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Interview with Writer/Director Richard Kelly

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Donnie Darko Richard Kelly

Richard Kelly on the set of "Donnie Darko."

Newmarket Films
Your second film will be “Knowing,” a project you came aboard back in March, 2002. Why the delay?
It’s been delayed four or five times due to budget, distribution, foreign distribution issues, casting issues… It’s seriously harder to get “Knowing” off the ground than it was to get “Donnie Darko” off the ground (laughing). We’re definitely hoping to start shooting the first quarter of 2004.

What’s the biggest factor delaying production?
There’s some legal entanglements involving the ownership of the screenplay and foreign distribution that have contributed significantly to the delay. But I think also that around the studios there’s a reluctance to allow me to do my thing, given the bottom line. If you look at the spreadsheet, “Donnie Darko” I think made $500,000 at the box office. To the head of the studio, that’s not a safe gamble. I’m not a safe gamble because of the way that the first film didn’t perform domestically. I think that ultimately that always does have an affect on your ability to increase your budget on your second film, if your first film wasn’t profitable in its domestic release.

The reason why I’ve been holding out for so long to make “Knowing” the second film is because I really believe it feels, in my gut, exactly what my second film needs to be, and exactly where I want to go as a filmmaker. I would like to go to work on a broader canvas as opposed to a smaller one right now simply because I was given a lot of opportunities in my first film, and I think that I’ve grown a lot over the past three years. I think that there’s a lot more that I’m capable of. To work on a smaller, reduced budget or a smaller canvas right now would feel kind of limiting to what I want to do. That’s why I’ve been holding out for this one for so long.

It’s frustrating and I wish I could have already been in production by now, but I just want to get it right. You don’t want to rush into a situation where we can’t get enough money or we can’t get the right cast. I’m just holding out 'til we get it right.

Do you have your cast in mind?
Yeah. It’s a complicated process given a lot of people are still sort of discovering “Donnie Darko” and getting a handle on who the hell I am, and what I’m capable of. It’s taken a while for people to digest the first film and figure out what I’m going to do next, and how this was going to play itself out (laughing).

What was it about “Knowing” that made you so hot about making it your second project?
I see it as being a very commercial film but at the same time, one that will allow me to tell a story in just, I hope, as a provocative way that I did with “Donnie Darko.” Ultimately it’s a film that I hope will be able to reach a wider audience, but at the same time people won’t be screaming, “Sell out!” (laughing) They’ll feel like it’s an expansion of that kind of filmmaking that I hope to continue to do, and that I began to do with “Darko.” I’m really excited to work on a bigger canvas.

“Knowing” is a rewrite you did of Ryne Pearson’s work?
I’ve done about 30 rewrites. The script’s been rewritten constantly, it’s evolving constantly. It’s becoming something really specific in my mind. Ultimately, any film that I make won’t match the screenplay to a ‘T’ because things get adjusted. It’s been constantly adjusted, but it’s down to the point where I know exactly what it is. I’m more excited about it now than I think I’ve ever been.

How close is the 30th rewrite to the original script?
It’s evolved. I think there’s been different versions of the script floating around, but I think it’s evolved significantly. Ryne Pearson really came up with an amazing story. It hit me. I never thought I’d end up directing a film based on someone else’s source material or someone else’s story, but Ryne just created an incredible story. It felt like it had this classic quality to it. I hope to be able to do justice to his story. Hopefully my interpretation of it will do justice to what he came up with.

Is the basic premise still the discovery of a time capsule?
Yes, but I can’t go into any specific details because I’d probably get in trouble. But the film, it does involve the discovery of a time capsule. That’s all I can say (laughing).[

Page 3: Adapting “Cat’s Cradle” and Working on “Domino” for Director Tony Scott

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