Interview With Kimberly Peirce

 
 

Out director Kimberly
Peirce, whose first feature film was the critically acclaimed Boys Don’t Cry, has just completed her
second feature film, Stop-Loss, which
opens on March 28. As with Boys Don’t Cry.
Peirce has tackled a subject that is both complicated and compelling: the
experiences of young American soldiers returning home from combat tours in Iraq.

The film, which stars
Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum and Abbie Cornish, takes its title from the
military’s stop-loss policy that allows soldiers to be redeployed despite having
completed their tour of duty. The policy, also sometimes referred to as a "back-door
draft," is central to the film’s story line.

Peirce, in the middle of
a 22-city tour to promote her film, took some time to talk with AfterEllen.com about her inspiration for the
film, the challenges of telling "real" stories, and, on a lighter
note, her appreciation of The L Word
and the sexy scene she directed in Season 3 that ended up on the cutting room
floor.

Peirce on the set of Stop-Loss with the film’s cast and crew

AfterEllen.com: I got the chance to see your film when it was previewing
in San Francisco
and thought it was quite moving. I wanted to ask you first of all what inspired
you to make a film about the soldiers’ experience — those men and women who are
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kimberly Peirce:
I was actually in New
York for 9/11. I had been living there for
13 years, and I unfortunately saw the towers fall. Everybody wanted to
come over and congregate, and it ended up being at my house because I have a
house and a little film office. And we watched the day unfold. And it was one
of the most devastating days for us as it was for, you know, everybody.

AE: Mm-hmm. Everyone, I think.
KP:
And we went to the vigils for victims. They started in New York
because New York
was in a state of mourning. When America declared war it was just so
dramatic, and I could just tell we were amidst this seismic cultural change. I
just knew that I needed to tell the story of the soldiers — who they were, why
they were signing up and what their experience in combat was and upon coming
home.

Not long after I got that idea and had started looking into it,
my baby brother signed up to fight. We had a grandfather who fought in World
War II and now we suddenly were a military family again. And it was a very
significant kind of life-changing experience for all of us.

My mother — we were all terrified that he would get killed,
terrified that he would get injured, didn’t know about the emotional ramifications
of what he would do or experience. My mother would call me crying. She wouldn’t
go home at night because she knows if a soldier gets killed they have to inform
you in person, and she didn’t want to be there in person.

But there was also this
very profound, personal side in that I am IM-ing [instant messaging] with my
brother and other soldiers, which was amazing — that they were actually
fighting and then getting on the internet, and you had instantaneous
communication with them.

And the other thing was
that my brother and other soldiers brought back from combat soldier-made
videos. And this is probably the biggest influence on the movie. They were
videos that the soldiers had shot with one-chip cameras.

They had … put the camera
on a sandbag, they had put it into a Humvee. They had put it on a gun turret. They
even put it on the ground during a firefight. So the camera wasn’t moving
around the way you’re used to watching a movie, but it was just in the action.

AE: Right in the midst of
it.
KP:
So you were hearing: "Oh, my God. We’ve got a guy down." You
were seeing it.

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