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Richard Kelly on "Southland Tales," "Donnie Darko" Fans, and the San Diego Comic Con
-July 22, 2004

"Donnie Darko" Writer/Director Richard Kelly at the San Diego Comic Con
Photo © Rebecca Murray
 Related Resources

• "Donnie Darko" Photos, Interviews, and News
• "Southland Tales" Credits and Website

“Donnie Darko” writer/director Richard Kelly wasn't expecting more than a couple hundred people to show up to his "Donnie Darko" Q&A panel at the 2004 San Diego Comic Con. A couple thousand avid “Darko” fans greeted him, some looking for answers as to the meaning of Kelly's cult hit, others just wanting to know more about the man who created Frank the Rabbit.

For most of the audience, Kelly's Comic Con appearance was the first time they'd been able to get a close-up look at the talented writer/director. Some were surprised at his youth, and one female fan couldn't seem to contain herself when it came to Kelly's good looks. Questions ranged from how important film school was in making "Donnie Darko," to "The Philosophy of Time Travel" book, to what his parents think of him after seeing "Donnie Darko."

Joining Kelly on the panel were "Donnie Darko" cast members James Duval (Frank), Stuart Stone (Ronald), and a late-arriving Beth Grant (Kitty Farmer). Grant, a veteran of more than 30 feature films, claims “Donnie Darko” is her favorite movie and appeared to have genuine affection for her “Darko” director.

After the Comic Con panel was over, Kelly and the cast were mobbed by fans trying to get autographs and photos. If it wasn't for the Comic Con moderator who had the difficult job of herding the crowd out of the auditorium, Kelly and the group might have been trapped for hours. As it was, a good 15 minutes after the panel was over, Kelly and his “Donnie Darko” cast finally escaped the room (only to be immediately surrounded by even more fans waiting in the hallway). Grabbing Kelly (he's one of my favorite interview subjects - the man's almost too generous with his time, but I'm not complaining) and sneaking off to a nearby backstage storage area, I got the chance to catch up on what's happening with “Southland Tales” and other projects:


You weren't able to show any clips from the “Director's Cut.” What happened?
Newmarket totally dropped the ball. There's a failure to communicate and they dropped the ball. They're a small company, and it happens.

What was your reaction to seeing so many “Donnie Darko” fans?
I'd never been to Comic Con before and I'd heard stories, but I had no idea it was going to be this big, that there were going to be this many people, and that the Convention Center was going to be this big. But I think it's awesome, I think it's really cool. I can't wait to go down and be a fan and just go to all the different exhibits. [After our interview, Richard Kelly spent a few hours signing autographs at the San Diego Film Critics Society booth].

It's crazy down there.
I can't wait to go and just be an anonymous fan.

What do you expect to see during Comic Con?
I saw She-Hulk. I got her phone number and we're going to meet up later tonight (laughing). But I can't wait to get down there and see some Klingons and some Storm Troopers and some Jedi… I just think that the whole thing is a celebration of creativity and imagination. I think it's really cool that they have a convention for something like this. But I don't know if you'd ever top Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con from “The Simpsons.”

See, I don't watch “The Simpsons…
(Laughing) You've got to watch “The Simpsons.” They've gone and visited the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con, that's a bi-monthly science fiction convention in Springfield, and it's a total satire of Comic Con and comic book guys. There's a character called Comic Book Guy in “The Simpsons” – Hank Azaria does the voice…

Comic Book Guy is a regular on the show?
He's a regular on the show. He runs Android's Dungeon. He's this big guy with a beard and he's hysterical. They should have a big Comic Book Guy here with Hank Azaria doing the voice because it would be like the coolest thing in the history of Comic Con.

You had a weird encounter with a fan during the Q&A session (a guy dressed up in a full Donnie Darko outfit threw out some bizarre questions). How do you deal with that?
I just hopefully try not to upset him.

He acted like he thought The Philosophy of Time Travel was a real book. Have you encountered that from fans before?
A couple. That was probably the weirdest encounter I've ever had.

What did you have to do to get some of your cast to come to Comic Con?
Just asked them. I mean, Jimmy's a good friend. I was just really upset that we didn't have the clips to show.

In the “Donnie Darko” Q&A, you said you have a phonebook-sized script for “Southland Tales.”
Yeah. It's not really a phonebook but it's long.

Are you going to try and shoot every bit of it?
Yeah, that's the intention. We'll see what I get away with. We're scheduled to start the very end of September. I don't know, contractually, what kind of running time we're going to get. We're still talking to several distributors and I don't know what kind of governor they're going to put on the length of the film. Clearly I don't want it to be longer than necessary, but it is an epic film.

How do you settle on the length of a film?
It's an organic process and you put like that mathematical number on it, and that's kind of what happened with “Darko.” It's like to get it under two hours, a lot of things need to be compromised. I don't know what the length is going to end up being, but it is a long script and it's going to end up being [long].

Some of the things I've been reading about “Southland Tales” recently are comments from people worried about the 'teen'-type stars you've cast – Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott… They worry about the whole “American Pie” thing and how that fits in with something created by the “Donnie Darko” writer/director. How do you respond to those type of comments?
I think Seann is an amazing actor. I like to surprise people and to take an actor who hasn't had a chance to probably show their full range, and to surprise people. I'm excited to work with people who show different dimensions to a performance. I'm going to be working with a lot of actors in this film and, for me, I never think about what an actor has done before. I don't judge someone based on the kinds of movies they've been in before.

That would be real limiting.
Yeah. I think there's a trend in Hollywood where everyone wants to cast the same five people, and they always want to have them do the exact same thing they did in the last five movies.

And Hollywood doesn't seem to care that America doesn't want to see that. It's just what we're forced to see.
Yeah, so I'm really excited. There's a lot of other cast that hasn't been announced yet, that's in the process.

But you've actually completed more casting for “Southland Tales?”
It's all happening right now. But there's a lot more to be announced.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2: More "Southland Tales" News, "The Contortionist's Handbook," and "Bessie"

Q&A from a Special San Diego Screening of "Donnie Darko"
Richard Kelly Interview - The Director's Cut of "Donnie Darko"
Richard Kelly Interview - "Southland Tales," "The Box," "Domino," and "Cat's Cradle"

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