Stephen Gaghan

In Part One of this interview, writer-director Stephen Gaghan talked about the political roots of his new film, Syriana; in Part Two, he talks about the creative process, how comedy and tragedy are a little too close for comfort when you research a film like Syriana and how, for good and for ill, it really is a small world after all. If you’re sensitive to profanity, you may not want to click for more, but you do, you’ll get a great look inside the consciousness – and the stream-of-consciousness – of a Oscar-wining screenwriter who may very well be able to repeat that honor this year.

Were there specific plot lines or ideas or concepts that you knew that you wanted to get in Syriana but you couldn't? I know there was an entire plotline featuring actress Michelle Monaghan that sort of fell off from the film.  Were there other moments or ideas like that?

Well, in the earliest incarnation, I try all sorts of ideas. There's lots of ideas, just things, people, ideas you want to explore.  You create scenes, then realize they don't fit in the movie. They're not going to be there.  You create – storylines start up like little sprouts that shoot up out of the ground, but then they're not the ones you – then you weed them out.  The strongest ones survive, and that's a continuing process. You know, the Michelle storyline ended up being only about 11 minutes of material. I threw it out right after I watched the film, almost like the first couple of times I watched it, something weird happened.  There was some X factor. In this movie, there are four completely separate, kind of original storylines that are not stories you've seen before a lot, but they have their own kind of weird logic. They definitely have beginnings, middles, and ends. A fifth one broke the camel's back.  It didn't make the movie 20 percent more confusing, it made the movie 20 times more confusing. ...