Joe Penhall on the Nature of Criminality in MINDHUNTER and The King of Thieves

Joe Penhall (2018, Richard Mildenhall / Independent)

John Bucher
January 25, 2018
LA Screenwriter

Joe Penhall has been telling stories in theaters, across TV screens, and on stages for almost 20 years. His screenplay based on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, brought him acclaim and opened up doors that would lead to his most celebrated project to date, Netflix’s Mindhunter.

Penhall has returned to the world of cinema with his newest project. Starring Michael Caine, The King of Thieves is a crime story based on real events about a retired crew of criminals who attempt to pull off a heist in London’s jewelry district.

[…]

John Bucher: With both Mindhunter and King of Thieves, you really get into the psychology of criminals and you have deep insights here into the way that people who have committed and plotted crimes look at the world. How do you approach these characters to understand their psychology?

Joe Penhall: The first and only regular job I ever had was as a crime reporter in my early twenties, and occasionally, the detectives would give me a transcript to read. One of them was an interview with a serial killer and we would analyze it and we would talk about it and they would give me their insights, and over the years, I’ve just become more and more interested in psychology and the kind of pathology of people’s behavior, because the only way to know anything about people is to try and develop a proper kind of psychological perspective.

What fascinated me about Mindhunter was how these FBI agents are expected to get crew cuts and lock people up and they’re at a time in history when that’s not good enough anymore. We have to develop a more nuanced, more academic, psychological understanding of this and I think that that’s true. People accept criminals. They accept politicians. They accept the bad people and the good people in society without ever really analyzing or pathologizing them in any way at all.

These things are an opportunity for me to try and dig down and understand what makes criminals tick. These criminals are a big part of our society, and certainly when I was doing Mindhunter, I know David Fincher and I were both fascinated with psychopathy and narcissism and personality disorders because I think we felt, somewhere on the grapevine, there were other people out there who weren’t serial killers who were high-ranking politicians who had psychopathy, who had personality disorders that resembled very closely the kind of villains in our piece.

And it came to pass. Since Mindhunter was written, there’s been this book about Donald Trump’s personality disorder. It’s well known that many of history’s dictators had personality disorders. They had psychopathy. They had sociopathy. They had antisocial personality disorder.

And it strikes me as self-evident that there is a pathological way of understanding these things without just calling it evil or without just calling them monsters or without just ringing your hands, you know. I think we were on a mission with Mindhunter to show that these people were actually ordinary people, sad to say.

King of Thieves is a much lighter version of that, but it’s the same thing. It’s not Warren Beatty in a heist film. It’s not George Clooney in a heist film. They’re banal people. They’re banal people that can’t be socialized the way most people can and they end up doing odd things like robbing vaults. I just find it fascinating but fascinating for slightly different reasons than people generally find heists fascinating or criminality fascinating in the movies.

Read the full interview

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The Creator of Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’ Is Already Thinking Past Season 2

“We’re working as fast as we can,” Joe Penhall tells Inverse.

Jake Kleinman
January 17, 2019
Inverse

Joe Penhall has been keeping busy. In between researching and writing Mindhunter Season 2, he also had time to pen King of Thieves, a new movie out next week about a group of elderly British burglars. But we couldn’t resist asking about his hit Netflix show, and, in an interview, Penhall tells Inverse approximately when we can expect Mindhunter Season 2 to arrive along with his plans for Season 3 and beyond. (Listen to the interview in the video above, if you can stand the sound of my rapid note-taking throughout.)

You might think that, as series creator, Penhall would be heavily involved with the editing process, but once filming wrapped in December 2018 he was essentially finished with Mindhunter Season 2.

“The editing process is quiet for me because David Fincher locks himself away and doesn’t really want to share with anybody,” Penhall says. “And I don’t particularly need to see things half finished.”

He added that Season 1 took about “6 months of 8 months” to edit, suggesting that Mindhunter Season 2 could see a similar timeline, only faster.

“We’re working as fast as we can,” he says. “There’s only eight episodes in this one [down from 10 in Season 1]. So he doesn’t have quite as much to do.”

Read the full profile and listen to the interview

When will Mindhunter season 2 be released? Here is what its creator told us

Joe Penhall also talks Charles Manson, his 5 season plan and admits he almost passed out at FBI’s museum of death.

