The horror thriller 11-11-11 from writer/director Darren Bousman (out on DVD on April 24th) follows famed American author Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs) who travels to Barcelona, Spain, after the tragic death of his wife and child, to reunite with his estranged brother, Samuel (Michael Landes), and dying father, Richard (Denis Rafter). As Joseph’s life becomes plagued with strange happenings and constant sightings of the number 11, curiosity quickly turns to obsession over its horrific meaning.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Darren Bousman talked about how the idea for this film came about, the behind-the-scenes feature about the haunted nature of everything during the shoot, some of the craziest things that happened on set, and how he almost quit a couple of times. He also talked about how happy he is that Mother’s Day (starring Rebecca DeMornay) is finally being released on May 4th, his latest musical endeavor The Devil’s Carnival, his upcoming Jersey Devil monster movie The Barrens, and how he would love the opportunity to make bring the V.C. Andrews book The Flowers in the Attic to life on the big screen. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Darren Bousman: It was actually originally presented to me by a guy named Wayne Rice, who is the producer of a lot of date movies, like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, and now 11-11-11. He called me and said, “I’ve got this idea for a movie,” and he pitched me 11-11-11, but I didn’t get it. I turned it down, on my first introduction to it. He said, “Listen, do me a favor and think about the movie and talk about the movie. Just don’t deny it yet.” A couple days past and I started realizing that 11 was a dominant number in my life. My birthday is January 11th. So, I met with him again and we started talking about what we could do with the movie and how we could turn it into something different. I’m fascinated with religious mythology. It’s been in my last couple of films – The Barrens and The Devil’s Carnival – so I thought I could dive back into something with some sort of apocalyptic prophecy.
How did you decide what to put on the DVD, as far as the special features and deleted scenes go?
Bousman: My wife, during the entire production, was shooting behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s crazy, if you saw the behind-the-scenes features about the haunted nature of everything, that was not a joke, that was not staged, that was all very, very real. Shooting 11-11-11 was probably the most horrific experience of my life. I am not superstitious. I didn’t believe in shit like that, until going there and experiencing it, firsthand. All that stuff about the cults, the death, the ghosts and the apparitions is all real. It was such an unnerving, horrible, horrific feeling, just being there. It made me very uncomfortable. It was probably the darkest point for me, as a person as well as a filmmaker.
Bousman: Everything that happened was insane. I think some places are just evil. There’s no other way to describe it. I hear myself talking about it now and I sound ridiculous saying it, but unless you were there, you can’t really grasp it. When you walked into that house, there was this heaviness that just overtakes you. It’s overpowering. You walk in and there’s just a horrible feeling, and you want to leave immediately. Everyone on the crew got sick, almost instantaneously upon walking in. We had a couple of crew members quit immediately, saying that they refused to shoot at that location because of just that horribleness that you felt when you walked in. So, everyone started getting violently ill and we did tests on the air. We thought maybe there was some sort of mold or fungus, or something in the air, and there was nothing. We had a lot of crew members that had hallucinations in the house, thinking they were seeing things. The one that still stands out to me the most is all the injuries that took place in the house. Our Second A.D. was pushed down the stairs by something or someone. The cinematographer, Joseph White, had a light dislodge itself from the ceiling and fall directly on him, sending him to the emergency room. The prop guy had an entire chandelier fall on top of him. We had one of the costumers fall in the yard, saying that something pushed her. We had all these horrible fucking things taking place. As a rational thinking adult, I know that it sounds ridiculous and you think, “This is not all happening!,” but there’s only so many times you can write it off before you start to wonder, “What’s really going on in this house?”
Bousman: There were a couple of times where I almost quit, seriously. I’ll give you the best example of something that, to me, is unexplainable and crazy. My wife is a very practical, sane person and a very smart lady. She doesn’t believe in any of this crap. She heard me talking about it and said, “You guys are ridiculous! You’re ridiculous! This is nothing!” She went up to the house one afternoon, and the house had been overrun by a cult. There were all these weird emblem symbols, all over the place. We shot in Barcelona, so there was a language barrier and none of the crew members wanted to get near these things. Finally, my wife walked by and saw that the crew members wouldn’t pass a certain door where there was this H symbol because they didn’t want to get near it. She walked over and said, “You guys are ridiculous!,” and pulled the symbol off the door and threw it. Immediately, she got ill. She ran a high temperature and was sent to an emergency room where she was having horrible hallucinations and nightmares. She was bed-ridden for about a week and a half, after that. She had very, very horrific, vivid nightmares of what she said were about a monster chasing her. She ended up being fine, but if you couple that with the fact that the script supervisor got violently ill and refused to go back into the house, and the prop people quit, it was one of those weird things that makes you wonder, “What’s really going on? Is there weird mold in the air, making everyone sick?” It was just a crazy, crazy, crazy experience .
