Another Los Angeles in ‘Gardener’
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
LOS ANGELES — Quiet on the set was no small order last week, as Chris Weitz, probably best known as the director of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” worked a grittier side of the street on this city’s largely Hispanic East Side.
So it goes with “The Gardener,” a small film that has the tall, very dark-eyed Mr. Weitz — who talked of leaving the movie business after an unhappy experience with New Line Cinema’s high-budget flop “The Golden Compass” — looking downright chipper these days. ...
More remarkably, Mr. Weitz has turned his tiny movie, about a gardener and his son on a hunt for their stolen truck, into an exploration of Los Angeles places, both cultural and geographic, that have largely been ignored, even when production was at full throttle here. ...
Mr. Weitz went so far as to adjust the language in the script — the story was written by Roger L. Simon, with revisions by Eric Eason — to match the slang of not just the city, but of individual streets.
“The Gardener” is being made for a bit less than the cost of “American Pie.” In 1998 Mr. Weitz and his brother, Paul, shot that film — a teen comedy that went on to make $102 million at the domestic box office for Universal Pictures — on a budget reported to be about $11 million.
But “The Gardener” carries more risk in that its cast is virtually all Hispanic, with Demián Bichir, who played Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” in the starring role. ...
Asked why he had chosen to make “The Gardener” at a time when the success of “New Moon” gave him choices, Mr. Weitz said it “was a chance to reconnect” with some family heritage. His grandmother, Lupita Tovar, from Oaxaca, Mexico, was a star who sometimes made films shot simultaneously in English and Spanish. She married Mr. Weitz’s grandfather, the agent Paul Kohner.
“This was a chance to get in touch with the language,” said Mr. Weitz, who figured that 30 percent of the dialogue in “The Gardener” would need English subtitles.
He added, “I’m one of the few people in my family who doesn’t speak Spanish.”