Director Tom Tykwer: an interview

"I am a huge fan of cars on the big screen"

In an interview, director Tom Tykwer talks about the particular challenges of car scenes in the film and his collaboration with Tom Hanks. He also reveals which Audi models play a role in his new film “A Hologram for the King”.
Mr. Tykwer, what is A Hologram for the King about?

It´s the story of Alan Clay, a man who has lost his job, whose marriage is on the rocks and who can´t even okay for his daughter´s college tuition anymore. He attempts to pull himself up by his bootstraps by traveling to Saudi Arabia with the intention of pitching to the king a communications system for a newly bulit luxury town. When he gets there, he finds the town is as yet non-existent and the king has no time for him. Eventually Clay loses hope of closing the deal.

You wrote the screenplay. How does it differ from the novel it´s based on?

The novel is much bleaker but is also sprinkled with many absurd moments. My instinct was to make the movie much lighter. The idea was to make it a comedy with fairytale overtones that nevertheless still retained its seriousness and sense of tragedy. I spent six months writing the first draft of the screenplay. The I asked Dave Eggers, the author of the novel, for feedback. I wanted to be sure that he would like the movie - especially since I had changed the genre. But I was also looking for assurances from other people, Tom Hanks being one of them, that such a serious topic could be treated in a lighter, easy-to-watch film. Everyone was fully behind me.

On your second movie project together, were you and Tom Hanks perfectly in sync with one another?

We trust each other deeply. And trust is the ideal starting point when embarking on a new journey together. When Tom trusts you, he holds nothing back and is game for everything. You can suggest something and he´ll come up with an even crazier, more compelling solution to a scene. A playful competitiveness development between us that created a very constructive buzz. I think that comes across in the movie.

You´ve referred to the film as a road movie. Why?

Because Alan Clay is forever on a quest. The closer he thinks he´s getting to his goal, the further it retreats from his reach. Aside from that, there´s a huge amount of driving around in the movie. Important conversations take place in the car and so do adventures. Cars have another key role in this movie - they indicate the carious characters´ status. I´m generally a big fan of cars in movies. They can convey a wonderful feeling of dynamism and a very special kind of suspense.

Do car scenes pose a particular challenge when filming?

Definitely, if you want to shoot a scene realistically. You could also shoot these scenes in the studio and subsequently blue-screen in the landscape in the background. But I think it’s important to expose the actors to real conditions: the audience should see that Tom Hanks really does feel the baking sun and the biting air in the desert as he sits behind the wheel of the Audi R8. Staging these kinds of scenes is technically very demanding and takes time. But it’s worthwhile as everyone instantly realises the scene is authentic.

How do you personally feel about cars?

I enjoy driving, especially in urban areas. I admire the mechanics of city traffic - how it grows like a living organism as cars are drawn into a dance with each other.


Audi A8 L W12 fuel consumption urban/extra-urban/combined (in l/100 km): 15.6 - 15.3/8.6 - 8.4/11.2 - 11.0; CO2 emissions combined (in g/km): 259 - 254. Where stated in ranges, fuel consumption, CO2  emissions and efficiency classes depend on tires/wheels used.
Further information on official fuel consumption figures and the official specific CO2 emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the EU guide "Information on the fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and energy consumption of new cars", which is available free of charge at all sales dealerships, from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Straße 1, D-73760 Ostfildern, Germany and at

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