Paul W.S. Anderson
In the 1990s there was a sudden increase in new filmmakers; directors born from the newly emerged independent film world who were able to budget their films in a way that increased the profits for studios. These filmmakers were not seasoned professionals; they were fans. In order to understand where this trend, we need to look a decade earlier. The advent of VCRs created an influx of filmmakers educated by video store. This is not to say that they did not also go to school to learn the mechanics of filmmaking, but the passion was developed from a wealth of material which hadn’t been near as available for previous generations of movie-makers.
Last week the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel from the 1970s was released on Blu-ray and DVD, and director Kimberly Peirce sat down with me to answer a few questions. As if that weren’t enough, in honor of the classic climactic sequence of telekinetic prom destruction, Peirce dropped a bucket of faux blood on my head. Click here for a video of the interview and the here for my brief moment of glory as prom queen. Click here for the review of Carrie on Blu-ray and DVD.
Ryan Izay: You are no stranger to action, in a variety of different style and genres throughout your filmography. The Berlin File utilizes many of these, including some gun play, hand-to-and combat, chase sequences and more. Do you have a favorite to work with?
Ryoo Seung-wan : I must’ve liked to work with all of them in order to have put them in the movie right? Of course, I do like to add actions scenes that I prefer but I now try to think more about what kind of action scenes the movie needs. The above mentioned action scenes that you’ve mentioned are a combination of my personal preferences and also what the movie needed to push the story forward. It’s hard to choose a favorite because each type of action has its own unique flavor. It was so difficult choosing the various action scenes while making the movie, please don’t make me choose again!
CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE
An interesting thing is happening in the world of international cinema, which will have an effect of the type of films which will come out of
in the near future. Foreign films have long been unfairly lumped together, with the assumption that all subtitled movies must also be character-driven and void of the predictable pitfalls paired with genre filmmaking. When American audiences hear “French film” they still think of Jean-Luc Godard, not Luc Besson. While realism is still achieved in many European films, lately there are just as likely to be successful genre films being made. These films provide an opportunity for homegrown blockbusters, not to mention the attention it attracts for Hollywood Hollywood studios. Successful genre films are quickly remade, and the most promising filmmakers are often also hired to direct a Hollywood blockbuster as a result of this success.
It should come as no surprise that the two national cinemas which have provided some of
’s latest promising directors are also among the most self reliant. When talking about Danish film in the last decade, it is inevitable that Dogme 95 comes into the conversation as a predominant force in Hollywood and around the world. Dogme, however minimal a movement in reality, caused such an uproar in conception that it entirely overshadowed a new wave of cinema in Denmark which began with Ole Bornedal’s thrill Night Watch (1994), a film “which heralded a wave of genre films about desperate male protagonists in Danish urban environments, such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher (1996) and Bleeder (1999) and Thomas Vinterberg’s the Greatest Heroes (1996).” Denmark
This movement of strong genre filmmakers has resulted in many talented Scandinavians finding
a good match for future collaborations. Adam Neutzsky-Wulff is the latest of these talented writer/directors, whose debut feature is available on DVD today. Starring William Baldwin, Estella Warren and Sarah Butler, The Stranger Within premiered at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival (as The Stranger Inside), produced by Michael Aoun of Drama Deluxe. I sat down for a quick chat with Adam, discussing the difficulties of the shoot, future projects and personal filmmaking influences. More than anything else, it was the proud combination of American and European influence in a man with the same heritage as Ingmar Bergman which came through in my conversation with Adam. Hollywood
CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE
In the mid-1990s there was suddenly a shift in the style of filmmaking, and many purists laid blame at the feet of MTV and the music video generation. This was not unfounded, especially once MTV began to list the name of the director along with the song information in November of 1992. Visually prolific directors had long been created from the world of marketing and commercial advertisements, but the new medium added a new avenue to success. There was a sudden influx of directors who had honed their craft as an entirely visual medium, which created filmmakers with a distinct style and newfound celebrity. Lasse Hallström built a career upon his work with Abba, Michel Gondry with Björk, Spike Jonze with Weezer and The Beastie Boys, and Gore Verbinski started out making punk music videos for Bad Religion and NOFX.
Eventually these filmmakers were absorbed into Hollywood and it was business as usual, but twenty years later we are witnessing a new generation of filmmakers with all-new avenues of work experience brought by online media. It was less than ten years ago that the video sharing website Vimeo was created, the name itself being an anagram for movie. Four months later, YouTube followed suit, and by October of 2007 Vimeo became the first to offer support for the playback of high definition quality video. This laid the groundwork for filmmakers to begin sharing their content online, both amateur and professional. Suddenly there was a format to suitable for the previously dismissed short film, and now we are seeing filmmakers emerge from this medium.
Director Jordon Vogt-Roberts is one of these up-and-coming filmmakers. Although The Kings of Summer is Vogt-Roberts’ first feature, he approached it with years of experience and a collection of valuable professional connections. Vogt-Roberts created a website with an assortment of comedian friends to showcase videos he had produced and directed, which led to direction of web content for FOX, Sony, and Warner Bros. He then created an hour-long special for Comedy Central and directed episodes of HBO’s “Funny of Die.” While the music video directors of the 1990s built their careers upon the success of the musicians they were known to work with, Vogt-Roberts utilized the comedians he has built relationships with throughout his many online projects (and the offline television off-shoots of and online video sharing site) in order to create an impressive ensemble debut.
I sat down for an exclusive conversation with Vogt-Roberts a week before the home video release of The Kings of Summer, in order to pick his brain about the film’s influences, improvisation, and the difficulties shooting in the woods.
The original film musical is all but dead in the modern era of filmmaking. Although the last decade or so has had an increase in screen adaptations of popular stage musicals, such as Chicago (2002), Phantom of the Opera (2004) and the most recent Les Miserable (2012), it seems as though familiarity is all that keeps the genre thriving within Hollywood. Even when an original story is used, the musical aspects utilize familiar songs from pop culture rather than writing new music and lyrics. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (2001) pioneered this method, which was followed by Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007) and John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes (2005). Beyond the Sea (2004) uses Bobby Darin’s music as the soundtrack, as many biopic musical often do, though with the inclusion of large production numbers. With the release of The Producers, there was even a filmed musical which was adapted from the stage musical, which was adapted from a film.
But the one thing missing from the musicals of the modern era has been original content. The first musicals were not the glossy productions we think of today. These first trailblazers were shockingly crude in technical presentation. We mustn’t forget that the very first sound film, The Jazz Singer, was also Hollywood’s first musical. Audiences didn’t watch the musicals because they knew what to expect, but to be surprised by the convention of a changing medium. The original musical is all but dead in modern filmmaking, kept alive by the passion of a few filmmakers working with lower budgets and an independent mentality. Writer/director Brian Herzlinger (My Date With Drew, Baby on Board) is the latest to join this group with the release of How Sweet It Is, an original musical released in theaters this past weekend.
Herzlinger is probably still best known for his debut feature, as the man who bought a camera with the intention of returning it within 30 days in order to make a documentary about the pursuit of a date with his childhood crush, Drew Barrymore. My Date With Drew cost $1,100, which helped to make it the fourth most profitable film made. He as followed that initial success up with a wide variety of projects, including being an on-air correspondent for "The Tonight Show," hosting, directing, and writing with childhood friend Jay Black. Herzlinger may have first come into the public's eye with My Date With Drew, but he had already put a great deal of work into the film industry prior to this debut, working in a variety of different positions in both production and post-production. It should come as no surprise that this versatile filmmaker would boldly go where few other directors are willing to venture, into the world of film musicals.
