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Duncan Jones on solving Source Code

Game plan
By PETER KEOUGH  |  March 31, 2011

BACKTALK_Duncan-Jones_main
It's the elephant in the room when you're talking to Duncan Jones: this guy is Zowie Bowie, Ziggy Stardust's son. It's uncool to bring it up, but how can you not at least mention it?

Very easily, as it turns out, because the affable, self-proclaimed geek has accomplished enough on his own to make his pedigree a mere footnote. His debut film, Moon (2009), is a cult favorite. His second film, Source Code, a higher-budgeted thriller about a guy played by Jake Gyllenhaal who wakes up on a train and discovers he's in someone else's body and has just a few minutes to save the world, won't disappoint his fans. Like Moon, it's challenging as well as exciting. Nice guy that he is, Jones patiently responds to the dumbest questions about what's going on in the movie. Too bad the answers are all spoilers.

YOU HAD A Q&A AT A SCREENING LAST NIGHT. DID YOU HAVE ANY MIT STUDENTS ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SCIENCE IN THE MOVIE? Yes we did. There was one guy who said he was a physicist. He was very generous with his appreciation of what we had done. Ben Ripley, who wrote the script, had an earlier draft that had a lot more explanation, and then he and the producers pulled a lot of it out. When I got involved, I pulled out the last few vestiges, and I think we were left with the bare rules that we wanted the audience to understand and then ask them to take a little bit of a leap of faith.

>> READ: "Review: Source Code" by Peter Keough <<

IT IS SORT OF THE ULTIMATE GAMER'S DREAM, ISN'T IT? Yeah, having multiple opportunities to fulfill the mission objective. There is a little homage to that in the film. There's a scene where Jake jumps off the train that is a straight riff on the computer game Grand Theft Auto, where the same thing happens and the camera never cuts away.

I'm a pretty hardcore gamer. I think there is a generation of filmmakers now who don't feel embarrassed to use computer games as a cultural reference. It's a touchstone for us. That's part of the culture that we've grown up in. We have a familiarity with it, and we draw from it.

I WAS SURPRISED YOU DIDN'T WRITE THIS FILM, BECAUSE THE THEME OF IDENTITY IS SIMILAR TO THAT INMOON. The nature of identity is something I find fascinating — the fact that the person that we think we are is so different from what other people see us as. But when I was reading the script for Source Code, I was mainly drawn to the differences from Moon. It's more likely that Jake and the producers were the ones that saw the similarities between Moon and Source Code. That's maybe why they thought of me. But I was thinking of all the opportunities to do something different when I read it, though subconsciously I must be drawn to that kind of material.

NOW YOU'RE WORKING ON A SCIENCE-FICTION TRILOGY THAT INCLUDESMOON? I would like to do three science-fiction films that take place in the same universe. But they will not be continuations of one story. They would have characters or events reflected in all three films so they would tie together, even though they are three independent stories.

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