“Damn, is it good to watch a movie that expects the audience to pay attention and that doesn’t pander to the least common denominator.” — James Berardinelli, ReelViews. “It may be a mostly pessimistic portrait of its time and place, but it offers hope, if only that movies of its style, scope and smarts can still get made.” — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. “Gilroy is a master at laying out a twisty plot, and Anderson directs with the kind of verve that enables almost all the twists to hit us with the force of surprise.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.

And so I began my chat with Beirut screenwriter Tony Gilroy with the following: “It’s so lovely to see a good Tony Gilroy-authored film…done right, done in a clear, adult, complex way…you can actually follow the plot..veins of eloquence and feeling…second-act plot pivots, the payoff and the denouement,” blah blah. And then off to the races.

We covered the basics, which is that Gilroy wrote the Beirut script 27 years ago, when he was working for TedField‘s Interscope. Except nobody bit and so it was put away, and then the film finally launched in ’16 or thereabouts with Brad Anderson directing and Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike costarring, and so Gilroy did a rewrite and then Anderson shot it in Tangiers in less that 30 days, and for next to nothing.

Beirut producer-screenwriter Tony Gilroy.

Gilroy #1: “It was meant to be a Sydney Pollack movie. Or a film for Peter Weir or Wolfgang Peterson. The Year of Living Dangerously was a model, and that wasn’t an unusual thing for 1991. Nobody bit because it seemed too controversial, a little too stinky. But what seemed a little controversial in the early ’90s, of course, is now established fact. And it put me in a much higher realm…it moved me up in class…the only movie I had made up to that point was an ice-skating movie…it got me into Dolores Claiborne.”

Gilroy #2: “There are three villains in this thing. I’m not kind to the PLO. It’s corrupt and the leadership is over in West Beirut while thousands of refugees are displaced. I’m saying that the Reagan White House was just a ratfuck of mistaken motivations and of blinking greenlights and just a mess. And I’m also really accurate about Israel’s moment of darkness there, where they were just looking for any excuse to invade.”

Gilroy #3: “I still have to grind. I still have to prove it. I tried to get a couple of original movies off the ground, and it didn’t work. It’s tough, man. I’m trying to do original unbranded IP, man. It’s tough, it’s tough.” Gilroy #4: “The internet makes movie-making so much more difficult…the idea of dissecting a patient while they;re trying to run a marathon…millions of people screaming at you aroudn the world …if Alden Ehrenreich ever checks the chat rooms, he’d never leave the trailer…can you imagine with 100,000 people staring over yrou shoulder? It can;t help but bend your process.”

Again, the mp3.