Not every filmmaker got their start through a prestigious film school, or by maxing out credit cards to make their first feature. There are many avenues of life experience which can easily become a valued asset to the art and business of filmmaking, as I discovered from my interview with Canadian writer/director Damian Lee. As a former athlete, Lee’s filmography has had the type of stamina hard training sports might require; completed with years with patience and dedication. Breakout, a backwoods thriller starring Brendan Fraser, Dominic Purcell (“Prison Break”), and Ethan Suplee (“My Name is Earl”), is the latest release from writer/director Lee in a career of filmmaking that spans over thirty years. An athlete never stops training, developing and growing, and this is the work ethic that Damian has clearly brought with him into his career in film production.
The following interview was done during the publicity campaign for Hostel. The actor/director began the interview by sharing his opinion of the most offensive and disgusting things he has found on the internet.
Question: Did you know you were going to write this? What did Quentin say to you to do this?
Eli Roth: Well, I knew I was going to write it. It was one of those things where after Cabin Fever… You know Cabin Fever was this crazy ride, which most of you guys know. It was all totally built through internet and word of mouth, and we made it for a million and a half bucks and it ended up doing over a hundred million dollars, not that any of it came to me, mind you. After that I had this opportunity and I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I started writing this project here and I had this project set up at this studio, and I kind of started like fifteen different things, because you’re completely on the outside, then suddenly every door is open. You want to start taking advantage of it, then I realized I was like one of those magnetic dogs, when you put their noses together they’re just like spinning in fifteen different directions. I didn’t know what to do, and I was talking to Quentin, and Quentin loved Cabin Fever. After he saw it, he invited me to his house to watch movies, War of the Gargantuas, Bloodnight, Hell Night, Zombies. We would just geek out and watch movies, and I said, “Quentin, I kind of don’t know what to do next. I’m at this weird place where I’m being offered studio movies to direct, I’ve got my own stuff that I’m developing.” He said, “Well, what ideas are you working on?” I said there’s this one idea, then there’s this other thing.” And I told him the idea for Hostel, and he was like, “Are you fucking kidding me? That is the sickest fucking idea I’ve ever heard. Eli, you’ve got to do that man. Fuck it man, just do it low budget.” I’ve got this company called Raw Nerve, and he was like, “Do it fucking Raw Nerve. Do it for three million bucks, just go to Europe and make it as sick as you want to make it. Just make it balls out. This could be your Takashi Miike film. This could be a classic American horror movie.” And I thought about it. There are very few people who know…I have a lot of experience making low budget, because I know how to do it. I did it with Cabin Fever, and I can learn and do it better. I know I can learn and make an even better film. I said, “He’s right,” and I drove home that day and I unplugged my phone, and I just burned out the first draft, and I showed it to Scott Spiegel and Boaz Yakin, and Scott wrote Evil Dead 2 and Boaz co-directed Fresh and Remember the Titans, and they loved it. They had great ideas, and I wrote another draft, and this was all in about the span of two weeks. I showed Quentin, and he was like, “This is fucking awesome, lets go through it, and I’m going to do a bullshit pass, where I call bullshit if I feel like this could only happen in a movie. If this is movie convenience, or it’s not something you or I would do, then I’ll call bullshit.” He was like, “He can’t get out of the chair like this, cut his fucking fingers off.” I wanted to cut his hand, but would he bleed to death? No, not if you cut half his hand, he could probably still wiggle out. We did a whole pass. We just kind of went through and did a reality pass on it, and it just seemed natural. He was like, “I would love to be involved in this,” and I was like,”Yeah it would be so fucking fun. It would be cool to do this as a Tarantino presents.” So he was just great. You know, I went and shot in Prague, and he was doing a CSI episode, then he was really helpful in the editing room. He came in the editing room, and George Folsey cut the movie with me. George produced American Werewolf in London, Blues Brothers, and Trading Places, and he cut Animal House. He edited a lot of blaxploitation films that Quentin loves. So Quentin had seen all of his movies and he came in the editing room and he was like, “What do you think about this? I know this is a good scare, but what is you went from this to that? Let’s trim it down.” So it was just like, honestly it was just his enthusiasm, his spark, that I was just like what am I doing? I don’t want to wait for the perfect movie. I don’t want to get that fear. You get that fear of doing your second film. Okay, the first one did really well. I wanna make sure this one does well, but I also want to do something that I’m proud of. It just felt like the right next movie.
Q: You were looking for that Miike feel. Do you think you could have pushed it a little further, or do you think you were conscious of the fact that you should tone it back a little bit so it reaches a broader audience?
E.R.: It’s not that I was trying to reach a broader audience. I was really looking at the story I was telling and who I was telling it for. I think that Mike makes the greatest movies ever, and there’s one Mike, and there’s no need to try and be Miike. I just want to be the best me, not the best Me-ke. Sorry, that was lame. Obviously this movie is heavily influenced by Audition and The Vanishing. Cabin Fever was my response to missing American horror of the seventies and early eighties. That’s what that movie is, and with Cabin Fever I was going to film festivals in South Korea and seeing all of the movies that never make to theaters over here. They’re making these balls out movies that are just so disturbing. But I didn’t want to imitate shots. In Cabin Fever I was like, “Okay, this is my Texas Chainsaw Massacre shot; this is my shot from The Thing.” It was time for me to stand on my own. I can be influenced by these movies, but I’m not going to watch movies and pick shots. I’m going to go with my gut instinct, what’s in my head, this is how I hear the music, and this is the feel and I just see it this way. And I thought, I don’t want to make it so violent just for the sake of that. I want people to come out and say it was sick and fucked up, but it still had to be an R-rated film to get released, and that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like there was any need to do Ichi the Killer 2. that’s what Mike does, and let those guys do it. I wanted to do something that felt influenced by that, but was still an American movie at the end of the day.
Q: Why horror? What’s the obsession, and when did you realize that that was the genre?
E.R.: I knew I wanted to make horror movies since I was eight years old. I remember I was six when I saw Exorcist. When I was eight my Dad took me to see Alien in the theater, and I said, “I want to be the producer,” and my Dad said, “You know Eli, the producer has to raise all of the money.” I said, “What does the director do?” He said, “The director gets to spend the money, and tell everyone what to do.” I said, “alright, I want to be the director.”
Q: But why horror?
E.R.: I just always loved scary stories. Always. When you’re sitting around with friends at a sleepover and tell ghost stories. I went to overnight camp, and every time there’s a sleepover, or a campfire, everyone sits around and tells ghost stories. It’s just so much fun to be scared like that> I can’t watch real violence. I don’t like real blood in real life, but I could watch movie violence endlessly. I love magic tricks of people getting sawed in half. I don’t know where that comes from, but horror movies are like that. It’s like a scary story and a magic trick all combined into one. When I was eight I started making chainsaw film. It was all I ever wanted to do. Now the directors I love are Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and Sam Raimi. They started out making amazing horror films, but they love movies and they just look at great stories. I’m now at the point where I want to tell stories. If it’s a scary story, I’m going to make a scary story, but if I feel that way about a dramatic story or a science fiction, I wanna throw myself into it. Those are the directors that I love and admire, and ultimately want to be like. The idea isn’t just to scare people. It’s to tell stories that you really believe in.
Q: Why did you choose to use Jay?
