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Exclusive Interview with Writer/Director Richard Kelly

On the Director's Cut of "Donnie Darko" and "Southland Tales"


Richard Kelly

Writer/Director Richard Kelly

Photo By Rebecca Murray
Updated February 25, 2014
The wait is over. The Director’s Cut of “Donnie Darko” premieres at the Seattle Film Festival on May 29, 2004 and passionate “Donnie Darko” fans will finally get to see the movie writer/director Richard Kelly intended to make all along. With never-before-seen visual effects and other surprises, Kelly’s original vision of “Donnie Darko” is now ready to be soaked in and analyzed by “Darko” devotees.

I proudly admit I’m a “Donnie Darko” fan and I hate having my viewing experience ruined by reviews or articles that give too much away. So with the release of the Director’s Cut just a few days off, I didn’t even try to pry any spoilers out of Kelly during my one-on-one interview. If it’s specifics you want on what’s been added to the Director’s Cut, then sorry. While Kelly spoke at length about this new version and what drove him to complete a Director's Cut at this time, this in-depth interview is pretty much spoiler-free.

Our interview was delayed by a few hours because of an important pre-production meeting for Richard Kelly’s second film, “Southland Tales,” so it’s only fitting we began by talking about that upcoming movie:

So you’ve been busy getting prepared to begin filming “Southland Tales?”
Yes, yes - the pre-production drama and excitement and anxiety (laughing). It’s like a movie coming together is like a house of cards and you hope that the wind doesn’t blow in the wrong direction. Once you have your start date, the further you get into pre-production, the more money that’s spent, the more cement blocks you have in the foundation of your house. The wind isn’t as dangerous. To make an architectural metaphor out of the whole thing (laughing).

Do you have a definite start date?
Well, the start date is shifting a tiny bit. It’s absolutely still planned for the summer, we’re just still trying to lock in a few pivotal [parts]. There are still a lot of roles that are yet to be cast and there’s a couple pivotal, starring roles that haven’t been cast that are sort of determining what the final budget is.

The magic of the formula of independent film financing is very much determined by actors and their overseas numbers and this and that. It can be a little frustrating because you have an attorney somewhere telling you what your film is worth in the marketplace, yet they haven’t read the script, they don’t know anything about the project other than who is in it and the genre. And they think they can tell you what your film is worth in the marketplace based on those elements. And yet, what about the quality of the direction and the quality of the screenplay? What about those little things? And, unfortunately, it can be a little frustrating. That’s just the process of putting together an independent film, trying to get the budget to a place where we can do what we want and need to do.

Can you confirm the cast? Is it Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, Kevin Smith and Jason Lee so far?
Yeah, and Amy Poehler and Tim Blake Nelson. And we’re still trying to get Janeane [Garofalo] locked in but she’s got her commitment to Air America Radio, which is definitely a priority. We’re trying to see if we can balance both for her. There’s going to be a lot more actors joining the cast soon. That’s probably only about half of the total cast, really.

Is it a bit crazy to be directing Kevin Smith in your second movie?
He and I have become really close friends. Kevin always jokes that he can’t act but if you’ve ever seen him, even outside of his films in his sort of stand-up – not stand-up comedy, it’s more him being a storyteller like on the “Evening with Kevin Smith” DVD – he really has a real charisma and an ability to tell a story. If you look at someone who can have a presence like that on stage, to me that’s acting.

I’m working with a lot of comedians in this film and I’m hoping to take a lot of the performers I’m working with and show audiences a new dimension, a new side to their personality, and hopefully present a different variation of someone’s persona on screen.

PAGE 2: On "Southland Tales" Being Labeled a Musical Comedy and the Movie's Internet Site

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