This thrilling new neo-noir masterpiece hits DVD on October 6th
Get ready to enter Dark Country on October 6th, when Thomas Jane's directorial debut hits store shelves nationwide. Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman and Lauren German star in this thrilling neo-noir masterpiece, which takes us deep into the depths of human depravity. When two honeymooners rescue a mysterious car crash survivor in the Las Vegas desert, their decision to save the man becomes increasingly regrettable. The mysterious blood-faced stranger unexpectedly turns on them, forcing the newlyweds to do the unthinkable. In a blur of paranormal chaos, the couple must take drastic measures to cover up their actions from the local police, ultimately leading them to an inescapable fate. We recently met up with Thomas Jane to find out more about this exceptional film. Here is what the maestro had to say:
Dude, what do you have against country music?
Thomas Jane: (Laughs) You know what? I have absolutely nothing against country music. In fact, one of the things I am most looking forward to when I finish the second season of Hung is a film I have set up called Glen Sherley. Sherley taught himself how to play guitar while locked away in Folsom Prison. He recorded an entire album while he was in Folsom Prison, and then got himself released out of Folsom and into the hands of Johnny Cash. He went on tour with Johnny, singing his country songs. Johnny took one of his songs and made it a big hit. This is the life story of Glen Sherley, a career criminal that literally sang his way out of Folsom Prison. This is one of those great American stories that really needs to be told. We are going to shoot that next year. I have been playing open mic nights around Hollywood every Wednesday and Friday night. You can find me destroying guitars and eardrums as I perform a couple of these songs. I am learning to play country music for the role.
I am a little bit familiar with Glen Sherley. Is he still alive?
Thomas Jane: Glen killed himself. Part of the story follows how Johnny Cash thrust Glen into the limelight of country music. And it was a little too much for him to handle. He went from this eight by ten jail cell to the wide-open country stage. He was put into the spot light. There were stories being written about him in the newspaper. All of the attention was just too much for the poor guy. He killed himself. His family is supporting this film, and they are happy with the story of his life that we are going to portray. That has been a hell of a journey. We have Tony Kaye, who directed American History X, to direct this film. I am very excited about it. I have a lot of projects I am working on, but I am most excited about Glen Shirley.
Now, about Dark Country. Do you considerer it your directorial debut? Because I see another film listed for you on IMDB.
Thomas Jane: This is definitely my directorial debut. The other thing listed on IMDB is actually a series of webisodes. We did those way back when dotcom first started. It took fifteen minutes to download three minute, black and white shorts. It was mostly animated. It was Rotoscoped, actually. Those episodes were called Jonni Nitro, and I only directed a few of them.
What happened to those?
Thomas Jane: They are still out there. If you Google Jonni Nitro, you will find some of those episodes still hanging around. It's me and a woman named Olivia d'Abo. Jonni is a girl. I am here keeper. She is a Russian Spy that has the ability to explode anything she touches. This of course makes life hard. But also interesting if you are a spy. She was Jonni Nitro, and she could blow shit up with her hands! (Laughs)
That sounds pretty awesome. I might have to check those out later. Especially if they're as good as Dark Country. This film truly has a style all its own. It is very unique looking, and you certainly utilize some quite astounding cinematography in Dark Country. It has a very distinct electricity to it. How difficult was it to find the right visual balance while defining your own personal directorial style? Were you ever afraid of pulling the viewer out of the story while trying to sell it with such flair?
Thomas Jane: It is definitely part of the ride. It is part of the trade off. I love graphic novels. I have been reading comic books since I was eight years old. That definitely has an influence on how I envision my stories. I had a storyboard artist. Together, we storyboarded ever shot. We approached it like doing a live-action graphic novel. If you go to Raw Studios, I have a website there with a forum and a following of terrific fans. You can go on there and see some of my graphic novel work. I've got Bernie Wrightson, who is pretty big in horror. He has done some fantastic Frankenstein plates for some Frankenstein books that came out in the 80s. He did the designs for Bloody Face in this film. I attached as many graphic novel elements as I could to Dark Country. Was I worried about it usurping the flow of the story? I think both things go hand-in-hand. I wanted the atmosphere of the film to look exciting. There are $100 million movies out there, and it seems to me that I am not seeing the strange or oddball movies that were so appealing to me as a kid. I loved The Twilight Zone. And I loved movies like Carnival of Souls from 1962. It was a Herk Harvey film, and he made it on his own dime. There are a lot of cult movies out there that have a really dedicated following. And I wanted to make a movie that paid homage to those types of films. Not the films that you are used to. These films had oddball camera angles, and strange stories. I loved the look and the tone of the film I created. If that style does stand out and rip you away from the story sometimes, that's because I am a first time filmmaker. Sometimes style got ahead of substance. But that was a mistake I was willing to make. I was very interested in creating something unique. I had my own vision. I wasn't coping anybody with this. I am not imitating anyone. I am very interested and inspired by David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Coen Brothers. I love Stanley Kubrick. Those guys had a visual style that was very influential on me. Wayne Kramer, director of the The Cooler? He also saw the film, and he was very impressed by it. He is a guy that is known for some pretty wild camera work. He sat me down and said, "Your camera work is amazing. You have come up with some very amazing shots." But then he said, "Just make sure your shots serve the story. Make sure those shots exist for a reason. That they are helping you to tell this story, and move it forward." I think, for the most part, I did that. But there are definitely some shots where I probably said, "Ah, screw it! That is a cool shot!" (Laughs) I wanted to use it. Yeah. If it does pull you out of the movie, but you are saying, "What a cool shot!" I'll still be smiling.
