David Gordon reveals why Freddy Krueger was on the set of this heartbreaking drama
The buzz around David Gordon Green's upcoming summer comedy Pineapple Express is deafening. It is being seen as a follow-up to last summer's Superbad, and the test screening reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. If you are exciting about seeing it, you might also want to check out one of Green's other upcoming projects entitled Snow Angels. This heart shattering drama is three hundred and sixty degrees away from his work with the Apatow gang, but it proves the young auteur to be one of this generation's most gifted and versatile directors.
"Snow Angels" was adapted from a novel by Stewart O'Nan. It follows two converging stories of love and loss. One focuses on a recently separated couple attempting to pick up the threads of their future when faced with a heartbreaking tragedy. The second is about an awkward young man that, while currently in the throes of discovering his first romance, is forced to deal with the separation and subsequent strife of his parents' relationship. It is a poignant drama that, for some reason, also contains a cameo from none other than Freddy Krueger.
We recently met up with Mr. Green to chat about the film, and to discover the great mystery behind Freddy Krueger's appearance. Here is our conversation:
The first thing I have to ask is: Why is Freddy Krueger in this movie?
David Gordon Green: I'm glad you noticed that. Nobody has ever asked me that. Finally. I feel appreciated. I don't think anybody else has noticed.
That's what that was, right?
David Gordon Green: Yeah. That is something I came up with on the set. The costume designer asked me why I wanted Freddy Krueger on the set. It is a woman wearing exercise gloves instead of razor gloves. Isn't that cool?
Someone told me that was a woman, but I was convinced it was an old, dirty man.
David Gordon Green: No, that was a woman that was sitting at that actual bar. She looked exactly like Freddy but she wore workout gloves.
You are being serious with me? You are not making a joke out of this question? Why the decision to have that in there?
David Gordon Green: I don't know what I was going through personally at that time in my life. I had some issues. Plus, I am a huge horror junky. So, I just wanted to put Freddy in there.
I feel like you are messing with me.
David Gordon Green: I'm not. I just wish I could remember why I did that. I shot that scene a few years ago. There is some specific thing. Like, I ask people a lot if they are scared of Freddy. And everybody knows what I mean. If I went up to you and asked, "Are you afraid of Freddy?" You would think of Freddy Krueger. I think I was fucking with somebody about that. I told them that I should put Freddy Krueger in the movie. It is in the script. It says, "He dances with Freddy." Yeah.
That is not in the original book that this film is based on, is it?
David Gordon Green: No. Steward O'Nan is a lot more dignified than to do something that absurd. I wish I could remember why I did that. Something inspired me. My sound designer, Christof Gebert is always fucking with me and trying to get me to do weird shit in a movie. That take is the scene I am happiest with in the movie. Originally it was going to be a wedding reception that happened at the bar. And Sam's character was there getting wasted. We did a couple of takes with some full on good times music. The production designer had this jambox full of CDs they were listening to while they would be rigging the set. And he had a CD from his next-door neighbor. I saw the CD sitting there while we were going through the wedding music. I figured I would throw something different over the sound system because we had all of these extras dancing in place. After we had done two takes, I said, "Why don't you put Benji's CD in." Benji was the singer on this CD mix, he is amazing. I wanted to see how they would dance to it. So I cleared out everybody but those two people you see in that scene. I got everybody away. And there was this birthday cake sitting on the pinball machine. So they pulled everybody out of the bar. Everybody that was there were really good dancers. Particularly the guy with the hat. When we took the device of having a song you could dance to out of there, and we just had this undanceable ballad, it became the most awkward, uncomfortable thing. We didn't tell the extras that we would be doing it. We actually used the production track that was mixed up from the jambox.
You had a birthday cake in that scene?
David Gordon Green: Yeah, it is a birthday cake that says "The Champ" on it.
That makes the scene even more disturbing.
