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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Screenwriters & Directors > Features Interviews A to E > Darren Lynn Bousman

 

Darren Lynn Bousman

Makes A Date For "11-11-11"

by Brad Balfour

 
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: June 4, 2012. 

According to Wikipedia, "11-11-11 is a date which reoccurs every 100 years (every 400 years for it to fall on a Friday), when written in a 2-digit year style. For various and often not well understood reasons, people often ascribe different kinds of significance to dates and numbers; for example the 2011 '11-11-11' showed an increase number of marriages taking place in different areas throughout the world, including the U.S. and across the Asian continent. Babies born on this date also received special media attention."

It is also the title of a supernatural thriller created and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. The 33 year old director established his genre creds directing Saw 2, Saw 3 and Saw 4 and then went even further creating his horror sci-fi musical, Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Continuing to explore these genres he's done a re-make of Mother's Day and now 11-11-11 – an apocalyptic tale of a non-believing writer confronted by what appears to be the Messiah – or the Antichrist.

When did you realize that you wanted to make strange horror films like Saw and Repo!?

The fear of actually getting a real job did it to me. I don't think I have the mentality or wherewithal to do a 9-5 job. So I tried everything in my power to find something that I could do to not have to deal with that, something fun that allowed me to escape the real world. When the fear of having to go into the workforce hit me, I tried really, really hard to get to film school and luckily it worked out for me.

What a way to stay out of the conventional workforce – make a film like Saw. If you do such movies bosses will be afraid to hire you. This one's a little safer. You almost convince people that you believe in religion.

This is very much a different kind of film. I'm trying to not be pigeonholed into doing one type of film. I'm trying to experiment with a bunch of other stuff. I did Saw, which is very heavily into torture, violence, that kind of thing. Then going on from something like Repo! which is music-based to Mother's Day, which is very much a crime thriller. I wanted to do something that didn't rely on violence or shock value, and on top of that, do something that was more audience-friendly in a PG-13 kind of way. I've always been fascinated with religion, with people's beliefs, so it was a natural progression for me to make something like this where I can delve into the beliefs that people have.

When you speak about beliefs is it that you have them or that you want to shake us up about ours?

A little bit of both. I don't know. I flip flop every day on what my real beliefs are. It goes from believing absolutely nothing to absolutely believing in everything. So I think that changes daily and I think that anyone that claims to have an answer or know the answer are hypocrites and lying because no one knows the answer. When it's called belief you have to believe in something, you have faith. The only faith that I adhere to 100% is I faithfully believe I don't know everything. This is me working out my own demons in the script. Then they actually decided to make the script and turn it into a film, and when I wrote the script it was me voicing my opinions and thoughts.

Have your beliefs changed? Are you going to become a priest?

They have, and I'll tell you how. There's a behind-the-scenes on the disc, a making of 11-11-11, and when I went to Barcelona I didn't really believe in anything. I grew up Christian but nothing that I could walk around and say I was a bible thumper or a holy roller or anything like that.  But going into this house, the house had a horrible, negative energy in it, and there's no way to describe it outside of saying it was evil. The house felt evil. None of the crew members wanted to shoot there. I don't speak Spanish, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on at the time, but a lot of crew members started quitting and there was something about this house. I demanded to find information about the house. They researched it and helped me uncover that the house actually had been used for cult séances and rituals, and there were all sorts of weird, cult-like symbols all over the house. The further we traced it back the more horrible things we found out took place in this house. This is not an exaggeration; I'm not joking about this. This is not a ploy for publicity for the movie; it was real. Through the course of filming there was a presence, there were no aberrations I saw, I didn't see ghosts, I didn't see anything, but there was a presence of a weight on your chest, something that drew you down and made you anxious at all times. Knowing what people will do in the name of their belief system, whether they murder, kill, sacrifice, whatever, is a crazy thing for me to realize. But more importantly than that, being in the middle of this horrible feeling, realizing that the energy that was very much real, and again, unless you were there you can't really describe it, but it was very, very real, it made me question things, to see things differently instead of just writing it off and saying it's a joke. I was there and saw it, felt it, and it opened my eyes to a lot of things I've got to say.

Did you look at the predecessors to this film like The Omen and some of the others?

My original edit was much longer, drawn out, very much more Rosemary's Baby, in a way. When you watch Rosemary's Baby, it is very slow and deliberate. You might stay on a lingering shot as we're walking down the hallway for 30 seconds. The problem is when I turn that version of the movie in you're in a different marketplace now than you were in the '70s when those types of movies were prevalent. You have much more immediate gratification. It’s all now, now, now [these days]. So the movie was trimmed down considerably to make it more accessible to the masses. But my favorite time of filmmaking came out of the '70s. My favorite style of film was the slow burning films and musicals. In the '70s you had things such as The Exorcist, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby or The Sentinel. My other favorite type of film was [the rock musical] like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar and Rocky Horror Picture Show. So you had the gamut in the '70s of these out-of-the-box experimental films that were appealing to mass audiences at the time.

