacho’s Nachos” to the menu. The film will be released on VOD October 2, and in theaters on November 7.