Wes Craven talks about one of his few projects outside the genre.
Paris, Je T'Aime is one of the most unique collaborative projects that cinema has ever seen. The film employed 20 different directors, from all over the world, each filming their own separate segment of anything they chose and then transitions were written and directed in between each piece to create a two-hour feature film. Visionary horror director Wes Craven was among the filmmakers chosen for this unique film, and I recently had the honor of chatting with him about this project.
How surprised do you think people will be to see your name attached to this DVD, being the Master of Horror and all?
Wes Craven: Hmm, I don't know. It will be fun to see. So far I've gotten good responses and it hasn't been so much as, 'I didn't think you could do something like that' so much as, 'That's nice you got a chance to do something like that.'
Oh, of course. I didn't mean it like that. It's just with such a long career in horror, you haven't done many things outside the genre except for Music of the Heart.
Wes Craven: Yeah, especially with Music of the Heart, it kind of put me in a different category, I think. Hopefully.
So with projects like these, do you just kind of take these on for a little break in the genre?
Wes Craven: It was really an opportunity that kind of came up out of nowhere. I think I shot it in the middle of a press tour, more or less. I know I did the location scout between two cities in a press tour, and then came back, I think, right at the end of the press tour and did the actual shoot. I wrote it sort of in transit, in various airplanes. It was done very quickly, and it had the feeling of something that was spontaneous and fun. The idea came very quickly, once I came upon Oscar Wilde. I actually wrote two different scripts, one for Edith Piaf and an earlier one on Jim Morrison. At the very last minute, I wrote this one and I actually think it turned out better than the other two.
The segment that you directed is "Pere Lachaise" after the famous Paris cemetery. I've actually been there many years ago and it's quite a fantastic place. Can you tell us a little about the story of your segment?
Wes Craven: It's basically a couple who are about to be married and, at the last moment, the woman suddenly is having second thoughts, because she realizes that her fiancee doesn't really seem to have a sense of humor, and to her it's very important. It's one of those little life decisions that has to be made right on the spot, and it's two people that really love each other, but had this one major thing to kind of get past. I just was struck when I was in the cemetery, the people that showed up at the (Oscar Wilde's) gravesite every day, and wrote these very affectionate and thankful notes about the gift of laughter. I had recently, personally, proposed and gotten married and getting married again was a big deal for me. And I just felt like, 'What is life if you can't take those kind of chances?' In that sense, it was very personal and it all came together. The great thing about the project itself, is that when they called me, they said, 'We want you to shoot in the cemetery.' And I thought, 'Oh here we go. Wes Craven in the cemetery.'
Wes Craven: But they said, 'No, it can be any kind of a script you want. Once I knew that it could be funny or romantic, it was actually quite fun to do something in the cemetery like that.
So each director had free rein over their own segment and then Emmanuel Benbihy wrote and directed all the transitions and made everything cohesive? Is that pretty much how it went?
Wes Craven: Yes, yes. He was very much the master behind it. He was wonderful and he gave absolute artistic freedom and great support. He found the crew members. I got to meet everybody and say yes or no, but basically everyone he had chosen seemed fine to me. It all worked out quite well. He just handled everything from the artistic to the social, the mixing of all those components. It was interesting because there were actors and directors in and out of this... how to put it, it was almost like a student garret, this place where we were all working at. The offices I think were converted from like a streetcar repair place, or something like that. There was very little money around, but a huge amount of enthusiasm and to be able to be with other directors like that was really quite pleasant.
Did you make it to Jim Morrison's grave while you were there?
Wes Craven: Yeah, but there was certainly no joy there. I believe it was recently cleaned up by the family. I've seen photographs of grafiti and the things left behind.
Yeah, I heard about that. When I was there it was the mid-90s and there was grafiti everywhere, people lighting cigarettes and leaving them on the grave.
Wes Craven: There was nothing like, as opposed to the grave of Oscar Wilde, which really looked almost exactly the way we shot it. It had all these lith prints on it, candles burning, and there was just this huge amount of joy around it.
Finally, now that you've filmed this movie in Paris, would you ever do a horror movie in Paris?
Wes Craven: Oh, I'd love to. I love Paris. I think it's just one of the most lovely, photogenic cities in the world. I would love to shoot there again. It was a great deal of fun to be there, and to shoot there. It's actually like a dream come true. I've thought for years and years and years how wonderful it would be to do a movie in Paris sometime. At least, for two days, I was having that dream fulfilled.
Paris, Je T'Aime (which translates to "I Love Paris") can be found on the DVD shelves now.
Dont't forget to also check out: Kiss Me Again