E.R.: Jay Hernandez is really underrated. Jay Hernandez is an amazing actor, and his career really started with Crazy/Beautiful, but the last few movies that Jay has done… He’s done some really good movies, The Rookie, Ladder 49, or Friday Night Lights, but he’s been in an ensemble, wearing a uniform, and a lot of time he’s got a helmet or a hat on. So even though he’s very good, you kinda don’t distinguish him. He read the script and he really responded to it, and I met him and I thought, “This guy is incredible. I would be lucky to get this guy.” I think he’s such a good actor that he feels like a regular guy. I didn’t want people that looked like pretty boys, or felt like they were movie people. I wanted people that felt like guys I went to college with, and that I grew up with, and that I know. The thing about Jay is that he’s really like a real guy, and he has that quality, a very natural style of acting. You don’t feel like he’s an actor acting. He’s just somebody that throws himself into the role. I really felt like he was willing to make himself vulnerable. A lot of those guys want to be macho and tough all the time, and don’t want to sit there crying like a baby when they’re about to die in a movie, and Jay was willing to do that. And he did it really well, where you don’t go, ”Oh, that pussy.” But you generally feel sorry for him.
Q: Where did you hear about this story? Some people say it actually happened?
E.R.: It started with a conversation with Ain’t It Cool News, Harry Knowles. Harry and I were talking about sick stuff we’d seen on the internet, and I’d seen the site where the guy in Texas set up, where you could hunt like lions and rare game, rare animals on the internet. The FBI had shut this guy down, and this guy had claimed that he was making it so handicapped people could hunt too. It was so fucked up, and I though, “Why wouldn’t they just put a human being in a room?”, and Harry said, “Actually, I found something like that.” He sent me the link to a site where you could go to Thailand and for ten thousand dollars walk into a room and shoot somebody in the head. And the site claimed that the person you were killing had signed up for it, and that part of the money was going to their family, and they were so broke, and they were going to die anyways. They wanted to do this, and they wanted to be killed for this purpose, and it gives you the thrill of taking a human life, and we said, “Is this bullshit?” It looked real, and we thought, “How could this possibly be real?” But then we thought, “It doesn’t matter”. Whether this place exists or not doesn’t matter. The point is someone built a website about it. Somebody else thought up, realized and conceptualized, that there’s some guy out there that’s so bored with money and drugs and hookers; that they’re looking for that next level of thrills. That was real. I know people like that. That is very real to me. I could just see someone that money doesn’t mean anything to them. They just buy all of these things and they’re just numb. They want to just walk in a room and kill somebody without there being any consequences for it. And I saw parallels between guys who were going to Europe, or Vegas, who were going to go get hookers and do drugs, or go to Amsterdam. Kind of this American thing about going abroad and doing all of these things you can’t do and aren’t supposed to do. That’s why I made Amsterdam look like an X-rated Disneyland. The hookers are a ride. They’re not interacting with another human being. They’re paying there money and they’re gone for half an hour, and I just saw them on the beginning of that path, but what happens twenty years from now. They would wind up like these business men. That’s why the brothel is a weird mirror image of the slaughterhouse, kind of like a horrible hell version of the brothel. I just saw parallels in exploitation, and the value of life in other parts of the world, and putting a price on somebody’s life. This person’s a hundred dollars an hour to you, and you’re twenty-five thousand to this person, and to that kid, you’re just a piece of bubble gum.
Q: Could you talk about establishing the tone in the first half of the movie?
E.R.: I made a very conscious decision not to make it a scary horror movie from minute one. We have a creepy title sequence, but I want you to go on the trip with the guys. I wanted them to be in Amsterdam and having fun, and then they get lured in and seduced to going to Slovakia, the way the guys do. And they kind of get lulled in, and then they fucking pay the price for it. That’s what I love about Audition, is that guy is so sexist, and is kind of unaware of it. These guys, the way they are looking at women, and the way they are treating women… I very deliberately made Jay Hernandez unlikable in that first half, the way he’s like, “Oh, that bitch is a fucking hog,” but he almost doesn’t realize it. When he’s getting tortured, you’re like, “Yeah, that fucker, he kind of deserves it.” I wanted to make a movie that was a slow burn kind of horror film. I loved Audition where it’s all built up to the last ten minutes, which are just horrifying, and I wanted to have that. The first half starts out fun, and I know that’s going to throw people, but hopefully they’re interested enough in the story and characters enough that they’ll go along with the ride. Hopefully people will feel that it delivers at the end, but I felt like if you start out the movie with people’ s fingers getting cut off and people’s eyes getting cut out, then by forty-five minutes into it, you’re changing the channel already. You’re bored. So I really wanted to have something that would keep people guessing. Would keep people off guard, so they would really not know where it’s going. Everyone sees horror movies ten steps ahead, so I like a movie where its’ like, “this isn’t what I expected,” or “this is weird. What the fuck’s that all about?” Just to sort of intrigue people and throw them off. I wanted to have a film where it starts out colorful and bright with controlled camera work, and once Oli disappears the color starts to drain and by the end it’s very rough, hand-held camera work, and basically blacks and the color of blood.
Q: There’s some misdirection in the film…
E.R.: I don’t want to, obviously, give it away, but there’s some very clear misdirection, and it’s to purposefully throw the audience off. I want people to feel like they had the rug pulled out from under them. I want people to feel like they know where they are, they know who these people are, they know who the main character is, they know what’s going to happen, and all of the sudden it just flips on you. And you’re stuck in a foreign land with no subtitles, where you don’t speak the language, with someone you kind of don’t know that well who’s kind of a dick, and it’s like, “Oh, fuck. Where am I? What’s going to happen?” It makes people feel really unsafe, and I like that. I think Psycho did that really well.
Question: What was it about this story that made you want to make a film about it?
Ang Lee: Well, it’s a unique and very universal love story. It was something I had never seen before, so that makes it very attractive. It’s a great short story.
Q: Had you read it before?
A.L.: Yes, like four years before. Not eight years before when it was first published. I liked the combination of true western as a movie western. The realist rural life
but it has a western aura combined with the repression gay subject matter. To
me that work along with the western literature made it really juicy to me. And
the writing was sparse but the prose is beautiful and invoking. Then it has a
metaphorical attraction to me too. The idea of America
to me is the illusion of love. It’s a confusion. When they’re inside they don’t
know what happened and they spend twenty years trying to go back. Just the act
itself was very interesting to me. And they’re chasing something when they got
it, one character realizes the taste of love and that they passed it, they
missed it. To me that’s just a great story. It’s very short, so I had to throw
in a lot of imagination and guesses. That to me is always a good sign; it
wrenched my heart for some reason. It wrenched my gut for some reason. I don’t
know why, but I felt the urge to make the movie. Brokeback Mountain
Q: Can you talk about the lead actors, Heath and Jake, and why each one.
A.L.: I decided quite early on when I took on the project that I would go with younger actors and play towards older. I think I had a better chance to have something younger in a sense and to bank from it in the end of the story, than to have someone more sophisticated and try to be young, or even split the difference… because that innocence. So I decided to go with early twenties, and I think these guys are among the best actors. I love to work with good actors, so they were candidates because of that, and I met quite a few of them. Heath struck me as a good actor to carry the western, the brooding, memorable, fear, violence; a lot of those melancholy mysterious characteristics of the west. I think he was a good man to carry it. Then I had to find a counterpart, and that is Jake. I think he carries the romantic theme; the embrace of romance. More knowing, bright, positive; almost not cowboy look. The story is purely western when you read it, but as a movie the genre closes as a romantic love story, so I was more casting the romantic element.
Q. What draws you as a foreigner to these distinctly American stories like The Ice Storm or Ride With the Devil? What do you bring to the table that an American director, with his perspective, might not?
