Five Favorite Films with Alex Proyas

The director of Knowing also examines the idea of a "generous filmmaker" and shares his appreciation for film critic Roger Ebert.

Alex Proyas

This month, director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) returns with a new film for science-fiction audiences: Knowing, in which a professor (Nicolas Cage) discovers that predictions sealed 50 year prior in a time capsule have accurately predicted a series of disasters in modern history -- and that some events have not yet happened. Among his influences for the thriller are William Friedkin, whose Exorcist he says partially inspired him during filming; below, we talk with Alex Proyas as he shares his Five Favorite Films, which range from science-fiction landmarks to horror classics and beyond. (Click to page 2 for our extended interview, in which Proyas discusses Roger Ebert's idea of "generosity" in a filmmaker, and demonstrates his appreciation of the film critic's efforts to seriously analyze his 1998 film, Dark City.)





Dr. StrangeloveTo me it's the greatest comedy ever made, and I just love the fact that it's a comedy but it's just such a dark one. Apart from the visual treatment of the film...I guess it was the first Kubrick film that I ever saw, and it really had an impact on me as a result of that -- because I hadn't really seen a film that looked like that, that had it's own unique style.



Stalker (1979, 100% Tomatometer)
StalkerAndrei Tarkovsky. Again, incredibly... I mean, all these films are extremely influential to my own moviemaking, and they were the kinds of movies that just spun me around. I couldn't compare them with anything else I'd seen at the time. And Stalker was definitely one of those. There was a sense of pace that I'd never experienced in a film before, such a wonderful sustained atmosphere, and then just this incredible metaphysical story. I think it's still one of the great science fiction movies, and it's so philosophical and yet so visual. The philosophical ideas are conveyed in terms of pure cinema and visuals as opposed to people talking. Quite a skill, I have to say.

Some people might draw that comparison to your own work - films like Dark City.

Well, I hope so. If I can get anywhere near Tarkovsky, I'd be a happy man. It's something I would certainly aspire to.



The Exorcist (1973, 85% Tomatometer)
The ExorcistFriedkin film; one that has actually inspired my current movie. You always dream about making the ultimate horror movie, and I think The Exorcist is it. The fact that it's about such a dark and bleak subject, and yet it leaves us with a sense of hope, is something that I've sort of tried to do with my current movie. Again, it has this fantastic sort of sense of dread throughout the film that kind of takes you to this place you've never been to before in a movie.

It's totally believable; somehow it makes you believe that this young girl is possessed by the devil, which is no mean feat, I have to say. But you buy it, you know? And it's also done in such a simple technical way. You know, [it was made] before the age of CGI, and yet it's as potent today as it's ever been. It's extraordinary.



Psycho (1960, 97% Tomatometer)
PsychoI'm actually going into my favorite filmmakers and trying to pick the best of their films. Because it's really hard, it's very very hard to pick your five best[-loved] films. And it would change; if you asked me next week, it would be different. Psycho because...the moment where --- and it's a film I saw on television; I can't imagine how impactful it would have been to have seen it theatrically when it was first released, but even seeing it as a kid on TV --- the moment where Hitchcock, about 30 minutes into the film, kills his leading lady, and you go, "We're in the hands of a complete madman, and all bets are off at this stage," was such a powerful thing for me. It's kind of haunted me ever since, and again, you can only dream of making a film that has that level of impact to an audience.



The Godfather (1972, 100% Tomatometer)
The GodfatherWell, you know, it's interesting because my favorite films are ones that I keep watching. I just don't think there have been many great science fiction films made. I mean, 2001 is genius, there's no question it's a masterpiece, but I've already picked a Kubrick film. I find Dr. Strangelove a more user-friendly and enjoyable film to look at and watch repeatedly. I can watch it endlessly. Blade Runner is a masterpiece, but I don't know that I would put it in my top 5 at this stage. Maybe at some other point in my life, I would've.

I picked a Hitchcock film. Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Tarkovsky are my absolute Holy Trinity, you know? I've picked one from each person now. Oh! Okay, here's a curveball. Um, no, I don't want to say that one... I was going to say The Wizard of Oz, which I really like, but I don't know that I'd put it in my top five, but in my top twenty. [Long pause] Godfather, I'd say. Just a flawless film, something that's so beautifully crafted and so perfectly structured and designed, that I can watch it endlessly and enjoy it every single time.

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