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Interview: Lee Tergesen Talks No One Lives

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Many of you will be familiar with actor Lee Tergesen be it his portrayal of Tobias Beecher in the hit series Oz or the infamous Terry in the Wayne’s World franchise. Fast forward to the present and Lee can be found playing Hoag, the leader of a ruthless criminal gang in the horror film No One Lives. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and starring Luke Evans, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness series and was shot in mid-June back in 2011 in and around a ver hot New Orleans.

As the film heads to UK cinemas today we spoke to Lee all about his experiences on the set of the movie and what motivated him to take on the role.

So I have to ask this first. Another horror movie! I’m not complaining in any way as I love them myself too. Most recently you’ve been in The Collection, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Obviously that’s not all you do but what lies behind your penchant for horror movies?

Well, this time it was actually my wife who was to blame. She is Japanese and when she heard that Ryuhei Kitamura was directing a film she said it would be so cool if I worked with him. I had seen his previous movie, Midnight Meat Train, and I really liked the script when I read it.

Basically they sent me the script and, for some reason or other, nothing happened for a while. Then out of the blue they came back to me asking if I wanted the part. At first I wasn’t totally sure about doing it as it was right before my wife and I were going to get married in Kyoto so I was nervous about the timing of the whole thing but they worked it all out and I ended up heading over to Louisiana for a month.

Your part in the movie is Hoag who is kind of like the leader of this band of rogues. Was this the part you originally read for?

Yes they came to me directly with that part. At that stage I think Luke Evans had been chosen for his part. Working with Luke was just WOW and I’m a really big fan of his.

One of the biggest draws to this film is definitely the elaborate death scenes. Some are pretty hardcore. Did you find it all pretty over the top or are you used to these kinds of things now after having starred in so many graphic scenes. Your recent film The Collection springs to mind as that had some of the strongest gore scenes I have seen in a long time.

Well, I mean, in the series Oz I shit in somebody’s mouth so after that it’s difficult to really consider anything else as going too far.

Lee Tergesen interview no one  livesYou mentioned Luke Evans. What kind of relationship did you have with the cast and crew. I know George Murdoch was really enthusiastic to meet you as he is a massive fan of Wayne’s World.

Oh it was great although it was hot as hell. It was funny with George because when you first see him you think “Oh boy!” but he is actually a really smart guy. He’s really sweet and the exact opposite of what you think is going to come out of him.

And would you say you picked up any valuable acting methods from any of your co-stars?

Well Luke and I seem to work in a very similar way. He doesn’t mess around too much. I guess it’s really just something you can just turn on and turn off though.

A lot of critics have said the film is great for guys to take their girlfriends to as it combines violence with an intriguing love story.

Well it’s a pretty fucked up relationship but yes. I think what was so good for the director was that it was so character driven and there was this opportunity to dig into the characters and include all these great visuals.

Talking of visuals, were most of the death scenes actually filmed on set using the actors as much as possible?

Well, from my own experience I had one specific scene where I had to stay upside down for ages over a wood chipper. I mean, you can imagine what happens to the body hanging like that with the takes going on forever. Having said that though the crew made sure that the whole thing was as painless as ever.

So are you all for doing as much of your own stunt work as possible or are you less of a risk taker than you come across in the movies?

Actually I really do like to do as much of it as I can. It’s something I started back in Oz where people did their own stunts. Having said that, the older I get the harder it is for me to bounce back.

Speaking of Oz, you have recently played Mike Tomlin in another television show, Red Widow, that also starred Radha Mitchell and Luke Goss. I really enjoyed that show and it’s a real shame it ended up getting cancelled so early down the road.

Yeah that show was a blast. It’s been such a weird year for television though. Radha Mitchell was so good in that show and playing that role. She’s just so fucking tough. She’s so funny and so sprite and just gets into the scene.

The drag of this show was that it was on network really. I think it should have been on AMC or something like that and they probably should have made it like 10% more edgy.

So what have you got in store now then?

Well I recently spent one and a half months in Japan with my wife and daughter and the truth is it gets complicated with a family. When I got back I had four or five days before I had to go to Seattle and I was looking forward to that as I thought it would be great to have a few days home alone – nice and quiet.

Basically, I immediately slipped into a mild depression which I did not expect. All of a sudden you’re not having that human contact, holding your daughter, changing her diapers or whatever. So, when I was alone it turns out I don’t like me all that much as I hated being alone with myself. But yeah, it’s going to be tricky but I have a few things going on. First a play called Rapture, Blister, Burn now for two months. My wife is actually an arts therapist and she works at a lock up for the criminally insane so she’s been on a break for six months but now has to decide if she wants to go back to work or not. Depending on her decision she will accompany on my projects. I was very realistic when it came to having kids but what I wasn’t aware of was what it was going to be like making decisions like these.

And apart from the theatre work I believe you’ve recently put the finishing touches to a film called Desert Cathedral that involves a pretty unique filming technique.

desertcathedral_comingsoon2That’s right. We finished shooting that just recently. It’s based on the true story of a guy who left his family in 1992 and took a road trip and sent video tapes back. In the last couple of months the mother of the family decided that she wanted to allow us to use the real video tapes in our film. What we are doing now is weaving his tapes together with the footage we have shot because I do actually look a lot like him.

We’ll start with some footage of him and later use scenes with me. Also there are some scenes which feature my wife and daughter watching video tapes at home and I think they are going to use the video tapes of them watching things as though they are watching videos of the past to help cheer themselves up. I think it should be pretty effective.

Apart from that there aren’t really any other projects on the go, so to speak. I did a couple of episodes of the series Copper. That was a blast too. I played a great criminal mastermind and that was also with Tom Fontana who also produced Oz.

You keep to-ing and fro-ing between television and film. Which one would you say you feel more comfortable doing?

Well I love TV and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a couple of shows that went on a long time. With those you get to develop a relationship and it starts to feel like you actually have a real job. With film and theatre work it’s a case of being on a job for a couple of months or three and then you are out.

Having said that though, there is nothing like theatre. The play I am doing is one I also did last summer with Amy Brenneman and it’s just great and so much fun. It’s such a terrifying and exhilarating experience.

We’d like to thank Lee for taking a moment out of his schedule to speak to us. We’ll leave you with the red band trailer for No One Lives where you can see that very wood chipper Lee Mentioned above.


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Interviews

Film4 FrightFest Interview: Adam Green Talks Hatchet III, Holliston and Chiggers

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For over a decade, filmmaker Adam Green has been making horror films and has wowed audiences worldwide on the festival circuit. One of his favourite festivals is the Film4 Frightfest. His movie Hatchet was played as part of the 2006 line-up and now, in 2013, Adam has returned to aforementioned festival with the closing chapter of the Hatchet franchise.

Ever a busy man, Adam was kind enough to give up his time to talk to us about the Hatchet franchise and his popular television series Holliston. He is an interviewer’s dream, I found his sense of confidence and undeniable passion for what he does engaging and it was a pleasure to spend time with him. Enjoy.

Adam, welcome to London. You’re back at Frightfest and we’re glad to have you here. You come here pretty much every year since Hatchet was shown in 2006, what is it about Frightfest that you like so much?

There’s nothing I don’t like. The main thing is that this festival is different from all the other festivals in the fact that you can come and you can be the filmmaker and do your thing and screen your movie, press and all that other stuff but I can just be a fan like everyone else. Even everybody treats you like everyone else. Depending on which and how many festivals you have been to they sometimes keep the filmmakers, celebrities, or whatever the word is, separate at all times. You can sign autographs but only at this specific place at this specific time and that’s it. It’s just like “What the fuck?”

With Frightfest I think it’s great that you can show your movie and then two hours later you can enjoy other movies, meet new people and make friends. What I like about it here is that people treat you like a regular human being, a Frightfester and a fan. I come here for that but this is also the place where Hatchet was born. It originally premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and it did phenomenal but that is not a horror festival like here. When it played here, I thought it was going to bomb as it was following Pan’s Labrynth but it played dam busters. So when I made Hatchet II I had it in my contract that the world premiere had to be at Frightfest which is hard to get accomplished because an American distributor will not agree to that as it’s their fucking money and they paid for that but they understood how important it was for me to do that and I am forever grateful because of that because the screening was amazing. For Hatchet III this is the only festival appearance that I am doing because, for me, this is where it started and in two hours time this is where it will end.

Speaking of Hatchet, a colleague of mine recently interviewed Kane Hodder who said you always had him in mind for the role of Victor Crowley. I was wondering if you could confirm if this is true and how Hodder became involved with the project.

hatchet-3-aWell, it was one of those dream case scenarios where I was always fan of Kane’s, Tony Todd’s and Robert Englund’s and grew up in the ‘80s watching their stuff so I thought somebody like Kane Hodder was perfect for the role. I never thought it would be him. John Buechler was one of the first persons on board with effects and he was the one who suggested that we show the script to Kane. But my producers at the time were like “Don’t bring it to him as you’re going to get these comparisons to Friday the 13th and he’s been there and done that so why don’t you get somebody new.” Kane was coming off being unceremoniously replaced in Freddy vs. Jason and the producers kept saying “Get somebody who is out for blood and needs this” and I’m like “That’s him.” When I met him his thoughts about the character and his questions, regardless of how many times that he played Jason, were that this was him from the ground up. It was so awesome to give him this chance, especially now that people can see that he can fucking act and he’s not just a stunt guy who can break wood over his head and throw up on cue as well as all the other things he can do. For example, in his episode of Holliston, which is being shown on Sunday, he is fucking hilarious so it has changed his whole life and it’s awesome in how this worked out for him.

With Hatchet III you have passed directorial duties over to BJ McDonnell. Was this your own choice or was there extenuating circumstances that led to this decision?

It was totally my choice. Before we made Hatchet II I said this would be the last one I direct. Normally in the industry they say don’t direct your own sequels and move on, let someone else make the sequels because they suck. What I loved about Hatchet II is that I got to go make Spiral, Grace and Frozen. There was no fear in making Hatchet II as I would not be pigeon holed as that guy and I always had the vision of these three movies in my head and I wanted to see it through to the end. I felt I owed it to the fans to make Hatchet II and I wanted to make it. But the experience of that and the fact that the movie was being pulled from theatres because of the MPAA and the whole fucking thing was a nightmare. Hatchet II is my favourite of the films by far and it had been enough so with Hatchet III Dark Skies said that as long as you’re willing to put your name above the title you can choose anyone you want to direct it.

I wanted to promote from within and have it be someone who had been there through the whole thing because I wanted it to feel seamless and feel like one long movie. BJ had shot every frame of the other two movies so it made sense to choose him. If I had found another established director who is going to put their spin on and change it I would have been making their life hell because I still had the final cut. I was the producer, I was the writer and had written these parts specifically for the cast so it would have been a very difficult position to have walked into.

With BJ, as he was always a part of it, he already knew the course of this thing, he knew the fans, the story and he knew the characters so there was never anyone butting heads over anything and it was such a great collaborative process to the point where, regardless that I was on set everyday, I trusted him. I don’t think many people have an idea of what producers do but the only thing that keeps that set running is that the producers are literally lighting themselves on fire or chopping off their arms to sort things out. This shoot was the worst shoot that I have ever been on as the crew were fucking horrible and there were a lot of bad seeds.

Now the crew that had made the two, all the returning people, were fantastic but there was some bad problems that we had to deal with. The conditions were horrible so I had my hands full with that and it was at this time that I was writing Killer Pizza for Christopher Columbus and Season Two of Holliston. So in the two months that I was in Louisiana, I was always the first person on set and the last one to leave and whilst everybody else would sleep I would be writing and I came back from that shoot with 675 pages of material. I didn’t sleep for seven months, literally, no joke, I slept for 45 minutes a night with 20 minutes here and there. The shoot was horrible but I never felt like I had to stand over his shoulder or look into the monitor saying this is how you shoot this as he knew already because he had done it so many times and my DP was still the same DP so it worked out great and I knew if I had needed it I had the final cut card to pull. It was a really great experience.

So what about the effects? The entire Hatchet  franchise is a great throwback to ‘80s slasher movies and I love the fact that you use practical effects. I want to know more about your experiences on set using practical effects. Would you describe yourself as anti-CGI?

Hatchet-2-10I always come up with really extravagant kills and anybody else would be like “We need CGI because there would be no other way.” A great example is the double chainsaw kill in Hatchet II. That took fourteen different people for the one shot of them getting lifted up and splitting apart from five different angles. So we needed all fourteen people out of frame whilst operating these things. There are guys in harnesses who are being lifted and the chainsaw weighed 125 pounds as it was a real chainsaw so there is the safety element as we don’t really want them to fall on it. The fake bodies, they had to fall apart so they were packed with PVC piping and blood was squirting and their intestines falling out but anyone else would have been like “Let’s do this in CGI.”

I think you can tell when it’s CGI and it’s not fun at all. Take Frozen for example. We had to do a lot of wire removal and the same is with Hatchet III as we had a lot of people on wires. When you start to use CG blood or CG characters when you don’t need to and you only do it because its lazier, cheaper and easier I’m like “Fuck that. This is a slasher movie and you want to see foam latex and silicone.”

One of the great things about this movie is that Victor Crowley uses the same mould as Hatchet II so he looks the same but it is silicone instead of foam latex so he looks better than he has ever looked before so the amount of expression Kane Hodder has is amazing but it weighed 50 pounds. Wearing that in New Orleans in the Summer in 100 degrees in a swamp, we spray bug spray on him and that is all fair and good but when you throw on the fake blood which is Karyo syrup you’re asking for trouble. He had over 125 mosquito bites and only from the elbow down is visible so you can imagine how tough that was. I myself had 49 chigger bites from the waist down.

Chigger 1_thumb[5]Chiggers are bugs that burrow under your skin and lay eggs. Eventually it starts itching because that’s the eggs hatching and they are growing inside of you and if you open it bugs will come spilling out of you. So 49 from the waist down and the only way to stop this is to put nail polish remover directly on it and it dries it out and kills them all. You can feel them inside you so believe me when I said this was a difficult shoot.

Every night someone was being taken to the emergency room. Kane went to the emergency room from so many mosquito bites at one point. People started to get Deet poisoning, Deet is the chemical in bug spray and if you inhale too much of it you will hallucinate. We had a girl who tried to kill herself one night. It really sucked, it was horrible, the worst shoot I have ever been on. We never had this problem on Frozen. We were in Louisiana and we were supposed to shoot at a certain time of the year but there was a problem with the financing and Dark Skies kept pushing us back into the summer which meant we had less time to shoot the movie and as other films were shooting in Louisiana at the same time we were left with the D-list. I don’t want to say that about everybody as there was some wonderful people but then there were some others that weren’t so it was a very hard shoot. If it wasn’t my baby I would have quit.

I admire you for sticking it through. I personally don’t think I would’ve made it. This said, people say that working in difficult situations is what can push you to perform better.

BJ says that a lot. The times when it was the coldest or the wettest it looks the best and it’s true. This movie looks fucking fantastic but I wish you could see the bugs. There’s only one or two shots where you get to see any of them and there’s thousands of them to the point where we had to set off these bug bombs and all this smoke would pour our. We’d have to let is dissipate and we’d only have 10 mins of shooting before the bugs would come back so it was all go to get the shot. It was a nightmare but fun too.

Your films have an underlining sense of humour about them. There are some directors that say humour has no place in horror. What do you have to say about this?

To anyone who tries to say that try to tell me that there is something wrong with An American Werewolf in London or Evil Dead II or movies like Slither. You just have to know what you are doing. The problem is sometimes that people use it because their movie is being necessarily campy and so they will embrace it and go with it because it is unintentionally funny but I feel like, if you’re making a slasher movie or you take a movie like Spiral, Grace or Frozen there is no real humour in that, the dialogue is real and it may give you a chuckle at some of the things they say but they are not comedies.

Freddy_KruegerIf you’re going to have a slasher movie and people are going to be getting killed in strange ways by an undead swamp monster ghost with a gas powered belt sander, you need a sense of humour about that. Take A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, those first 30 minutes of set-up, do you give a flying fuck about their problems or who they are? No, you don’t give a shit. You’re like “When the fuck is Freddy coming and when is he going to kill this fuck.” But if you can win the audience over with having entertaining characters then so be it. The quickest way to win audiences is to make them laugh because you are endeared to the character because you like them and it then becomes an enjoyable movie. I think that’s the reason why the ‘80s slasher genre died out because they weren’t good movies. They had cool killers, they had cool kills but very few of them were films where you were enjoying watching and not waiting to see the villain.

