Director Patrick Lussier talks Drive Angry, his approach to 3D, the awesome William Fichtner, Hellraiser, Halloween III, and much more.
They say that everyone has to start somewhere, and, like several directors before him, Patrick Lussier started out as a film editor. After cutting movies such as Scream, Scream 2, and Red Eye, Patrick Lussier made the transition to directing with Dracula 2000 and White Noise 2: The Light. He collaborated with actor-screenwriter Todd Farmer on the successful 3D horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3D, which lead to the writer and director's latest collaboration, the fantastic 3D action-thriller Drive Angry, which arrives on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on May 31.
I recently had the chance to speak with director Patrick Lussier about this 3D adventure, and here's what he had to say.
You worked with Todd Farmer on My Bloody Valentine 3D. I was curious if you came up for the idea of Drive Angry while you were working on that, or does the idea go back farther than that?
Patrick Lussier:Drive Angry actually came right when My Bloody Valentine 3D was being released. Todd and I were doing a lot of press together and hanging out together, doing interviews and stuff like that. When we were doing them, we started talking about what we wanted to do next. We started hatching this idea of this crazy, supernatural car movie.
I assume it didn't take you very long to write it then?
Patrick Lussier: No, we wrote it in eight weeks. We started right around Groundhog's Day, and, about eight weeks later on March 28, we started shopping it around to producers. We fell in love with Mike De Luca. He's an amazing producer and he loved the script. He has a deal for so many pictures over at Millennium Films, and they said they loved the movie. Within less than a year of finishing the script, we were shooting it, which is pretty unheard of.
Besides naming Nicolas Cage's character John Milton, were there any other influences from the author John Milton's work on this project?
Patrick Lussier: That was a nod to that. We started calling him that in the beginning, since we didn't know what to call him. Then we just decided to keep calling him that. The Accountant was something where we were talking about what our version of hell is, and it felt like it was incredibly well-rounded. It wasn't hippies and granola and stuff, it was efficient. It isn't some bounty hunter who is going to come after you, it's literally some accountant.
I've been a big fan of William Fichtner for a long time now. It was great to see him finally get a juicy role like this where he can really flourish.
Patrick Lussier: Yeah, me too. I love Bill. I think he's an incredible actor and it was so amazing to have him in the film. He brings so much to that part. He was the first actor we met for it, and the only actor we wanted.
Did you book him right after meeting him?
Patrick Lussier: We met him around Halloween 2009, but we couldn't actually make an offer until after Christmas. Other names kept being talked about, and I just kept pushing Bill forward. Then, right after Christmas, they said, 'Yeah, you want him? Let's offer it to him.' I wondered if they just got tired of hearing it, but Summit and Millennium, everybody really loved him. Beforehand they loved him, and then when they saw his performance, they really loved him. It was great.
Did that character evolve at all after casting him? Did you tailor anything for him?
Patrick Lussier: No, not really at all! The Accountant is pretty much exactly what we wrote, and he just found all the nuance and cadence. There is a scene that we wrote, which is actually a deleted scene on the DVD and Blu-ray, and the last scene of the movie with him and Nic, everything else is almost exactly what we wrote in the very first draft. Bill just found all the nuance and the wicked sense of humor and brought it all out.
Can you talk about your approach to 3D? It still has that old-school, break-the-plane mentality, but it seems to be held back and reserved for only the coolest parts.
Patrick Lussier: Yeah, it's all about the crescendo. You want to come out with the audience laughing in those key crescendo moments. I believe that 3D is a really cool format to work in. It's visually exciting, especially when you shoot it in 3D, but, at the same time, it's all well and good to have this immersive feature with pretty pictures, but it also brings the movie out to the audience. So why not exploit that, especially with something fun like this?
Can you talk about landing Nicolas and Amber Heard, and what you saw in both of them which made them right to play John and Piper?