Gregory Wakeman
January 22, 2019
Metro (US)

Mindhunter creator Joe Penhall is hopeful that the second season of the Netflix show will be released by the end of 2019, although he admits that all depends on director David Fincher.

Shooting on Mindhunter season 2 finished “about a month ago,” but when it comes to its release date Penhall says, “I don’t know because that’s always up to David. He kind of goes into editing and he doesn’t talk to anybody until he comes out again.”

“I would hope that would be by the end of this year but I just don’t really know. Yeah and he’s a rule breaker and he wants to do it on his own with his own schedule.”

Read the full profile

In Conversation with Thomas Francis Murphy

Davina Baynes
November 23, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

I recently had the enormous pleasure of interviewing the actor Thomas Francis Murphy. Thomas has worked on movies and shows such as 12 Years a SlaveFree State of JonesMindhunterThe Walking Dead and American Horror Story. We talked about his unconventional path towards taking up acting in his mid 30s, Dayton, Ohio, his career, music and much more besides.

[…]

DB: Mindhunter, Detective McGraw, you were in the first episode which is the one that David Fincher actually directed. How did you get that role?

TFM: I taped for it when I was in Louisiana. Then I came out for the first full out LA premiere I had ever done, which was for the Free State of Jones, and then auditioned here for it, in person, with Laray Mayfield who was casting out here and from there I went to New York to audition with David [Fincher] and Julie Schubert– so there was quite a long audition process for that.

DB: What was your experience on-set of Mindhunter?

TFM: Well again, I didn’t know until we started shooting, that it was a re-shoot. They had shot that whole thing and then came back at the end of the season to re-shoot that [whole] section. The actors, by that time, had been acting together for a whole season so it was like coming into the lunch room mid-semester of the senior year.

DB: There are three big scenes: the one where Tench and Ford do that slightly disastrous presentation in front of everyone; then there’s another one in the diner where you are talking to them; and the final one where you show them the photographs. With that scene, where you are back at the station and are showing them the photos, when did you, and when did they, first see the photographs that you were using?

TFM: Then. I’m sure they saw them before, but I saw them then.

DB: So, they had already seen them because of the re-shoot, but that was the first time you had seen them, because they are pretty gruesome.

TFM: That is an interesting question. That’s really an interesting question, you know – because I had never really thought of it before, kind of shame on me, but that’s alright. Even if I had thought of it, just letting this thing come over me…

DB: Did you have to smoke on set?

TFM: Yes! And that was a bitch when it came to continuity. You do it and then the next take you get, ‘No, your hands were like this!’

DB: No one else has mentioned that and it’s really interesting because I had never thought of that.

TFM: If you are a smoker, right, you don’t do it… I mean that’s the whole point of it. If you’re a smoker it just let it flow through you and proceeds according to your internal state. So to come back on a scene and go, ‘No your hand was just like that!’ That’s what I’m hired to do. I’m not hired to think about it. I’m hired to smoke!

DB: But you wouldn’t have felt quite so ill as the ones who don’t normally smoke who said they would smoke some real cigarettes!

What was it like working with Holt and Jonathan?

TFM: Well I had a high regard for both of them, but you know David does a lot of takes, everybody knows that, right. So again, you’re the new kid, that scene in the diner… that was us meeting each other as actors. I got their attention (laughs) and then we did the scene. That’s how often actors meet each other, as actors, and then you know that you’re going to be able to do the scene.

DB: Was that the first scene then, the one in the diner?

TFM: No. The first stuff we shot was the meeting. We shot that particular thing in chronological order.

DB: So, what is David Fincher like working for when he’s directing?

TFM: Well he’s obviously a guy who knows what he wants. Clearly. So that’s always good! I guess the thing you know is that, if he didn’t get what he wanted, you’d still be shooting! (Both laugh) You take your gratification where you can. My comparison that I have in my mind is that now you’re working with an NBA coach, you were in college basketball, it just has that kind of feeling to it. I’d certainly seen his films and I had certainly paid attention.

Again, it’s another story about having lived through that time, having lived through a period of time where the political colouration of the country, the kind of cultural colouration of the country that went along with that storyline. When I went back and watched Mindhunter I was just completely amazed at how it caught the spirit of that particular, in small ways, period of time.