So with the Hatchet movies it is one of those ‘80s slasher movies that I wanted to appeal to my voice and my sensibilities and sense of comedy. The thing is that Victor Crowley is never funny. There are never jokes about him and he doesn’t crack one-liners. In fact the last 5 minutes of Hatchet III are very emotional and the first time we screened it was at a fundraiser in Boston where we screened all three movies back to back for charity for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The last five minutes is where Victor Crowley speaks on screen for the first time and it’s very short but all of this has built to the point where he finally realises he is dead, his father is dead and all this happens at once. When the screening was over there were people crying and people were laughing and people told me that they wouldn’t have believed me if I had told them by the end of this that they would be at all emotionally moved by a Hatchet movie. This for me was such a huge compliment. The entire process has been emotional for me too especially when it was all done. I was there at the editing; I cut the whole fucking thing. The first time you watch it with all the bells and whistles, the score and colour, it’s a very different experience and by the end I was torn up. This has been a life-long friend for me, it launched my career and for what it’s meant to burn victims to deformed people who I have met through conventions it means a lot to people and for a few people tonight it’s going to be hard to see it come to an end.

Is this the end for you where Hatchet is concerned?

You can never say never. I always had these three movies played out so this is as far as my involvement will go.

Quite an emotional goodbye then?

Yeah. It is but that doesn’t mean that they can’t find a way to continue the franchise. I am open to that and will endorse it if somebody else can get a start on their career and they have a really good idea and are able to handle it with care. That’s the thing about Hatchet; the crew all cared deeply for this thing and for the fans. So as long as it won’t become a cash grab then God bless them, keep going on with it. I can’t protect it.

As well as making movies you have been working on your television series Holliston which I understand to be inspired by your film Coffee & Donuts. Knowing that the show has horror elements, how hard it was to sell the idea?

holliston_photoReally hard. It was set up two other times over the years with bigger networks but every time they would go for it they would want us to get rid of certain parts like the imaginary alien in the closet or the cross dressing boss or any of the horror type stuff as they thought it was too weird but I was like “It’s not too weird, you’re not being open minded.” As much as it was a horror sit-com you don’t need to be a horror fan to watch this and what we found was that the front line of horror fans is what it appealed to. What the horror fans liked about it is that horror fans are being portrayed as real people who love, who have their hearts broken, get rejected and have their dreams crushed. Instead, horror fans are usually the supporting character but are never used as the main characters. But as the show went on it reached out further and people who don’t know a thing about horror just loved the show because it was funny to them. For example, my hamster’s name is Horrace Pinker. If you’re a horror fan you will know that it’s from Shocker. Now we had a screening which was literally 75% elderly people in Holliston Massachusetts and the hamster’s name got them all laughing. They don’t know what it is but to them it was funny. We tried to make it so it appeals to everyone and that you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy the show.

The fact that FearNet was just starting I was able to maintain creative control and made the show that I wanted to make. There are other networks calling for it now as it is working but I’d like to keep going with FearNet as they were the ones who believed in it first.

So there’s a definite future in sight for further seasons of Holliston then?

Yes. It’s going to happen for one way or another for sure because so many people are interested in it now. We should know by the end of the year.

I’m glad it’s going so well for you. I know there’s plenty of cameos in the show. Has there been anyone who you have asked that have turned you down?

No. In fact, people are asking us to appear in the show, it’s fantastic. The show gives them the opportunity to show something they haven’t been able to do before like comedy. Hatchet II was the first opportunity that Tony [Todd] got to show how funny he could be so with Holliston in a studio and in front of a live audience he got to try something he would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Sid Haig is another example. He sought me out and asked me if he could be in it. We have such great people and they all want to do it. It’s great.

So what’s next for you?

It’s called Digging up the Marrow. I just finished shooting it two weeks ago so I’ll be editing it for the next sixth months.

It’s a documentary right?

Kind of. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s not a found footage movie, it’s not really a mockumentary. It started out as a documentary and then it went off the rails but it’s a movie for anyone who is really into monsters. If you wished monsters were real then it’s for you. There are no blood and guts, there are no killings but there may or may not be monsters.

Killer Pizza too?

Yeah, there are a tonne of monsters in that. It was at MGM for so long and then, thankfully, Chris Columbus had enough with all the re-writing for no reason so he called it back so the rights are back and hopefully within the next year we can get that going.

We’d like to thank Adam so much for taking time out during his FrightFest visit to speak with us and we’ll leave you with an unrated trailer for Hatchet III.

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Interviews

LC Holt Talks Donning the Lamb Mask in You’re Next

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Continuing with this week’s biggest horror release, we have another interview with someone from You’re Next. This time it’s LC Holt who plays Lamb Mask in the film. Armed to the teeth with weapons and assaulting a manor, he took a break from that to chat with us about You’re Next, a film he really loves, and his other projects. He speaks in the accent that you will hear in the film in a thoughtful way, there are no pauses but his speech is coloured with descriptions. He appreciates his work in the world of film and he wants to continue that path to go onto bigger and better things as well as move into writing and directing his own features. Below is the interview with lovely murdering psychopath. Well, actor, but murderer is catchy.

 

In You’re Next, you play a masked murderer. Is it kind of cathartic and fun to run around slashing people up?

Oh yeah! Definitely. Very cathartic. [laughs] It’s sort of fun because the characters that I play, in the movies that I’ve been in, including You’re Next, have all been people who are really… over-the-top psychotic, you know? When you play a character like that, it’s a great way of venting your anger in a way that’s very safe and very productive and that’s very fun. You know, I’ve never played a good guy, though I would love to. But to play a guy like the Lamb Mask in You’re Next is a blast. You get to do everything that you would never be able to do in life.

 

Is it a weird thing to go home and talk about, about your day at work?

[Laughs] It is in some ways, yeah. Of course everybody kind of knows what I do and knows the kind of characters that I play so it’s really just like ‘Ah, it’s just another day at the office!’

 

Have you ever had a family reunion go really badly too? Not that badly. Not bloodbath bad but bickering bad.

[Laughs] No, I’ve never had one go badly. Like you say, not that badly, because it goes pretty bad in that movie. [laughs] No, I’ve never had that.

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For a lot of the film you have this mask. How do you go about preparing to play a character like Lamb Mask where the audience doesn’t always get to see your face? Is it a difficult thing to portray?

Well you will get to see my face in the movie. There are several points in the movie where you see my face. That’s a good question because when you have the mask on, it is an inanimate object, it has no expression which gives you a creepy vibe, a Michael Myers-esque vibe. Something that’s just coming at you without any emotion visible. The trick of it is making the mask come to life in a way. When you’re playing a character who wears a mask, it’s very easy – if you’re not careful – for it to become almost like a mannequin. You have to give it some sort of a life and some sort of energy. Of course, in this movie, the energy is menace. That’s sort of tricky. It’s also a fun challenge. Any movie that I go into, I face it as a challenge and this one was challenging. It’s physically challenging as well. I had to physically prepare because there’s a lot of running, jumping and falling and fighting. Of course, when you’re in the moment and you have to do it multiple times, you haven’t prepared enough. [laughs] Yeah, it’s a challenge in those two ways: bringing the mask and the visage alive, then the physical rigours of it.

 

Did you keep the mask?

I did not keep the mask. I have a mask from the movie. Actually the production company sent everyone involved a mask for Christmas which was kinda cool. The mask I wear in the movie, they had to keep it because we didn’t know if we would do reshoots and things like that. They were also very careful about things getting out before they wanted them get out. There was a confidentiality agreement, there were a lot of things we had to sign about not showing pictures and stuff like that until they’re officially released.

 

It’s been sitting on the shelf for two years now. Is it kind of weird to have a piece of your work just sitting around? Is it a little stressful?

The first movie I did which was with Adam Wingard was Home Sick which we shot six years before it came out. In a way, this is sort of easier [laughing] because with the first one you never quite knew when it was going to come out – or if it was going to come out! With this one, we knew it was going to come out, Lionsgate bought Summit so there was a little bit of a shuffle because now they had twice as many movies to put out. Pretty much from the day it was bought we knew there was going to be a delay but it was just a matter of time until it did. We always had that assurance that it may be two years but Lionsgate really going to push it when the time comes. They’ve done an excellent job so far. They’re fabulous.

 

And you only had to wait a third of the time, that’s not too bad.

Right, I have a little bit of experience, yeah of waiting.

 

In fairness though, Lionsgate have done a really good job with the trailer. I hope it doesn’t give away too much personally [I’ve since seen the film and it really, really doesn’t] but I love the song in it. 

The song by… I forget his name, he was in The Velvet Underground. Any other time and I would know it! [It’s Perfect Day by Lou Reed] That is a beautiful song and it’s a perfect song for the trailer too. But, no, it doesn’t give away too much; there are a lot of twists and turns in the movie that aren’t even hinted to in the trailer.

 

That’s good, some trailers show too much. As I said, you wear the mask for the majority of the time, is it a bit of a thankless task?

I guess in some ways it is but, I don’t know, I don’t really look at it that way. We play such a pivotal part in the story. Obviously a lot of people look to the villains in a movie like this and see them in a light that’s… I don’t know, they give us a little more attention just in the fact that we are the villains, we are the creepy ones, the violent ones, the ones that are causing the action in the movie. I don’t know if I would think of it as thankless but I suppose if you never saw my face and I never got to take the mask off, I would feel a little bit more like that but, like I said, in the movie – when you see it – you’ll see me and the others. With the trailers and everything, they really wanted to keep that all shrouded in mystery. Build a mystique around the animals.

 

I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been wanting to see it for about a year now, I think. That’s when I first heard about it.

Oh yeah, I think people are really going to like it. It’s an audience movie. It was a movie that was made with that in mind. It’s really geared to entertaining and thrilling an audience. From when I read the script, that was obvious! It starts up and doesn’t let up until the end. I think it’s a really strong movie.

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You said about reading the script there. Did you audition for it or were you offered the part?

I was offered the part. Adam asked me if I would be interested in playing the Lamb Mask. I read it and I thought it was great. It’s such an interesting blend of horror and action. When I read the script, also, it was almost as if I could visualise the movie, then, when I saw the movie, it was pretty much the script. Some tweaking here and there but they really had it thought out, planned out and plotted in such a way that it came off the page. I was really pleased. I loved the script and now I think I love the movie even more. Sometimes things get lost in translation, through the rigours of production, but with this movie it really is what they envisioned. It really came to life.

 

Did working on the set and having that script to read, is that preparing you for yourself because you’re a writer-director yourself?

Yeah. Yeah I’d say it is. When you’re working with someone who’s talented it rubs off in a way, you learn things, you sorta learn things from each other. Adam and I, we started out together, his first movie that he directed was my first movie I acted in and had a significant part. I had done things before that but nothing significant or a pivotal role. I think we’ve kind of worked with each other enough that I’ve learned a lot from him – I don’t know how much he’s learnt from me because this guy is talented, Wingard’s the real deal. I think that is true, there is a good give and take. Surrounding yourself like Simon Barrett and like some of the others, we’re all artists that worked on this movie. It’s very beneficial.

 

You also worked with Simon in V/H/S/2 in the surrounding Tape 49 segment. Was that a weird experience as well? The majority of the time you’re sitting in front of a laptop.

That’s unusual because you usually have an interaction with a person but again it was a fun challenge and that’s the way I approached it. It’s essentially a monologue piece. Simon has written this sort of monologue and I have to perform it. I have to bring it to life without having the benefit of a partner to play off of. It was a lot of fun. Then later in the movie there’s the make-up appliance which is always a little trying but can also be fun if you approach it that way. That’s another movie that I was really proud of the way it turned out. I was like ‘That’s an intense movie!’ I was really blown away by how good it was and, dare I say it, better than the original…

 

No, I agree. I liked the first but it was better than the original. [This next bit is a SPOILER if you haven’t seen V/H/S/2 yet so look away if you don’t want to know what happens] Was it weird holding a gun to your face and shooting yourself haha?

[Laughs] It was weird. I’ve had to do that before in a movie so I did have a little experience with it but the gun we had wasn’t something that fired at all. It looked great, it was a gun, but it was a modified gun and you never had that concern. In the movie, I put it to my chin and pull the trigger then all of the rest is CGI. Sometimes I have mixed feelings about CGI but that explosion of my face, I thought really looked awesome. Then afterwards it isn’t CGI but the gunshot was. It was just a matter of pulling the trigger, falling backwards and I thought it played well with the effect they put in there.

 

How long did it take to get that make-up on?

There’s a story I can tell you about that make-up. [laughs] That make-up took about 2, 2 and a half hours. It was very trying because there were problems with the make-up in the adhesive. It turned out I actually had a burn on my face from it and I had to re-apply it for 2 or 3 more days on top of the burn. It was a completely innocent mistake and the guy who did it is really, really good. It was a total accident but it definitely puts you into the frame of mind of ‘OK, I want to kill these people’ when your face is on fire. [laughs]

 

Sounds a bit like method acting then.

Definitely, definitely!

 

Are you going to become a horror writer-director yourself? Are you working on a feature right now?

I am working on a script for a horror film and right now it’s something like an anthology horror film. I can’t really say too much because I’m in the early stages, things are still pliable. But yes, I would love to. For example, if V/H/S would like to continue that franchise then I’d love to direct one of those. Absolutely, I would love to write and direct for horror. It’s fertile ground, you can talk about so many things in the guise of horror – real world things. You can make it entertaining in a way that sometimes that drama might be heavy, dark and deep and offputting; in a horror film, you can talk about these things and they can be fun, entertaining, because you have those horror tropes to work with.

 

Would you ever think about doing The ABCs of Death 2 because that’s already been confirmed, hasn’t it?

I’m not sure. Absolutely I would. If they want to make it then I would absolutely love to do a segment for that. I think it’d be a great way of cutting my teeth a little more.

 

Who would you say are your influences when it comes to the horror genre?

In terms of directors: I love John Carpenter, particularly his early work; I love Romero; I think Wes Craven is a hit and miss kind of guy but when he hits it’s great. That’s what I grew up watching. Guys my age who you grow up with in ’80s, ’90s horror, that’s where I go back to when I think about it.

When it comes to acting, my influences are really varied. There are some great horror actors that I like. I got to meet Bill Moseley and he’s a great guy, we did Home Sick together, which was my first movie – the one I was telling you about with Adam. I admire his work very much. There are people outside the horror genre like Warren Oates, Anthony Perkins in Psycho and some of the other films he did. Guys like that have influenced me.

LC Holt

This is a bit of a weird question but you’re friends with Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Ti West, James Wan and so on, it’s like you know all of the up and coming filmmakers in horror – they’ve made it really. Can you see that being of aid of you in the future when it comes to making your own feature films or even starring in theirs?

It could definitely be an aid in terms of acting. I think when you’re making your own stuff, you’re kind of on your own. Whether it be Adam or Ti, they all kind carve their own niche. I think that’s important because you have to do your own thing and making it your own signature style because that’s the thing that’s remembered. The guys that are admired are the ones who did it and did their own way and it was different. In terms of acting, yeah, it’s always great to know some great directors.

 

Have you got anything confirmed next?

Yeah, a couple of things. Again, it’s sort of in the early stages. There’s one that could be really exciting but I can’t talk too much about it because you never know until the ink dries. I’m looking forward to the future and doing different kinds of stuff, playing different kinds of characters, and also working within the horror genre.

 

So you’d be working again in the horror genre?

Mmhmm, yeah.

 

You’re Next is out now and V/H/S/2 isn’t yet out in the UK but its original, V/H/S, is on Netflix for you to watch now. We wish LC Holt the best and are grateful for him giving up his time.

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Interviews

Simon Barrett Interview About You’re Next and A Lot More

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After sitting on the shelf for almost two years since its première back in September 2011, You’re Next is finally getting a wide theatrical release after Lionsgate acquired Summit meaning they had to reschedule their entire calendar. It was bought right after its première at the Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since then, writer-actor-producer Simon Barett‘s work has appeared in both V/H/S films and The ABCs of Death as well as starting production on The Guest. An ever busy man, Simon gave up his time to talk to us about You’re Next, a film that was made years ago. The interview audio starts off with me asking about the time situation but Simon told me to worry about it. Our conversation went on for so long that we had to rush the ending and rush off the phone unfortunately because neither of us saw this interview becoming this mammoth that it is.