David Gordon Green: There are so many different layers to that scene. You just have to keep looking at it. I didn't even know what was going on until I'd seen it four hundred times at this point. I love that scene. I could just watch that as wallpaper at my house.
It is a great scene. I just thought it was a bit odd.
David Gordon Green: That is why it is interesting. Sam is kind of scared of Freddy. She comes up to him, and he backs away. He then clings to the old black guy. It is funny.
Novelist Stewart O'Nan said about the ending of the story: It is common human behavior. That a man killing his wife is almost an everyday occurrence in America. What are your views on that, and did you ever experience that type of behavior growing up in Texas?
David Gordon Green: I don't know if I would call it common behavior. There was a Wild West. And there were certainly the crusades. We have had our violent pasts. I am trying to think. I think the domestic issues are...I don't want to say "common". But they do happen. They don't make the headlines every week.
There was a woman sitting at a table with us in the other room who is a Los Angeles native, and she has never spent time in a small town. She couldn't believe that something like this goes on all the time.
David Gordon Green: I think it rings a louder bell when you are in a small town. Here, it has probably already happened three times today. There is no real novelty to it, so they are not going to advertise it. One of the things that attracted me to the story of the book was, when I was in the fifth grade, there was an eight-year-old girl that went missing. I grew up outside of Dallas. It was a big deal for about a year. There were signs up all over the place. "Have you seen Chrissie?" I believe that's what her name was. It was a really horrible thing. To be ten and have a girl that was around that age, and to have that mystery of her disappearance weighting on you. What did her parents do if she wasn't there? What if someone took her? I was trying to put all of these pieces together in my uninformed mind. It was really about seeing this community come together. It became as if everyone knew this little girl. Even though I never met her.
Did they ever find her?
David Gordon Green: Yeah. They found her. They found her little bones in a field.
At ten, did anyone describe to you what was going on?
David Gordon Green: Everybody knew about it, and this became a warning to us kids. "Be careful when you are outside." It was a very "don't take candy from strangers" kind of time. It was about a community coming together, but at the same time you are looking at your neighbor suspiciously. So, it was weird. It brought out the anxieties people have in society.
In the film, do you feel that Arthur and Lily's relationship is a running parallel precursor to the relationship between Glenn and Annie?
David Gordon Green: I hope not. I think Arthur and Lila are a little bit more optimistic. I think if anything, this is a cautionary tale for them. I think that if Glen and Annie look back, they can see the Arthur and Lila within them. There is a shot of them at a dance. While Glen is going crazy on the bed, the camera pans over and you see this moment between the two of them. They are in their high school days, and they are probably going through a lot of the same flirtations that our other two lovebirds are seeing. Ultimately, it is a movie where you learn from characters. From the young people, you learn why love is important. When you think back to that person, there is a seed of why you smiled when you first saw them. Your heart is racing, and you don't know why. You are so nervous. Your stomach is doing flip-flops when you hold her hand for the first time. That forty-five seconds of anticipation right before you are about to kiss a girl for the first time. When you know you are about to plant one on her. Those moments are so valuable, especially to look back on them. Whenever I get in a conflict with where I am at, in my relationships, I think back to those times. Not just in romantic relationships, but also with friendships. You think back to a time when you laughed together. Or those times when you were in a bar, and you drank and cried in front of your buddy for the first time. Whatever it is that links you to people. There is a seed of hope in that. An invitation into someone's life. Then you see the parallel story of Glenn and Annie. Two people that are having a miscommunication. They have insecurities, and they part ways. Then they realize that the voids that they leave each other are greater than those bonds of knowing you have dedicated the rest of your life to someone. Those bonds are detachable, and they go away. Sometimes they are happier with that person, flaws and all, then without.
Those feelings you describe upon that first meeting. The heart palpitations and the nervousness when you first kiss someone. Those certain emotions are almost the same when Glenn goes back and sees Annie for the first time since their separation. It is kind of the same thing.