Read the full interview

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Cameron Britton
In Conversation with Cotter Smith. Actor (MindhunterThe Americans)
Jack Erdie: Actor (MindhunterBanshee) & writer
In conversation with actor Adam Zastrow (MindhunterHigh & Mighty)
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Cameron Britton

Paula Courtney
November 3, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

Emmy-nominated actor Cameron Britton mesmerised us all with his portrayal of serial killer Ed Kemper, on hit Netflix show Mindhunter. In this interview we discussed everything from romance to his preparation for the role and working with director David Fincher, the real Ed Kemper and so much more.

[…]

PC: When you were sat in that room with Fincher, was it hard not to show your nervousness, what did you do to combat those feelings or were you not nervous?

CB: It was back and forth that I thought, ‘Oh I’m doing a terrible job, he’s going to fire me,’ and Jonathan would talk me down from the ledge. There were days when we had done 50 takes – let’s do 50 more, 70 more I don’t care, I’m having a blast, I’m just lost in the moment, because it’s not just the takes it’s how quickly we get back to the top of the scene. Often when someone says ‘Cut!’ you know you don’t actually get to start the scene again until 10 minutes later, with him it’s 15 seconds! We are back in it. I’d never done that in my life before and that in character, for that long for a whole day of, since you’ve been awake you’re in character. It just starts becoming this sort of spiritual experience where you kind of forget what you planned on doing, you’re surprising yourself, you’re going, ‘Oh oh God! I’ve never delivered it that way before! Where did that come from?’

PC: I was talking about that with Adam Zastrow and he said by the time you do the 50th take you feel like it’s going through the motions, you don’t have to think about it but by then you are delivering something that is more natural, or organic, and that is what Fincher is looking for: that very moment when you are not acting, you are being it, doing it, aren’t you?

CB: You are! And day one I thought, ‘Are they going to fire me? Am I going to get too tired to do this?’ And that is just not the case. I met a few people playing killers who were nervous – anyone who’s worked on Mindhunter and worked with Fincher – they all think, ‘Ah, they’re going to fire me!’ But when you are in there, man you just keep going. Being fired is the last thing you’re thinking about, you are just alive. It’s a hell of an experience and honestly is moving forward my career. I’ve been fortunate enough, because of my character, to get to do bigger projects now, like that’s sort of my standard. When I go to other projects now I go, ‘Okay, are they living up to what Mindhunter taught me and are they making good art?’ And if they are not then I sort of politely find a way to come off what’s going on.

PC: What about learning your lines: how easy is that for you? Obviously you had quite a bit of dialogue: how do you make it stick?

CB: There’s knowing all your lines, that’s fine and that comes really quickly, what really takes repetition is to do it enough so you don’t need to think about them. There just coming out and that is so necessary to me, if I’m just thinking about the line then I’m not living ‘in the moment’ and that’s just the kind of acting that I do. I need to have nothing happening to distract me. I just take every opportunity to be where I need to be ‘in the moment’ because I’m still working on it. If I don’t feel connected to the scene, or ‘the moment’, I can kind of panic and then you can sort of see me acting. Some actors, they are able to go, ‘Well I’m not connected right now but I can sort of fake my way through this,’ and that’s just part of life: if you have a job there’s some days you are just not feeling it even if it’s your favourite job in the world. I’m still working on that but no matter what, I have to know the lines backwards and forwards.

PC: With regards to David Fincher’s style of directing, is there any room for a bit of give? Do you feel you could suggest to him that perhaps you’d like to try something different or is it all very controlled by him or the other directors?

CB: With David there’s a line here, a line there, in this big, giant script where he says, ‘I want this to be arrogant,’ or, ‘I want this in a form of a question.’ And I think, when he says ‘arrogant’ there are many, many, many ways to do that so it’s up to you how you want that to be conveyed – the rest of the script is all yours. And maybe that’s just my experience. David puts you in: he guides you in the right direction. So if an actor strays too far this way or that way he’ll sort of put you back on track, but the point of all those is not to do anything you’ve prepped and just be truly alive ‘in the moment’. If you’re over-directing somebody then it won’t be that: then you’re just using all those takes to get this exact delivery or performance out of them, which is fine, but it’s not allowing… like he’s so trusting that inspiration will come; you know if he has too much vision for a moment he’s not allowing for a better vision to show up. If he’s saying it has to be this way then how do you know if something better wouldn’t have come along? He’s very trusting and it empowers you; you can tell [when] your director is letting you do your job. There’s been times he’s had to put me back on track: the hospital scene in the final episode when I stand up and turn around he let me go two or three takes where I just went ballistic. When we first started shooting that part I stood up like a maniac and then by the third he said, ‘I can’t think it up with the rest of that part of the scene. You can’t do that’. It needed Kemper to stay calm and collected but, in a way, I needed to go crazy for a second, I needed to really feel that wild, impulsive energy, that’s sort of Kemper though isn’t it: even when he’s calm you can feel his urge to hurt; he’s almost masking a lot of violence, no matter how mellow he looks.