Simon is such an easy guy to talk to that the hour flew by, neither of us really noticing that such an extensive amount of time had passed. Talking about films with people that clearly loves film is an ultimate pleasure and that’s what happened here. In fact, I’d even want this interview to be longer because it contains honesty, an earnestness and a lack of seriousness that made it a joy to even transcribe. All of it. It took hours but it was worth it.

Below is my interview with him with very few of my interjections as it was long enough as it is. Therefore you can read a film writer who’s honest about the entire trade, his career beforehand and his career ahead.

 

Where did you get the idea of writing You’re Next? Was the idea to subvert the home invasion genre?

The way that Adam [Wingard, director of You’re Next] and I work together is we usually come up with the germ of a film that we want to make. Then I go off and figure out what the story is, characters are and what type of film that is. We did a film called A Horrible Way to Die [N.B. It’s on Netflix] that we worked on together, and it actually did – for what it was, which is a film that cost less than $100,000 – fairly well. It played a lot of film festivals but because it had a genre title it played a lot of horror film festivals where audiences were incredibly disappointed to be suddenly faced with a microbudget, mumblecore drama about the dangers of addiction. Even though that film was very well received and won a lot of awards, it was kind of a bummer; the movie itself and then also the experience of watching it with incredibly disappointed horror fans. [laughs] It just wasn’t what people were in the mood for.

We kind of had two things happen simultaneously, which is we were developing the desire to do something a little more audience friendly – it’s actually hard to do anything a little less audience friendly than before [laughs] – but we were also consuming a ridiculous amount of horror films during that year. If you go to Fantastic Fest or Fantasia or Toronto, those were the films in that same section so we ended up seeing everything and it occurred to us that horror films are kind of in a bit of a rut. It feels like the last two trends in horror cinema was the extreme horror trend, started by Saw and then films like Hostel and that nature, then there was the found footage thing which was started by The Blair Witch Project and somewhere in there was the postmoden, self-referential thing that was started by Scream – which was of course beaten into the ground when Scream got a satire called Scary Movie and nobody really noticed that that was a stupid idea.

All of those things felt like they were over and audiences were getting sick of it and there wasn’t anything new. We were like ‘How do we make one of these home invasion horror films?’ because we really love these films and do something different which isn’t the same thing that Michael Haneke was making fun of 16 years ago with Funny Games. Which, by the way, I love The Strangers, Ils [French film titled Them in English], I think those movies are great but they’re still in that thrill-kill category. Adam was just like ‘I want to do something really technical, really fun and really scary’ and I was like ‘OK, OK’ with a ‘serial killer irony’, so I was like ‘OK, I hate most serial killer movies’ so I was trying to figure out a different way to do that. I was kind of like ‘Wow, I hate most home invasion movies now! So much!’ I hate everything about them. It turns out the reason I hate them – Colin Geddes, the Midnight Madness programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was having drinks with him and he was complaining about having to watch a hundred screeeners which was a subgenre that he described as ‘Movies Which Have People Tied to Chairs’. That was like an epiphany moment for me. ‘That’s how you do it! There’s no torture. There’s no threatened rape. There’s no extended scenes of people screaming while their children are brutalised.’ You’d have to flip it right away.

We didn’t want to do anything postmodern but that was the epiphany moment for me: a female protagonist who doesn’t act tough like every female protagonists do in every horror movie but actually is tough. We’d have to take that seriously. Half way through production, our producer Keith Calder pointed out that we were inadvertently making a feminist horror film just because none of us explicitly hate women. [laughs] The bar for that sort of thing is so low in horror cinema. Everyone keeps talking about how You’re Next is an innovative spin on the genre but what we really tried to do was make a fun, good horror film that avoided all the clichés that I was personally sick of. It’s funny that by trying to something good and different, people see it as somewhat subversive and there were some subversive things but mostly we just wanted to make a horror movie that we ourselves would really enjoy.

I grew up reading a lot of Agatha Christie novels, my favourite of course was And Then There Were None, so Dan Stevens – we’re doing a film with him right now – told me that it had a more offensive title and I don’t know if it’s true, I need to look it up on Wikipedia. [laughs] [N.B. It does, we won’t repeat it but if you’re curious, the Wikipedia page is linked there] He’s a fan as well. And Then There Were None was one of my favourite books and I started to realise that if you write, say, a contained horror film and don’t take inspiration from all of the other contained horror films, there other things to take inspiration from: Agatha Christie, screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby, that take place all in one house that builds to a climax of sorts but they’re not horror films. I was also influenced by Mario Bava‘s Twitch of the Death Nerve, though I wasn’t think about it at the time, but someone brought it up to me later and I was like ‘Oh, I see that’. It was like ‘Let’s take inspiration from all these other things that we love’. We’ve consumed enough horror movies, we see every horror movie that comes out. We are the fans. We know what we want. I should also say the French film Inside, À l’intérieur, was a big inspiration because that movie takes the home invasion horror concept and does something completely different with it.

I feel like a lot of filmmakers take inspiration the wrong way; which is when they see something they love, they’re like ‘Cool! I want to imitate that!’ and I think when Adam and I see something like that we’re like ‘Crap! That movie did that, now we can’t do anything like it!’ because they did it exactly right and now no one can do that again. I think we take more inspiration from the films that we don’t like. I don’t want to name anything specific but there were a lot of really punishing home invasion films that came out several years ago. Again, you know, I’m a big fan of The Strangers  and Them, but after those came out, some really tired rip offs of those films which themselves weren’t exactly breaking the mould. For me, I was sitting there like ‘I’m hating this film, why do I hate it? OK, what should’ve this character done differently? What would surprise me as a viewer at this moment in the film? Other than what they’re about to do, which I’ve seen a million times’ you know? That’s where we take inspiration. It’s not from movies we admire but it’s hard to watch There Will Be Blood and you’re like ‘That’s great, how do I learn from it?’ [laughs] ‘OK, they had a budget of $70m on that movie? I have no idea how to do that.’ [laughs] But then you watch a terrible low-budget film at a regional horror film festival and you can be like ‘Why isn’t this working? What could they have done that me as a viewer wouldn’t know what would happen next?’ Then I’m actually engaged in this film.

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You can then fix it in your head. I’m a horror fan myself I get tired of the horror genre making women hysterical all of the time, always screaming.

It’s very frustrating. I feel that it comes from an ugly place. Obviously 99% of horror screenwriters and directors are men and of that percentage of them, 99% of them didn’t have sex until fairly recently in their lives. [laughs] I do feel genuinely uncomfortable watching some horror films where the female characters… This is an interesting thing really. I don’t really know what the term feminist means when applied to modern horror cinema and I certainly don’t consider myself in a position to make any grand statements about that but I do see a lot of films that at least appear to make themselves feminist by, when the plot is of a woman being brutalised, making her vengeful. I don’t see exactly what’s even remotely empowering about that because you’re still going out of your way to say that women are inherently physically vulnerable to men and therefore should be afraid. To me that’s like – and again I use these terms with sarcasm because I don’t fully understand them – reinforcing the patriarchy in a horror film, that’s it. But people treat those films as if they’re empowering but I don’t get it.

I do think that’s a major pitfall. Especially if you watch slashers and home invasion films; with the exception of some great films like Scream or Inside or Martyrs… Well, maybe not Martyrs. I love Martyrs but I just thought about it for a second and realised that it doesn’t actually apply to what I’m saying. These moments where the women are shown to be vulnerable and terrified and OK, maybe that’s realistic, maybe if I was in that situation I’d be screaming and terrified, I think it’s very likely I would, but let’s move past it. It’s frustrating as a viewer, it’s frustrating and uncomfortable. I feel like the last ten years or so has been this profitised post-Iraq war mentality where filmmakers have been really wanting to rub audience’s faces in brutality. It’s really like a contest of what’s disturbing. Even in mainstream Hollywood cinema that normally plays it quite safe, the subgenre that’s been labelled for better or worse “torture porn” by the US media which is a very stupid term, which obviously automatically negates any sort of intelligent conversation because who’s going to argue in favour of something called torture porn? But some of those movies are genuinely merited that way because they’re fetishising it, they were setting up characters that filmmakers obviously didn’t care about and trying in a brief brutally extrapolating way to gain the audience’s sympathy by doing gratuitously brutal things to those characters for the next 70 minutes. It was just like ‘What is the point of this?’ If this is our cultural post-9/11, post-Iraq trauma manifesting itself then OK, I’m over it, I don’t get it, it’s not fun. I do think that we, as a culture, are fairly paranoid but I just think those movies have run their course.

But yeah, I do get frustrated watching female characters make poor decisions. I get frustrated watching male characters making poor decisions too. I just get frustrated watching stupid characters do stupid things just because the writer doesn’t know how to get his movie to the finish line.

 

Yeah, I agree. There seems to be a dividing line between two different types of female characters – with exceptions obviously – who are either made to be like men or hysterical women. I rewatched Rosemary’s Baby not long ago and I realised that Rosemary is really irritating. Were you trying to go in the opposite way with Erin, Sharni Vinson‘s character?

Rosemary’s Baby is doing something different, implying on a very different type of cultural anxiety. I think in a film like Rosemary’s Baby, a part of the audience’s anxiety comes from that character’s neuroses and obviously that’s a movie that’s more about a character realising that the paranoia that they are feeling is in fact an elaborate occult conspiracy movement. I think the movie’s actually a lot funnier than anyone gives it credit for. [laughs] The problem is you can’t translate a character like Rosemary to a more action orientated slasher but I do agree that male screenwriters either write tough female characters as pointlessly mean and annoying. A character who is for some reason a buzzkill [laughs] and is constantly posturing and acting tough. Which, by the way, in real life, people who are tough don’t act tough. If you’ve known any ex-military people, they don’t walk around flexing, they’re just quietly aware that they could kill everyone in the room. [laughs] People don’t write female characters that way because I don’t think male writers give female characters that much credit or, you made the point that, they’re written inauthentically and their sexuality is very downplayed. I don’t understand that either.

When it comes down to it, if you look at a lot of survival horror films or slasher horror films, the female protagonist, the final girl, survived just by chance. If you look at her character traits it’s like ‘Oh, she doesn’t have sex’, well, how’s that empowering? You know? I know that with You’re Next in particular, Adam and I talked and we also spoke to our costume designer – Emma Potter; who is wonderful -, there was a fine line between because we didn’t want to downplay our female character’s sexuality, we wanted her to seem like a well-rounded human being and of course sexuality is a big part of that, but we didn’t want to fetishise her in any way. We didn’t want her to be wearing a torn tight tanktop and at some stage it gets wet. Then you’re not taking that character seriously on a different level. You’re fetishising the actress and to me it takes people out of the film. I’ve done nudity in many, many films with a lot of nudity in them and I think nudity only works when there’s a degree of realism to it. If I see Jessica Biel wearing a tight tanktop in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, I’m not thinking about that character, I’m thinking about Jessica Biel and what I’m feeling is not scared. [laughs] It’s a very fine line because I hate these pointlessly asexual character that bring about the question ‘Wait, how did you survive? You’re unpleasant to be around’ [laughs], that’s your version of tough? It’s true.

This is interesting because A Horrible Way to Die, the character Amy Seimetz plays, really makes some extremely poor choices and the movie is about that. I talked to several women afterwards, including our V/H/S producer Roxanne Benjamin, who found that extremely frustrating, who felt like we were falling into the pitfall of just repeatedly punishing a female character and I would beg to differ because I’d argue that’s taking the character rather seriously – which that film is more or less a character study of her. At the same time, I wasn’t sensitive during the argument but I was thinking that’s an interesting challenge. How do you write an empowered female character in a situation like this and have her make the right choices that female horror fans aren’t grinding their teeth in frustration but not falling into the pitfall of all these annoying Hollywood films of ‘This character is annoying, I don’t like her, she’s not interesting to me’. That really was the key with Sharni’s character. It wasn’t so much about her ever acting tough – which, again, if you watch any of these big studio or slasher movies off the rack, the way that those female characters establish that they’re tough is being kind of a dick to everyone – so it was important to us that she never posture or pretend to be tough but instead be kind of embarrassed by how tough she was. That was the crucial ‘I get this!’ If you were a women who was actually this tough, in our society, you’d almost be a little embarrassed about it, you’d downplay it because it’d intimidate your boyfriend, and then he’d be impotent. [laughs] Once we made that a part of the story, that she is a little mortified about how physically powerful she can be.

Obviously You’re Next is not the world’s most serious film but we’re having a very serious conversation about it but obviously we really we’re doing these things so people can have fun and turn off their brains for a bit.

 

Yeah, we are. But if you downplay a woman’s sexuality then you’re taking away her power as well because you’re confining her.

Of course. Yeah, absolutely. It’s shocking – this is not a new observation; in fact, many, many books have been written about this including Carol J. Clover‘s Men, Women and Chainsaws, probably the most famous film feminist theory book about this subject – but the extent that a female character has to be asexual to not be punished in a motion picture is… I would just say, I think we’re over it. [laughs] I think culturally we’re passed that.

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Moving on a bit to a different side of it. I was just curious what made you decide on the animal masks that you ended up using in the film?

Probably the biggest inspiration of that is a film I’m a big fan of, which is The Wicker Man – of course, the one I’m referring to is the Nicolas Cage remake. [laughs] But no, seriously, I love the original, I saw it as a kid and it made quite an impression on me, as you might imagine. Again, Adam had kind of said parameters of the movie he wanted to make with me next and I had already figured out that they were multiple killers and I wanted them to have iconic masks. What I didn’t want to do was the masks from The Strangers because they were designed by a famous art director, they look like it. When I watch The Strangers, it’s one of the things that I love about the film because it looks amazing but it kind of takes me out of the movie because the characters are so able to artistically express themselves by making these phenomenal art masks, why are they killing people? They clearly have a good outlet for their creativity because their masks are amazing. They look like they took weeks to make in the midst of a fashion design school. We needed something iconic, something that hadn’t done before but I also felt like we needed something true to the characters. The original Michael Myers mask in Halloween which is a famously repurposed William Shatner mask, not only looks amazing and obviously made a huge impression on viewers but feels like ‘OK, this crazy guy could break out of an asylum, go to a drug store and find this mask’ and that’s what we needed, something new, something that would stick out.

I have to say I think I was thinking about the original [The] Wicker Man and about how creepy those animal masks looked when I decided to make it animals. Once I realised that was a cool direction to go in, I realised there was an opportunity to convey the film’s themes through what the animals were. That’s kind of spoiler territory but obviously the theme that’s trying to come across in You’re Next is that people aren’t who you think they are and, in the string of situations, a person you might not like in a social situation might turn out to be better or worse in a strenuous situation than you think. Which I think is a fun thing to explore, particularly as a writer. When you get to create ridiculous characters and then put them in ridiculous circumstances and see how they react. Once I realised that was going to be a big theme in the film – not just for Sharni’s character but other characters as well – I knew that this was perfect. [laughs] That was the choice to make them a lamb, a fox and a tiger. That not only felt oddly classic and biblical in some ways but to convey to audiences that we are in on the joke.

 

When you were writing it yourself, were you influenced by a bad reunion that you had? Obviously not that bad but the dinner scene seems to draw real family confrontation.

Actually, I get along really well with my family. [laughs] I was more influenced by fictional ones. I will say that the dinner scene in You’re Next is by far the most improvisational heavy scene in the film because there’s no way to write a scene like that. All the things that the people say in that scene are in the script but we didn’t know the ingredients that we needed. We were working with people on that film that we had worked with a bunch for the most part. Obviously you don’t cast Joe Swanberg, Ti West or Amy Seimetz if you’re not going to let them do some improv. I strongly suspect that Joe in particular is calling on some things that people have actually said to him before – family members. I suspect that, he’s made some jokes about it, I expect that the character that Joe’s playing and is picking on Ti in that scene, I supect he’s re-enacting some things that relatives have said to him when they’ve seen his… shall we say… his aggressively non-commercial early films. Joe’s obviously an artist and director that we admire tremendously and he’s great to work with as an actor but, you know, some of his movies are made for, um, very elite audiences, shall we say. I suspect that he’s had that exact argument. I wrote the scene with that in mind. I was like ‘If we can get Joe Swanberg arguing with Ti West in favour of commercial filmmaking and Ti is arguing in favour of artistic filmmaking’ and meanwhile there’s Adam and I who are completely oblivious to those and just want to make good movies that people actually want to see. [laughs] That’s, again like the masks, if you’re not looking for subtext, you’ll still enjoy the film, but if you are looking for subtext, there’s clearly a subtext there; Joe’s arguing  pro-commercial filmmaking, Ti’s arguing pro-artistic filmmaking, and they’re both completely wrong. That was the movie we wanted to make. [laughs] Look, both sides of this argument are wrong, here’s our statement on that, in an entertaining slasher film. Hopefully.

