“Source Code” director Duncan Jones talks Jake Gyllenhaal, “Quantum Leap” and his next sci-fi film

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: We couldn’t wait to see what Duncan Jones would do next.

The director’s work on the solitary sci-fi thriller “Moon” immediately designated him as one of the hottest storytellers on our planet. Few probably expected to follow up his debut picture with another science-fiction tale, but he finds more than a few new ways to spin old concepts in “Source Code,” a time-warping mystery starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier skipping through the dials to find out who has planted a bomb on a Chicago-bound train.

We were able to sit down with Jones and dive into Gyllenhaal’s humor, the “Groundhog’s Day” influence, and his love of Scott Bakula and “Quantum Leap.”

HollywoodNews.com: Tell me something you learned on “Moon” that really came in handy and bailed you out on “Source Code.”

Duncan Jones: I would say that humor is one of the strongest tools that you’ve got in filmmaking. And I don’t just mean having a good sense of humor when you are on the set. I mean in storytelling terms; being able to use humor and lighten the tone of the film. When I read the script for ‘Source Code,’ I thought it was amazing, and it was very fast-paced. Narratively, it just all came together. But the tone of the film was quite serious. The big lesson I learned on ‘Moon’ is that you can use humor to actually add pathos and help an audience connect to a protagonist. So that’s what I brought to “Source Code.”

When you were looking for leading men, were you looking for actors who could blend humor and drama?

To be honest, it was the other way around. I actually met up with Jake to find a project for us to work on together, and he introduced me to the “Source Code” script. He has seen “Moon” and was a big fan of “Moon” and loved what I had done with Sam Rockwell. He said he really wanted us to work together. He suggested the “Source Code” script, I went off and read it, and said, “Yeah, I think we can do this. I can really get my teeth into this.” But my take and interpretation would be to lighten the tone and to try and inject a little bit of humor into it.

Were you being bombarded with sci-fi scripts and pitches after “Moon?”

At that time? Yeah. Pretty much exclusively, it was, you know, “Small environment, guy on his own, something to do with space.” [Laughs] But the things that I saw in the “Source Code” script were all of the differences it had from “Moon.” Obviously now that I’ve made it, it’s easier to see the similarities. But I saw the opportunity to work with a group of excellent actors in multiple environments … we are going to be on trains, we’ll be other places. And it was so fast paced. It starts with a bang and just keeps on going, rocking along until the end of the film.

Would you be willing to dive into another sci-fi project if the story is right?

I actually plan to do one more science-fiction film, and then I will probably take a break from sci-fi and try some genres I’ve been really eager to do.

Some who have written about “Source Code” already are linking it to Bill Murray’s comedy, “Groundhog’s Day.” Does that comparison bother you on any level?

I don’t mind “Groundhog’s Day” as a reference, actually. There’s a conceit at the heart of the film that is kind of out there, the idea of our hero, Jake’s character, being able to re-experience an event to try and get it right. I get the “Groundhog’s Day” reference. But I think there are quite a few other appropriate references. To me, when I was reading the script, one of the ones that immediately popped its head out was “Quantum Leap,” the TV show with Scott Bakula. For the geeks out there, it was really important for me to include a tip-of-the-hat to that, and we were actually able to get Scott to come and do the voice of Jake’s father in the film.

And finally, I’m going to steal one of your lines. Do you believe in fate, or are you a dumb luck kind of gal?

[Laughs] Ah, I think that you can plan for good luck, or you can make your own luck. The harder you work and the more you prepare, the more you make yourself ready in case good luck comes your way.

“Source Code” opens everywhere on Friday, April 1.

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