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Alexandre Aja Discusses His Career and Bringing Joe Hill’s ‘Horns’ To The Screen!

Alexandre Aja Discusses His Career and Bringing Joe Hill’s ‘Horns’ To The Screen!

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Over the past decade, director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D) has established himself as a dynamic filmmaker on the rise in Hollywood. A rarity when it comes to genre films, he isn’t afraid to take on new challenges and stretch as an artist. His latest film, ‘Horns,’ is a shining example of that mentality. The film is an amazing adaptation of Joe Hill’s original novel, which centers on Ig Perrish, small town guy who finds himself blamed for the brutal murder of his girlfriend. In light of that event, he finds himself ostracized by everyone he knows and hounded by the media. Matters are further complicated for Ig, played masterfully by Daniel Radcliffe, when he awakens one morning to find he’s grown a pair of horns. Armed with the supernatural powers they possess, he sets out to find the true killer. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Alexandre Aja to discuss what drew him to filmmaking, his evolution as an artist and the challenges involved in bringing “Horns’ to the silver screen. 

Alexandre Aja

Alexandre Aja

What was it about filmmaking that initially intrigued you and made you want to pursue it as a career?

I had the chance to have a family that was working in the industry. My father was a director/producer and my mother was a film critic. I kind of grew up on movie sets. As far back as I can remember my father was writing scripts and taking me on sets. At the time, I thought it seemed to be a very fun job because it was always changing and they were always making something different. What really sucked me in was, when I was 10 years old, my best friend and I started going from video shop to video shop to rent everything we could find. We would watch them and start writing scripts. The writing process for me became such an exciting part of the process. You can imagine, when we were 12, the scripts were not very good but they were fun to do. We discovered the excitement of creating a story and characters. Everything was possible! The writing was always my first passion. It was when we were a little bit older we started writing short films. We had one short film that was financed by the French State. We started thinking about directing and we got our start. I have to say that I have been lucky to have never stopped working for the past 17 years now. When you are working on something and are passionate about it, there is never a day that is the same as the previous one. It has been pretty exciting and I am very grateful to be able to do these movies.

You experienced so many different aspects of the filmmaking process. Do you still gravitate toward the writing process or some other part of the process?

I think there is really three different parts of the process when it comes to filmmaking. Of course, there is the initial writing of the script, the collaboration with the actors and then the editing, which is maybe the most important one. I love the three of them. I enjoy more and more the directing part and I feel more and more confident. It excites me to work and collaborate with the actors and all of the departments. The writing is still a huge part of my life and I try to write every day. I have also discovered the pleasure of directing scripts that I did not write. It is very interesting and a different process. I really enjoy the entire experience these days!

'Horns'

‘Horns’

Your latest film is “Horns,” which is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s amazing book. What was it about this story that made you want to pursue the project?

My agent and manager sent me the galley of the book when I was finishing “Piranha” at the time. I didn’t know anything about the novel or Joe Hill. I just started reading it and, from the very beginning, I was blown away by the way it went from a dark comedy to a suspenseful story to a dark drama to the supernatural. The mixing of all of those genres made it so interesting. Usually, when you make movies, you have to make something that fits in the box. Making this film was like making a film that fits in all those boxes together! I loved that! That was what got me! I felt, at the time, “If it works in the book, why wouldn’t it work on the big screen?” I knew I had to make this movie!

From what I read, Joe Hill was very involved with the project. What type of effect did working with him bring to this film?

I wanted him to be so involved. I wanted to make a movie that was as close to the experience that I had reading the book and I wanted to do it with his blessing. I was so happy that he was one of the producers on the project. It was so helpful to have him in the writing because he is someone who is really smart about the adaptation. He knew that an adaptation that was word by word would be boring, not interesting and a six-hour movie! We knew we had to find shortcuts and ways to hone the story but respect the DNA of the story. I wanted to make sure we respected what made the story so interesting. Having Joe next to me and being able to access his brain for solutions and shortcuts was terrific. The collaboration with Joe was really strong and I hope to work with him on another project very soon.

Was there anything you hoped to accomplish stylistically or technically with this film that you might not have attempted on your previous projects?

Yeah. When I was reading the pages, behind all the sheets of tone and emotional and scary measuring, I could read the lines. I could see so many important things I wanted to attempt for such a long time. I always wanted to find a story that would give me the opportunity to create a world that was a very hyper-real vision of America. I wanted to create a small American logging town in the Washington State that has a very “Twin Peaks” aspect to it and oppose that to a much more out of time measuring. I wanted to make those two worlds live together. This story gave me that opportunity.

Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple shine in 'Horns'

Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple shine in ‘Horns’

The cast for the film is absolutely tremendous. What did they bring to these characters that made them jump from the screen?

I have to say that, when we finished the adaptation of the book and started with people in Los Angeles reading the script, we realized how much the story was a magnet for actors. People were really, really willing to be a part of it and excited about it. We were obviously excited about the project but to get such an amazing response from everyone involved was amazing. There are so many projects and scripts going around but this one was so exciting, original and singular. The material gave us the opportunity to have the characters start in a normal way but become very different when they are under the influence of the horns. It was a great challenge for the actors. Having the opportunity to cast whoever I wanted was the best thing possible. I am so happy with the cast of the movie. The collaboration with Daniel Radcliffe was amazing, obviously, but also with Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Max Minghella and Kelli Garner were also great experiences. This film was definitely the best experience I have had working with actors in my career.

What was the biggest challenge of bringing “Horns” from script to screen?

I think the biggest challenge was linking all the genres together and making the movie feel like a journey. In the beginning, I was trying to explain the film to people by comparing it to other movies, because that is how you would usually do it. You would say, “It is like this movie meets this other movie.” With “Horns,” this was impossible! The only movie I could think of was a darker Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It is so different and has nothing to do with our story but it was the only supernatural fable I could think about that has a similar tone and elements of trying to figure out what has gone crazy in his life. I kind of felt right away the best way to make these genres blend together and meet the challenge was to get the right Ig Perrish. I think the reason why the movie is multi-genre and also has a love story is because we have an amazing actor in Daniel Radcliffe. He managed to sell these different emotions with such skill. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.

Daniel Radcliffe and Alexandre Aja on the set of 'Horns.'

Daniel Radcliffe and Alexandre Aja on the set of ‘Horns.’

Looking back on your career so far, what is the biggest evolution you have gone through as a director?

That is a tough question. What I am trying to do every time is not choose something that would be a repetition of what I have done before. I try not to allow myself to take the easy path. In genre, that is something that can happen very fast because once you have done a slasher or a supernatural thriller, you can easily find yourself doing another one because you know the world, you improve and it becomes comfortable. I try to make different choices every time rather than doing the same thing again and again. If you look at “High Tension,” “The Hills Have Eyes” or now “Horns,” they are very different from one another. That is what I continue to try and do. It is not easy because people want you to repeat that thing when it is successful. That is what I am trying to keep as a guideline, to not let myself become repetitive.

'Horns' hits theaters on Halloween.

‘Horns’ hits theaters on Halloween.

Where do you see yourself headed in the future as a director?

I am starting a movie on Monday called “The Ninth Life of Louis Drax.” It is a very intense psychological thriller, very Hitchcockian with some supernatural elements. It is something very different from “Horns” and I am very excited about it. It is different from anything I have done previously, as we were just discussing, and it is a new challenge!

You serve as a huge inspiration to many aspiring filmmakers. What is the best advice you can pass along to someone looking to pursue a career in the industry?

I would say that it is all about the story. It is all about finding a story that makes you want to commit a full year of your life and makes you want to make it happen no matter what. It is a long process and every movie can take years. Some movies I have made took seven years in development and for some other filmmakers it can be even more. You need to have this starting point where you fall in love with the story and know that, no matter what happens, you have to tell that story. I think that is the most important thing to seek out.

Thank you for your time today, Alexandre. You are truly an inspiration and “Horns” is definitely a film to be proud of!

Thank you, Jason! Thank you very much!

‘Horns’ hits theaters on October 31st, 2014 and is available via VOD.

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AFTERNOON DELIGHT: Jane Lynch On Her Role In Jill Soloway’s Directorial Debut

AFTERNOON DELIGHT: Jane Lynch On Her Role In Jill Soloway’s Directorial Debut

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Jane Lynch is known for lending her unique comedic voice to many projects, pushing them the creatively and raising them to the next level. Such is the case with her latest role in Jill Soloway’s directorial debut with “Afternoon Delight.” Featuring an all-star cast, the film focuses on Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), a quick-witted and lovable, yet tightly coiled, thirty-something steeped in the creative class of Los Angeles’s bohemian, affluent Silver Lake neighborhood. Everything looks just right—chic modernist home, successful husband, adorable child, and a hipster wardrobe. So why is she going out of her gourd with ennui? Deadened by the stultifying realities of preschool auctions, a lackluster sex life, and career that’s gone kaput, Rachel visits a strip club to spice up her marriage and meets McKenna (Juno Temple), a stripper whom she becomes obsessed with saving. She decides to adopt McKenna as her live-in nanny, and this bold move unleashes unimagined and colorful waves of change into her life and community. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Jane Lynch to discuss the work that went into the character, the challenges of the role, her inspirations as an actress and much more!