 

I was going to bring that up actually. Because you had people like Joe Swanberg and Ti West on set, did they ever jokingly try and take control and tell Adam how to do things?

Oh no. It wasn’t just them too, there are other directors in the film: there’s Amy, Larry, Calvin Reeder in the movie, so we have at least five directors in the film [laughs] pretty much there all the time. Ti and Joe and all that, it’s a very collaborative group, playing various roles in each other’s projects. Ti had already acted in a bunch of Joe’s films, Silver Bullet, Autoerotic which I worked on and Adam co-directed, and it’s honestly that those guys are so thrilled not to be directing. Directing is so stressful. [laughs] Sometimes they were perfectly thrilled to go in, do their job, go back to their hotel and chill while Adam quietly lost his mind. Directing is hard, hard work. I’m thrilled to not be directing the film we’re working on now, it’s just so much work. If you asked them for advice, I think Ti gave me some advice on digital special effects when a visual effect wasn’t working. ‘You can fix this, when I was working on The Innkeepers I fixed a shot like this’ but no one was going to be like ‘Hey Adam, why don’t you put the camera here?’ They know that a. it’s not their place, and b. they’re probably thrilled to not have to worry about that, and c. they don’t know what his plan is. On a shoot like You’re Next, which was a very difficult shoot, we didn’t have very much money at all or a lot of time, I think everyone was glad to stay out of Adam’s way. [laughs] Do what he needed.

On the other hand, I will say that having those directors in those roles helps in some small way because when you need them to improvise and have spontaneity, you know you’re working with people who understand on a deeper level what they need to be doing. A lot of actors approach improv in terms of ‘This is who my character is’ but when you’re working with a director, who also happens to be a great improvisational actor, then they’re not only thinking about that stuff, they’re also thinking ‘What do we need to make this scene work? What do we need to make this scene move forward? What are the story beats that I need to hit?’ They’re just thinking on a deeper level and that was really helpful for us. Obviously they’re all really good in the film.

 

And one of the characters is a director so it would make sense to have a director play him.

Yeah, we wanted to somewhat call attention to the joke. Again, it’s there if you want it but if you don’t know who any of those people are then – You’re Next is getting a wider release than anything if we’ve ever done so – if you’re in on the joke, it’s funny, but if you’re not then you don’t have to worry about it.

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You said it was a bit of a stressful shoot but it’s been sitting on the shelf now for almost two years, is that more stressful, having your work just sitting there?

It was initially it was very stressful. It’s been such a rollercoaster with this film that I’m sure that I won’t fully process the experience of having You’re Next acquired and now finally marketed and released. In five years time, I’ll be able to look back and assess how I feel in that moment because right now I’m just like ‘OK, so this is happening…’ It was a very interesting experience. We were thrilled to be acquired by Lionsgate at Toronto, right after the film’s premiere, straight out of the gate. They were our dream distributor for the film and they responded really well. We were even able to meet with Tim Palen, the head of marketing, who is an absolute genius. He photographs his own posters and created the campaigns for Saw and Hostel, he’s really a gifted artist, we were thrilled to work with them.

Then two months later, they merged with Summit which doubled their releases. Obviously they weren’t going to release films on the same date to compete with themselves, so it became this huge shuffle. I think a lot of films got dropped and put straight-to-video. There was a very stressful period because our film is an independent film, we were very concerned that might be one of those films. They kept telling us ‘Don’t worry, everyone here loves You’re Next, we just need to find a new spot for it because 2012 just got booked’. We were like ‘Oh my god’. [laughs] We’ve known we’ve been coming out for over a year now, as soon as they gave us an actual date, admittedly we were all ‘We’ll believe it when we see it’ at this point. They kept all of their promises. Gradually all that stress has been replaced with pure elation.

Obviously we’re very… I wouldn’t say stressed but we’re nervously excited to see how the film actually performs in the wide release arena. We’re very interested, for example, how it’ll perform against The World’s End [they’re released on the same day]. It seems like it’s going to have the same crowd. There’s stressful concerns like that even though Edgar Wright is extremely positive about our film [laughs] and is incredibly nice to us on Twitter about how his film has to come out on the same day as ours. [laughs] He got to see You’re Next a couple of years ago and immediately reached out to us and was very kind about it. He’s obviously a director we all admire as well. It’s just friendly competition like that. Mostly we’re just thrilled. I’ll also say when you make a movie like You’re Next, or even A Horrible Way to Die or the film we’re working on now, The Guest, you try to make a movie is going to stand the test of time. Ones that they aren’t going to enjoy just 2 years after its time but 20 years afterwards on, like, retinal implants or whatever everyone will be watching films on then. A lot of people were already concerned that the film’s lost any of its relevance. We were like no, definitely not. [laughs] We were really trying to make something that’ll stand the test of time. I will say what’s funny is that since the film premiered two years ago, [laughing] there have been a couple of films that were definitely influenced by ours.

 

Care to name them?

No, I won’t name names but it’s obvious if you see them. It’s obvious if you see our film then see those films it’s sort of like ‘Wait…’ The first one actually was that someone got a copy of our script but it was a very microbudget film and it barely came out. They were like clearly copying. It was a film where I happen to know that the people had a copy of the script at an early stage. They got it through mutual friends and they made a rip-off of You’re Next but it wasn’t good at all and no one saw it. [laughs] Honestly, when you’re making a horror film, yeah, you can try and rip off an idea but the fact is I’ve had ideas that get stolen in my lengthy career is because a. I can come up with another one, and b. You’re Next, good or bad, is not its content. The content’s been done a million times, it’s the details. That’s what makes it good or bad. There have been some films that have come out that were post-You’re Next films where I know that the producers were big fans of You’re Next and wanted to do a kind of similar things. That was kind of scary. [laughs]

You see people on Twitter like accusing us of ripping off a film that was made after our film just because of the hectic release schedule. It would be easy if we weren’t doing so well or so happy to obsess over something like that. My attitude is that we’ve moved on, we’re having new ideas [laughing] so it’s all good. There’s plenty of good ideas for everyone. And it’s flattering! It would be especially flattering if our film had come out originally [laughing] back in 2012 but overall you can’t get mad over stuff like that because it is, you know, a form of flattery. It’s just a weird coincidence that stuff like that happens. Again, I’m not going to name names, because the people involved are, I think, there’s no malicious intent. They saw our film, they liked it, they wanted to do something like it. I know a couple of horror writers actually that I’m friends with have asked them to write something like You’re Next, and I’m like, really? You want them to write an incredibly low-budget independent film that’s been on the shelf for two years? OK!

Now we’re seen as this huge success, we’re seen as this film that everyone wants to make. It’s been very profitable for its financing producers. It’s very funny to see how that goes. You know, it’s good luck, but we’re going to be over here writing something that it isn’t like You’re Next. [laughs] We want to make something that’s entertaining and good but other than that we’re OK, we did that, now let’s try and see if we can continue to challenge ourselves. I’ve had multiple people tell me that producers have asked them to write a script like You’re Next because it’s marketable now. I was just like ‘Good luck…’ [laughs] You know? I was trying to write a script like Bringing Up Baby, figure that one out!

You're Next from left to right: Simon Barrett, Sharni Vinson and Adam Wingard.
You’re Next from left to right: Simon Barrett, Sharni Vinson and Adam Wingard.

 

Do you think that the success of this film could pave your way to bigger budgets  for the future?

It already has, yeah. I mentioned that we were shooting a film right now with Dan Stevens, The Guest, it’s a significantly bigger project than You’re Next so it already has. We’ve been attached to a couple of studio projects as well. Most of which haven’t been announced yet. It really has been great for us. I think Adam and I, right after You’re Next, we went and made V/H/S/2 just because we were bored [laughs], because You’re Next was delayed, we didn’t know what to do with our time. Then we figured out how to put together The Guest, a much bigger project and therefore – much to our surprise and dismay – took a much longer time to put together and develop. We were like ‘Let’s do another low budget thing’ and make V/H/S/2 because they’re ready to go. [laughs] We can shoot the thing literally next week… and we kinda did. I know fans have responded to V/H/S/2 like ‘Oh you just cranked this out quickly!’, well, yeah… [laughs] That was literally just because we had a window. If we had waited then there would have been no way we would have been involved in that film because we couldn’t have. We like to stay active and busy.

The Guest is a much bigger film than You’re Next and we have several projects on the plate that are much bigger than The Guest and we’re obviously going to have learn quite quickly from those experiences because that’s new to us but we’re very excited about it. But I also feel like that we’ll always come back to making smaller movies. Kind of the way that Steven Soderbergh did for a while because I do think that there’s something to be said for like making your big budget studio films but then, when you have a really strange idea, recognising – which a lot of successful filmmakers once they make their $100m movies have a hard time going back but certain ideas should be made small. I would call attention, if anyone disagrees with me, Peter Jackson‘s adaptation of The Lovely Bones [laughs] as a film that would be much better if he’d had 1% of its budget to work with. Not to call out Peter Jackson, he’s a genius and I love his work, but, you know, come on. It’s The Lovely Bones. It didn’t need that. I’ll be the first in line for the next Hobbit movie but you should direct them differently.

I think it will be to continually stretch our creative muscles. If we have a weird idea that isn’t very commercial but we still want to make it as a film, we’ll go back and make it the indie way. It’s getting a bit more difficult for us now that I’m in the Writer’s Guild [of America] for the first time – which is great because I have health insurance. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. It’s great, I paid off my student loans about a month ago so we’re doing well. I know that Adam and one of the studio projects that we’re shooting early next year, Adam has to join the DGA [Director’s Guild of America] so that’s going to limit us. Our union memberships are going to limit us somewhat, in being able to run off and shoot something like V/H/S/2 or The ABCs of Death  but unions, ultimately, want people to be working. I’m sure we can find ways to be like ‘Come on!’ [laughs] We can’t pay ourselves with the budget of this film but there are ways to make it work and still keep doing indie stuff with people like Joe. Although I should say that Joe is moving on to much bigger things himself with Drinking Buddies and I think Ti is as well.

I think maybe we all got tired of being desperately impoverished. I don’t really know what selling out means but I do know that we would never do a film that we don’t think could be good, we would never do a film that we didn’t have the creative control to make that happen. In fact, we passed on many projects and actually left some high profile projects when creatively we started to realise that we wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to make a good movie. We love working with our producers Keith Calder and Jessica Wu. I feel like we’ll collaborate with them for the rest of our careers. I feel that they’re an integral part of our creative team. To the point where we’ll be debating a script note, and we’ll be like ‘Keith and Jess will know what to do here, let’s leave it to them’. [laughs] That’s at the script stage or even at the script idea stage sometimes. ‘I have this idea… we’ll just see what Keith and Jess think’. We’ve got a great team. I think the scary thing doing studio work is that we can’t bring Keith and Jess onto our studio projects all the time. When you do a studio film, they have their producers that they want you to work with. I think that’ll be a good experience for us, to do a film without them but I know we’ll want to come back and do films with them. If we’re very, very lucky.

A lot of filmmakers you see them making movies and they’re like ‘I did it! I’m huge now!’ and they sit back and wait to get rewarded or to get the next Star Wars or whatever. I think a lot of people don’t realise that in today’s economy the reward is to keep working! That’s why we’ve already figured out in advance to do a lot of indie projects; we want to work with our producers, Keith and Jess; we want to do studio films. We’ve turned down studio projects because they wanted our time for the next two years and we couldn’t go off and do anything else because we’d be attached to this. That’s not gonna happen. [laughs] Even though we make like $0 from doing some of these indie things or sometimes actually negative money [laughs] and actually put our own money into the films to finish them. Not with Keith and Jess I must say. When we’ve been working with other people, sometimes that’s happened. I’d rather be broke and making a movie than rich and writing a bunch of Hollywood films that don’t ever get shot. That’s an easy choice.

So far it’s going good, so far, yes, a lot of doors have been opened by You’re Next, and if the film does well I’ll expect that we’ll be in a really good place career wise. At least until we fuck it up really bad. [laughs] We’ll see! I think one of the main things that makes Adam and I a great team is that, we were friends for a long time before working together, but the number one thing is a desire to be constantly working. In fact, an inability to be even remotely happy if we weren’t working. We’re going to do big projects. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we’re eventually making films as big as possible and the biggest budget films available. I would love to be working in the same arena some day as people like Peter Jackson but, in the meantime, that’s not going to stop us making some $200,000 movie. I think a lot of people are like ‘I earned that budget level! I’m not going to make it for anything less than that’ and it’s like ‘All right, man, good luck… I’ll be over actually making a movie’.

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Tenacity to work is necessary in the film industry because you can’t be lazy. A lot of people call themselves writers but don’t actually write.

It’s weird. A lot of artists have a sense of entitlement, I feel like. As a writer, the only reason I have a career now is certainly not because of my agent or representation or anyone like that; it’s because I wrote a film that we could shoot, with absolutely no money [laughing], that was A Horrible Way to Die. It sold for more than it cost, that was the step to You’re Next which has put us in a good place. A Horrible Way to Die was financed by friends, Zak Zeman and Brad Miska who are producers on V/H/S films. Brad just helped us with the financing of the movie because he was like ‘I just don’t fucking understand how you guys can’t get a job and are both working horrible day jobs and can’t get hired, what do you need?’ And I said ‘Dude, if someone could give us like $80,000, we could make something awesome’ and he was like ‘I might know some people’ and we owe him everything, that’s why we worked on the V/H/S films. We have eternally loyalty to Brad for that. We went out and shot it in my hometown, I called in a lifetime of favours. I grew up in a small town in Missouri. We don’t come from money at all, we don’t come from entertainment connections at all. It was more like ‘Do you have a garage that we can shoot in?’ Great!

I see a lot of people without that initiative and that’s fine, everyone has their own path. But for me, if I had sat around and waited for someone to give me an opportunity, I guarantee that I would have moved back in with my parents by now. I’m not joking at all. When we did A Horrible Way to Die, Adam was living on my couch, he was basically homeless. I was driving a car that I’d been driving for 15 years that I bought used, this car had broken down and I was carrying around about… I’d say about $60,000 worth of debt. It was definitely getting intense. [laughs] The thing is that we’ve always done it ourselves. We didn’t get paid anything. We didn’t pay ourselves anything to do A Horrible Way to Die. We got paid much less than the actors on You’re Next but we’ve always been at backend of stuff. We’d do it for no money but then we’d have partial ownership in it, the indie way. If it hadn’t’ve paid off we’d both be back home, working at coffee houses if we’re lucky. Fortunately we were actually correct in our arrogant assumptions that we had talent. [laughs] It worked out great.

 

I just want to know really about The Guest finally. What can you tell us about its story, genre, cast and any details that can be released about the film really?

The funny thing about our films is that we like to surprise people as much as possible. Especially in these days where they’re really overmarketed. “Three new stills from The Guest!” Oh, here’s a shot of Dan Stevens’s sneaker… who gives a shit? The funny thing about is that I haven’t read a single synopsis of it online yet that is even remotely accurate so I guess we’re doing OK. [laughs] It’s more of an action-thriller and we’ve got Dan doing something that is definitely going to surprise everyone. [laughs] He’s incredible. We got so lucky in casting him because he’s going to completely blow people away. It’s basically a film about a family that takes in a guest and he turns out not to be who he exactly claims to be. It has some horror elements but it’s much more of a thriller. It’s much more kind of grounded in reality than You’re Next. We’re having a tremendous amount of fun with it.

 

I can tell from Vine. You were on swings, slides, roundabouts.