A.L.: Well if a written material strikes me as a very genuinely American writing, it is pivotal, but it is very often earlier that I have become attracted. Not that I want to set the record straight, not that I want to debunk American history, but they just appear to me authentic, and need to be done. That’s very attractive. It’s also, as a filmmaker, it’s very fresh. I know about
America like a
lot of people here; from Hollywood movies.
From movies, television, city people. I did three movies in the west. We don’t
know too much about it and it becomes very attractive. In one way very
romantic, in the other way, distant. It was very fresh to me. The Ice Storm was
a year I had never seen people make a movie about. It seems like a year people
want to forget. That was very interesting to me. Ride the Devil was a great
western where it started the globalization, where it essentially happens, but
when you check how people teach history the Civil War is so blue and grey. It
was really a massive situation. I think that’s very pivotal to American
history. The story needed to be told. And I didn’t write those. They are great
American writers. It’s just because of the habit of film industry and
distribution, the way people watch movies, especially mainstream movies, they
don’t pick it up. To me they are very attractive because they are fresh and
they are genuine. Examining
is important, whether you are American or not. They have a global implication
as a world citizen. I think it is very important and it needs to be done. America
Q: This is also your second movie about gay characters who because of their culture can’t really come out. Why do you find that interesting and how do you think you handled the subject manner differently than you did in The Wedding Banquet?
A.L.: Well this is more sexual.(laughs) More gay than the other. Not only was (The Wedding Banquet) a comedy of mannerism, but I made that for mainstream audiences in
. I didn’t know that it would
hit an arthouse anywhere. That was a family drama. It’s a very traditional
asian genre; one of the main genres in the society, so once I delivered the
first male/male kiss in Taiwanese market the gay power is done. In both
material I liked the repression. I’m a nice guy, so I’m repressed. So I like to
use repression as a movie element. I think that’s a way to check into humanity
and to care about human conditions. So once I had done that kiss, it is really
a family drama. It is an event that happened and is revealed in the course of
the drama, and there are five characters examining how they respond to it. It’s
more political and more into the Taiwan political situation or how they
fit in history. It present a problem, but it is really a family drama. This I
get into deeper. Sexuality, romance is at the core of the piece. For that
subject matter this is a lot deeper. Taiwan
Q: Do you have any thoughts to how this is going to play within the current political situation in America, where one half seems to be more open than ever and the other half seems more fascist than ever?
A.L.: Well that‘s just the real life condition that I have to deal with. That has nothing to do with me doing the movie. I can not do the movie, dilute the movie, or intensify the movie because of the political situation. I cannot wait until the world is perfect. If I don’t, somebody will and I’ll be very jealous. So I didn’t really give too much thought.
Q: But you said that you made The Wedding Banquet for a mainstream family audience. So when you’re thinking about your audience for this film, are you thinking about those same people?
A.L.: No. Opposite. Well, Taiwanese mainstream audience because there’s only mainstream audience in
. There’s no arthouse
cinemas. The market doesn’t have the depth like the arthouse here that you can
do a platform release. From a small art film to the biggest Taiwan Hollywood
film, they are all launched about the same way. So we make a Chinese film for
mainstream. They don’t think much because I took money from a studio and the
vibe of the film is family drama. I just hope that they can watch two guys kiss
onscreen. But this I assume is arthouse because of the economics, and I was more
deeply into my career. At the beginning of my career I wasn’t aware of many
things that I know of today. But we make hundred of decisions each day trying
to make a scene work. You cannot be aware of so many things. You struggle to
make a scene work. So the way I make movies probably has a mainstream touch to
it. That I cannot help. If you ask me commercially what the film will do, of
course you are given so much money. Money is stringent. It’s a movie probably
very limited audience will see, it’s a specialized movie. So that’s what I had
in mind, but I still do the best that I can to make the best movie I can, the
way I know how to make movies. So if that goes broader, so be it. That means
I’d be more concerned with how people react. It is strictly arthouse film, I
should be safer not everyone is concerned.
Q: But you are hoping that broader audiences see it?
A.L.: I hope that everyone sees the movie. And it’s a mixture. Even small towns, the conservative parts of the nation; when they see a love story they will discover these sensitive people. So I cannot say that in these small towns they are oblivious to human issues and feelings. That wouldn’t be fair. So, we’ll see how it plays out. So far it’s been very quiet. It hasn’t spread out, and I have some anxiety. It looks like it will go wider.
Q: Keeping in mind the audience you wanted to have, did that effect how you approached the sexual scenes?
A.L.: It’s the same way I make movies. Sometimes you want to adjust your filmmaking because you know it is broader. This is more specialized movies, so you have to go more artistic, more film-festival-like. The other has to be more broader, dumber, more whatever. The language there has to be more understandable so the movie can be a hit. But when I make a movie I can’t think of that. I just go with what I think is needed to make it work. Same thing with the sex scenes. I think if I did more I would make some audiences more happy, but I’d be exploiting my actors. But if I do less, it wouldn’t be convincing that the characters would want to go back to Brokeback.
Q: Because there are only three or four scenes where they do have intimate contact at all, do you think that people are making too much of the gay relationship, because the story didn’t have to be about gay characters. It’s just a story about two people who can’t work in a relationship.
A.L.: Well, because they are gay. In the end it’s about relationships, but just to get there, there are important steps. The audience hasn’t dealt with anything gay and their difficulties. That’s why I think if it was heterosexual we would know it. A lot of audiences have experienced it. You have a little suggestion and you’re there. You don’t need to see more. But with this you have to really show it to some degree. I think it’s important. I think being gay, especially the first quarter of the movie, both physical and psychological aspects… Particularly they don’t have vocabulary, those characters at that time, to understand what they experience. It is very private. How their body and emotions psychologically you establish that, is very important. So being gay is very important. I don’t mind calling it gay cowboy western except for marketing that’s like poison. People would think it is a comedy like a Blazing Saddles. That part I don’t like, but it would have to be very cowboy and very gay and then you transcend that to their family, to their relationship.
Q: How refreshing do you actually find this experience of an intimate drama after venturing into the blockbuster arena with The Hulk?
A.L.: Very refreshing. There is no anxiety. People don’t really give you anxiety. If you are making The Hulk…I experienced the ultimate freedom, but the enormous size of the production can get to you. The anxiety when you release the film throughout the world with a big launch and all the toys and products, it has a big impact. So making a small movie like this was very refreshing to me. And because I have to be very selective about what I shoot. I’m not planning to cover everything, so I have to imagine in my mind. I have to be very precise and smart about what I select to shoot and where I spend time on it. And that, of course, naturally comes up to actors. So that was very refreshing and it was like a love affair between the crew and cast. So that was like a healing process for me. And I think when you start to make big movies you can always use the refreshment that you cause when your discipline is still there. I think it’s a great thing to me.
Q: The short story actually begins with a flashback, I think. I think it was reversed. What happens at the end of the movie is actually what happened at the beginning. Was that part of the original script?
A.L.: It was in the script. The short story ends with him taking out the shirt and there’s a great internal writing about how he feels and I get choked up. In the movie I could not do it. When an actor takes out a shirt, it is about an actor taking out a shirt. So I think in order to get the idea, it could use a scene, which was the daughter visiting at the beginning. That is how it was set up. Then it was a flashback to the whole story. The structure was laid down by the original script.
Q: How bold do you think it is for an actor to take a role like this in this climate?
A.L.: I don’t know. That’s not really my problem. I didn’t really care. They’re good actors and they want to do good work. When they see a juicy part they get excited, they want to do it. These guys are like that. I remember shooting the first sex scene in the tent. I remember thinking they were brave because it was different than any lovemaking scene ever shot. It’s very hard to see private feelings that characters besides themselves see that, so I thought they were very brave, but in terms of taking the job it is good for them. They’re great parts so I don’t have a lot of sympathy.