David Gordon Green: I like that. I'll agree with that. At the end of the movie, when he says, "Hi." We see that same thing again. I think Sam really nailed the anxieties of a guy that is disconnected from someone he loved. And he is trying to reconnect with her. It takes a very specific ceremony to get there.
Sam is great in this movie. At least I thought so.
David Gordon Green: He did well.
I couldn't take my eyes off the screen! Is that cliché enough for you?
David Gordon Green: That is a very good thing.
Now, you make going to Sears, or Glamour Shots, or wherever they go to get this Father-Daughter portrait taken such a sad thing in this movie...Do you personally consider the act of "The Family Portrait" a depressing thing?
David Gordon Green: Yeah, those fake smiles? They are so weird. It goes back into my own weird situations. Like, doing the press for the movie. People want to take my picture, and they tell me to smile. Like, what am I smiling for? Say something funny and I will smile. They'll take the picture really quick, and they will catch me smiling. The fake smiles are so fucking strange. It's like, "Okay, we are posing for a picture!" The beauty of that shot is that when they go in for the picture, they have this Christmas backdrop with a Christmas tree. But they are leaning on a white picket fence. Which is an exterior object. That was my cinematographer's idea. His attempt at subtle comedy. There is a white fence in the living room. What it was to me, it was one of those awkward moments. Glenn is a character that is continually looking for happiness through outside sources. He has these expectations. "You are supposed to take your picture. When you do that, you are supposed to look happy. Come on. You are happy." Its one of those moments. He is one of those guys that look to religion and other people for conformation. He looks for their rules, hoping to find a blueprint to happiness. Where as, I truly believe that you are never going to be happy unless you find happiness within yourself. I see a lot of trapped people that are struggling so much with themselves that they turn away from themselves. They want to feed the expectations that others have of them. They want to find affirmation that they are doing things right. They don't want to look to their own instincts. Because those instincts have failed them. I do find that really sad.
How important did you view the scene where Sam Rockwell's character takes his daughter out for the day? That one scene seems to be reflected back through the rest of the film.
David Gordon Green: He takes her to the mall, he's getting those pictures made, and he uses the term, "I want this to be super perfect." Super perfect? As if anything is shitty-perfect. Right? What is the opposite of super perfect? It's either perfect or its not. But that scene is important. He has this design. "Is this perfect? Are you having fun?" He needs someone to tell him. And he is talking to a three year old.
You said you are a fan of horror movies. Sam Rockwell's character reminded me so much of Bill Paxton is Frailty, I'm wondering if you took anything from that film and applied it here?
David Gordon Green: That is interesting. I don't think I took anything from it, but I love that movie. Sam and I referenced a lot of movies from "The Deer Hiunter" to "Jesus of Nazareth". It was interesting to develop this project. I wouldn't be surprised if Sam pulled something out of Frailty, because he is really vast in his knowledge of certain roles and characters. He is one of the first actors that I have worked with that wants to use reference points from other films. I wouldn't be surprised if he had Bill Paxton and that film's character in his library.
There were some similar scenes where Paxton's character gets drunk, and then finds the lord.
David Gordon Green: I'd actually forgotten about that movie, but I do remember really enjoying it when I saw it.
Just to add onto that...Why do you think people that belong to the Born Again faith are so crazy in film?
David Gordon Green: (Laughs) Just in films?
Well, yeah, you are right. Even in life. I don't want to disparage the faith, but these people always seem to be coming from a really bad place, and suddenly they discover God. And they think God will take away their problems. All is forgiven. And it seems to make them whacked out even more.
David Gordon Green: Its because people are seeking the approval of other people. And the discipline of something other than their own mental capacity and instincts. It is really sad. It goes back into what I was saying earlier. You can't look at someone else, or something else, and say, "Make me happy." Being happy is something you either are, or discover, or build from within. If you can't find that, I don't know any support group or religion that is going to come in and fix the pieces. Unless you pay them a lot. Then they will help you try.
Snow Angels opens this week, March 7th, 2008.