Well that’s not fun. That’s what happens when our equipment breaks down and we’ve got nothing we can do and we’re going insane. You will not see Adam and I playing on swings and slides when we should be working. We’re on swings and slides because we’re so frustrated because if weren’t, we’d be going insane. That said we just wrapped late last night on day 25, we’ve got a week of shooting to [N.B. Not any more, this interview was before then and they have since then wrapped on shooting, in case you’re interested] and it’s turning out phenomenal. That happened because our dolly broke. So they were like ‘2 hours guys!’ and we were like ‘FUCK! OK, let’s go play on the swingset’. [laughs] That’s the funny thing you know. All my friends are like ‘Yeah, we wrapped early and had a barbecue’ and I’m always like ‘Maybe you should’ve got a couple more shots’.

 

In case you’re interested in this too, there will be no slides, swingsets nor roundabouts in the film The Guest. No scenes take part there anyway. There you have it. One of the most honest interviewees that you’ll ever read and one that talks with a unbridled sense of passion and joy, talking about a career that almost made him and Adam Wingard homeless. Hindsight is beautiful with him now set up for many great projects so be sure to check out the brilliant You’re Next and V/H/S/2 when it’s released in the UK. After that they have The Guest but you can catch them on Netflix too with segments in The ABCs of Death and V/H/S.

We’d like to thank the ever chatty but always interesting Simon Barrett for giving up so much of his time to talk about films. It was a real pleasure.  

Update: There now actually is a shot there because of their time spent there.

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Interviews

Film4 FrightFest Interview With Dark Tourist Director Suri Krishnamma

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Recently, Cinema Chords caught up with British film and TV director Suri Krishnamma and it was a very rewarding experience. He speaks in great detail about growing up on the Isle of Wight and his controversial new film The Dark Tourist. He’s a thoroughly down-to-Earth and interesting person, so I hope you enjoy reading as much I loved speaking to him.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about where you’re from; you grew up on the Isle of Wight. I went there once and it rained so I didn’t have a lot of fun. What was it like for you?

*Laughs* Well I was born in Shankin and grew up in Carisbrooke, or that area and spent the first 17 years of my life there. Then I left home and came to London. To me, it’s just my entire childhood and adolescence really. I grew up in the ‘60s when the pop festivals were part of my world because my parents had a hand in the organisation of them, so I was surrounded by the music scene. I was not particularly into music, I admit. I had a great time there, it’s kind of a place that may be called “too small” but, creatively, it’s a great place.

If I was thinking of places where people would get in to the film or television industry, the Isle of Wight wouldn’t spring to mind.

I think a lot of artists found the Isle of Wight to be a very inspirational in history. Alfred Tennyson, for example, famously there’s a monument on the tip of the Island named Tennyson’s Monument; it’s the highest point on the Isle of Wight. So, he wrote a lot of his poetry down there. I guess that little bit of water that separates it from the mainland creates a very distinct place. Not just geologically, but in terms of time and culture it is different because it is an island. I think that differentness is quite inspiring for the creative person.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t working in film or television?

That’s a really good question. My first answer has to be: I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, because I can’t. Writing would not be the correct answer, because I’d write anyway and I think that’s too related. I was very political when I was young and in another life I might have become a politician actually. That’s a bit dull, I know! But, I like arguing. I like a debate and a discussion. I love science and am studying for a degree in Natural Sciences at the Open University, so as well as teaching film, I’m a student as well. If I could choose and be really good at it, I would be Brian Cox.

Moving on to your film now, it has two names – The Dark Tourist and The Grief Tourist. This confused me…

Actually, it’s neither. It’s just Dark Tourist. It’s the only name I’m allowed to use now and it changed a few weeks ago, for good now. I mourn the loss of the old ones, but I embrace the new one because I actually quite like Dark Tourist as a title.

I’ve had a little read about it and watched the trailer. It looks a bit complex..What would you say it was about?

This is going to sound glim, and it’s not meant to sound glim, but I’ll explain it. It is a dark film about a tourist.

So, you’ve picked the right name, then?

*Laughs* That’s why I think that name’s perfect. It’s a dark film about a tourist. A grief tourist or dark tourist, if you look it up in a dictionary or on Google, is someone who spends their vacations visiting scenes of past horrors, disasters or sights that were important to the live of certain serial killers. So, it might include Jack The Ripper’s haunts, Ground Zero or a concentration camp. Anything that you would not, as a rational human being, choose as a tourist destination, but a dark tourist would. So the film is about this man who chooses a new places every year; a place of a different serial killer, and visits where they used to hang out or where they committed their murders and enjoys his vacation. Now, in our story he only visits one and the consequences of him visiting this particular serial killer’s place are grotesque and spiral into a very degenerate and violent, sexually violent, world that is conjured from his imagination. This is because of a traumatic past that he suffered. He is a man that is holding a secret, a demon inside, that he wants to repress but it ultimately comes out and once it does come out, it explodes in a pretty horrific and horrendous way. It comes out as a consequence of his fascination with a particular serial killer, who he likens himself to in some way. In fact, so much so, he conjures an image of this now dead killer, and is effectively visited, not by the ghost, but by the imagined image of this killer. Really, it’s about a man’s search for intimacy. His lack of care, affection and intimacy when he was younger, means he’s become a loner and introverted. He is someone that society forgot and didn’t fix and as a consequence of that, the damage that was done to him, grew in to something else.

Is doesn’t sound like the happiest film!

It’s a horrible film!

What was it about the story that got you interested? Why would you make such a horrible film?

*Laughs* It is a horrible film, but in a ‘horror’ sense. I don’t call it a horror film personally, it’s a psychological thriller. Nonetheless, some people do and I can understand why. I read the script and I saw the film very clearly, I then spoke to the writer Frank John Hughes for about 3 or 4 hours on the telephone. Really it was Frank that made me want to do it, because I realised that what he wanted to do was a very serious film on the subject. Not a slasher film or a gratuitous film that was cheap in any way. Also, I realised that he wanted to make a film where the violence and sexual violence in particular, was very graphic. He felt, and I think he was right, that to deal with this subject properly for a mature audience, you sort of have to see everything. Otherwise, it’s really hard to understand. This way the film can’t be appealing, unless you’re a complete weirdo *laughs*. You can’t be excited about what you see in our film and that’s intentional. We wanted to make it unpleasant. I was attracted to this film because it was an opportunity to work on a film that isn’t done very often, that takes some risks. It takes a lot of balls to write a film like this and to be in a film like this, because it’s controversial and not everybody is going to like it. Recently, we had a screening in Los Angeles and a woman threw up behind me. *Laughs*. That’s not typical, but a lot of people have said when they come out of the film, they feel like they’ve been kicked in the stomach. I’m afraid to say that my reaction to this is, “Good, that’s what we meant you to feel!” You don’t have to watch it, but you know what to expect, so be prepared. It’s very short, as well. Only 84 minutes.

You don’t see that too often, it seems many people think the longer they make their film, the better it will be.

I think some really fantastic films have been relatively short. I was watching Elephant by Gus Van Sant which is about the Columbine school shooting and I think that’s only about 75 minutes. A film should be as long as it needs to tell the story.

I’d never heard of Grief Tourism before, how did you come across the term?

I hadn’t heard it either until I was given the script. When I spent a bit of time thinking about it, the first think I thought was “God, that’s sick, dark and twisted.” I’m the last person who’d be a grief tourist. Then the other side of me thought, wait a second, aren’t we all a bit? Who doesn’t slow down at the side of a road traffic accident? Who doesn’t watch the television news when there’s a missing person or a killer on the run? Who hasn’t been to Ground Zero or Auschwitz or those kinds of places? Sure, we go for positive reasons to show our respects for the dead. I went to Dachau in Munich, and I was shocked that people were taking photographs. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to take a camera. Why would you want photographs of this?  I was sick enough going there and I will never go there again or anywhere like it, but I knew that I wanted to go because I wanted to pay my respects. At the same time, you can’t deny that there’s a part of you that is curious and I think our film holds a mirror up; I think that we are all in danger of encouraging certain media. I get really sick when I see the media outside the recent Spanish railway disaster; we see the disappointment in their faces when the number of dead are not going to rise anymore. This film holds a mirror up and says, “There’s a grief tourist in all of us.”

I think that’s true. Schools take you to Auschwitz and other places where bad things have happened for educational purposes. I think everyone is interested in bad news and death, maybe it’s in our nature.

I think it is. I think the further back in history these things are, the more acceptable it becomes. There’s a great kids TV programme called Horrible Histories, it’s terrific for kids because it brings to them some historical stuff that they wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. Nonetheless, if you look at it, it’s about all the unpleasant things that humans have done to each other in the past.

How did working on Dark Tourist compare with your other projects?

This is probably true of most film-makers who still retain a sense of excitement about what they do, which is probably all of us, because otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. I approach every film that I do as if it is the first time I’ve ever made a film and I’ve been making TV programmes and films for 25 years now. I always treat it as though I’ve never been on a set before, never cast before or spoken to an actor. I think that’s important. This film had certain challenges that I hadn’t faced before; there were logistical and production challenges. For example, we started pre-production on the film in New Orleans originally and while we were there, the financiers got into a mess. The film collapsed and we had to return home and a couple of months later the film got to its feet again and, this time, we were to shoot in LA. In a sense, I almost made the film twice. The subject matter was dark, like we’ve been talking about, making some scenes difficult to shoot but we found humour in the darkest of places. I don’t want to portray it as a miserable set, because it wasn’t, it was pretty lively and good fun. The hardest part, I suppose, was shooting it in a very short amount of time: 18 days. For a feature film, that is remarkably short.

The film has been compared to films such as Taxi Driver and Monster. Would you say you drew inspiration from these films?

I did not, but I totally understand and I’m, of course, hugely flattered by that comparison. I think it’s an exaggeration and I’m not being modest. Although someone did point out to me at the end of a Los Angeles screening and I have no idea who it was. He pointed his finger at me and said, “I want to explain why your film is better than Taxi Driver.” And I said, “Please do, I’d love to hear, because Taxi Driver is a masterpiece!” And he said, “Because you don’t let people off the hook, Taxi Driver opted out and created a strangely happy ending.” Extra material was shot for Taxi Driver in order to lighten it up and he said, “What you do in your film is, once you’ve grabbed the audience by the throat, you won’t let them go and that requires a certain determination. Your film is better because it’s more honest and it doesn’t cop out.” I was flattered by that, but I don’t think there is a comparison with those two films. I suppose the idea of a loner and stylistically there are a lot of similarities; the nourish feel that they both have. I’m a big fan of film noir, the classics as in Touch of Evil and The Third Man. What I like about film noir is, firstly, the day scenes feel like they’re night. I very much went for that in Dark Tourist, so when he’s in this motel room in the daytime, although it is light, when he’s outside I tried to put him in walkways and tunnels so I shroud him in darkness. Inside diners, I would try the classic venetian blinds and, in terms of angles, I went for lower and wider angles. Also, the Dutch tilt where you would prefer to line up with the vertical rather than the horizontal. It gives it a different feel without it being style over content.

You must have had to make sure you cast the right leading actor for this film as it must have been quite a challenging role to play. How did you find Michael Cudlitz?

Unfortunately, the truth of that is, he was on-board before I was because Frank John Hughes wrote it for him. They are both actors and both in the film The Band of Brothers and they have a very close relationship, so Frank wrote it for Mike and they brought it to me. The deal was, I was part of the process of casting everybody else, but the lead actor was already on-board. I didn’t know who he was, I had to do my homework and I saw there was a huge amount of talent there. When I decided to do the film it was after a very long conversation with him and to make sure his commitment to it was 100%. When you work with actors, to get the best out of them they obviously have to trust you and, the cliché is, you’re leading them to the edge of a cliff and they have to stand on the edge, close their eyes and trust you. I think what decided it for me was when he was talking about the script and the character and he clearly understood what he wanted to do with it. I said, “When I start working with you I want to make sure that I’m working with a blank page. I want you to forget about everything you’ve just told me, that’s irrelevant, I don’t want to know what you’ve thought about this. You’re a blank page.” There was a pause and he just said, “Great.” He was just so excited, because he felt a sense of freedom. As well as understanding the part very well, he realised this was a different journey.

You also have Melanie Griffith starring in the film. What kind of role does she have?

She’s pivotal in the story because she represents Jim’s [main character] opportunity to gain intimacy and to break out of the psychopath that he is about to become. She offers him this way out, she doesn’t realise she is doing that, but she’s crucial in the story for that reason. If he was capable of reaching the intimacy that she is offering him, then she could save him. She does an amazing job in the film; she’s an incredibly brave actress and I adore her. The last line in the film sees Jim look at her, having already abused her in so many ways, and says, “You’re disgusting” and she walks away in tears. It’s a powerful performance that she gives, she’s not in the film very much and does not have a main main part. She brings a huge amount to the film and is an incredibly talented actress. She works incredibly hard and is Hollywood royalty; she used to play with Charlie Chaplin when she grew up and she has Hollywood running through her veins, literally.

Apparently her husband, Antonio Banderas, said that Dark Tourist is the “greatest” film he’s ever seen.

Well, I wish we could use that! He did say that, but I wish he said something a bit tamer so we could use it, but we can’t because that’s ridiculous. He might be a little bit biased being her husband.

Sure, he’s not going to say that the film’s rubbish with his wife standing right there having been in it. But he didn’t have to be that nice.

He didn’t, and he made these comments to her and she has repeated them in press conferences and stuff. She’s an enormous fan of the film which is really useful to us.

As you’ve said, it’s been shown at a few film festivals already. What do you think of the reviews that have come from those, so far?

I’ve read a few. The word of mouth and reviews we get seem to be similar. People are very much split over it, some people hate it and you’ll see why. I mean, I couldn’t show it to my mum because she’d abandon me, I would imagine. A lot of people would not watch it. I think one reviewer said it was the most depressing film they had ever seen. What I find peculiar and what staggers me, maybe you’ll have something to say about this, unbelievably bad reviews in one journal and then in an equivalent journal, you get an unbelievably good review. I just don’t know how that can happen! As someone who loves movies, I know if a movie is good or not. I could well write a review and say it’s not my kind of movie, but I couldn’t criticise the direction or the quality of writing of a film or the performances, if they’re good. I just couldn’t. You cannot watch Dark Tourist and say anything other than, “Mike Cudlitz’s performance is sensational.” Not to talk about myself, but it is well-directed. It does have an incredibly brave and dark screenplay. There are lots of things that you can’t criticise. You can absolutely say, “Look, I only like romantic comedies so I hated it for those reasons.” So, it really puzzles me when reviews polarise it in this way, but they do.

With a film like this, a controversial one, maybe people are scared to say they like it because it may make them appear weird or strange. But, it’s okay to like a film if, like you say, it’s got good performances and it’s well-directed. People shouldn’t be afraid to admit they like a film, even if the subject matter is controversial, dark or quite depressing like this one.

Yeah, I think that’s right.

How do you think audiences will react when the film gets its general release?

We will find that out quite soon in America, at least, but I don’t know what the deal is in the UK yet. It’s coming out in Los Angeles, in New York and Chicago soon and it’s on VOD at the same time. It’s hard to tell what people will think, it’s almost impossible for a film to breakthrough in to a wide audience. I suspect it will do very well on video, because it seems like that sort of film. I’ll be very interested at the reaction at Frightfest because that will be to an audience of 1000 or more.

Yeah, I think it will be well received there because the right audience will be there.

That’s right. I think it’s the same with most things, if the right audience see this then they will love it.

You’ve just finished working on another film called Bad Karma. What is that one about?

That is a story about revenge and stars Ray Liotta and Dominic Purcell from Prison Break. Ray plays a drug-addicted criminal who has a heart attack and, as a consequence of that, decides to clean himself up. So, he disappears to Australia and is then pursued by his friend Yates who wants him to do another job for him, but he doesn’t want to. So, Yates says he owes him one and he can’t get out of it. Eventually, out of blackmail, decides to he will do the job and it’s all about the consequences of all that. It’s a fairly predictable story that’s probably been told 100 times, but to me it’s about how the past eventually catches up with you and you can’t pretend that you’re a different person. You have to face the consequences of what you do in the past. It’s also a love story between Ray’s character and an Australian woman. I like the film very much and watched it this morning because I did a live Skype link to a cinema in Australia. They were doing a special screening of the film there and they wanted to do a Q&A with the director of photography and me afterwards. It was fantastic, it was really enjoyable and they seemed to be pretty enthusiastic about it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a few things, I’m not in pre-production or heading towards the starting line yet, but I am developing a few things. One thing I’m developing in particular is a story that is very close to me and about the Isle of Wight pop festivals between 1969 and 1970. I’m developing a film about that with the man who organised those festivals and is a friend of mine. We are actively in talks about that. I’m attached to, I guess, half a dozen other projects. Some based on novels and there are even discussions of a Dark Tourist 2 which I’m equally excited and terrified about. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not. I always quote Woody Allen when somebody asks me that question, “How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans for the future.” Whatever you think you’re going to be doing, you probably won’t.