Q: Can you talk about the influence of Larry McMurtry in this project and the kind of contemporary poetic voice.
A.L.: It’s a great influence and at some point it is a pressure having the grand master. Him and Annie Proulx are very much alike. So that’s a big shadow I had for a long time. I was afraid that they would not agree, but he was very generous and influential to me. It was very educational. I started out reading and then I went to visit him in
Besides the scriptwriting process, I went to visit Archer City
where he is established and where they shot The Last Picture Show, which is
probably the best references for this movie in terms of images. So he showed me
around and talked to me about the whole western business, the cattle business,
and how it becomes western and why has it gone, why it doesn’t make sense
anymore. He went on about reading materials, sent me back to Archer City to check mountains and business,
towns, bars. He knew exactly…he knows everything. Where to check in, who to
talk to… Wyoming
Q: Is there a real
? Brokeback Mountain
A.L.: No. Annie Proulx took me to where she thinks Brokeback is, which is
Mountain in the east corner of . Wyoming
Q: And have her, McMurtry and Diana all seen the film?
A.L.: Oh yeah. They love it. It’s a great relief. Larry had a different idea about where Brokeback was. It was more along
, so he sent me there, and I found a
place in between. It’s called Idaho Wind River. I
found that was most like my Brokeback, and we had to shoot in . Canada
Q: What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
A.L.: Overall I think aging is the most difficult thing to shoot, but that’s every day work. The changes are subtle. Every time you see them it’s two or three years. Half of the job is hair and make-up. We did a lot of screen tests, every stage of their age. Every four or five years. We did camera tests and then we made charts to make sure we did the right thing. The other half of the job is acting, the way they carry themselves. The way they put their voices and how they put their voices, it has to be according to the chart. And every time you shoot a scene you have to be aware of which shots are the first moments when you get into the scene. You have to leave enough time, space and details for audiences to resituate themselves to get into the new time frame. So that’s actually the hardest. The one single scene, of course, the lovemaking scene. It was psychologically difficult, but it didn’t turn out to be difficult at all. Dealing with babies and sheep and the mountain. Dealing with weather, shadows and the weather condition and the sheep, technically were the most difficult. And there was one scary moment when we were shooting the rodeo. Anne Hathaway fell from the horse and there was a two thousand pound bull leaping over the fence and terrorize the whole crew.
Question: What was it about this script (The Ice Harvest) that spoke to you?
Harold Ramis: You know, it is my attempt to be subversive. Its part of my whole orientation towards what I do, but this particular script was subversive in a completely unexpected way. I was not looking for a dark comedy. Much as I love the Coen brothers, and I really do, I didn’t see it coming. I had read all of Richard Russo’s published prose and then the script landed on my desk quite coincidentally, and it was just a great read, just really good. And I thought, I wanna see this movie, and I wanna see it enough to make it.
Q: Did you see these actors in these roles when you read the script?
H.R.: You know, I know mob lawyer turned up in the notes, but I never thought of
as having a mob. When I think mob I think DeNiro, I think Brando, I think Wichita , I think the
five families. In New York
I see a lot like Randy Quaid. Like corrupt Christians. Middle class guys who do
some terrible things, but not dedicated to crime the way we think of the mafia
dedicated to crime. So in a way they’re people who have made bad existential
choices in the moment. They’re not born into it. They’re not born into crime
families. John’s a lawyer who found his life really empty; wife, two kids, straight
law practice… this is the way I laid it out in my mind, and John felt the same
way… and it just wasn’t going anywhere and he was coming home later and later,
stopping off at the strip clubs, like a lot of men do, I’m told. And finally he
didn’t want to go home at all. And finally his night-time habits started
affecting his law work, so he started losing clients, but probably attracted
the attention as the guy who could probably be corrupted, by Randy Quaid.
You’re here every night anyways, so why don’t you start doing our books or
doing our legal work. So the guy slid into being the lawyer for the local mob. Kansas
Q: You didn’t go to
did you? Wichita
H.R.: No, and I doubt I’ll be invited to
Q: They’re not going to build a statue in your honor?
H.R.: I don’t think so. It won’t be like Groundhog Day. You know Groundhog Day was set in
, we didn’t go there
either. We found this town Punxatawney,
Pennsylvania Woodstock, and now in
film is enshrined there. There are plaques, this is where ill Woodstock stepped in the puddle, this is where
this happened. I don’t think that’s going to happen in Murray . Wichita
reacted at all? Kansas
H.R.: No, I don’t think they’ve seen it and we didn’t go to the big Wichita Film Festival this year, so… No offense to
. I’m kind of a blue state guy and a
little worried about where the country is going right now. Wichita
Q: So, As
Wichita Falls, so
falls … Wichita Falls
H.R.: Ain’t it true?
Q: It’s kind of a tough thematic line for a movie. How would you interpret that?
H.R.: Well, what was funny to me was, I always knew instinctively what the line meant, or to me what it meant, but it had to be translated into French for a film festival, and the French translator went crazy with that line. She said, “Do you mean falls in the sense of physically collapsing, or in the sense of decadence? Are you saying that events in
Wichita Kansas effect
events in ? Are you talking about proximity in
the places?” I said, “I think it’s just about cause and effect. That everything
we do has consequences in this world, maybe unintended, or unknown to us, but
you do one thing and it does have effect. Wichita Falls, Texas
Q: It’s a hard phrase to get a hand on.
H.R.: Yeah, it’s just a piece of nonsense, you know? Maybe even as a slogan it works that way too. All the meaninglessness of the film, too. That’s at the heart of it.
Q: Oliver Platt described Groundhog Day as one of the greatest existential comedies of all time. Do you see yourself as that?
H.R.: Well, I’m an existentialist by religion almost. If there was a church, I’d go to it. I don’t see it as a bleak or hopeless philosophy. I just see it as a challenging philosophy, and probably on of the most mature and realistic one for me. And I think it has an upside and a downside, and I think Groundhog Day is a depiction of the upside of existentialism. In a world where the meaning is not given to us, the challenge is to find meaning, and that’s how we are released from the purgatory of everyday life. Once we’ve discovered personal meaning. In this movie John is not discovering meaning, and it’s what happens if you do not go on that search. If you don’t find meaning you just slide deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit.
Q: The beginning of the movie seems a traditional comedy, and then you switch effortlessly into film noir. Was that difficult for you?
H.R.: I just followed the map of the script, and with actors that good there are very few missteps. Sometimes they’re a little over-the-top, and sometimes it’s a little too subtle, but that’s what you do. You shoot lots of takes, you let the actor explore it, you make suggestions, and then you get all this film in the editing room and you get to finally decide what the tone is. And I never worried that the film would get too funny, or if it got to funny it would hurt the suspense moments of the film. I don’t think of it that way. I just want to go for what’s best, what’s most entertaining in each moment.
Q: When you are shooting that many takes in the freezing cold, how does it affect the performances?
H.R.: I think one of the great triumphs for the designer and the camera man is the creating the feeling of cold in the film. It wasn’t that cold ever. Groundhog Day it was a little cold sometimes.
Q: Did you research any strip clubs with Billy Bob and John?
H.R.: Never. Actually what was so funny… the film was designed by Patrizia van Brandenstein who looks like the Queen Victoria. She’s a large woman, she’s middle aged, she’s in her fifties, she’s a very formal looking person. I went to strip clubs with her. It’s like walking into a strip club with your Mother. They’d look at us like, “Can we help you?” They thought we were there to use the bathroom or something. “No, we just wanna hang out for a while.”
Q: Where did you go? Did you go to strip clubs in big cities?
H.R.: No, we wanted to look at not the elegant places. This was
The strippers in the novel and in the script were described as not perfect. It
was their imperfections that were most interesting, so we went to the small
local strip clubs. We only went to a couple. Wichita
Q: Is it kind of hard to find the right look to try and create that?
H.R.: You know, it wasn’t. There were enough women who were willing to do this. Some of the women who came in weren’t actual strippers, they were dancers who were willing to work in the nude. Some were actresses who just thought they could do it., or just wanted to get in the picture.
Q: there’s a really specific tone to the film with the cool colors and the neon, but there are a certain group of people who would argue that in order for it to be a film noir it would have to be in black and white. Was that ever a consideration?
H.R.: That would be film noir a blanc. No, it was not, because I never thought I was doing a generic thing. I just thought once we decided the film was going to be in a freezing rain and not a snow storm, the benefits of rain are tremendous in lighting wet streets instead of snow covered streets. It kicks a lot of light back, you’ve got a lot of reflection, you got a lot of diffusion when you have that much moisture in the air. And then interiors, I knew it would be lurid, because those places are lurid. A lot of red colored light. John’s always walking through pools of colored light. That’s real, that just seemed authentic to me. The total effect of it is to create what I’ve started calling a retro film noir. So that’s what evolved. The camera man showed me different bar lighting from different movies, a whole range of lighting. He particularly liked Fat City, a John Huston film. Patrizia was showing me old black and white still photos. It’s not like we could copy the effect. We looked at old Italian film posters, these deeply saturated, lurid posters from the fifties. I kept thinking tawdry, lurid. Those were the word that kept coming to mind, and tried to achieve it in the lighting.
Q: What are you working on now?
H.R.: I’m writing a script for the actor Owen Wilson. I’m working with two young comedy writers who are staff writers on the show The Office. It’s a historical comedy. It’s on faith based government.
Q: Some of your film have had a modern masculinity in crisis theme. Is that something that resonates with you personally?
H.R.: Yeah. I’ve been in psychotherapy continuously now for nine years, and on and off for my whole adult life before that. You start out wrestling with real direct crisis in your life, you’re in a bad relationship, or difficult marriage, then you have kids and you have parenting issues, then you’re getting divorced and you have separation issues. Or people have substance abuse issues, which are usually about something else, but in the long run… I started seeing this shrink in
and here I was over fifty when I started seeing him, he said, “I’m not
surprised. People who are reasonably successful in their lives often don’t
really come to therapy in a meaningful way until their fifties, because nothing
is wrong in the sense that we think that something’s wrong.” I’m not in the
gutter, I’m well known, I have a good career, I’m in a stable committed
monogamous marriage. So what’s left? How do I avoid this feeling that I’m
living the same day over and over again? Or that I’m withdrawing from life instead
of engaging in life. How do I keep revitalizing myself? There’s a lot of
psychology involved and for me a lot of inquiry into the whole spiritual quest
we’ve all been on from the beginning of time. Judaism, Buddhism, Existentialism
all swept into one fro me. Chicago
Q: Is making films also part of the therapy for you?
H.R.: It’s all therapy and it’s all life. Making films is now part of who I am and I figure to the extent that I can integrate my work with what I’m feeling, then film become a very meaningful self expression rather than just the way I earn a living.
Q: How often do people still ask you about Ghostbusters?
H.R.: I get asked every day about all the big films I’ve done. Because I live in
and I’m relatively accessible, I’m out every day, I don’t live behind walls,
I’m out every day in Starbucks and supermarkets and restaurants. “Hey, Animal
House. Funniest film ever.” And then the next person, “Caddyshack!” and “Who
you gonna call?” It’s one thing after another referencing all of those films.
Then serious people come up to me and say, “Groundhog Day was very meaningful
to me.” And the Italian guys put their arm around my shoulder, “Hey, Harold,
you know Analyze This is fucking great.” The greatest thing I hear from Italian
guys is, “If you need anything...” they always add, “…and I mean anything.” I
feel like I could get somebody whacked if I needed to. Chicago
Uwe Boll and Michael Roesch
January 25th, 2005
Uwe Boll made his way up the ranks with video game film adaptations, which may be part of the reason that he was considered by many to be the worst working director when I interviewed him in 2005. I was approached by him directly for this interview, and to this day I have no idea how he found my information. We met at a public coffee shop where Boll spent much of the interview criticizing more successful filmmakers while boasting his talents. This interview has since been republished and shared by the masses of film fans on the internet with a fascination with his delusions as a filmmaker.
Sitting in a coffee shop on Sunset, Director Uwe Boll sits drinking coffee and enjoying a bagel as he talks about his latest projects, including Alone in the Dark, which is to be released this Friday. Writer Michael Roesch sits, waiting to jump into the conversation any chance he can. Michael has such a passion for the films that he writes he often wants to talk about all of the projects at the same time. Each one is as special as the last to him. Uwe Boll excuses himself from time to time, answering his phone during this busy, pre-release, schedule. Both seem to have deep appreciation for film, understanding that their films may not be for everyone, but also knowing some people will love them.
Ryan Izay –So, you’ve got three projects going right now, with Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne and Far Cry. Tell me where you are at with Bloodrayne right now.
Uwe Boll - You know the cast of Bloodrayne is a great cast; Kristanna Loken, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen, and Ben Kingsley. It’s a little like a horror fiction Interview with a Vampire right now. It’s because there are so many great characters. There’s Meat Loaf and Billy Zane and Udo Kier. It’s a period piece because it plays two hundred years ago, but it’s also a video game based movie, so it is an interesting combination that nobody has done so far. Let’s wait and see. I’m quite confident that it turns out very good, but it is an unusual movie. If you were to compare it to Elektra or Catwoman, we don’t have this over-the-top hero, flies around and walks up walls. It’s more (of a) dry violent movie, what we did. It’s a lot of gore and it’s definitely a hard R rating.
RI- I’ve heard Bloodrayne compared to Braveheart. Would you say that this is accurate in any way?
UB- The way we did the action, and the way we did the sword fight and this kind of stuff is similar. Story wise, not, because it’s not a heroic movie. It is a horror movie.
RI- You have made three video game movies, and plan to make more. What is your fascination with video games?
UB- I think video games are more interesting than comic books. I think comic books are made into movies already a lot, and they are even making movies now out of small comic books. Video games are really bestsellers for the younger generation in the way that they are more influenced by video games than books or comic books. This is the reason we do the movies, and I personally like the stories. They are clear, forward, and as a genre fan I like these kinds of movies.
Michael Roesch- Me too. I’ve always wanted to make genre movies, like horror and thrillers. A lot of actors want the opportunity to make these horror movies, which I love.
(Uwe excuses himself to take a phone call.)
RI- Michael, you got your start as a film journalist, correct?
MR- Yeah, I sold some scripts, but they were never made, but now I’ve got Alone in the Dark opening Friday and I wrote a script for Michael Hurst, House of the Dead 2, which got filmed in December by Mindfire Entertainment.
RI- Will that be released anytime soon?
MR- Absolutely. I think it’s now in post-production.
RI- Can we expect it to be similar to the original film?
MR- The movie is actually going a lot closer to the game. It involves a college campus and as we get deeper into it and deeper into it, more people die. It’s a really cool movie. It’s showing more like the original video game.
RI- You and Uwe have been working together for over ten years.
MR- Yes, absolutely.