When you said Tommy I was also thinking about one of that film's director Ken Russell's other great films, The Devils.

I was lucky enough to meet Ken Russell and do a Q&A and introduce The Devils last year. But the night before I saw The Devils he'd come into town to do the screening I actually got to have dinner with the guy, which was kind of an amazing experience. First off, the guy is a legend; doing Tommy and then going to do [The Devils]. But he was the most awesome, awkward, hilarious, wrong dude I've ever met. His question and answer at The Devils made me more uncomfortable than I think anything I've done. An example, someone who raised their hand would ask a question and he would just shake his head and say, “That’s a dumb question. I'm not answering it.” And it would just be silent in the room for like 30 seconds. It was pretty epic.

Were there similarities between you and The Joe Crone character because you're a writer too and do find yourself in isolation when creating?

The answer is 100% yes. First off that absolutely was me making the movie. I had basically moved to Barcelona to make this film and didn't speak the language and wasn't familiar with the culture. As I came to Barcelona I found myself alone and that changed the script a bit. You see a lot of me in him in the things he says and does. We cast the movie in Spain and everyone brought in had an EU passport. I had met with at least 30 to 40 different people for that role and couldn't find anyone. There was no one that wowed us. Then Timothy Gibbs comes in – he used to be a soap opera star in America. And he experienced a tragedy in his own life. He gave up acting and moved to Barcelona, and what's crazy about the character he's playing, Joseph Crone, is that it’s a character that experiences a tragedy and ends up moving to Barcelona. So not only was that character based on me, but on Timothy Gibbs as well. After suffering a tragedy he dropped out of acting and moved to Barcelona in real life. It's weird the way that character came about.

Funny you picked Spain, because there's been a trend of Spanish horror films. Have you been paying attention to that? Recently The Intruders came out which is directed by a Spanish director.

I've always been a fan of foreign cinema, and it's such a completely different feel over there. If I shot the movie in America it would be a much, much different film. But when you watch 11-11-11, regardless of whether you hate or love it or are indifferent, it has that European film look to it. Not only from the sets, but the way the movie was actually put together and made. It was exciting to be able to shoot over there because I've never shot outside of North America. I've shot all my films in Canada, and to be able to go over to [Europe] – there was a barrier. I didn't speak the language; I had to talk through translators a lot of the time to get everything that we were trying to get. So it was a unique experience.

Does Kansas have a place in your heart for horror? Isn't that where you're from like where Children of the Corn was shot?

Yes, my love of horror started in Kansas. October in Kansas... October's my favorite month in general, but specifically in Kansas they deck the entire downtown area out in haunted houses. Since leaving Kansas I’ve never seen anything like it. Not like houses that cost $20 to make. These haunted houses they spend six, seven months getting ready to be up for one month. It was a huge thing that I did every single year with my father. We'd line up, wait two hours to get in to a haunted house that last 45 minutes. It started there, but originally the script took place in a place called Stull, Kansas. If you're not familiar with Stull, I recommend looking it up. I love urban legends, conspiracy theories and all of that, and supposedly, in Stull, Kansas, there’s one of the gateways to hell houses there.

You should direct an episode of Criminal Minds.

It's really funny; if you go to my house and look at my bookshelf it's 90% books on serial killers and forensic evidence and things like that. I love stuff like that.

There’s always 666; why 11-11-11?

It's a real phenomenon that I didn't know about before this movie but if you Google it there is a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge cult that believes in the importance of the number 11 as a celestial number. The real saying comes from a book called The Urantia Book.

Oh I know The Urantia Book.

It's a fascinating idea. It's this book that was basically no known authors, it was supposedly written by celestial beings. In it there is a thing that talks about the 1,111 Midwayers. They're basically angels that are on our plane to bring us to a higher level of awareness. Looking through this book, it became a fascinating idea because you realize how many people actually believe in The Urantia Book. That’s how that whole thing came together. But there are entire groups and sects of religion that believe 11-11-11 is a holy day.

There is a quote in the film that Joseph Crone says – "I found it much easier to believe in the devil than a god" – because he lost his family. So if someone lost a family member or friend would it be more likely to believe in the devil than God?