As hoped, Dark Tourist has received some great reviews when it screened at FrightFest over the weekend. If you like your films complex, dark and twisted then it’s definitely something you should check out. We’ll leave you with the trailer…

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About Time Premiere: Richard Curtis Bids Farewell to Directing

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Last night director Richard Curtis was joined by the all-star cast as the About Time premiere launched this year’s Film4 Summer Screen at the Somerset House. The film follows a man who , on reaching 21, is told by his father he has the ability to time travel.

During an interview at the event, Curtis shocked attendess on announcing that, although he intends to keep a foot in the film industry, About Time marks his farewell to the director’s chair. It would appear that the content of his latest offering may have struck very close to home commenting:

“This movie is about seeing whether or not you can spend your time in as delightful a way as possible” … “Three members of my family have died since I last made a movie, I’m very aware of the mix and good and bad in life and I think I’ve done a lot of work on the movies and maybe it’s time that I try and walk in the park a bit.”

Accompanying Curtis were the film’s key players including Domhnall Gleeson who plays Tim, who is told by his father, played by Bill Nighy, that he can travel through time. What better use for time traveling powers than to head off through time in search of a girlfriend?

We’ll leave you with highlights of the premiere together with an interview with Richard Curtis, the first of several talent interviews conducted at last nights premiere which we shall be publishing a little later on today. About Time releases in UK cinemas this September 4.

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William Fichtner Talks The Lone Ranger, TMNT and Elysium

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If you don’t recognise his name – which you probably will – then you’ll absolutely recognise his face. He’s starred in huge films like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Contact, Black Hawk Down and The Dark Knight and smaller projects along the way including a great one-scene turn in Crash. He’s even showed up in the Grand Theft Auto franchise as Ken Rosenberg! Now he’s coming up as the villain in The Lone Ranger but there’s even more of him to see this year alone. He’ll be popping up in Elysium, he’s in Phantom, The Homesman, St. Sebastian and leading his own TV series called Crossing Lines. It’s all about Bill lately but it’s not even remotely going to his head. Our chat had some difficulties at first as he spoke – hands free, calm down people – driving through the mountains where the signal was intermittent to say the least. His battery, low on charge, was also looming, thinking that this interview may be cut short or unusable because of the signal issues.

Instead of giving up on the interview he pulled over at a random gas station where he plugged his phone in and stood next to it just so he could chat to us. Don’t try that at home kids. In this encounter he had two people come up to him – one to ask if he was having car trouble, the other an autograph – and he was completely polite to both. Thanking the guy asking if he had car trouble who was offering assistance and promising the “sweet old lady” who owned the gas station that he would come inside, thanking her a lot for letting him use his phone charger in her business. He stood out in the open at the side of said building just to chat with us and on thanking him for his time and ‘unexpected circumstances’ he just said “it’s no problem, it’s great to get out of the car!” which really shows his personality.

A lot of people can get cynical about celebrities on press tours, believing that it’s all an act and that they all want to do a Bruce Willis really. People feel that they play themselves up to get a good image and are contractually obligated to promote the film in question. That may be true for some people but it certainly isn’t for William Fichtner who is the most genuinely polite and positive person to talk to. He loved the chat, was excited about it and – more importantly – was just so nice about everything. He is incredibly grateful for all of his achievements and remains humble even though he has such a successful, well loved career and remains an incredibly underrated actor. This year may change that though. We got to speak to him about biting into Butch Cavendish, his unusual path into acting and the many things he’s up to next.

So you play the baddie in The Lone Ranger with rather a few scars on his face. It’s hard to recognise it’s actually you sometimes! Whose choice was it for you to have this make-up on and did it change your performance?

Academy Award winning Joel Harlow created the look for all the characters. I’m sure it was Joel or Gore Verbinski who had an idea of where they wanted to go with [Butch] Cavendish. I think it only adds to it. Great costume design like Penny Rose who designed an amazing costume. It just helps you round out and take something off the page and makes it real. It really gives you a sense of who it is and what you’re playing. That stuff, to me, adds to where you’re going.

lone_ranger_ver7_xlgWhen you have all of the costume on, your guns at your side, scars on your face and a horse, does it really help you immerse yourself into the character?

All of those things do. The journey is to try to totally realise who a guy is. That’s the journey I like. Who is he, how does he walk, how does he talk, what is he thinking about? A lot times you don’t know where inspiration is going to come from. Sometimes it’s out of a costume, sometimes it’s out of a look and I felt that on The Lone Ranger all of these elements together – one on top of the other – really gave you another layer. I was very appreciative of all of it.

You’re surrounding yourself with the character so after you’ve put it all on and you’re ready to shoot did you ever just look in the mirror and say like “Yes! I am this character! I am going to own this!”? 

There are so many factors that come together but I’ll tell you, with The Lone Ranger, I’d step on it and I’d be like ‘Wow! That’s a hell of a guy, man! That ain’t me!’ and I love that about it. I loved that part. You want to know all about stuff, you want to put all those pieces together and you want to let it all go. You want to let it all go and try and let it breathe and find the rhythm of a guy. That, to me, is the goal. You find the rhythm of a character and it’s not a million different thoughts, it’s one.

Is that what got you interested in acting?

Boy I had a very strange journey. I was a criminal justice major which, in the States, to be that sort of a major in college usually means you’re going into something like the FBI law enforcement thing. I’d taken a few acting classes really just by chance and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the expression of it so I graduated with my criminal justice degree and I had a couple of months to think about it. I was working in Mulligan’s Beach Club and decided I was going to change my life and got a bus and moved to New York. I started waiting tables.

How long were you waiting tables for?

If you’re going to live in New York and you’re going to do theatre then you’re going to wait tables – which is what I did. Not that I didn’t want to work in film, I did very much so. I have to tell you though, I just never got hired!  It seemed like everybody I knew was getting a job in a movie except for me. I didn’t do my first film until I was 36 years old, which is a long time to wait for a break like that. You know what, it’s not wasted time because your life experiences are what define you. They help define the things you want to do and places you want to go, what characters you have experienced – we draw on ourselves, we draw on our own life! Would I have liked to have gotten a movie ten years earlier than that? You bet I would! But, buddy, [laughs] it is what it is.

It’s a big action blockbuster lead by Jerry Bruckheimer with Gore Verbinski calling the shots and even has Disney’s name attached. Did you have a lot of fun on set and play around or was it quite a tight, strict shoot because of the budget?

The-Lone-RangerThe only people who talk about budgets are everybody that’s not on the production. Everyone on the production doesn’t talk about the budget on the film, they’re just trying to make a good movie. And I don’t mean that facetiously! It’s true. The crew doesn’t come to work and the actors don’t come to work to talk about the budget today. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production. I’ve had the good fortune to work with Jerry for a fourth time and whenever you get to work with Jerry there’s a very, very high production value – probably the highest of anyone. You’re surrounded by the very best. That is a luxury you don’t always get. Then you couple that together with the very brilliant mind of Gore Verbinski and… I gotta tell you there are very few things I look back on in my life and think ‘Boy, that was a drag’ because I really don’t approach work that way. I like to have a great time. I like work. I like to be engaged and have fun and have these experiences be great. I think I live my life like that. The Lone Ranger was no exception to that. I mean, we had an amazing time. You’ve seen the film, we went to every iconic south-western location in the United States. It was amazing! Just amazing!

You must have seen a lot on that tour.

Oh yeah! We were like a big circus travelling around!

That must be a luxury of your job too. The travelling. Have you seen a lot more because of your work?

Oh God yeah! I’ve been all over the world! From Morocco, certainly all around this country [America], to beautiful places in Canada, Prague and Italy and here and there. Yeah, it has been amazing. That’s part of the joy of the whole thing. I’m currently working on a film right now in New York City. I lived in New York a looooong time and it’s nice to be back. I haven’t lived there for seven years and I spent the whole summer here this year and it’s been great. I’m revisiting my old place and it’s been a real joy.

Which film is that? Is that the film that you said you’d like to bring to the screen?

No, it’s the new Paramount feature of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m doing that right now, almost done with it.

How does your character The Shredder feature in it and what drew you to that?

I don’t know if you know a lot about the story of The Ninja Turtles. I know it through my nieces and nephews because it was a little bit after my time. This isn’t the cartoon of the ’80s, this is Michael Bay produced. This is big production value. It’s pretty cool! I’m having a pretty excellent time. But what I enjoyed most about it is the care with which they’re going into the characters – especially the character of Eric Stacks who sometimes changes into other people, I may say. It’s been pretty cool and I’ve had an excellent time.

Surrounding yourself with a talented cast and crew must make working infinitely better. How different is it working with people who know what they’re doing and how much of a better experience is it?

When you’re around great people like Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson and Ruth Wilson – who I absolutely adore and think she’s amazing – all of that stuff seems seamless when you’re doing it but you know how much you appreciate it when you’re in a circumstance where you don’t have that. I never worked on anything with a crew quite the size of The Lone Ranger. They’re professionals – it’s what these guys do for a living. It was great. Not much else to say, it’s just a great memory. I don’t look back on any day of the 7 months I worked on it and think ‘Oh that wasn’t a good day’.

7 months is a pretty long shoot! Is that the longest thing you’ve worked on?

Definitely, yeah.

2013 is coming up all you really. You’re starring in The Lone Ranger, Elysium, Phantom, St. Sebastian and The Homesman. Have you been working non-stop?

Knock on wood! I don’t have any wood around so I’m just going to knock on my head. I’m way too old to get anxious about it when things are slow. I’ve got other things to do. I’ve got Little League practice to go to and a couple of kids and, believe me, my wife always has a list of things for me to do around the house! My feeling is that when I get to go to work that is when I get to relax!

That’s a very different take to most people who stress themselves out over the job. [laughs]

Listen – I mean this too, I’m not just saying it – I don’t live a stressful existence. I can’t. I have enough drama being in show business, believe me. I don’t need drama in my life or the way that I live it. I have a good time, I have great friends, I have great family and an amazing wife. We’re foodies. We just love going to find a great new restaurant. That’s how I live. When it comes to the work thing, I love to take the time to care about something and be interested in something. That’s where I come from. I’ve had work situations where they can be drama filled but I’m like ‘Nah’, we can lose that part.

I must ask you about your character in Elysium as well. Is there much you can tell us about it? How much of a role do you play in the film?

It’s a very important role to the story but then they all are. Neill Blomkamp is an amazing guy and really quite a filmmaker so it was a real joy to be a part of that experience. You ask if it’s a small or a big role but I have to tell you that I take things because they’re worthy journeys. Sometimes that’s one scene. Believe me, I’ve gotten scripts from my agent who’s said ‘Hey, what do you think? Look at that! It’s a big part!’ and I say ‘Yeah but I don’t really like it. I don’t think it’s consequential to the story’. Then the other side of the coin is a story like Crash, a one-scene part and I remember when my agent sent me that he said ‘It’s only one scene’ and I read it and I called back and said ‘Well, it may only be one scene but I’ll play a one-scene part like this in every movie you send me if it’s this good’. Elysium is not a big supporting part but it’s very important to the story. That matters as much as anything.

It’s good to see you have such a respect for your work and don’t have an ego of ‘Oh this part deserves to be bigger because of who I am’, you know? It’s nice to see you do work because you love the work.

Every time I think my ego is getting big, my wife will remind me that the garbage needs to go out. We don’t have a lot of room in my house for ego. [laughs] It’s really not my thing. Life’s too short. The magical moments happen with people and friends and when the vibe is good. That’s the worthy journey.

So talking of supporting parts, how did you get the role of the bank manager in The Dark Knight?

I’ll tell you exactly how I got that! One of my friends, Aaron Ryder, who produced a little film I worked on called The Amateurs – it might’ve been released over in the UK called The Moguls – with Jeff Bridges, which is a little comedy and one of my favourite things I’ve ever worked on, also produced Memento with Chris Nolan and Chris called up my friend because he knew we were friends and asked ‘Do you think Bill would want to play a one-scene part in the beginning of my film?’ Aaron called me and I said ‘Let’s talk to Chris’ who I’d never met before. I had a conversation with with him in which he told me all about it, what he was thinking, shooting it with an IMAX camera, etc. He’s such an interesting guy and an incredible filmmaker – obviously – so I said yeah! We’ll get back to the same thing I was saying before: it’s not the size of it, it’s what it is. Chris explained what he wanted to do and what this bank manager was, this kind of mob guy in a bank. The description was so fascinating that I said on the phone ‘Yeah! I’m in!’ Three days later I went and shot it.

The-dark-knight-william-fichtner-28793012-656-264

That really is a great scene. It’s an interesting prologue to the film.

Yeah it’s a very cool little piece, isn’t it?

A lot of people would call you a character actor (a weird term) as well. Do you prefer it that way? To blend into roles?

I wish they’d call me a leading man because then I’d get more money! [laughs] I’d rather do the character parts with the leading man’s pay cheques, let’s put it way! [laughs] I don’t know what I am. I know one thing, all characters are characters. Do I just like to play people that are interesting and have more than one spinning plate in their mind? Yes, I guess, so it’s a much more fascinating journey. I guess that makes me a character actor.

Now you’re heading up your own TV show with Crossing Lines where you get a much longer arc to play with. How did that come about and what made you want to work in TV?

I’m going to do Crossing Lines again. I’m going to go back to the Czech Republic and work on it again. Another one of those things, it’s always an individual thing. It’s a lot of factors together – you read something, it does something for you or not. When I read the first two episodes of Crossing Lines I was like ‘Wow… This is an interesting guy. Former NYPD cop, living in Amsterdam, he’s got a substance abuse problem, he’s kind of screwed up’ and all of that together, I loved that!

You’ve spoken about telling your own stories. Are you ready to do that now? What are the stories that you have to tell and when will you get to make them?

I co-wrote a film over the last 8 years, over several cases of red wine with my buddy. I got very close to making it this summer but Turtles came up and the decision to do Crossing Lines again came up. I thought instead of trying to fit 8 pounds of bologna [sausage; pronounced ‘baloney’] in a two pound bag I would just wait and I give myself the time next summer. Things can change all the time, we know that, I really feel like next summer [is the time]. Part of the reason I’m in the car right now is because I’m taking a weekend away from the Turtles as I’m going off to the small town to meet some people, some potential financiers, my alma mater – the college I graduated from which I think would be a fine location for a part of the film. So next year! That’s when I’m crossing my fingers for.

Will you be starring in it, directing it or just the writing credit for you?

No, no, I’m going to direct it, write it, star in it, the whole deal! If I’m going to go down burning I might as well do it all!

I must say by the way that before this interview I was a little intimidated because of the types of characters you play but you might be the nicest person in the world.

[Laughs] I really appreciate that and it was good to catch up. I’m glad it finally worked out, it took a while! I finally got a cell signal…

We’d like to thank William so much for taking time out at a gas station to speak to us and recommend you head off to marvel at his transformation in The Lone Ranger which hits cinemas in the UK tomorrow, August 9th. We’ll leave you with the trailer to said movie…

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Interview: Jodi Lyn O’Keefe Talks ‘The Frozen Ground’

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Cinema Chords spoke to actress Jodi Lyn O’Keefe who can currently be seen starring alongside John Cusack and Nicolas Cage in the crime thriller The Frozen Ground. In the time she shared with us she discusses her past roles, why The Frozen Ground is definitely worth seeing, Nicolas Cage’s loveliness her desire to take a role behind the camera.

What actresses, or actors, inspired you to act?

I remember being obsessed with Natalie Wood when I was young.

Did you dream of being rich and famous when you were younger?

No, definitely not. It was something that just sort of happened.

You’ve come a long way since starring as the bitchy character in She’s All That, particularly you’ve starred in Lost, CSI, The Big Bang Theory, Prison Break and many other TV shows..which has been your most favourite?

