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Interview with "Around the Bend" Writer/Director Jordan Roberts

--Page 5

By

Around the Bend

A scene from "Around the Bend"

© Warner Independent Pictures
Was that character based on someone from your past?
My wife’s Danish and she eats Bon-Bons. She doesn’t watch horror movies but she will sit on the couch and eat Bon-Bons in a way that was like almost hypnotic. I was always fascinated by it. I switched Bon-Bons for horror movies because I wanted horror movies in the film because, again, the film is about death and I wanted to sort of examine the ways in which we are unwilling to look at death and grief as a culture, but we are willing to look at butchery and murder as a culture on a very regular basis. Not just on our news programs and on television, but in horror movies. Graphically violent depictions of the end of human life are rolled out for us at the video store day in and day out. There are millions of fans of these movies.

We experience death 80,000 times more regularly as an act of horror as opposed to an act of the human passing. So I wanted to put some horror films in there. I thought the idea of expressing the theme of my film, which is that family is important in death - or one of the themes of the film - I wanted to express that while I looked at a woman swinging on a hook. You know, a daughter screaming over her mother’s demise. I just thought that would be a way to articulate a theme.

How do you feel about having audiences like Christopher Walken’s character the best, given the personal nature of this film?
That was tricky. I wanted them to like him, I just didn’t want them to like him more than the Josh Lucas character and that was a tricky navigation. And it’s not that I didn’t want them to like him because, “Well, wait a minute. He’s the bad guy.” It wasn’t really about my ego. It was that the story doesn’t really work if you’re not tracking both of these men equally.

A typical clichéd response for adult children of alcoholics is to rewrite the family history with yourself as sort of the problem. And in some sense, it looked like I’d done that because everyone was loving Chris Walken’s character and there was this uptight banker, curmudgeonly and uncomfortable. Which is again the reason why it was imperative to cast a man as charming and as likable as Josh Lucas, because he’s got the toughest role. He’s disliking the person we’re falling in love with. I wanted to make sure you liked him as much as possible and I think we found that balance. It was a lot of work.

Will you ever pour as much of yourself into a script as you did with this one?
There are other stories in my life, my history, my personal history, that I’m compelled to tell. This was without question the most volatile, provocative, unfinished, uncomfortable relationship I’ll ever know. It’s still alive. My father’s ashes were with me every day on the set. He’s with me now. Once the movie opens in LA, I’ll probably finally let him go. But this relationship is ongoing. I will never have a relationship this fecund, fertile.

Your father’s ashes were with you on the set?
Every day. We didn’t make a big fuss about it.

Why did you decide to do that?
My father, by the time he ended his life, he’d burned every bridge. I got the call nine days after he was dead and there was nobody – and I hadn’t spoken to the man in a couple of years. There was nobody, I mean really nobody. He had really burned every bridge so there was literally no funeral to be had. Nobody would come. We had been in the process of mending this relationship when we’d seen each other last, and I felt very much like I enjoyed the time together. There was nowhere else for him to go. He didn’t have a funeral to go to, nobody was waiting for him, and I decided to take him with me.

He was a filmmaker – not a particularly good filmmaker, but he was a filmmaker. I have a feeling he’s enjoying this whole thing. This is definitely a more high profile film than he ever had a chance to work on. I feel his presence very definitely. Again, if there was somewhere he really had to go, if there was somewhere he really had to be – I mean physically… Spiritually he’s long gone. But if there was somewhere the body needed to be, if there were a bunch of people waiting for the internment, I probably wouldn’t have been selfish enough to say, “Come on, hang out with me a little longer. I really like hanging out with you.” But he didn’t have anywhere to go so he came with me. He saw me through the film and the film opens next Friday so I feel now’s the time.

I feel very close to him, extremely close to him. I feel like – pardon the mumbo jumbo – but I’m a nobody from a directing point of view and this script was around for a long time. This guy died and within a very short period of time, I’m making a movie with Michael Caine, Chris Walken, Josh Lucas, and Warner Bros. Whether he was making amends to me… Is it a coincidence? Maybe. Is it more than a coincidence? I think so. I’m enjoying his company right now and I’m enjoying having him around.

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