Read the full interview

2018-11-03. Cameron Britton

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
In Conversation with Cotter Smith. Actor (MindhunterThe Americans)
Jack Erdie: Actor (MindhunterBanshee) & writer
In conversation with actor Adam Zastrow (Mindhunter, High & Mighty)
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

Fincherphilia & Beyond

Cinephilia & Beyond - Logo

Just a small sample of all the precious filmic resources bestowed by Cinephilia & Beyond:

1993. Alien3 01

Alien3: “Take all of the responsibility, because you’re going to get all of the blame”

1995. Se7en

Se7en: A Rain-Drenched, Somber, Gut-Wrenching Thriller that Restored David Fincher’s Faith in Filmmaking

1995. The Game

Downwards Is the Only Way Forwards: Welcome to David Fincher’s The Game

1999. Fight Club

Fight Club: David Fincher’s Stylish Exploration of Modern-Day Man’s Estrangement and Disillusionment

2007. Zodiac

Fincher’s Zodiac As Easily One Of The Best Thrillers Of The Millennium So Far

1982. David Fincher at ILM

David Fincher’s Favorite Movies

Cinephilia & Beyond, one of the finest websites dedicated to the art and craft of Film, is struggling financially and needs your support: DONATE

In Conversation with Jennifer Haley, Writer (Mindhunter)

Jennifer Haley (Peter Konerko)

 

Pop Culture Confidential. Episode 90: Jennifer Haley – Writer, Mindhunter

2018. Pop Culture Confidential (Podcast)

Christina Jeurling Birro
November 29, 2017
Pop Culture Confidential

Thrilling, dark, gripping and tense are just some of the words used to describe the hit Netflix series Mindhunter. Playwright Jennifer Haley is a writer and co-producer on the series, and joins us this week to share her experience getting into the minds of FBI agents and serial killers.

Mindhunter is a meticulously paced crime drama based on the writings of the pioneering serial killer profiler John E Douglas. Along with his team, they interviewed the likes of Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and Ed Kemper during the seventies and eighties which resulted in a redefining of criminal profiling forever.

The series has wonderful casting, beautiful cinematography, and some of the creepiest conversations you will hear this year. Lead by David Fincher who is Executive Producer and director of four of the episodes, the writers on Mindhunter have delivered an amazing array of characters.

 

L.A. Not So Confidential. S1 Ep. 4: Writing Minds – Jennifer Haley Interview

2018. L.A. Not So Confidential (Podcast).jpg

Dr. Scott & Dr. Shiloh
December 3, 2017
L.A. Not So Confidential

Forensic psychologists, Dr. Scott and Dr. Shiloh, interview award-winning playwright Jennifer Haley who was a writer on Season 1 of Netflix‘s 2017 hit Mindhunter. In their first interview episode, they dive into the excitement and obstacles of bringing John Douglas‘ book to life and dish on several story arcs that leave us not-so-patiently waiting for Season 2! What’s with Wendy and that cat? Will there be a musical episode to see Jonathon Groff in action?

Listen to the full interview

L.A. Not So Confidential: S1 Ep. 3: Hunting Minds

Dr. Shiloh and Dr. Scott dissect their new favorite show, Netflix’s Mindhunter, and compare their own first experiences interviewing and working with the criminal population.

 

2012. Jennifer Haley - The NetherJennifer Haley .com

In Conversation with Actor Adam Zastrow

Paula Courtney
October 14, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

I had the pleasure – and a lot of fun – interviewing actor, Adam Zastrow, who recently excited us playing the role of Darrell Gene Devier on Netflix’s hit show Mindhunter. During our conversation we talked about Adam realising his dream of becoming an actor, the shows he was part of leading up to Mindhunter and what it means when David Fincher says, ‘Take 50!’