Lost because I got to play a great character. She was feisty and it was a lot of fun.

I particularly remember you as Isabella in Two and a Half Men, for those who don’t know – she’s a goth, covered in tattoos and is involved in some hilarious voodoo shenanigans with Charlie Sheen’s character who is blind to how dangerous she actually is – was she as fun to play as it looked?

Yes, I loved Chuck Lorre and I loved the comedy. I had to wear tattoos for a week!

Why did you veer away from feature films and choose television, or was this not a conscience choice?

I didn’t change, there was just more television work for me than there is film. I seemed to work on series and sometime you can fit a film in, and sometimes you can’t.

So now you’re back in movies and starring in The Frozen Ground, what’s that all about?

The Frozen Ground is a true story about a serial killer in the 1980’s in Alaska named Robert Hanson.

the-frozen-ground10Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?

Yeah, the story about this serial killer – how he got caught – a young woman that he kidnapped got away. The character that I portray is a woman named Chelle and she takes this girl who ran away off the street and has her start dancing in her bar.

How is this film different from other films with a similar plot? Ones that focus on tracking down a serial killer.

Well, it’s different because it actually happened *laughs*. For me, to do a true story, was amazingly interesting. I did a lot of reading around it and while we were there we actually met people that had been around at the time. So, it was all really real to them and I got to meet some of the people I’d read about. It was interesting.

Would you say that the film keeps true to the real events that happened?

I think so. I mean, it’s fairly accurate.

In the trailer it seems that Nicolas Cage and John Cusack go head-to-head. Is that the case?

*Laughs* They do. They definitely go head-to-head. It’s the hunter and the hunted.

What was it like working with those two actors?

Fantastic! Nicolas Cage is so lovely, I had a great time. John Cusack is brilliant and fantastic to work with.

Was shooting the film as tense as the film itself, or was it more laid-back?

We were all very serious while we were filming, but we all had a very laid-back attitude in-between takes. You spend that much time with people and they tend to become your family. It’s easy to sort of goof around a little in-between and when the days are over.

This is Scott Walker’s first film. How do you think he did as a director?

I think he did a great job, I’m so inspired by him. From the first time I met him and the way that he talked about the story, how passionate he was about it. Just his vision for the film and what he was going to do; how it was going to look. I’m in awe of him that this is his very first film. I think we’re going to see great things from him.

Would you like to work with him again?

I would love to work with him again, I had such a great time.

Do you know what he has planned?

I don’t! I actually just put a phone call in with him to see what he’s up to.

Come on, what did he say?

*Laughs* I haven’t heard back yet, I literally just called him and then I had to come here and do this.

Would you ever consider directing yourself?

I would love it. I’ve been in front of the camera for 20 years and I’d love to be on the other side of it to see what it’s like. I think it would be a great thing to do.

What kind of film do you see yourself making?

I think I would prefer to do a horror or a comedy. Either of those would make me happy.

I’m glad you said horror because you were in Halloween: H20. What was that like?

It’s one of my favourite franchises. The old-fashioned scare where a loud noise would happen and you’d jump, or the curtain blows and you’d get scared. It’s not so much about the gore as it is about the surprise. I was a big Halloween fan before I did that movie.

A lot of the horror films that are created today are remakes or sequels. Do you think that horror has reached an end or is there more out there?

I’m sure there’s more originality, I certainly don’t think that it’s reached an end at all. There’s lots of talent out there waiting to get picked up.

So what’s next for you?

I don’t know just yet. Right now I’m currently working on my jewellery line called Q and I’ve been pretty devoted to that…

We’d like to thank Jodi for taking tim out to chat to us. We’ll leave you with the trailer for The Frozen Ground which is currently in cinemas around the UK.

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Interview: Director Declan Lowney Talks Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alpha-Papa-Declan-Lowney

Declan Lowney, Wexford born director, cut his teeth directing music videos, television and even went on the helm a Eurovision song contest in Birmingham back in 1998. Probably his most memorable output to date were two seasons of Father Ted and more recently his direction on Little Britain and collaboration with Chris O’Dowd on the first season of acclaimed comedy Moone Boy. Lowney got his first Partridge hands on experience in 2012 for the Alan Partridge on Open Books with Martin Bryce TV special after which he came on board full time to help bring Norfolk’s favourite DJ to the big screen in Alan Partridge: AlphaPapa.

Lowney was good enough to sit down and speak to us all about the secret to making an audience laugh, Partridge’s influence on British comedy and why he looks twenty years younger now than he did twenty years ago…

Apart from great jokes, what do you think makes a really good comedy film?

Story, I would say. The story of Alpha Papa feels real – a siege at a radio station is something that could possibly happen.  You’ve got the seriousness of the situation, the events of the story, and the comedy layered on top of that.  This is something new for Alan, and because the story is so tense, he became a bigger character to make the comedy work.

What was the best part of making the film?

The relief when it was over!  The best aspect of it was seeing the film when it was finished.  It took a long time to evolve, and making a film like this is, in fact, intensely hard work, but it was a joy to see the final product and to realise how funny it turned out to be.

Was there room for improvisation on the set?

Steve did some improvisation sessions many months before we were shooting, but it was almost all on the page by the time we did it.  Having said that, one of the best scenes in the film came when Steve said he wanted to try lip-synching to a song.  He did three takes and it was brilliantly funny.

Does Alan start to feel like a real person when you spend a long time with him?

The lines can become blurred, but comedy acting is not like method acting, although when Steve puts on the wig it completely changes him.  Sometimes it was strange to see Alan Partridge talking to me but to hear Steve..

Alan looks younger now than he did twenty years ago.

I think Alan has become more comfortable in his own skin as he’s got older.  He’s not desperate to make it, as he was back then.

Is his relationship with Lynne an important element of the film?

I think it’s vital.  At the end of the film he redeems himself when he hears Lynne’s truthful words.  They have a fantastic relationship and it’s lovely to see the audience reaction when she appears.

Do you think Alan had an influence on characters like David Brent?

I do think Alan opened the door for David Brent.  I don’t know what Ricky Gervais thinks, but to me they are very similar characters.

How did the look of the film evolve?

Almost accidentally.  I shot the film in sequence and we might have been a bit staid in our approach at the beginning, but as we went on we loosened up and started using hand-held cameras, and there were long, loose takes, so Steve had the freedom to go wherever he wanted.

How was the premiere in Norwich?

Nerve-wracking.  It was the first glimpse of the public’s sense of the film and we got an incredibly warm response – thousands turned out on the day.  Bringing Alan Partridge back to Norwich was a little bit like bringing The Beatles back to Liverpool…

Many thanks to Declan for talking to us.  Alpha Papa is out on the 7th of August and we’ll leave you with the trailer

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Interview: Shanley Caswell Talks The Conjuring

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James Wan is set to hit the big screen not once but twice this year. In fact twice in two months with The Conjuring releasing itself onto the big screen today followed by Insidious: Chapter 2 back from its astral projection on the 13th of September. In honour of The Conjuring‘s release, we spoke with Shanley Caswell who plays Andrea Perron in the story based on the real events of paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). If you haven’t caught any of her work then as well as The Conjuring you have a low budget comedy-horror with Josh Hutcherson called Detention and an episode of iCarly to cram in to get your Caswell worth. We spoke with the young actress about working on a horror film with James Wan, her directing idols and being locked in a room to watch horror films. That may be less about her and more about me but regardless it’s a good interview with plenty of details about on set pranks, the pleasure of working with the cast and crew and Celebrity Ghost Stories.

How does it feel to be raking in the millions at the box office currently?

It feels awesome. [laughs] We’ve scared so many people, it’s awesome.

Working on a horror set would be difficult for me, I think, because I’d always worry that what’s happening on set could actually happen. Did you ever take it home with you and get a little scared?

There were a couple of sleepless nights that I had but it was not so much because of being on set of the movie – that was super fun – but I was reading a book alongside about the Warrens so that was the thing that really scared me and kept me up all night! Of course I would read it right before going to bed and wouldn’t be able to sleep. When you’re screaming and crying and imagining these things all day you take it home with you. But I never really actually thought there was something, you know, there.

So you never looked at your closet and got a little worried?

No, my closet is filled with pictures of my friends and family and stuff like that so it’s not scary. [laughs] Plus it’s stuffed and overfilled with clothes so I’m never scared there’s something in there.

James Wan is a director I admire. What’s he like to work with on set? Is he strict, does he allow for change, does he leave script notes out to really scare you?

969533_555700907825159_695507078_nHe is so awesome. He let us do our thing and we had two weeks beforehand to bond as a family and create this natural family dynamic – especially among the girls, the five daughters. He let us fall in to this natural rhythm and natural rapport that we went back and forth with which I think you can see on set. We’re very comfortable and you can see it. But he was never really strict with us and liked playing around. It didn’t really seem like we were working on a horror set. It felt like we were working on a family movie but in pyjamas, screaming and crying a lot. [laughs]

You got to work some pretty big names like Patrick, Vera, Lili and Ron, did they mentor you a bit and teach you?

I think it was just watching them on set. They all had extremely hard parts. They wouldn’t explicitly tell us anything but just being around them on set was nice to see how they acted in the film but also their dialogue off screen and how they acted around set. It was really interesting because you have four – Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson – powerhouse actors in one room. You would think that ego would get in the way but it’s just like they’re all getting together for a party or something. They’re all just talking and having a good time. It’s unbelievable. I was just watching amazed at how relaxed they all were and how it didn’t seem like we were working. It seemed like we were just hanging out. [laughs]

Did you have one specific scene or one day which you enjoyed the most?

Yeah there was one scene which I remember where we all kept laughing. It’s when the Warrens first come to the house. It’s a very sombre scene when you watch it but for some reason we were all so giggly that day. I think it was the first day we all worked together, it was the first day everyone was on set together. Everyone was like happy and giggly and we couldn’t take it seriously. It comes off on screen that we were all very upset so I don’t know how. They must have cut that well because we were just laughing the entire time – at least the girls were.

Horror sets can be notorious for pranks. Did you incur any on set?

There were a couple of things. The kids and I and Shannon Kook – who plays Drew in the movie – we’d all have these big wet willy wars. That happened throughout the entire film. [laughs] A lot of playing around. Also the person who plays Bathsheba in the movie, he would have all this make-up on since there was no CGI for his character, it was all real.  He was walking around on set looking like that and – you’ll understand when you see it – he would just stare at us. From the corner of the room, when we walked into the room – he wouldn’t do anything he would just sit there and watch us. That was pretty freaky after a while. That scared the crap out of a lot of us [laughs] to the point where we were always watching our backs and made sure we always knew where he was so he didn’t jump out at us. I think he was having fun with it.

It’s based on “true” events of the Warren investigators. Do you believe them or in the supernatural? If so, did that belief enhance the authenticity of your performance?

In order to believe in something I have to see it with my own eyes and I’ve never personally experienced anything like that but I really want to. I love watching all the ghost shows no matter how hokey they are. I can’t get enough of it. I’m the type of person who would want to go to an abandoned mental ward and sit there overnight to try and see something. [laughs]

I remember when I was last out in America I watched something like Celebrity Ghost Stories that one of the stories was about a picture frame moving. Is that still on?

[Laughs] Yeah, a pen rolls across a table! I think that show is still on actually. I watch that show… a lot. There’s that one, Ghost Adventures, My Real Ghost Stories and I just love them! I can’t get enough of ghost stories, I love them.

Did you watch any of James Wan’s films before working with him?

Oh yeah! I watched Saw, I’ve seen all of the Saw movies. I really like Insidious and Dead Silence I liked as well. I was a huge James Wan fan before we even started the film.

Was it a dream to work with him?

Yeah, yeah! You meet him and he’s completely the opposite of what I’d imagined. You think the person who created Saw would be this type of person who never leaves his house and imagines all these scary things but James comes out with this Australian accent and is really super friendly and always smiling, laughing. It doesn’t match up! [laughs]

There’s already news of a sequel. Could you potentially return to that?

This story kind of ends with this chapter of the Perrons. I think the Warrens will continue on but I don’t know if the Perrons will but you never know. They might throwback to us but The Conjuring is the end of their story.

This is your second horror film after Detention. Were they very different experiences?

Oh yeah but I don’t really think of Detention as a horror film. I think of it more as a multi-genre, horror-comedy thing. They’re still very, very different experiences. Detention was ultra low-budget, we had to fight for everything, we had to fight for money, we had to fight for time. That led us to being more creative with the way we dealt with the lack of money and how we still went on with the production. With The Conjuring we didn’t have a lot of money but we had more. That gave us a little more wiggle room, a little more breathing room to create the movie. Also the styles are completely different on both of them.

Did you research the period that it is set in beforehand?

Yeah. We had the two weeks beforehand there and so we got to went into these warehouses with all these clothes and all these vintage clothes and vintage antiques and everything. We also looked into old movies like The Brady Bunch and Love Story and stuff like that just to get the look of the character – how they parted their hair, how they wore a certain thing like jewellery, clothes and stuff like that.

1012611_559761684085748_1977489763_nYou said you were reading a book about the Warrens earlier. Did that help bring an authenticity to your performance?

My character in the movie isn’t a paranormal investigator but in the book it’s about paranormal investigation. If anything it gave me stuff to talk about with Vera and with people who had read the book but it did help me get into the mindset of the paranormal world and what the people experience when they’re experiencing something like that. I’ve never experienced anything like that so I don’t know. It was nice to hear about experiences by other people to try and implement that fear that comes across in the book into the movie.

Did you get a chance to meet the Warrens or anyone who has experienced the paranormal beforehand?

Yeah, I met Lorraine Warren and also all of the Perrons. They spoke about their experiences firsthand. It was kind of scary.

It must have been quite terrifying when they’re describing what happened.

Yeah it was freaky. They have so much that they say happened to them so when you’re talking to them – of course, me, who is a super geek like that and loves hearing all that stuff, I loved it – it’s a little freaky. When they’re talking about it, it makes it seem super real.

You’ve done a lot of TV work which has been very different from this. You’ve done an episode of iCarly which is like a total opposite. What differences occur in TV and in film and do you approach the role any differently?

Of course. Shows like iCarly are four camera sitcom shows, a lot more like theatre with a lot of larger than life acting and making a fool out of yourself for comedy. Then when you do things that are more realistic it’s a lot more understated and you’ve got to be more careful and more subtle with your emotions. That’s how people are realistically. It definitely varies on what you’re working on. For kids shows the comedy is a lot different to the comedy on SNL. It also depends on what type of cameras they’re using. If it’s four camera, two camera comedy, if it’s a single camera film; it all varies. I’m still learning about all that, I’m still trying to gain an understanding of every single thing and every single method of filmmaking, I’m not an expert. From what I’ve understood it’s all very different.

So you started off in theatre. Do you still do that now or are you looking to do more in the near future?

I would love to do theatre again but right now it’s not on my plate because I’m focusing more on films; being in LA, that’s where the emphasis is. If I ever went back home or if I ever went to New York then I’d love to do theatre, it’s really like a first love of mine.

It’s got to be asked as you’re in one but are you a horror film fan?

Oh yes I am! I love the horror genre. My first favourite horror film was The Ring and I think that’s because I watched it at a birthday party with my friends. [laughs] I think the reason people really love horrors is because you go with your friends and it’s an adrenaline rush, it’s like going on a rollercoaster together. Everyone is getting scared, then they’re laughing about it, then there’s nervous laughter. It affects people so much. I think that’s the big reason I love the horror genre because it’s something you experience together as a group of friends.

I know you said The Ring just now as your first favourite horror film but what is your favourite horror film?

The Ring is my first favourite one and there are others. I thought more of Poltergeist and The Exorcist but The Ring is the one that I’ll always be afraid of. [laughs]

That’s what Scream is like for me because my brothers locked me in a room to watch it when I was about 7.

Oh my God.

Every time I watch that film – even though I love the horror genre now – it still absolutely terrifies me because it brings me back to when I was a kid.

Exactly. It takes you back to that primal fear that you had as a kid. I’m so sorry that you were locked a room, that’s scary! [laughs]

[Laughing] No, no, it’s fine. It wasn’t that bad. It was just my brothers being brothers.

Well my cousins did the same thing to me as a kid and it terrified me.

Older people aren’t nice when you’re young.

