One of the earliest releases in this year's Oscar derby, the small drama about a big topic — African poverty and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry — has steadily gained supporters and acclaim over the past several months.
All of which means the 50-year-old Brazilian filmmaker, who was a surprise best director nominee at the 2003 Oscars for "City of God," could find himself back in Hollywood this year for another spin with the Academy Awards.
Q: What was it like for you to be nominated two years ago for a best director Oscar for "City of God," especially since there have been very few directors of foreign language films nominated in that category?
A: It was the craziest thing. When [then Miramax co-president] Harvey Weinstein said he wanted to do a [nomination] campaign for "City of God" and asked me if I could come to the U.S., I said, "No, I am involved in something else. Thanks for the support, but I don't believe we will get anything." I didn't come to the U.S. I didn't do anything. No promotions, no Q&A's, because I was already involved in "The Constant Gardener."
Q: Do you remember your reaction to the nomination for "City of God?
A: The day they announced the Oscar nominations I was in London in a meeting with Danny Huston actually and somebody called me from Brazil and said, "Guess what?"
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I didn't even know they were going to announce the nominees that day. It was really coming from nowhere.
Q: How are the Oscars perceived in Brazil?
A: Of course, Oscars are a big thing, even in Brazil. But it's not like here. I think being nominated if you live here is such a pressure, but I am 10,000 kilometers from here. It is not the same. So it is much easier. Less anxiety.
Q: It must have been fun to come to Hollywood and participate in the Academy Awards?
A: I felt very honored. When I came to the ceremony, I came with my wife and three other friends, very close friends, who were also nominated. We were sure that we weren't going to win any award. So we were so relaxed and we had a good time during the ceremony and parties. I think we were the group who was having fun because everybody else was tense.
Q: You said that you began work in "Constant Gardener" even before "City of God" was nominated for an Oscar. How did your involvement in the project come about?
A: When I first screened "City of God" at Cannes in 2002, it was just a Brazilian film with no poster, no nothing and nobody knew who I was. I thought I was going to go to Cannes and stay for three days. And suddenly after the first screening there was such a buzz, and press from all over the world were coming to interview me, and agents were coming to me.
Q: That must've been incredibly intense.
A: I spent like 10 days meeting people nonstop and studios immediately started sending me scripts. I had like 12 scripts in the first week. But I didn't want to do any international film yet. Then I met Simon Channing-Williams, the producer of "The Constant Gardener."
Q: Was "Constant Gardener " in the first pile of scripts you received?
A: No, no, no. I said no to all the offers that came, because I was going to produce a film from Brazil. But I got an agent here. What happened was at the end of 2003, I wasn't 100% happy with the script [of my project]. That is when I went to London and I met Simon the producer and he asked me to read the script.