Airing Tuesday nights on El Rey is From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Based on the 1996 cult hit of the same name, and re-imagined for TV by co-creator Robert Rodriguez, the show follows fraternal fellons Seth Gecko (D.J. Contra) and Richie Gecko (Seth Holtz) on a crime spree that leads them straight into a vampire infested strip club. The series has been inching towards the climactic standoff at the Titty Twister all season, and with tonight’s episode, “La Conquista”, everything officially goes off the rails. Fittingly enough the episode is helmed by none other than Fede Alvarez, director of the 2013 Evil Dead remake, where he proved a knack for depicting completely unhinged encounters with the supernatural.
In anticipation tonight’s episode I hopped on the phone for an exclusive interview with Alvarez. He talked about how he ended up directing an episode of From Dusk Till Dawn, why the eighth episode was a perfect match for him, working with Robert Rodriguez, shooting on the set of the Titty Twister, the differences between directing for TV and film, and whether or not he would want to direct TV again. He also touched on a few of his upcoming projects, including the status of his first sci-fi feature Machina, moving forward with Dante’s Inferno, and what exactly is going on with Evil Dead 2. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ALVAREZ: Everything goes back to a year ago when Evil Dead was premiering at SXSW, and Robert [Rodriguez] is kind of a local hero over there. I saw him around and I was like, “I have to go and talk with this guy.” So I approached him and I was like, “Hey, I’m a big fan.” And he asked about me, so I told him I have my movie opening at this festival, and he was excited, he kind of knew about Evil Dead. So he went over to watch the film and he dug the film, so from there we just became good friends. We get together often and one day he broke the news about El Rey and that he was doing a show about From Dusk Till Dawn, and he wanted to me to do an episode, and it was like, I would never say no. I mean, it was kind of dream come true to be able to go to the Titty Twister with a camera and shoot the hell out of it. It was a lot of fun.
How did it end up that you directed this eighth episode? Was that just due to scheduling?
ALVAREZ: Oh no, I mean, originally Robert wanted me to do the transition from the kidnapping story to the vampire story, right? But schedule-wise I couldn’t do that one, so “Well, let’s do the next one,” he’ll do seven, which he was very happy to do. So he did seven and I did the follow up, which is eight, which is when everything went to hell. Everything is insane. That’s how I like it. So, eight is completely bananas. It was just fun to do for me. It was a lot of fun to shoot it.
Yeah, I was just going to ask you about your experience shooting, because the episode has a lot of action, it’s goes back in time, it’s got some seduction, some drama- there’s a lot going on, so what was the filming like for you?
ALVAREZ: It’s super interesting, TV is a completely different beast. In a film, the good thing about it I guess is, of course we have amazing writers, but there’s no time to second guess ideas. In a film they come up with an idea and from the moment that you come up with the idea until the moment you’re going to shoot it, maybe two months happen, or even a year happens, so there’s a lot of time to second guess. If there’s something that’s too wild or crazy, or a joke that you’re not sure people are going to get, you start second guessing and you start going safer and cleaning up stuff, and you end up in the place that’s maybe not as wild and crazy as you want it to be- I think Evil Dead was pretty crazy, but still, you always go through that process in a film. There’s a lot of time to second guess ideas, but in TV there’s not. You get a script one day and you have a week to put the ideas that you want in and then the next week you’re shooting. Even on set you come up with stuff all the time and you have to shoot it right away, so there’s no time to over think things. That’s nice, I think its great for this kind of stuff. You want it to be wild and crazy and weird- and wild and crazy and weird, usually after a year of over thinking it, may die. So on TV you have a lot of room to create all this stuff and put it on the camera, and get it in the can, and put it up in the print.
You mentioned getting to be on set at the Titty Twister and I have read that they built a pretty impressive set in in Austin, can you talk about working on that?
ALVAREZ: Yeah, it was amazing. Just walking into the Titty Twister if you’re a fan of the film, which I am, it was just insane because- I mean, it’s not exactly like the original film, I think this one is actually bigger, but it’s definitely the same place and we create all this stuff over there in the studios and you have a chance to explore. You go deeper into the pyramid, in a way. The original film just finished and they tease you at the end with the idea that this was just the tip of the iceberg, that the Titty Twister was literally the tip of this huge pyramid, so as a kid a remember when I saw it I was like, “Oh, shit I want to know what’s down there. What’s going on down there? Who are these people?” So having the chance to walk through the Titty Twister with a camera, I was like, “Oh great, I’m going to go through the rabbit hole and find out what’s underneath the Titty Twister, what’s underneath the bar.” What can I say? It was super exciting just to walk in there, having a great team, a great crew, great writers around you and just go crazy. It was a lot of fun.
ALVAREZ: I mean part of what he wanted to do, he wanted me to do whatever I wanted, right? Usually the TV shows you have some set of rules and stuff that you try to keep with style or stay in some kind of tone, and that’s exactly what he didn’t want. He wanted every episode to be different, and particularly now that they got to the Titty Twister and the story switched to a very supernatural monster story, he wanted everything to be upside down. So that’s how we worked together. he was basically like, “Go crazy. We have Troublemaker studios for you to do whatever you want, so go crazy.” And that’s how we did it. Robert has this App on his phone where he can see my monitors every step of the way, it doesn’t matter if he’s on set or not, so I was always getting texts from him, or he would walk on set some days. But when you’re a director you always feel weird with another director watching over your shoulder, so thank god he didn’t do that. It would be too embarrassing for me to be shooting in front of him, who created this world. He’s the master, right?