RI- How was that the two of you got connected to begin with?
MR- That’s a good question. (Uwe joins the conversation.) He asked when we first met. We met for the first time at the Berlin film festival. He was the only director in Germany that liked to make genre pictures and not only other pictures and we met at a kind of restaurant.
UB- No, in the screening. (Pauses) No, first at the restaurant, and I invited you to the screening, and you came to the German Fried Movie screening.
UB- So, from this point on we stayed in contact.
RI- From your first film on?
RI- What was it about Alone in the Dark that made you want to make the film.
MR- Oh, I think it’s a classic video game. It’s a really cool script. We really wanted to make a movie about this guy who is chasing creatures all day. It’s a very dark video game.
UB- After the more or less brainless House of the Dead, where the action was everything and no story basically, we wanted to do a movie where there was actually a story. That way you could get bigger actors attracted. I think with Alone in the Dark nobody has to know the video game to like the movie. It has a lot to do with the video game; the names and the characters and set-ups, but it is not necessary to know the video game.
RI- Would you say that there is still a large amount of violence and action in Alone in the Dark?
UB- Yeah, you will see it is very gory. It’s an R rating, and we have people get ripped apart. I personally like gore. I personally would never go- like a few weeks ago in Germany there was the Anacondas, the new movie, and it was like PG. I didn’t even look at it, because I cannot stand horror movies that are not R rated. I don’t want to see it. So, in all of my movies there is always a lot of violence.
RI- Is there humor in the film as well?
UB- The humor comes from Christian Slater. He is not, let’s say depressed Keanu Reeves guy. He makes a joke or talks, like for example Stephen Dorff is his competitor in the movie and if he comes to, for example, the museum and get attacked by creatures and Stephen Dorff is coming, and he says, “Always coming in the nick of time,” because Stephen Dorff is always coming too late. In a way, the danger is all gone, and Stephen Dorff comes in, and he makes jokes about this, which is pissing Dorff off.
RI- This film has such a great cast. Was it easier to work on set than House of Dead, which didn’t have any stars?
UB- It was surprisingly easy. Christian Slater is a very nice, easy going, and forward, guy. He’s so talented. He can tell you a joke, and then he turns around and plays a very straight, serious scene. Stephen Dorff is more of a method actor, so he is like in his part. So if he is pissed in his part he is pissed also around you. So he was, in the beginning, very aggressive to everybody; like the wardrobe, costume, make-up, like, “Ahhh, it’s all shit.” But after like a week he got more and more relaxed and everything was fine. And so in the end he would go out for drinks, together with Slater. Also Tara Reid. I would summarize it that it was her first horror movie. She’s a good actress. She’s doing everything that you require, but she was hurt on her legs and her feet, because she was not used to it. Like running, jumping, or whatever; it was a little hard for her. But she tried it and I think actually that we have a character in the movie that is not used to the horror genre makes it even more interesting.
RI- Were there any other actors considered for the film?
MR- It depends on what actors are available, but personally I feel that Christian Slater is perfect. He looks like Edward Carnby in the games, and he acts like Edward Carnby in the games. I’m a huge fan of the games. It’s a huge reason why I wanted to write the script. And Stephen Dorff is a fantastic actor, Commander Burke, who is head of the unit, which is a kind of government agency. And there is a conflict between Commander Burke and Carnby, and like Uwe said, they are perfect for it.
RI- How did you cast the film? Who was the first of the three attached to the project?
UB- Christian Slater. He liked the part. He liked the video game. He played the video game. It was funny because Stephen Dorff was next and Tara Reid was last, but it was a funny situation. Slater’s agent was calling us, I think, and then Tara Reid’s agent was passing by the door and he heard the conversation. And he heard that we maybe wanted to go for Jessica Alba, and he said, “No, no, no. Tara Reid will do it. So he basically came in the room and said that Tara Reid would do it. And so this is how it came to Tara Reid. It is not a typical cast for this type of movie. I was not thinking of her to be honest, and then he came up with the idea and I called her on the telephone and I talked with her for forty-five minutes. So we said, “Okay, let’s try it.”
RI- Were there any other actors you were considering for any of the main three roles?
UB- It’s like what we did with Bloodrayne. You have a list and you think, like, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Kristanna Loken… Actresses you know can do action, and are used to it. It’s limited what actors you can use, and to go against trend, is an interesting choice, especially since in Alone she has to do so much running. But it’s not like Bloodrayne where she really has to bite other people and kill other people, ongoing. So a movie like Bloodrayne, you couldn’t do with an actress like Tara Reid. It’s not physically possible. Christian Bale was originally in the run for Slater’s part. He was interested, but we felt that Bale is a really good actor, and I really like him, but with him the movie would be very in his character sense, driven. I liked it to have Edward Carnby also clever. That he’s not only straight and hard and dark. I don’t want to have a Brandon Lee, The Crow, character. I wanted to have a guy who was actually like an investigator, who is thinking about stuff and trying to survive and everything, but should be having some good lines from time to time.
RI- Do you think this film will be a comeback for Slater?
UB- I’ve personally always liked him a lot. I think his acting is good. He’s done a lot of good movies. Since True Romance I’m a big fan of him. I hope that a lot of people want to see him. After Hard Rain, basically was his last big movie. Hopefully there are a lot of Slater fans out there. We’ll know in two weeks, I think.
RI- How was it shooting, and writing, with a creature that required a great deal of CGI?
UB- Writing it is easier.
MR- I just write a monster comes through the door.
UB- On set it is a little bit hard. You have to do something for them to react. I always do some noises. (Growls) Because it is tough to react to absolutely nothing.
MR- There was scenes with the huge creature, and there was only a few boxes around. There is a lot of action, but it is only a few boxes. It is hard for the actors and for the director.
UB- And the problem is that in those scenes, if you have massive action, with everything floating around of whatever, then the actor doesn’t know where the monster is. It’s different if you say, okay you stay here and then the monster comes and cuts your head off. It’s easy. But if you run away, it’s tough. We basically changed a lot of the animation to the eyes of the actor, where they are looking. We conformed it to the actors. It was tough developing the creatures, because whatever you do, you are coming into the Alien thing. You have no choice. Are you going to do a Jurassic Park monster, or are you going to do an Alien. I think we did six foot 3D models, and we found an interesting monster, where you have the tail coming forward and out of the tail you have spikes coming out. To make it more interesting and not repeat.
RI- Are you happy with the final product, how the creatures turned out?
UB- CGI is great. It is not one percent less than Alien Vs. Predator in quality. And Doug Oddy and his CGI team did The Cell and Panic Room before, so they are very experienced. What I like about these guys is they are doing it more dry and photo realistic so its not fantasy or CGI stuff. It’s there, and I really like it.
MR- Somebody was saying that it’s better than Spider-man, and it’s a huge compliment.
UB- Spider-man, I wouldn’t say it’s better than.
MR- A guy on the internet was viewing the movie and he said it was better than Spider-man.
MR- Yeah, today.
UB- Yesterday was the first press screening. In Toronto or somewhere. Jo Blo saw it and he really liked it. Lion’s Gate…I asked if I should come to the press screening and they said no. They said it’s really not allowed for me to come. In Germany we do things a little differently. Normally Germans want to talk to the director and ask questions after the movie. They said no, no, no. It’s all about Tara Reid.
MR- Is Tara Reid going?
RI- So, how do you feel about the internet press? I heard you’ve had an experience dealing with the chat rooms.