Older kids aren’t nice at all. [laughs]

You mentioned The Exorcist there and one cinemagoer in the UK said that “it made The Exorcist look like Peppa Pig” about The Conjuring. Do you know what Peppa Pig is?

No, I don’t know what that is.

It’s an animated kids’ show. [laughs]

I saw that quote but I didn’t know what the pig was. [laughs] That’s funny it’s a kids show, I’m glad it scared them. [laughs]

Are you hoping that this success will take you into more things?

Of course. I’m always hopeful that there will be more work.

Is there anything that has been confirmed yet?

Not right now. I’m going to study abroad in England in August actually and then after that I’m going to come back and audition and stuff. Then I’ll be auditioning for stuff after that, from there I’ll see what’s next. For right now I’m trying to finish school.

What are you studying?

I’m going to be taking a study abroad course to get a few classes done but my major is Anthropology.

Do you have stories that you’d like to bring to the screen in the future?

Yeah, there are a lot of stores I’d like to. I don’t think I have the formal knowledge to make them into a movie yet but I’d definitely like to have some friends of my mine who do have that knowledge to make these ideas into a movie. That’d be pretty cool.

Is there a director that you’d love to work with in the future? Whose work you really admire and would just love to be a part of?

Yeah I love David Fincher, I think he’s amazing. James Wan was one of them! [laughs] David Fincher because I love Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network, really almost every one of his films I love. [laughs] I also recently have been liking David O. Russell with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Aaron Sorkin as a writer, I would love to work with Aaron Sorkin or do his work in the future, I think he’s a great writer…

The Conjuring bursts out of a quiet pause into cinemas today. There’s also a mini fan club that Shanley and I are now a part of but unfortunately the first two rules stop us from telling you about it.

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Synopsis:

Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on a true story, “The Conjuring” tells the horrifying tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.


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Interview: James Wan Talks The Conjuring

james_wan_interview_the_conjuring

James Wan, the accomplished filmmaker behind the scare-your-socks-off hits Saw and Insidious brings his latest horror/ghost-story The Conjuring to UK cinemas this Friday. Sticking to a similar premise to that of the recent Insidious, the film centres on a haunted family and the paranormal investigators tasked with ending their woes. What separates this from Insidious, however, is that The Conjuring alleges to be a true story, always something sure to add an extra chill down the spine, even for the more incredulous among us.

The story focuses on the Perron family home, plagued by unexplained supernatural phenomena.  The parents of the family (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) decide their only resort is to call in paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to deal with this powerful entity.

The real life Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the Perron’s Rhode Island farmhouse back in 1973 and both Lorrain Warren and Andrea Perron served as consultants to James Wan, stating that the movie is indeed an accurate account of what really happened to the Perrons during the decade they spent living at their farmhouse. Just to creep readers out a little more, Andrea Perron, who wrote a three-part book based on her own experiences, House of Darkness, House of Light, cites the film as an actual work of art rather than a work of fiction.

In our interview with Wan below, he discloses what entices him to true-life supernatural stories and discusses the film’s period angle and how it compared to his previous projects, his adulation for classic horror movies, his own fears and much more. Look out for Mr. Wan at a local cinema near you as he has been known to ‘cinema hop’ to witness audience reactions to his movies…

Does the period angle make the movie more effective?

I don’t know. Not necessarily, because films like Saw and Insidious and Dead Silence were all contemporary but if you look back at the movies I’ve made, I’ve always had a love for nostalgic throwbacks. Dead Silence was my love for Hammer Horror that came out of England. I loved that very stylised, almost campy feeling. I lovingly embraced it. And even Death Sentence, which not many people saw, was a revenge thriller made in the mould of The French Connection, which is the kind of films I love too. Having said that, The Conjuring is set back in 1971 and I do think the period setting gives it a really interesting ambience. I think it brings a sense of authenticity to the true life story of it.

With practical effects as well, it feels like the analogue version of horror?

I love that. I kind of miss that. Now it’s all gone digital and there’s something fun from a nostalgic standpoint. That aside, I wanted to find something that was a bit different. I didn’t want to do the same thing again, so the stories of the Warrens take place in that world, but I wanted to give it a very different flavour. Setting it in a different time period helps a lot for me to be able to play with the production design and camera work from that period. That made it more fun.

the-conjuring-vera-farmigaWhat were the biggest challenges for the movie?

Just trying to stay as true to the stories that the Perrons and the Warrens would tell me. And trying to make a movie that is scary! To make a scary movie that is effective, despite the fact that I’m basically recycling a lot of classic horror movie tropes, haunted house tropes. The creaking, slamming door, hearing sounds, all that stuff that we’re so familiar with, but because I wanted to stay true to the stories, I couldn’t just branch out of it and create something so stylised, so that was a big challenge too.

Are you superstitious? Were you worried something might follow you back from the production?

Yes, I am somewhat superstitious. I try not to walk under a ladder if I can help it, that stuff. Believe it or not, I’m really scared of things in general, so I don’t want to tempt fate. I did the movie because I love the story of the Warrens. And the chance to scare the crap out of people, I love that too!

Have you ever experienced anything yourself?

Not to the extent that is in this film.

What scares you most in the whole wide world?

The whole wide world! Seriously. I think what happens in our world is so much more frightening than anything I can come up with in my movies.

Which horror movie scares you most?

I don’t know… That’s a hard one. I have so many. I can say that the films I went back and drew inspiration from, more for the flavour than anything else, not so much for scares, but Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, a pretty obscure movie from 1971. I watched Don’t Look Now. I didn’t go back and watch Amityville because I think the film already strays a bit close to it, so I didn’t want to go and revisit that. I would say the movie that has the biggest influence on me for this was The Haunting, the Robert Wise version.

Do you enjoy watching audiences and how they react to movies?

Definitely. I think that’s my favourite thing about making these movies, watching people watch them. When my films come out, I like to cinema hop and know what moments are coming up, I pop my head in and watch people squirm or slide down in their seats. I like that sadism!

Is it better to erase the clichés and make new methods, or continue them?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something completely different and there are filmmakers out there trying to do completely different things. I think you should aspire to want to do fresh things all the time, so it’ll be awesome in the future to see someone come along and do something so outside of the box that we haven’t seen before. I think it’s a good thing to try and push cinema much further along. I could not do that with The Conjuring, because I’m trying to adhere to the story and what the people went through, but I tried to show it in a different light. To cook the same dish, just with different ingredients.

Is your style very different because of your background?

I don’t know, because my style is very influenced by Hollywood. But because I am a student of cinema, I watched lots of European films, lots of Asian films, so I have a big diet of films from around the world. I filter it all through my own sensibility.

Is it tricky working with young children on a horror film? How do you protect them from getting screwed up?

Conjuring-infestationLuckily the kids are already messed up! They can’t blame me. No, it was difficult on Insidious because my talented child actor in that one was very sensitive to what was happening. But on The Conjuring, these girls were so fearless. And they were so professional, they got that it was filmmaking. They could be crying in tears, freaking out, screaming, but the moment I called cut, they turned to the camera and smiled. They were so cool! I couldn’t believe how experienced they were. Even the youngest girl, playing April, she’s never really made a movie before but she was a little star. I’d give her directions sometimes and she’d look at me as if to say, ‘I’m going to do it my own way…’ It’s cute. They were really great to work with.

Did you worry about strange things from working on the film?

Vera and I had very similar things. When we were preparing to make this movie, we were pretty affected by the subject matter. Vera would tell me that when she first got to Wilmington to shoot the film, she kept waking up at about 3:00am. So naturally she just connected it to the film. I don’t think it had anything to do directly, per se, but I think because she’s so caught up in the world, and because actors want to live their characters before they play it, that affected her in some way. When I started designing how I would want to shoot the film, it wasn’t fun. Especially when I had to work on it at night.

The writers talked about you knowing you were on to a good thing when you get scared. Conversely, does working on scary movies make you less likely to be scared by them?

I’m not scared of my own film. You just can’t be. I’m just not. The only time I can really experience how effective it is, or not, is when I watch it with an audience. I do get scared when I watch other people’s films. I can hang my filmmaker’s hat outside the door and just watch them for what it is. I am extremely squeamish, I know you have a hard time believing that since I’m the grandfather of torture porn, but I’m bad with gore and blood and guts, so when I watch a movie I didn’t make, I have to look away.

Did you visit the original house?

No. God, no! I didn’t want to. I was invited to visit both the Perron house and the Warren house and I was, like, ‘No f*****g way!’ I was too terrified. But Patrick and Vera went to visit Lorraine at her place, just to pick up a vibe, see who she was. Vera did not want to go down into the haunted museum, but Patrick did. I don’t know what I was doing, but I was just hanging with friends and I get this text message from Patrick and it’s a picture of him with Annabelle the doll! I started cracking up and telling him the doll’s going to latch on and go home with him… I don’t know if Patrick believes in it as much as the others. He’s definitely a lot stronger.

the-conjuring-1What inspired you to turn the Annabelle doll from a Raggedy Ann doll into what we see in the movie?

I’ll tell you what the inspiration is: lawsuit! I didn’t want to be sued. I can’t do a Raggedy Ann doll! That’s what the real Annabelle is, but I can’t go to the company and say, ‘Would you mind letting me show to the rest of the world that the product you’ve made is a conduit to demonic creatures?’ So I had to take artistic licence there.

Why did the doll look like Linda Blair?

Really? She wasn’t the inspiration! Through the process when I was prepping the movie, I was doing a lot of sketches, and at one time she was in a bright costume. I don’t know what it is, but I find ghost brides so scary. I was trying to capture the image and I showed it to the guy who built the doll for me, and he did a few sketches as well and I got my costume designer involved with the outfit.

Did you want to keep the pace relentless throughout?

It’s funny, people have said it has a relentlessness to it, while others have said it has a slow burn! Which one is it? I think it’s a combination of the two. A lot of the scares have a classic slow burn – I didn’t just jump straight into it. I tried to creep you out at first, create this palpable sense of dread so that when I do get to the scare where you’re jumping out of your seat, you’ll hopefully hit the ceiling. But I do think that towards the end it gets ramped up so much that people walk out so beaten up by what happens at the end. But there’s hardly any blood or gore, and yet people are telling me how scary it is!

Do you feel proud of Saw, now 10 years have passed?

I can definitely appreciate it more now, because I really hated being labelled the torture porn guy. I felt like that marginalised me as a filmmaker. I despised it, and that was a reason why I didn’t want to make another Saw film, and why I’m doing an action film. But it’s been 10 years and I can look at it now and see it for what it is, and appreciate it. People talk about the Saw movies from a nostalgic standpoint now. It shows how fast we progress. The last Saw came out three or four years ago and it feels like so long ago now.

Are you afraid you’ll have no horror in the next movie (Fast & Furious 7)?

Afraid? No! I’m thankful for that. It’s good to do something non-horror for a change. I’m done with horror for now. But I want to go and rejuvenate and I think I’ll come back to it one day…

The Conjuring will be creeping into UK cinemas this Friday (2 August). In the meantime, we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film to keep you on edge until the release date.

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Interviews

Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn on ‘Only God Forgives’

Nicolas Winding Refn

Director of 2011’s critically acclaimed Drive is back with cohort Ryan Gosling for his latest, divisive and controversial film Only God Forgives. The two films had opposite reactions at Cannes with the former receiving a standing ovation for 10 minutes while the other was booed and labelled pseudo-intellectual, pretentious and everything in between. One thing that Refn undoubtedly does is handle criticism well, welcoming it because he loves the reaction. Below in a very special interview we ask him about his latest, his greatest and what’s next on the cards for the controversial ultra violent director.

You approach your work like pin-ups as you’ve said before. What inspired you to make Only God Forgives and what motivated you to make it?

It’s a combination of many things really. It’s not always one thing, it can be an accumulation of ideas or thoughts that sometimes suddenly make sense if you put them in the right order.  I was actually making Only God Forgives before Drive so I was already set to go but I just decided to do it afterwards instead.

Your past three films now have been particularly dialogue sparse. Your anti-heroes in all three are men of few words and One-Eye is a man of none. How do you control the silence in your films to say what you want it to? Is it down to the performances, the music, the camerawork?

Once you remove dialogue it becomes very much about devices to tell the story like the camera, music, sound, lighting. A lot of technical elements start to creep in and act as storytellers. It’s a fun medium to try and evolve in.

How do you write those moments and get the actor to understand what you’re trying to portray?

You talk about it, you know? Like anything else. Instead of having dialogue, you talk about other ways to express it. A lot of the time it tends to be physical movements.

960295_544972728886132_1997115978_nIt helps that you have Ryan Gosling as well who is someone you can always watch, who’s always interesting in his performances.

Yes, he’s great. [laughs]  He has this amazing ability to have no dialogue whatsoever yet say a thousand words. That’s is by far the best type of canvas to work with.

In fact, all of your leads are anti-heroes in a way. Do you think it’s more of a challenge to get an audience involved with an anti-hero or is it just what draws you at the time?

No, I think anti-heroes are what people like to watch; people who are morally ambiguous, people who have good and evil inside them. Who’s more interesting to watch, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?

They’re usually associated with vengeance. What do you find so intriguing about it?

It’s a primal instinct of mankind. It’s almost what makes us human beings – that we have these thoughts of vengeance which is an emotional reaction.

I know you get asked about violence in every single interview but I hope this is a little different: how do you decorate your violence to be picturesque?

Well basically by just shooting it the way I want it to look. [laughs] At the end of the day it’s like painting a picture.

There are some brilliant little things that happen in Only God Forgives like the little kick to the back of the leg Julian does. Do you realise when you’re writing stuff like that moment that it’s portraying your character to be effortlessly cool? 

No, I don’t think like that. I just think what would I like to see up there on the screen and that’s how I approach it.

Personally I loved Only God Forgives; it’s resonated with me, I’ve continually thought about it trying to decipher its personal meaning to me. It’s had, let’s just say a lukewarm reception, I’ve noticed that you are OK with that and don’t mind what people think. How do you separate the criticism from the feeling of personal attacks when some people are so vitriolic?

Whether people love it or hate it it’s always interesting because then there’s plenty that everyone is talking about.

Is that what you want from your films, people talking about them?

Not as an agenda but as a part of it. Diversity is not a bad thing. Polarisation is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s usually how we define the success of art.

Do you think that when people look back on it, it’ll be less polarising? It seems that the most polarising films at a certain point end up becoming cult classics. Do you have that feeling?

Well it’s certainly interesting to see because the film is doing very good business and that’s how people define success. So something must be working.

My personal interpretation of this is that Ryan Gosling who feels like he’s a god himself but wants to fight another god which would be Lieutenant Chang right there. I know art is open to interpretation but is there an idea of its meaning for you?

It sounds about true. [laughs]

Oh good! So that’s what you were trying to come across?

Well everything is possible. [laughs]

Drive is one of my favourite films of all time. What do you think is the key to its success, personally? What do you see, when you watch it back, that works so well in your work?

I don’t know. I don’t think like that. If you do then you become too calculated. If you become too calculated then you lose a sense of purity.

You’ve made films all around the world now. Any other countries you’d love to direct in?

After filming in Bangkok I think something set in Japan could certaintly be interesting.

There are a lot of projects linked to you on IMDb. Is there any truth in them since IMDb can be sometimes unreliable to say the least. There’s I Walk with the Dead, The Dying of the Light, Barberella, Untitled Nicolas Winding Refn Project (Comedy), Untitled Maniac Cop Prequel, Untitled Heist Project and Button Man: The Killing Game. Any truth to any of these?

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. [laughs] But for right now I’m concentrating on Barberella. I was supposed to be doing Logan’s Run with Ryan Gosling as our third film in a row but that fell through as I decided to go with the Barberella project instead.

You’ve had supernatural experiences while you were out in Thailand which required you to move. Your two year old daughter can see ghosts and she would wake up constantly pointing at the walls in your haunted apartment. Now what I think would be interesting is you doing a scary horror supernatural flick or something similar. Do you ever think of turning your real life experiences into a film?

I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I mean, with Only God Forgives I certainly tried to create this relationship where the son’s need to confront his mother manifested itself in the form of a third person who is half supernatural force half real person. This in itself was related to my own personal experiences with my daughter’s ability to see ghosts. It was a struggle but it involved me dealing with, and accepting, the fact that we live in two different levels of reality…

Only God Forgives hits screens on the 2nd of August.

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