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Interview with Writer/ Director Richard Kelly

On "Southland Tales" and Labeling Films


Donnie Darko

Writer/Director Richard Kelly on the set of "Donnie Darko."

Newmarket Films
-Continued from Page 1

I think working with comedians is exciting because, while they might not have been formally trained as actors, I think that working as a stand-up comedian is one of the most frightening and daunting prospects for any artist or performer. You’re walking into a pretty dangerous and frightening environment, trying to tell jokes in front of a microphone. It’s like you’re basically stripping yourself naked up there. So I think that any performer who is brave enough to do that, I’m excited to work with them as an actor. To get a dramatic performance out of them is something that is really interesting. I think that comedians don’t necessarily need to be the one at the party with the lampshade on their head. I tell them, “I’m the director, I’m the guy with the lampshade on my head. You just do your thing and I’ll make sure that you’re funny. You don’t need to try to be funny.”

Did Jason Lee commit to the project because of Kevin Smith?
Well, it’s funny. I think that they didn’t know about the other one being involved. A friend had tipped Jason off to the screenplay. He called his agent and said he wanted to meet me. I’ve been a huge fan of his from the beginning. And then I asked Kevin to play a role around the same time, and I think it was sort of just coincidence that they both ended up being in the film. I kind of joke with Kevin that, “Wow, I might be stealing all of your old cast members from your old movies.” I really have a real fondness and appreciation for Kevin’s comedic voice. He has a very distinct voice as a writer that very few people have. He knows exactly what he’s trying to say, you know? He’s one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet.

Did you have anything to do with the design of the “Southland Tales” website?
Yes. This is only the beginning of the website. We hope that it will evolve into one of the most elaborate websites ever built to tie into a film. This is only the earliest stages of it, but it’s going to be a companion piece to the film. Kind of an interactive companion piece that will evolve as we go into production, through the release of the film, and maybe even beyond. I can’t really talk too much about it, but stayed tuned for new developments soon (laughing).

Does “The Internet is the Future” saying on the site have to do with the plotline?
It can be safe to assume that the answer is yes. Pretty much everything on the website is going to have some tangent relationship on some level to the plot of the film.

I was reading on a few “Donnie Darko” message boards where some fans are a little concerned about your next movie being labeled a musical comedy. What can you say to put their minds at ease?
Well, it’s tough to describe the genre of the film. The best way I can describe it is it’s 30% comedy, 30% musical, 30% thriller, and 10% science fiction. And those percentage levels could fluctuate, to some degree, as we finish the final cut of the film. There are musical sequences in the film, but it is not purely a musical. It is just as much a thriller, it is just as much a comedy, and it’s arguably just as much a science fiction film. It’s definitely a genre hybrid but somehow the musical thing got kind of blown out of proportion, and people just printed that it’s a musical. But it’s actually a hybrid of many different kinds of movies. I don’t know what it is about consumer culture but we want to be able to categorize everything.

Everything has to have a label.
Yeah, we want to put people in labels, we want to put people into categories and political parties and religious groups, and racial categorization and economic groups. Everything is organized into spreadsheets, like a tax return. It gets a bit absurd after a while. All of the films that I’m going to make are going to have a sampling of everything. I don’t know how to make a film that just functions in one category. My brain can’t really work that way, I guess.

In another interview we did, you described “Southland Tales” as your “Pulp Fiction.” Can you elaborate on that?
I guess that was the best way to describe it. I don’t know. I’m an admirer of Quentin’s work and that might come off as sounding arrogant or something, saying that, but I would like to make a film as great as “Pulp Fiction.” I mean, that was Quentin’s second film and by no means am I trying to compare myself to him, but I feel like [this movie is] a bigger, more epic canvas than “Donnie Darko.” My hope is to be able to capture the excitement of Tarantino’s films. When you see any of Quentin’s films, when you’re watching it, you’re just on the edge of your seat because he knows the language of cinema probably better than anyone. I think there is a sense of excitement and adrenaline when you’re watching one of his films. More than anything, I guess, I’m trying to create that kind of experience for audiences.

Page 3: On the Director's Cut of "Donnie Darko"

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