‘The Grey’ Director Joe Carnahan on Life, Death & That Controversial Ending

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 11th, 2012 at 12:54 pm,

Liam Neeson in The Grey trailer The Grey Director Joe Carnahan on Life, Death & That Controversial Ending

Screen Rant: The film is kind of open-ended with what happens to Liam. What’s your interpretation?

JC: “I’m more interested in your interpretation. The very basic thesis is, ‘As important as it is how you live, it’s equally important how you die.’ People say, ‘What does the title mean?’ That’s it, it’s the grey. It’s the grey area. It’s between life and death, this nebulous thing that you don’t really understand. There’s an Easter Egg, there’s one shot at the very end, post-credits. So what does this mean? You tell me. I have one word; I think it’s harmony. That’s what that shot is, and whatever you want to extrapolate from that is up to you. It’s something my wife said early on: They thought that everybody died in that crash and all those guys were just facets of Liam’s personality, and that all those conversations were imagined. He’s the only one that lived. I thought, that’s brilliant. Great! [Laughs] When people start making their own attachments, that’s brilliant. My only hope for the film is that it plays beyond the two hours it takes for you to watch it.”

How much did you actually write and shoot that final sequence? In the trailer you have this sequence where he’s putting the bottles on his fingers and preparing to do battle with the wolf, and there’s an interesting absence of seeing the fruition of that in the film itself.

JC: “Oh, I shot it. It’s funny, because Roger Bart, this very fantastic and brilliant editor who cut ‘The A-Team’ for me and ‘Transformers’ – Roger comes on from that background, the big action, but he also did some of his best work in his career on this film. We were all talking and we all sort of came to the same conclusion. He was like, ‘The emotional conclusion has already happened. If you now attempt to do this other thing [the wolf fight], I think it’s going to feel superfluous. It’s going to feel like you’re trying to hard.’ We did a test screening and there was this really kind of enraged group of guys in Woodland Hills. One guy’s like, ‘Goddamit this movie was building up to that fight and I want to see it!’ and the guy’s like, ‘I hate the movie because of that!’ Then they asked, ‘Show of hands, how many people would talk about this movie the next day?’ This guy’s hand goes up. ‘How many people if you saw it on a Friday would you still talk about it on Monday?’ This guy’s hand goes up. Like, that’s it right there, man! There doesn’t need to be any more than that, and I felt it would be a cheat. And the worst thing you can do is get to that point in the film and suddenly show something where you have to involve CG. If it doesn’t work you’re done. So that became a very conscious thing early on.’

Liam Neesons The Grey tops the box office The Grey Director Joe Carnahan on Life, Death & That Controversial Ending

On the metaphysical level, my read was that whatever these guys thought was going to happen with their death was what happened.

JC: “You mean your faith, whatever you think is waiting for you? I’ve said that, that is absolutely a spot-on assessment. I love that you said that, because I said that too. That’s what I’m hoping for in real life; I hope that whatever you are – Buddhist, Muslim, Christian – whatever you hold in your heart, I hope that’s what’s waiting for you. I swear to God, how great would that be? That’d be the greatest, man. If you believe that there’s a place where you can go and jam with Jimi Hendrix and have lunch with George Washington, I think that’s fucking great. I really do. I hope that that’s what it is, and I’m glad you made that connection.”

You’ve said that you believe The Grey is your best film. Why so?

JC: “I think it’s the most complete film. Mature isn’t the right word; it has the most ‘me’ in it, I guess. How I think and how I feel, and all my fears, which are considerable, and all my insecurities, which are even more considerable. I feel really, really fortunate and really grateful that I got to make this film. It just doesn’t happen enough where you make something that’s actually meaningful to you, that you can look at people with and say, ‘This is how I feel about the world. This is what I think about things. These are the things that scare me. These are the things that are important to me.’ I think that’s why. And it doesn’t necessarily affix itself to any one genre. It just… it is. I’m very proud of it.”

The Grey is in theaters now.

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  1. I think the editor’s comment was spot-on. The emotional high point of the film hit and it felt wrapped up. ***********SPOILER****************No need to show the wolf fight at the end.

  2. So they shot it, I really hope its on the Blu ray

  3. I can’t believe I didn’t stay until after the credits dammit.

  4. No way does it work with Cooper. Neison is a bad A. I give him huge props, he deserves an Oscar nod to boot.

  5. I probably should watch this then. I loved Narc, but got put off by the utter bork that was The A-Team “movie”. Ugh. Everyone deserves a second chance I s’pose.

  6. What’s so controversial about the ending? Is society such a suger and riddlin addled short attention span popcorn movie dummy society that everything must have specific closure and every level of society has to hold your hand through it because god forbid people think or emote on their own

  7. Saw this movie yesterday, I loved it. Liam Neeson is amazing and the film was filled with emotion and story. My friend didn’t care for the ending but we both came up with our own versions of what happened and I think that’s what most people will do and it’s a great way to end the movie.

  8. I saw the movie last night. It was good, but not nearly as good as I was expecting, after listening to all the hype. Neeson was the best thing about it. SPOILER: There are also two interesting plot twists, one of which I already knew and would have guessed anyway, concerning his wife. The other has to do with inadvertently walking toward something rather than away from it. The poem written by Neeson’s father was also eerily and ironically applicable to his situation…

  9. Rented Drive and saw the Grey the next day at the theater. The best movie of 2011 and the best (probably) of 2012 in a 48 hour period. Now where’s Taken 2?

  10. Just got back from watching this. Very, very bleak stuff. However, it was a powerful film. I found myself really liking all the characters and feeling for them. This is not a feel good movie, but one that I think people will enjoy, especially if they like good solid movies.

  11. Not sure just exactly what I saw after the credits rolled but figure that it was two panting bodies in mutual but terminal respect of each other. Neither creature really has all that much to prove…or live for.

  12. Really good questions followed by great insightful answers. The whole thing had a real conversational tone to it. One of the better interviews I’ve read with JC. Nicely done!

  13. **********SPOILERS!********* My take on the film was that the whole thing was imagined. Liam was on the IV not his wife. He died and the “crash” was purgatory. Hense, he knew what dying was like, the wolves acting the way they did (which is not how wolves act at all), the sparse cold dream like backdrop, the strange decisions they kept making, the philosophy, the flashbacks, the shouting at god and the ending being that no body gets to go home.

    A bit like Jacob’s Lader.

    Regards, Basho

  14. Logically, if it was Purgatory, Neeson’s character would have already face his judgement and stood before Our Lord. I don’t think he’d go on to curse Him after standing before Him and his monologue about there being nothing after death wouldn’t make sense, either. If he was in Purgatory, he’d already know that there is life after death.

  15. O common this is a cheap shot of replicating the movie “INCEPTION”… Remember the controversial ending guys?

  16. thats bs i dont care how much the director cares about trying to hard, this movie NEEDS an alternate ending, it ruined the movie for all of me and my friends, i almost cried because of the non existent ending, it would have made millions of more $ with that ending, and apart from that it would have been no doubt thee best movie made in a long time right next to any movie