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch

You have had a very successful career in the entertainment industry. Where do you find yourself looking to for inspiration these days creatively?

Doing this movie, “Afternoon Delight,” with Jill [Soloway], who is a really good friend of mine, is a great example. I have known her for a really long time and she always inspires me to go to the next level. We really did that in this movie. We showed up every day in a state of allowing and acceptance in a very feminine and open way. I think it shows on screen that I went to places I haven’t gone in a very long time, maybe ever. I think that is really what inspires me now — staying true to myself and staying true to what I love doing but pushing myself the extra mile.

You mentioned having known director Jill Soloway for many years. What are your memories of first meeting her?

We were going to do “The Real Live Brady Bunch”. He sister, Faith, and I toured with Second City many years ago. Jill and Faith were going to create this show called “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” where we were going to take the episodes of “The Brady Bunch” right off the television and do them on stage. It turned out to be this big cult hit. That is when we first started hanging out. Jill was our producer at the tender age of twenty-three. We were making nine hundred dollars a week. She got us this great deal in New York and is one of those people who are so can-do! She had so much confidence and such a good heart! She had no problem picking up the phone and saying “Let’s do this…” or “Let’s try that.” She was dealing with hard-hitters in New York and a big New York producing agency. She got us a run in New York at the Westwood Playhouse back then and is now The Geffen. Those are my first memories of her. Also, she is creatively fearless! We tended to find the same kind of obscure things hilarious like “The Brady Bunch,” along with a whole bunch of other stuff. Were where very much of a mind. When you meet someone who you are of a mind with, especially comically, you have found a special person.

A captivating film.

A captivating film.

Your character in “Afternoon Delight” is one that Jill Soloway and yourself had been had been kicking around for many years.

Yeah, we were. Lenore had an incarnation as a woman named Sandra Ragsdale at one point, back in 1988. We didn’t have the internet back then, so we set up a video camera and took these hilarious, what we thought were hilarious, videos of me playing this very precious, very serious woman who has had a “nervous break-through, as she likes to call it. She has discovered her very deep feminine. At the time, even though we were poking fun at it, we were doing those ourselves. I was way into goddesses and myths, going to the baths and doing rituals! [laughs] I was reading “The Chalice and The Blade” and was really into the feminist goddess stuff and so was Jill. We would talk about it, laugh and make fun of ourselves or the make fun of the seriousness of some of the people who have no sense of the irony. That is where were started with Lenore and who she became in this film.

This is film marks Jill Soloway’s feature film debut. Having known her for so long, what do you think she brings to the table in a directorial capacity?

She has the unique ability to shot from the inside of the people out, so you really get the point of view of Rachel (played by Kathryn Hahn). It is almost like the camera is moving inside of her. She showed up every day for this film completely prepared and was also able to let it all go. You had no goal like “I’ve got to get this shot. We have to make sure we create this by the end of the day.” She showed up in allowance and accepting in a very emotionally empathetic place with all of the characters in the film, down to every character and actor in the film. It was an amazingly wonderful experience working with her in that capacity.

Do you feel you were able to bring even more life to Lenore with that creative freedom?

Jane as Lenore

Jane as Lenore

Yeah. We did this thing at the end of the film where I was supposed to tell Rachel that I was a bit of a fraud. My partner left me as I was waxing rhapsodic about my own relationship, it was really falling apart. That last scene, I did fall apart and I went to Rachel for comfort. That wouldn’t have happened if Jill hadn’t been completely allowing, open and encouraging all of those feelings to come up. In fact, she was crying while we were doing that scene. She burst into tears audibly! [laughs] Once I heard her cry, I was in it! She was right there with us. I think going to that place was challenging. If I knew when I showed up that day that I had to get to that place, I would have been like “Oh my God!” But I didn’t and it came out naturally and organically. It was a delight to do the character and what really informed it, what was different this time around from when we had done it before, is that the character was inspired to do this character by her own therapist, who she loves and respects. Her therapist has this way about her that just tickles Jill to death. It is a kind of serious, precociousness about all of this stuff. The therapist actually allowed us to shoot in her chair. I am in her therapists chair using the little footrest her therapist uses and the same light. Jill is the one who said “I want you to have this severe hair and these hard mahogany looking glasses.” That is exactly what I ended up looking like, so she was very specific about how she wanted me to be, along with bringing some of the Sandra Ragsdale into it.

You got to work with a very talented cast on this film. Is there anything you picked up from your time working alongside this Kathryn Hahn?

Kathryn is extremely empathetic, as is her character. She is one of the most empathetic, we use that word a lot, it is a very feminine film, and even Josh Radnor is an extremely empathetic guy! It was a joy bouncing stuff off of her and, hopefully, she would say vice versa. It was the first thing we shot in the movie. She was able to just settle into the character in those scenes where she is sitting on the couch. I was very; very impressed with how she was so allowing, available and accepting of everything I would give her and what she would do with it. We had a really good chemistry and I walked away going “Man, she is something!”

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch

When it comes to this film, what is the biggest thing people can take away from it, be it from your character or the film as a whole?

It is about a woman who has given into the social mean that she is a mom and a wife. She finds herself unsatisfied, without ambition, fearful of stepping out and kind of holding on to the notions from the past of what she wanted to do with herself, such as being a war correspondent or something ridiculous that no longer resonates with her anymore. Her life is in a place where she doesn’t need to make any money, as her husband is doing just fine and they have everything they need but she is now at a loss because she is up against herself and doesn’t know who she is.

We have talked a lot about the evolution of this character. How do you feel you have evolved as an actor through the years?

I think, in this film, even though I have a very small part, a teacher once told me “There are small parts and you had one of them!” [laughs] If I can talk about it like it is a huge deal, I think in this film, I think I took what it is that I do and took it deeper. That will always be my driving force of staying in this business — taking the material, take it deeper, try it a little bit to the left, a little to the right, try to explore new things and try to reveal new things within me. I always find my own personal growth coincides with my growth as an actor. I think it is something a lot of women can relate to that — What is really going to satisfy me? She goes out on this journey and risks her marriage and relationship with her child in the process.

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch

You have done it all from television to film to stage. Is there still a role out there you are searching for and anxious to sink your teeth into?

No, not at all. I don’t have any goals or ambitions, other than what I just told ya! [laughs]

For those who look to you for inspiration, what is the best piece of advice you can pass along from your journey as an actor?

You are going to have your own journey. People think there are shortcuts and there aren’t. The journey is the reward, the obstacles themselves. I find that my greatest enemy, if there is such a thing out there, is myself. Standing up against the part of you that says you can’t, you shouldn’t even look at doing something or you will never amount to anything, were the crucibles for me. There is never a person or event out there that affected me more in a negative way than my own self. I think it is the ultimate hero’s journey.

What is the best part of being Jane Lynch these days?

You know, I am a relationship person, so it is the people I get to work with. That is the stuff for me, along with the friends I have in my life. It is the one-on-ones. That is the stuff that jazzes me up and where I feel I get empowered and enlisted. I love working with Matt Morris and I love seeing him every day at work. I love my friends and people like Jill. That is what inspires me, situations where you get down and dirty with somebody and have conversations that really matter! That is the stuff that lifts me!

Absolutely! We should all be so lucky! Thank you for your time, Jane! I wish you continued success and we will talk to you again soon!

Thank you, Jason! It’s been a pleasure!

Directed by Jill Soloway, ‘Afternoon Delight,’ stars Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor and Jane Lynch. The film hits theaters on August 30th, 2013. Visit the official site for the film at this location – Click Here!

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The Cast of ‘Dirty Girl’ Film Pledges “It Gets Better”

The Cast of ‘Dirty Girl’ Film Pledges “It Gets Better”

The stars and filmmaker of the new indie film DIRTY GIRL are speaking up and helping to spread the message, it gets better. Check out the video below!

The film tells the story of a pair of mismatched misfits who must discover each other and themselves through a funny and serendipitous friendship. Abe Sylvia’s touching story of growing up in an intolerant place shares the universal message of hope, making it a great fit with author Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. For more information visit: www.itgetsbetter.org

Official Synopsis: Dirty Girl is the story of Danielle (Juno Temple), the dirty girl of Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma, circa 1987. When Danielle’s misbehavior gets her banished to a remedial class, she is paired on a parenting project with Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), an innocent closet-case with no friends. Danielle is determined to get to California to find the father she’s never met, and Clarke is desperate to escape being sent to military school by his homophobic dad. Together, the mismatched misfits light out for California, and discover each other and themselves through a funny and serendipitous friendship.

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