That’s crazy. I haven’t heard about that app before. That’s nuts.
ALVAREZ: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s cool.
They put together a really fun cast for the show, talk a little about working with them.
ALVAREZ: They’re awesome. I mean, come on, those guys- everybody was joking about it, but if you think about the original film, so many iconic actors came out from that film, so suddenly you have this new bunch of people that have to step into those shoes and I think they really pull it off. They really do a good job differentiating themselves from the characters, but keeping the spirit of the characters. At the end of the day you want to see Seth Gecko, you want to see Richie Gecko, you want to see those characters again. So I think they pull of a good balance between having their own take, but still not changing their characters completely and making them completely different. I think they hit a spot there where they can balance between the original characters and remaking them, but also putting their own thing into them. But it’s a lot of pressure I imagine. You go in there and you got to play a character that’s been played by George Clooney and Salma Hayek. It’s pretty intense, but they really pull it off. It was a lot of fun. For me particularly working with Rob Patrick was kind of a dream come true.
ALVAREZ: It was amazing. It was amazing.
You mentioned that working on TV is very different from working on film, do you see yourself directing more TV in the future? It is something you would want to do again?
ALVAREZ: Yeah, definitely when it’s something interesting, if it’s something that I dig, and particularly like this [episode], which is definitely a change for the show- it’s not just another episode. It’s really the moment in the series when everything transitions from one world to the other, so it was super interesting for me to go in and do it. But yeah, definitely. I mean, come on, TV has given us some of the best stuff lately, so it’s definitely where no director would say no to it. If it’s a good episode, if it’s a good world to spend some time there, I think it’s a lot of fun, and if you have a good team, if you have good writers, and good producers that will give you the freedom to do something new every episode, where you’re not going to be stuck in the routine of TV. That’s something I would definitely want to do.
So I got to ask the Evil Dead question, because last we heard your writing partner said it wasn’t going to happen, then you said that was a misunderstanding and it’s still happening, so what’s going on man?
ALVAREZ: [Laughs] Right now it’s one of those projects that we definitely want to do, it’s always there. On one side you have Sam [Raimi] wanting to do Army of Darkness 2, which he was actually writing with his brother. So who knows, that’s up to him when he wants to do it. At the same time we have Evil Dead 2. We definitely want to continue to explore what we started on the first one and what Sam started ages ago, but part of the reason why we’re really taking our time is that it’s hard to come up with something that is fresh. I think the Evil Dead fans always demand that. If they’re going to see a new Evil Dead it better be good, right? It’s not like other films where you go and see it, it wasn’t good, fuck it, doesn’t matter. With Evil Dead you have a legacy to honor.
So basically it’s one of those that every time we see Sam, which we’re all good friends so we see each other very often, every time we sit down together we’re talking about it. Hopefully soon enough we’ll find the perfect story for it to make sure that they make another great Evil Dead. If you had it right away- the audience and the fans they always want everything right away. Like, “Give me the second one right away!” But that’s what leads to bad sequels, you know? The audience wants it right away, you have to come up with something right away, you have to write it in two months and then start shooting it, and that’s the way bad sequels happen all the time. If you think about it, a lot of great horror films have bad sequels just because the market demands you to make the other one right away. Thank god no one in the Evil Dead family thinks that way. We think the film deserves the proper time to do it and when the time is right and we find the perfect story, something that we know everybody is going to be proud of, that’s the time when that movie’s going to happen.
Awesome, that’s good to hear. Last time I spoke with you, you kind of teased that you were working on a science fiction film Machina that you were pretty excited about. Where are you at on that?
ALVAREZ: Yeah, we’re still working on that. Basically it’s a film working with MRC, one of the studios in Hollywood and we’re still writing that. It’s something they entrusted me and my co-writer to write, and we’ve been working on that since the end of last year. We’re working on the third draft right now and I’m super excited. Sci-fi is definitely something that I’ve been wanting to do again since Panic Attack and I want to do it on a feature scale. That’s one that hopefully will go soon.
Is there anything that you can tease about what the plot might vaguely be about?
ALVAREZ: [Laughs] No, not really. They would kill me. They would literally, truly kill me.
Understood. I’ve also got to ask on Dante’s Inferno, is that still happening? Where are you guys at on that?
ALVAREZ: Yeah, definitely. It sounds like that might be the next film. We’re super excited about everything on that movie. It’s with Universal. Jay Basu’s the writer, he did great work on the script, we worked together on the story. We’ve got a great script already and we’re about to start casting the film. So it’s pretty close, pretty exciting. Basically we’re making a film based on the biggest mythology about hell ever; the biggest poem about hell. So it’s really something that is super exciting, and it’s not the hell you’ve seen before. It’s completely different form whatever you think. It’s one of those films that if you expect to see lava and caves, you’re not going to get that, it’s a completely new realm and new universe. Horror fans will dig it, because for me it was a good transition to go from Evil Dead to go and do something that is more a big adventure, but set in hell, so of course it’s pretty hardcore just because it’s hell itself. So it’s pretty cool. It’s a cool movie.