The shots never pulled me out of the film per se. It's just that for a first time filmmaker, some of the imagery is very ambitious. I thought to myself, "This is a hard act to pull off, but by God, he is doing it." I was immediately drawn into the film because of its unique style. I don't want to say I was shocked to discover that you directed it. I was just amazed, because I didn't know you were doing this type of work.
Thomas Jane: That's awesome, man. Thank you. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. I've always wanted to be a director. I very much feel that I have something to contribute to the medium that is different. That isn't imitating someone else. This is a vision. I like filmmakers where, if thier film comes on and you step in halfway through it, you can recognize that, hey, this is a Coen Brothers film. Or, hey, this is a Stanley Kubrick movie. You can recognize some filmmakers. Like, if you put on a Sam Raimi movie, you can tell that it's a Sam Raimi movie pretty quickly. I like a signature style that people can recognize and relate to, and connect with. I think that is part of why we seek out certain directors. We want to see how they view the world.
You mentioned the Coen Brothers. Before Barry Sonnenfeld became a director, he was a cinematographer on many of the Coen Brothers' earlier films, and he reestablished new ways that a camera could be used. Did you go back and look at any of his work as a DP?
Thomas Jane: No, I did not. Not outside of the Coen Brothers movies. I didn't go back and look at some of those other films that he had shot. He is fantastic and very influential, but he wasn't really one of the DPs I looked at. I did go back and look at some different movies. I went back and looked at the work of John Alton. He did all kinds of film noir. Most notable for me was T-Men by Anthony Mann. He directed the film, and John Alton did this cinematography that, to this day, is stunning. It's shocking how fantastic it is. The film noir cannon out there on DVD is so rich and so fantastic. I really borrowed a lot of nods from those old films.
I read that this movie was shot in 3D. Is that true? And when Sony releases their 3D televisions in 2011, will we be seeing Dark Country in its original form?
Thomas Jane: Absolutely. I was lucky enough to shoot the film in 3D. I wanted to prove to the filmmaking community that you could create a low budget film in 3D and have it turn out looking great. The only reason its not being released in 3D is because we don't have the home technology yet. I shot this film for the DVD department at Sony. We always knew this was going straight to DVD. The only reason you are not seeing it in 3D is that the 3D televisions are not out on the market yet. When that stuff hits the market, we hope to give it the full treatment. I will do a directors cut. I will do additional commentaries with some film noir historians. I will retime the movie a little bit to give it a little extra kick in places. It will be a whole brand new film in a couple of years. I am hoping that people discover this film in 2D, and that they are anxiously awaiting a 3D version. This worked out really well in terms of how we are releasing the film. It is offbeat. It is going to slowly find and build that cult audience. People who like it really, really like it. They are turned on by it. I think this will wet the appetite for a full home theater 3D release. I really look forward to that.
With Dark Country, you've created the best sex scene I've seen in 2009. Did that come from knowing it was going to be shot in 3D?
Thomas Jane: The ice cube scene? Yes, of course. Everything was effected by the fact that we were shooting in 3D. It is still just as effective in 2D. When you envision certain angles and how they will play to a 3D audience, that certainly comes out when you are watching it in the tradition aspect ratio. It has a strong, dynamic feel. I don't think that, if I had not shot this in 3D, these shots wouldn't have been so dynamic. I appreciate that. I had a lot of fun shooting that scene. It was actually very time consuming and a huge pain in the ass to shoot all of those little shots. It paid off in the end. I am glad you liked it.
Its truly awesome. I loved it in 2D, and I can't wait to see it in 3D.
Thomas Jane: Thank you.
Dark Country is set to take over store shelves when it hits DVD on October 6th, 2009.