We deal with tragedy, sorrow, pain and suffering, and deal with not being able to pay our mortgage, or getting our car scratched and not having the insurance to fix it. We deal with the small indignities to gargantuan things. How much happiness do we really have is our entire lives? It's easier to believe in something that's nefarious or bad than to believe there's someone out there that's watching over and protecting us. That's what that statement was about, that if there was a God up there you would think there would be more happiness and world peace and dogs would be loving cats and cats loving dogs and there'd be no issues in the world, but there's not. There's disease, famine, rapes, murders, and with that rationale in mind that’s where that statement came from. It's easier to believe in something bad than that there’s something wholly good out there.

I was looking at some of the user reviews. You got slagged and I'm wondering are today's horror fans not able to deal with the kind of great horror that we love with the sense of dread that works with Japanese horror films, and earlier on, with Roman Polanski’s movies. This film shows another way to approach the subject.

I was raked across the coals on 11-11-11 for numerous reasons. The movie's not for everyone, I get it. I think that it started off with a terrible trailer that was released for the movie that immediately set expectations way over what this movie was going to be. I don't know if you guys ever saw the first trailer, but the first trailer of the film, it was a very cheesy voiceover, it kept saying, "You are fucked." It would show demons and "From the director of Saw 2, 3, and 4,” and people screaming and all this other shit. I know what the movie is; the movie is a very, very slow burn, very, very slow burn, methodical, religious film.

It's all about psychology.

Exactly. If you're a teenager and you come in to watch the movie expecting to be being fucked with demons and people screaming, and that's not what it is, you're immediately going to rebel and say this movie's shit. Unfortunately, the movie got leaked online a week before its release, and the version that leaked online was not the one getting the theatrical release. An output of my first cut leaked online. Now, anyone that's ever worked in the movie business or filmmaking knows that 99% of the population can never see past a rough edit. They can't; it's impossible. The equivalent would be if a child was sick and the mother and father bring him to the hospital to get care and the doctor says, "Hey, his appendix burst; we're going to do surgery on him," and then the doctor calls the parents in the middle of surgery, his guts hanging out and ask, "What do you think?" You can't look at that. You have to look at the final product; did the kid survive, how did the kid look after the surgery? But the movie was put online and was immediately downloaded from torrent sites. It was there about a week, downloaded by every torrent site, every Pirate Bay, everything like that, on an Avid output of the movie. All of a sudden reviews started popping up everywhere. The movie was only released in 10 cities, but there were thousands of reviews where people had not seen the movie. They'd seen an Avid output from the three weeks in the edit. It was really unfortunate. Then couple that with a bad trailer that basically sets it out to be something it wasn't. So I think that the expectations were skewed by a lot of people.

It's like movies like The Omen, where you confront in a serious way using horror tropes profound issues about God and reality raising questions like "Does God exist, does the devil exist, who is the devil, how do we tell?" And of course you have to deliver the goods of the twist and the scary part.

I really appreciate that. More so than anything what I'm trying to do with myself as a filmmaker and a career is to do different types of films to show my versatility as a director going from Saw, Repo! to 11-11-11. I'm doing another movie right now, I'm actually on the road with it, The Devil's Carnival, which is another rock opera, a Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of thing. It's to continually do new and interesting things.

Which is the film style that you're drawing on – Lloyd Kaufman and Troma?

Kaufman? I finished the film, it was released believe it or not, on Mother's Day, because it is a remake of the 1982 Mother's Day, one of Troma's original and finest. I took a very different spin on it than Troma did. Lloyd and Charles Kaufman were actually out on the set when we filmed it, and it's a very, very serious, dark look at the bond that children and mothers have with one another. It stars Rebecca De Mornay.

You wrote the screenplay for 11-11-11. Is it much easier when you're writing a screenplay and directing at the same time? All of the Saw movies are done by other writers.

It's actually harder. I thought it would be easier. It's actually much harder because I'm so tied to what I wrote. I don't mean I don't want to change it, that's not it. For 11-11-11, for example, I wrote the movie in a month and then two days later I was on a plane to Barcelona and there was no time that I could separate myself from what I wrote. With the movies I didn't write I have no ties to it when I walk in, and so I read it and I'm like, "Okay this works, this works, this doesn't work, I'm not going to shoot that, I'll shoot this." When I write something at that point in my mind everything worked or I wouldn't put it on paper, I wouldn't have written it. I wish I would have had at least a month off. If I was going to do this again, and it's actually funny that after I've written the last three movies I've done and sold them which is exciting for me. But I would always do something different from this point on; I would take a break, walk away from it for a month, two months, and then come back and approach it as a director.  In this I was directing approaching it as a writer, and so in moving forward I would probably take a break after I write something before I try to film it.

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Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: June 4, 2012.