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Sarah Michelle Gellar - "Southland Tales" Movie - Richard Kelly Hollywoodreporter.com Interview

dimanche 21 mai 2006, par Webmaster

Richard Kelly, who developed a cult following with the strange tale of "Donnie Darko" in 2001, unleashes his imagination even further with his sophomore feature "Southland Tales." Set in an apocalyptic version of Los Angeles just two years in the future, the film stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as an action film star, Sarah Michelle Gellar as a porno actress and Seann William Scott as a Hermosa Beach police officer, all caught up in a grand conspiracy as a shellshocked America celebrates the Fourth of July, 2008. The Hollywood Reporter film editor Gregg Kilday talked with Kelly about his vision of the end of the world.

The Hollywood Reporter : After "Donnie Darko," were you offered studio projects or were you determined to develop your own material ?

Kelly : I definitely got offered plenty of stuff. I just really felt like I needed to dig my heels in and do my own thing. I wasn’t in a position where I really needed money that much. I took some writing assignments as my way of paying the rent and holding out to make sure the next film I directed was one of my original scripts.

THR : How far back did you begin writing "Tales" ?

Kelly : I wrote the first draft of this screenplay in the spring of 2001 after Sundance, when we had a dispiriting experience there when no one wanted to distribute "Donnie Darko." I was really depressed. I would argue any artist engages in his or her art as a way of curing their own depression. I wrote "Southland Tales" as a way of trying to cheer myself up. I wanted to write a black comedy about Los Angeles, and ultimately about the end of the world. It’s evolved in many different incarnations, but the basic shell of that original screenplay is very evident in the finished film.

THR : When did you return to the project ?

Kelly : I always constantly work on all my scripts. I’ve got five or six originals that I have in a drawer that I’ll never relinquish control over. I’m constantly rewriting them, kind of the way one is constantly fixing up an old car. After 9/11, I became really serious about committing to direct the film. When Seann (William Scott) became attached, it came to life. I thought I’d written this black comedy about the end of the world, with a lot of absurdist set pieces. I felt as though I was being kind of a wimp and wasn’t really going for it in terms of making it more of a political piece. I sort of really dug in — dealt with issues of domestic surveillance and homeland security and alternative fuel. I just started to make it something more political — but first and foremost a comedy. The original incarnation had all the set pieces. It had a mega-zeppelin. It had an ATM being dragged by an SUV through the streets. It had a conspiracy with twin brothers and an extortion attempt on a famous actor and a porn star. All those elements were in the original script, but they hadn’t matured, they hadn’t ripened the way a banana ripens, they were still very green. Those elements coalesced, and it became more political. The news kind of helped to rewrite the script, and the headlines have helped to validate the screenplay. There’s a scene where Rebecca Del Rio sings the national anthem. It was her idea to do the first two lines in Spanish. We shot the film last August, and then there was all this stuff about the national anthem in the news. There are a lot of things in the film that seem to be happening right now. The movie was designed to strike a nerve. If you’re going to make a political satire, and you don’t strike a nerve, you sort of fail at your ambition. But my philosophy is, if it’s political, at least make it funny.

THR : Pitching a political satire isn’t the easiest way to secure financing.

Kelly : I think I’m pretty terrible at pitching my ideas. I chose to tell people, it was part comedy, part musical, part thriller, part sci-fi. Their heads started to spin around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." Cherry Road Films was the first company to commit to spending money. (Producer) Sean McKittrick got us with Ben Roberts at Universal International. We started piecing all the financing together and ended up with about seven different equity sources.

THR : Your stars all come out of mainstream movies — they wouldn’t appear to be the conventional choices to head such a potentially unconventional film.

Kelly : I very consciously tried to go after a lot of performers who I felt had really great, undiscovered talents. Let me rephrase that. I tried to go after performers who had unexposed gifts — people who are pigeonholed. Someone like Seann William Scott, who’d only been given the opportunities to act in teen categories but who I thought had brilliant comedy timing. I saw Dwayne host "Saturday Night Live" and thought wow, he’s very gifted. He had enormous potential. He’s a great listener. He’s been an actor his whole life working as a wrestler. I met with Sarah Michelle Gellar, knowing all the work she’s done like "Buffy," and saw how funny she was when I met her. To me, as a filmmaker, if you get to work with these people and help them expose a different side of themselves, it’s just a very rewarding process to go through with an actor. If someone said, name the top 50 funniest people working today, a lot of those people (cast in the movie) would be on this list. The tone of what I was hoping to accomplish in this black comedy was always very much gallows humor. If you’re going to go through this story about the end of the world, let’s make it a good time. Make it with a lot of actors who are incredibly funny people, and then let them actually play it straight.

THR : Why choose Moby to compose the score ?

Kilday : Ultimately, I tried to make a very humane film. It’s obviously vulgar, it’s a very aggressive, confrontational film, but at the same time it was very important to me to try to root it in humanity. A very important element in preserving that was Moby and his score and working and collaborating with him even in preproduction. His music is heart-breaking and beautiful, and I wanted it to counterbalance the aggressive comedy.

THR : And you shot throughout L.A. ?

Kelly : We shot in some of the most expensive and beautiful parts of the city. We really wanted to capture the city in a way that had not been done before. We wanted to have the movie live and breathe within the city so that you feel the city is a character in the film. We shot in Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach, all the beach communities. It was very expensive to do that, and that was part of the reason why we had to shoot the film in just 30 days. There were a lot of stunts and action and set pieces that required a lot of coordination. Philip K. Dick is probably one of the biggest inspirations for the film because he was always writing about Los Angeles in the near future to offer social commentary on where our world is going. There’s a line in the movie where Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character, Krysta Now, says, "Scientists are saying that the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted."

THR : What was your reaction to being invited to Cannes ?

Kelly : I was very honored — very moved and honored. Very proud of all the actors and the crew. We submitted a DVD of the film that was not a finished cut. It had maybe 20% of the visual effects finished, a temp AVID mix. It was in very rough shape, so I was not optimistic that we would get into the competition based on what we had to submit because we had not even finished the thing. When we got the news, it was overwhelming. And then it became, we’ve got to finish this sucker.

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