Patrick Lussier: When we talked to Mike De Luca, he had mentioned Nic, and we loved the idea of Nic for Milton. Once he read the script, he was in. We auditioned so many different women to play Amber's role, hundreds of different women because so many wanted to play that part. It wasn't the girlfriend, it was somebody who was vital and integral to the story, who had their own sense of will and empowerment, and she really achieved that. There were several different people we were talking about, but Amber just kept rising to the top. We loved her look for the role and when we finally got her, we couldn't have asked for anything better. At the end of the shoot, Todd and I went back and looked at all the other auditions. There were some amazing actresses, and Amber just had it down better than any of the others. We couldn't have asked for a better actress for that part.
It's cool too because you see a lot of these "bad-ass" female characters, but they don't kick as much ass as she does. It's cool to hear that so many came out for that role because we don't usually see so much physicality in a part like that.
Patrick Lussier: I know! Amber found so many wonderful things in it herself. When she's being dragged out of the church after Milton is shot, she did this great thing where all of the sudden she just started screaming his name. That was Amber. When Todd and I saw it, we just got goosebumps. She said, 'It just felt right. I wasn't even thinking, I just did it.' She just explodes! All of the actors did that. They all brought so much to their parts because they loved the story and they enjoyed working on the film. They all brought their A game and had fun with it.
Can you talk about your dynamic in working with Todd? You have two successful movies under your belt now with a few more in the works. Can you talk about how you both mesh together?
Patrick Lussier: I have worked with Todd and known him for a long time, almost 10 years now. Every time we do it, for different stories, the way we work together evolves in a slightly different way. We don't live close together, so we don't see each other very often, but through Google Chat and things like that, we're always writing and planning together. When we were writing Drive Angry, we had the big gunfight at the church and we weren't sure, when he's caught, how he's going to get out of it. We were talking about it and, suddenly, I get this call from Todd saying he was sending something to me. I read it and said, 'Oh my God! You shot him in the eye!' It was brilliant. That's what it's like to work together, full of great collaboration and wonderful surprises.
Before you took on directing, you were a film editor. There have been a number of direcctors who have started out as editors. Can you talk about the advantages of having that kind of a background when you're on the set directing?
Patrick Lussier: Oh, it's incredibly valuable to have an editorial background, especially if you're working with a limited shooting schedule and budget, where you really have to know exactly what you're going to need from the story, and you know you don't have any latitude. You can't guess, you have to know, and being an editor allows you to know what it is. I had a long time of learning what's important in how to tell a story. You can have all the style in the world, but if you don't have the story, it doesn't mean jack shit. It's so important to focus on the character, to tell the character moments first. At the end of the day, if you have extra time, you can do the stylish stuff, but that can't be the drive. The drive always has to be story, story, story.
Is there anything you can say about Hellraiser? It's been said that this will be an origin story, but I'm curious how far back it goes? Do we see him as Pinhead the whole time?
Patrick Lussier: It's gone from the journey of being made by the toymaker all those years ago and how he ends up now. The goal is to see part of that journey and to see how that's presented and to see how it falls into the character's hands and where it's going to go. We want to give it a definition of the back side that is, perhaps, unexpected, that you don't see coming. We wanted to take it from an origin and give it a glimpse at the end of the road, to see what that would be.
Are you setting this in present day then, or will it be a period piece?
Patrick Lussier: Yes to all of that (Laughs).
I read that you're planning on doing Halloween III after Hellraiser. Is that still the plan?
Patrick Lussier: We would love to do that. That will be up to Dimension. We're very passionate about both projects and we're lucky to work on both of them.
Is there anything else you're working on with Todd that you can talk about?
Patrick Lussier: There are several things that we're working on together, but it's too early to talk about yet. A couple of them have a little more action. We have a thing called Already Dead, which is this very cool horror-driven courtroom thriller, which has all these strange and bizarre twists. That will be really fun to make.
I really loved Drive Angry, so I'm definitely looking forward to see what you guys do next.
Patrick Lussier: Oh, thank you so much. I'm so glad you liked the film.
Finally, what would you like to say to anyone who didn't get a chance to see Drive Angry in theaters about why they should grab the Blu-ray or DVD this week?
Patrick Lussier: I think the big thing is, forget whatever trailers you've seen or whatever marketing you've seen for it. There's more to this movie than you know or expect, so if you check it out, you'll have a good time.
Well, that's about all I have for you. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with all your other projects.
Patrick Lussier: Thank you so much. Have a fantastic weekend.