[…]

PC: Getting back to David Fincher. I was reading the other day someone saying the reason he shoots a scene 70 times is because he suffers from OCD but that isn’t the case at all is it. He wants to get the best possible scene, it’s not because he has perfectionist issues.

AZ: I hate when people use the word ‘perfectionist’ when they are talking about David and the amount of takes he does because I was told about that – I don’t want to say ‘warned’ but I was ‘told’. Before going out I was told be prepared for long days Fincher likes to do a lot of takes. After having done it – those 70 takes fly by, it does not feel like you are doing 70. Fincher himself addressed this in an interview – he really hit it right on the head – it’s not that he’s a perfectionist (that’s not the issue at all) it has more to do with your pre-production staff. The guys will build sets for months, the art guys, you have all these people spending the better portion of a year just to make sure a scene looks the way it’s supposed to or to just make sure the drinking fountain in the back works even if nobody is using it. All these people put all this time and effort into this production and how dare you rush through shooting! It’s almost like a slap in the face to all these people. It’s like, ‘Okay, you spent 6 months building this scene and we’re going to come in and just shoot three takes in 12 minutes, now we are going to walk away and ask you to tear the damn thing down.’ No. No. No. I think it’s as much trying to find the best performance as it is taking the time to finding the best performance. You owe it those people not to rush through anything. When I heard that I thought, ‘Oh my God! That makes so much sense.’

PC: It’s like when you spend hours making dinner and someone wolfs it down in like 5 minutes.

AZ: Yeah exactly, exactly. I 100 per cent agree that you find stuff on take 70 that you did not even think about. As someone who’s never experienced that kind of dedication to the shoot, you get to take twenty or thirty and you’re like, ‘Okay. I rehearsed this for months. We rehearsed this together for a week. We’ve gone through this thirty times, there’s nothing else for me here to find. I’ve giving you everything that there is.’ Also from take 30-45 they are all the same, they are kind of all blah, because at that point you’re either over-thinking or under-thinking your character and you really feel like there is nothing else to give. And then, right around that point, there’s a weird moment that happens where you just stop thinking about it at all: you’re no longer under- or over-thinking it, you are just doing it because you are just going through the motions. And you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s just do this because I have to,’ and then this beautiful, beautiful thing happens where, all of a sudden, as soon as you stop thinking about it, all of this shit comes out of you that you never even knew was there! I think that’s what he’s going for. He does it enough times to where you are so used to it that you are not thinking about it, and that’s where the best stuff comes from. If you film a scene where you come home from work, you throw your keys on the table, you take your jacket off and you put it on the hook, you take your shoes off and you walk into the kitchen and you do whatever it is you do. If you were to film that scene, every single one of those moves is going to seem so cold and so calculated because it’s written in the script and you know what you are supposed to do and it’s fine, and most of the audience are not going to notice how calculated it looks – but a good audience will – and that’s what separates great shows from okay shows, and amazing shows from really decent shows, amazing directors from half-decent ones – it’s that kind of thing that half won’t notice but the ones that do are going to call you out.

PC: That’s a great explanation actually.

AZ: It’s one thing to say you shoot a scene 70 times and it looks more ‘natural’ but what does that mean? That exactly what ‘natural’ means. You are putting your keys on the hook because you’ve done it a million times, it’s like getting all of your emotion to that point where you forgot that you did it, like when you leave the house and get half-way down the road and have to turn back because you don’t remember if you have locked the door. It’s that exact thing. Fincher wants your emotions and everything on camera to be stone natural – that you are not even 100 percent sure that you did it.

That’s what I think makes all of his stuff so, so good. I’ve heard so many people talk about the 70 takes thing and how it’s unnecessary, but after doing it I’m almost wishing everyone would do it: because everything looks so much better, and so natural and yeah, you might not see it, but those that do, it makes that difference.

Read the full interview

2017-11-18. Adam Zastrow (Facebook) - Adam Zastrow, Cameron Britton, and Jack Erdie
Adam Zastrow, Cameron Britton, and Jack Erdie (Adam Zastrow / Facebook)

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
In Conversation with Cotter Smith. Actor (Mindhunter, The Americans)
Jack Erdie: Actor (MindhunterBanshee) & writer
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator