An Interview with Director Darren Lynn Bousman
A director like Darren Lynn Bousman is a rare find in Hollywood these days. He is inventive, passionate and not afraid to risk it all to take a chance on something that he believes in. While he may not yet be a household name, he is certainly on the fast track to invade the collective conscience of the movie-going public. Bousman wrote and directed the hugely successful Saw II, and quickly followed that success up with the equally blockbusting sequels: Saw III and Saw IV. He became one of the few horror directors in history that has achieved back-to-back $30 million openings, and he accomplished this all before turning 30. Rather then simply resting on his laurels, Bousman walked away from the wildly successful franchise to pursue his longstanding personal project a rock opera!
Repo! The Genetic Opera, is a high-powered musical that takes place in the not-so-distant future. The tale begins as an epidemic of organ failures has devastated the planet, killing tens of millions. As scientists feverishly make plans for a massive organ harvest program, a multi-billion dollar biotech company called GeneCo begins to manufacture the world’s salvation by offering simple payment plans to those lacking the necessary funds to purchase new body parts outright. Nothing comes without a price as all financed organs are subject to default procedures, including repossession at the hand of the notorious organ repo men.
Icon Vs. Icon: Where did you grow up?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I grew up in Kansas City and Shawnee, Kansas.
When did you decide to pursue a career as a filmmaker?
I just knew that I wasn’t into the whole academic, scholarly, football or sports type of thing. I was always into being creative and creating. I think creating is what did it for me.
What were some of your influences, be it other filmmakers or otherwise, that influenced you growing up?
Well growing up, I would have to say it was Steven Spielberg and anything that he ever did. I was also into the obscure like David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. I was a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino. I would flip out and see (his movies) numerous times in the theater.
You co-wrote Saw 2, what was that experience like?
Saw 2 was a weird one, because I had written a script prior to that called The Desperate. I had spent years writing it and it was bought and then turned into Saw 2. So it was crazy. It was like handing your child over and saying “Here ya go!” but it was great too. In retrospect, it was the best thing to happen to me because I wouldn’t be here right now.
Do you prefer writing or directing?
I think that writing is amazing, but it takes a lot of sacrifice to write. It takes a lot to lock yourself in a quiet room to write! Directing is more immediate. I love them both. I would like to say that I like writing more but I would like to say that I am a better director then I am a writer.
We had to record the album for Repo! and the album took about 8 months pre-production. There was a big gap of time where I had nothing to do. I didn’t have time to do another movie because Repo! was right there. The Saw films were being done so expeditiously from start to finish, that it was the only movie that I could have done. It was like stepping into a familiar pair of shoes, I knew it. It was something that I could do quickly and easily and I really knew what I was doing with that.
Did you envision yourself as a horror director at the beginning of your career?
No. Horror is my favorite genre but that isn’t what I set out to do. I actually started off in comedy, and there is a lot of comedy in Repo! but I definitely didn’t set out thinking that I would only do horror.
You are a member of the so-called “Splat Pack,” do you look at that as an honor or a bit of a negative?
It’s amazing! Let them label me whatever they want! To be put into the same group as Eli Roth and Rob Zombie is awesome. So yeah, that is great, give us a name, it’s great!
Can you tell us a little about the process of how you first got involved with Repo! The Genetic Opera?
Repo! is something that I got involved with back in 2002. It started as a stage play and I was the first director on the stage play. It was the first production of it and I simply fell in love with it. It is something that I have been fighting for, for eight years now and here we are on the third Repo! Road Tour. It hasn’t been an overnight thing. It has been an eight year process of me yelling and fighting and threatening and blackmailing and burning bridges and all of that!
Absolutely everything! This has not been an easy process! It has been nothing but heartache and struggle, which I think has made it better. Nothing was easy or handed to us on this project. You would think that having three number one box offices, that things would get easy. It didn’t, it got harder. To be here right now is a victory. Everyone told us that this movie would fail and the critics said that it was the worst movie ever made. The fact of the matter is that we said: “Fuck ’em! We know it’s good and we know what we like.” Here we are now backing up what we were talking about and putting our money where our mouths are.
You have gathered a pretty eccentric cast of great actors and actresses. How did the casting process play itself out?
The casting was the easiest that I have ever done, easier than any of the Saw films. I made a list of my top five actors for each part and got all five of my number ones. Every single person was my top choice and that never happens in Hollywood! I think that we were able to attract people because it is so different and people aren’t used to doing movies like this. If you go to someone like Paul Sorvino and say: “Play a mob boss,” he has played a mob boss over and over again. If you say: “Play an operatic mob boss who sings the entire way through,” he never gets offered that and that is amazing.
You obviously have believed in the project since day 1, looking back on it what are your fondest memories of it?
Standing here right now. Every day is a victory won. We were told we were going to fail and that no one would even like this movie. Yet we are still selling out theaters and having lines that wrap around the block. I don’t think it gets better than this.
You and your team took a very grassroots approach in promoting the film. Tell us a little about how that has affected you.
As a filmmaker, I feel like I have grown more with this movie than I have with anything, because I am not relying on anyone to sell the movie. It is me selling the movie. I think that being a director is being a salesman. It is selling your vision of a movie. This is all underground [motioning to the line that wraps around the building] this is not commercialized. This is not a studio pushing us. This is Myspace, Facebook, IMDB and word of mouth. We were able to do this (The Repo! Road Tours) to drum up this tremendous amount of underground support. It is much better than commercializing something.
The door for a sequel is left open at the end of the film. Is making a sequel to Repo! The Genetic Opera something that you would be interested in doing?
One hundred percent. Absolutely. I am begging to do a sequel, just like I begged to do the first one. Nothing would make me happier than doing a sequel to this movie.
The film was shot on HD and it is a beautiful looking movie. A lot of movies are shot on 35mm and then transferred to HD and it loses something. Repo! was shot on HD, so it looks amazing. I hope that people get to see it on HD. The DVD has a lot of behind the scenes features and a lot of commentaries where you will hear us trash talking everybody! I don’t hold anything back. I have grudges and I throw them out there, so that is good. The DVD is fun. The hope is that if the DVD sells well, that it will pave the way to a sequel. More importantly, it would pave the way for more movies like this to be made. Look at the paper, open it. It is sequel after sequel after sequel and remake after remake after remake. I want to see something original and unique. The only way that this can happen is for movies like this to do well.
How do you feel about the trend of sequels?
Well, I have done three sequels. I am the most unoriginal guy that I know! [laughs] That is why this movie is so important, to prove to people that I am more than just a “sequel guy.” I think that there are some great original ideas out there. People say that originality is dead. It’s not dead, it’s just not rewarded and that is the problem. I need to prove to them that you can make an original movie and make money on it at the same time.
Any chance of you directing outside of the horror genre?
Well, Repo! isn’t horror it is a rock opera but I am doing an action film next and there is no horror at all.
Can you tell us a little about that?
Not yet, it is too soon. I can say that it is a massive heist movie. It’s the “Anti-Ocean’s Eleven.”
You filmed an episode of Fear Itself entitled “New Years Day”. What was that experience like? Did you enjoy the format?
No. I mean, it was awesome but it was so quick. I like movies because you can take your time, but with this we were shooting ten pages a day. It was insane. It was also weird to be restricted to doing “PG” when I am used to doing “R.” I love filmmaking more.
At one point you were set you to direct a project entitled Wichita, the remake of Scanners and The Devil’s Butchershop. Are any of those still in your plans?
Witchita is, yes.
What is next for you?
The action movie. It’s a big action movie.
When can we look for that?
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on a career in the film industry?
Find something that you believe in that you are willing to risk your career over, your life over. Don’t do something for a paycheck, do it because you believe in it. I lost everything because of this movie and I think that is what is going to make it successful. It’s not about money, it’s about passion. You have to do things out of passion.
Any last words?
Buy the DVD, Tuesday, January 20th! [laughs] No, what I really have to say is, support originality. If you don’t it will die. You will only see remakes or sequels. This film may not be your cup of tea. You may walk in here and hate it, loath it or despise it, but it’s fact is it’s different. I don’t care if you like it or hate it, you have to acknowledge that it is different. One day we will all wake up and it’s all going to be carbon copies of the same movies. This film is a chance to show them that we want to see something different. So, whether you love it or hate it, support it because it is different.
Thanks for you time and best of luck to you!
Thanks a lot guys!
Check out the trailer for the film below: