Making Some Noise: A Q&A With Director Henry Bean

AFI Dallas Film Festival

Henry Bean’s latest film, Noise, about a man who tries to silence New York City by breaking into cars and disconnecting the alarms is based on a true story.

It’s partly his own. I don’t just mean he wrote the script. I mean it’s based on his own life.

He said during a Q&A following a screening his film at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival that he actually got arrested for breaking into a car and shutting off the alarm that had been ringing on and off for about five hours early in the morning. As he sat in a NYPD Precinct holding cell waiting to be transferred to central booking, he heard two cops talking about what he had done.

“They said, ‘What if everybody did that?’” Bean said. “’Then everyone would turn off their damn alarms.’”

Director Henry BeanBean, winner of the Sundance grand jury prize in 2001 for his first film The Believer about a Jew turned fanatical Neo-Nazi, said “Noise” is the second part of a self-titled trilogy of “Fanatic” films, people so obsessed with something that it runs and can ruin their lives. He couldn’t say what his next film in the trilogy will be, but he described the rights he purchased for it as an artistic fanatic that’s “an adult live action version of Horton Hears a Who.”

“I’m interested in somebody committing civil disobedience and I’m sympathetic to him,” Bean said. “What interested me in this is someone is trying to fix a problem everyone else thought was trivial…I’m interested in arguments to the world about what’s real and what’s important.”

He said he doesn’t see these tendencies as obsessions and he hopes audiences don’t think of Noise’s protagonist David Owen, played by Tim Robbins, as an obsessive person.

“I think we all have like obsessions, one thing that speaks to us,” Bean said, “a reality that trumps all other realities.”

Robbins and William Hurt, who plays the villainous mayor of New York City in the film, were the only people he cast for Noise. The rest of the cast including Bridget Moynahan who plays Robbins’ wife and Margarita Levieva who plays Robbins’ partner in crime and post-separation girlfriend all auditioned. He gave all of them a lot of freedom to work in and around his script.

“The wig was Hurt’s idea,” Bean said referring to a bright orange hairpiece Hurt wore for the film, “and he paid for it because we couldn’t afford to pay for it.”

Bean said he also left some personal elements of his legal battle in the film such as filming a scene where Robbins breaks down and then into a loud car on the very street where Bean got arrested for doing the same thing. He also tried to cast his defense attorney as Robbins’ attorney in the film, but he was, let’s just say, unavailable.

“I was represented by (former New York Governor) Eliot Spitzer after he got out of the prosecutor’s office and said he was going into politics,” Bean said. “I offered him the part and he said he couldn’t do it because he had a busy schedule.”

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