Life + Times gave fans an exclusive look at photos from behind-the-scenes of the RUN trailer that started an uproar and petition for Beyoncé and JAY Z an actual motion picture of the Melina Matsoukas-directed trailer. ELLE Magazine caught up with the filmmaker and talked about the actual inspiration behind the trailer. View the photos + read the interview with Matsoukas below.
This ‘Run’ video was straight-up epic. Take me through the process of how it came to life.
Obviously I’ve worked with Beyoncé quite a bit; I know Jay through the years. We’ve been trying to work together for a couple of his albums and it just never came to fruition. I’d been dying to work with him and I love working with her, so it just felt like the perfect combination. With this song, it’s actually a music video—I know everyone’s calling it a trailer, which I guess it is as well. But it’s a music video for his song “Part II (On The Run).” I feel like [at this point] in Jay’s career he doesn’t want to just do a normal music video. So we were trying to come up with a way to visualize the song that wasn’t something that we’ve seen before. So I came up with this whole movie trailer idea and it just kind of progressed from there. We were talking about trying to hide the fact that it was a music video, and the idea was to release this trailer for this blockbuster that you’ll never see.
It sounds like the idea was largely yours. How did Bey and Jay feel about it when initially pitched on it?
Beyoncé was definitely really excited. Jay was a bit skeptical, but we were able to kind of force him into it. He’s always interested in doing something different so I think that part was exciting to him. I think he was hesitant about ‘Oh, now I have to be an actor.’ I was like, ‘If it works, great. If not, then we’ll cut around it and make it a more typical video.’
When did you shoot this?
We were supposed to shoot in January, but he was on tour. We canceled [that] shoot the day before because it was just too much. It came back up last month because the tour [together] was starting and they really wanted a visual for the song. I was excited because I loved the idea and wanted the chance to visualize it. We started shooting and all those cameos came last minute. Once we got one then we got everybody.
You’re being modest. You landed Sean Penn!
That was phenomenal. That was totally Jay. We were working on all these cameos and obviously there were a bunch of people on our list, but some people I just thought would never do it. Jay put in a call for Sean Penn. It was the end of us shooting the first day. One of Jay’s creatives came up to me and she’s like, ‘OK, we need to call Sean Penn now. He’s coming tomorrow.’ And I’m like, ‘What? OK.’ So I’m driving back through the desert, and my phone’s not working, and it didn’t work that night, and I wake up the next morning to a text from Sean Penn. So I talked to him about the project and what we were thinking of doing with him. And he’s like, ‘I can be there at 3.’ I’m like, ‘I kind of need you there in an hour.’ And he went home and got dressed and came camera-ready. It was all improv so it was kind of perfect. [Jay and him] discussed where their characters were at that point in our faux-film. He came up with his own dialogue. That’s actually one of my favorite scenes.
So was all the dialogue in the entire video improvised? Or did you have a rough plot outline you could relay to the guest actors as well as Jay and Bey?
In my head I knew it was a trailer for this movie, and I knew it had this of ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ ‘True Romance’ vibe. They were outlaws wrecking havoc around town and these different characters were playing along with them. So each person that would come on set, we’d introduce their character to them and have a background and a history to give them motivation for the scene. I had suggested some lines to Jay, which were not received well. I was like, ‘You don’t have to say this but say this.’ Of course I realized that Jay is a poet. So it became what it became. And it was way better than I would have imagined. So I was like, ‘For the rest of the scenes will you write the script? Cause you’re a way better writer than I am.’
You’ve seen Beyoncé inhabit various different roles over the years. Was it surprising to see her wielding a gun and going full badass for this video?
When we first started she did send me some references and a lot of that was being a badass. I was like, ‘OK, this is a role she hasn’t played that she’s definitely interested in playing so let’s take it way further than she could imagine.’ She’s really good with action and she’s a badass in real life. So why not be one in a video? It’s just about having fun and creating some cool images. And I think for her it’s a sense of freedom. Maybe these are things she didn’t think she could do a couple years ago, and now she’s just like, ‘I’m gonna play whatever part I wanna play and not listen to whatever people have to say.’
I’m guessing you imagined this video would make a splash one way or the other. So far it’s gotten really positive reviews. People are even petitioning to turn it into an actual feature film.
I knew there would be a lot of dialogue. I wasn’t totally sure which way it would go. I’m glad it’s being received well. It’s funny because when we started I really wanted it to be a trailer, as did one of the people Jay works with creatively who is also one of my good friends. We were talking about putting it before a movie like ‘Godzilla’ in the theater and really kind of tricking people. But Beyoncé was like, ‘I think people are going to be really mad if we trick them!’ So that’s when I came up with the whole ‘Coming Never’ which solved that problem.
I take it Bey and Jay were pleased with how it turned out?
They loved it. Once I sent the edit out they were sending me all kinds of e-mails of encouragement. They went crazy for it. So I was really excited in the end. It was all worth it. It was definitely a challenging ride.
Let’s just put this to rest: So we’re definitely not getting a full-length feature film from this project?
It’s coming never! Sorry guys! Unless Beyoncé and Jay Z decide to change that.
Your line is always open though, right?
Terrell Johnson is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of SWGRUS.