UB- People that hated The House of the Dead, they hate me. If you go in the chat rooms, they are flipping out, and they have never seen Alone in the Dark. They judge it because of one movie they didn’t like. They should see Heart of America, they will see it is a very good movie. I’m really proud of that movie and it has nothing to do with video games. It’s not a genre movie, it’s a drama, but it is good acting and script and it works. I say, wait and see Alone in the Dark. It is a movie that is hard to hate. It is far better in everything; not only the acting, the story, the CGI. The set-up is bigger. It was a bigger budget. People cannot say Alone in the Dark is worse. You can still say “I don’t like it.” But it’s not like you are going to be upset about the movie. I also judge hard. If I go in the theater to see movies I’m also a brutal reviewer. If I see a movie like SWAT, for example. I hated it. It didn’t make sense, and it was heroic things the whole time. It is over-the-top. Like Alien vs. Predator. I enjoyed it because I was expecting nothing. And Resident Evil 2. I enjoyed it also. I cannot say that I would write after it that I hated it.
MR- I think it’s because it’s a video game movie. Video games have such a large following and people are so emotional about them. I also liked Resident Evil. You should not have expectations like an Academy voter. I saw Million Dollar Baby and it’s a really amazing movie, but it’s a film for Academy Awards. If you’re talking about a fun movie, where you see fun and creatures and shooting.
UB- Every movie has its place and its audience, and from time to time- I just saw Shaun of the Dead and I really enjoyed it. I was laughing because it’s funny. I liked it, but it’s dumb. I know many people that would hate it. They would think they would not want to lose ninety minutes of my time for this brainless shit, but I like this kind of movie. It depends. I try to make it better in every case. I learned from House of the Dead, like that the script wasn’t good, and the cheesy dialogue, and you can’t save everything in the editing. You have to have a better script before you start. Guinevere Turner, she wrote Bloodrayne, and she wrote American Psycho. She is not dumb or something. She is not used to genre movies at all, and that’s the reason we hired her. It’s really a good character script. That is why people like Ben Kingsley played in that movie. You will not see Ben Kingsley in Jeepers Creepers. This is because the script worked good, and Alone in the Dark was good. Bloodrayne was even better. It will be better and better and better. Far Cry will also be very strong. It’s also a learning process. Nobody can say, “I am perfect, whatever I do”. It’s not the case.
RI- Are there any other video games that you have considered making movies out of?
UB- Yesterday we actually met about Soul Calibur. People are developing it. There are a lot of games that would be good movies. Now people are coming to me also. But it must make sense and it must be new genres. I don’t want to make one zombie movie after the other, or one creature movie, or one sci-fi movie. Hitman, I really want to do because I’m a big fan of the story, and I’m a big fan of The Professional from Luc Besson. I’ve never seen a movie like this. The Hitman is not repeating The Professional story wise, but the movie could be made in the same genre.
RI- How was it working with Ben Kingsley?
UB- I called him and he said I shouldn’t talk with him about it. He said he knew how he was going to play Kagan, the big vampire, and he played him perfect. I talked with my agent and he told me, “Ahh, Ben Kingsley is shit”. I said, “You’re not getting it. He’s a ghost. He’s four hundred years old, and he is the leader of all the vampires”. He plays it like Schindler’s List and Gandhi, really calm and straight, and the violence is coming out of the quiet. Then he grabs someone and sucks a young girl or kills. He’s not the kind of guy you can have yelling around. It’s idiotic. For this you don’t hire Ben Kingsley. Not everyone gets this.
The Life and Deaths of Chucky
On the night of November 9th, 1988 in the land of horror films, Charles Lee Ray, otherwise known as The Lakeside Strangler, was pursued and shot by Detective Mike Norris. Ray was then abandoned by his partner Eddie Caputo and was forced to retreat to a toy store, where he performed a dark voodoo ritual to insure his survival. Charles Lee Ray’s soul was transferred into a red headed doll creating a horror legend we now know as Chucky.
It was in 1988 that Don Mancini created and wrote the character Chucky into life, and he has been the driving force of the series for over fifteen years. Child’s Play was directed by horror veteran Tom Holland, and each film following had a new director, but in 2004’s The Seed of Chucky, Mancini finally had the opportunity to take the reins himself.
As the writer of all five of the Chucky films, Mancini has done something amazing in horror history. When Child’s Play first came out the Halloween and Nightmare on
series had both released four films each, and the Friday the 13th series was well into its seventh already. None of these popular horror franchises had been able to keep the creator attached beyond the first or second film. With Child’s Play Mancini not only stayed onboard, but when the field of horror changed in the seven year gap between the third and fourth film in the series, Mancini was able to adapt Chucky with the times, proving him to be a horror icon that may die but could very easily come back for another sequel.
While the original Child’s Play films had a great deal of one-liners, the emphasis was mainly on horror, and people were sincerely afraid of the films. Chucky was the first full-fledged killer doll with a character, and he happened to look somewhat like My Buddy Dolls, which were popular at the time of the film’s release. The idea that a popular toy (Good Guy Doll within the films) could try and take your child’s life was a concept that sincerely frightened many people. There was also a great deal of controversy over the series when a UK tabloid paper printed an article stating that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson had watched Child’s Play 3 in the weeks before they killed Liverpool toddler Jamie Bulger in a way that was similar to scenes from the film. This resulted in many video retailers pulling the films from their shelves. When the series was revived seven years later, however, horror had taken a turn for the comedic. The gore remained, but comedy was essential, giving the wise-cracking smart-ass Chucky the perfect opportunity for a comeback.
The Bride of Chucky allowed for the dolls/puppets to become the focus of the film, concerning the audience less and less with the victims. The Seed of Chucky has taken this one step further, now having a majority of the cast as puppets, leaving only a few survivors in the wake of their destruction. The films still have horror elements, but they have become more parodies than anything else. I had the chance to speak with Mancini and he said, “It just seemed natural that we would now evolve into a domestic drama. So whereas the last one was a parody of romantic comedies, this one is a parody of domestic dramas like Ordinary People or Kramer vs. Kramer.”
The Seed of Chucky demanded a great deal more of the filmmakers with the additional puppet characters, so new methods were adopted. The puppetry in Seed of Chucky was done in a way similar to animation. The voices were recorded before principle photography began, and the voices were synched up to the mouth movement of the puppets, and locked in. Since this work is done beforehand, other aspects can be focused on during filming. The good thing about using puppets instead of actors, says Mancini, “is that you never have to worry about forgotten lines.” The downside, however, is the difficulty in moving the puppets in a lifelike manner. There are several different puppets, with different heads for different emotions, and “in order for a puppet to walk across the room it takes a small army,” Mancini explained to me. Yet however difficult it may be, Mancini thinks that it is all worthwhile, saying, “There’s something really magical about puppetry in general. Puppets are a distortion of the human form.”
With the fifth and latest addition to the series coming out on home video this Tuesday, June 7th, I have to wonder if this is the last we will see of Chucky. “I think there will definitely be more” Mancini said, “although I don’t think it would or should be immediately.” It occurred to me that the latest in many franchises have been a combination of two horror legends. With Alien vs. Predator and Freddy vs. Jason, I began to wonder who Chucky could be matched against. “Chucky vs. The Leprechaun would be too obvious,” Mancini stated immediately, letting me know that this was a question he had given some serious thought, “I would like to see Chucky go up against Freddy because they are so different.”
So, although there are no definite plans to resurrect Chucky again, there is always the possibility to hope for. In the meanwhile Mancini is working on another horror/comedy he describes as being more in the vein of Beetlejuice. While we wait for that, or another Chucky film, the unrated version of The Seed of Chucky promises to have a number of perks to hold us horror fans over for the time being.