Bousman: Probably. I think there’s a perception of me that I’m the dark lord of all that is scary and gory, but that’s completely false. I love musicals. My house is very bright and lit. It’s not what people would really expect from a Saw director, but I think that’s what allows me to do the things that I do. I’m not really like that.
After everything you went through with the film, were you half-expecting something to happen on 11-11-11 when it was released, and were you disappointed that it didn’t?
Bousman: No. I’m smart enough to realize that the world does not stop and change because I want it to. As much as I would love to have some weird encounter, it’s never really happened to me, outside of what happened on this film. I was in Barcelona doing reshoots on the day that supposedly Rapture was going to occur. It was crazy because I was there, in Spain, and at the moment they had said it was going to happen, everyone in Barcelona was stopped, just looking up. There was this crazy, weird, familial experience. You realize that, regardless of whether you’re religious or not religious, how much religion plays a part in people’s lives. You drive down the street and you see churches on the right and left of you. You don’t think anything about it. It’s commonplace. When you think about what a church is and what it symbolizes – the belief that a man could walk on water, part the Red Sea and cure lepers with his touch – we don’t second-guess that. But, the idea or thought that there are angels or demons walking around, we’re like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous! That’s hogwash!” How is that any more ridiculous than believing that a man walked on water or cured lepers, or whatever? Belief systems fascinate me. That’s another reason I was drawn to this material. What we allow ourselves to believe in or not believe in fascinates me. Even Atheists, who chose to believe in nothing are as religious as Christians because their belief is that they believe in nothing. They still have a belief system. You can say, “I don’t believe in anything,” but you do because you believe in nothing. That is your belief system.
Bousman: Mother’s Day is one of my favorite films. It’s one of the best films that I’ve done. It’s violent, it’s dramatic, it’s hard to watch, and it’s something I can look back on and say, “That is my true vision.” With a lot of films, you get 35% or 40% of what you wanted to do. Mother’s Day is more like 80% of what I wanted to do.
Is it frustrating to get people to understand that the delay is not because it’s a bad movie?
Bousman: It’s the most frustrating thing in the entire world, and it seriously sent me into a state of unbridled depression. I’m doing this thing right now called The Devil’s Carnival. It’s a movie that’s not for everyone. In fact, the majority of the population will probably despise it. It’s another rock opera. I did it for me. I did it because I’ve heard so many times, “Oh, your movie is not commercial enough, so we can’t release it. Your movie doesn’t have enough stars in it, so we can’t release it.” I hear all the excuses about why the movies can’t be released. I finally hit a breaking point and said, “Fuck it! I’m just going to release my own movie. I’m going to go off and shoot something. I’m going to be my own producer, director, writer, distributor and everything, and I’m going to put it out there.” What kills me is that I have The Devil’s Carnival in more theaters than Repo!, Mother’s Day and 11-11 combined, and I did it with the help of three people. We just got on the phone and started calling theaters, and we got it in the theaters. The Devil’s Carnival will be in about 50 screens for 50 engagements, whereas 11-11 played in four and Mother’s Day will play in three. It’s upsetting because I don’t think people realize that, once you turn your director’s cut in, it’s no longer yours. It’s the studio’s or the production company’s. We tested through the roof on Mother’s Day. It was one of the highest-tested films I’ve done. It’s the best-reviewed film I’ve ever done. It’s definitely the best acted film that I’ve done. It’s something that I can actually look back on and stand up and say that I’m proud of it. So, yeah, it sucks. It’s been three years. People look at it now as a tainted film, and it’s not, at all.
Are you surprised that you’ve developed this career that’s a balance between being the horror guy and the bizarre musical guy?
Bousman: No, I love it. Fuck it! I want to do things that are very outside of the box, and I want to do movies that no one else can do. If someone else can make the movie that I’m making, then I shouldn’t do it. I want to make these films that I think other people would be scared to do. I don’t think anyone can go off and make a rock opera. I think it’s a very specific niche, with what it actually takes to do one of these things. For me, I’m very proud of the fact that I can actually say that I’m the guy who can do that. When is the last time that these types of things were released? It was back in the ‘70s. There was Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That was the last time these things were put out. Now, in a couple of years, I’ve gotten two of them put out. So, they’re not for everyone, but they’re for me. That’s really all I care about, at this point, with making these things. I want to make something that makes me happy and, in turn, will make the fans happy because I know that I’m not alone in loving these bizarre, crazy things.
Bousman: Maybe this is extremely selfish of me, but I do things that I want to make and I don’t really care about anyone else when I’m thinking about an idea. I only try to please myself. But, I have to spend the next two years of my life working on it and, if I ever do something for a paycheck, I know that it’s not going to be good and it’s going to be trash and I won’t be able to stand behind it. In that respect, every single movie and every single project that I’ve done, I’ve had an undying passion for it, including 11-11-11. The Barrens was a movie that I always wanted to make. I wanted to make my version of a monster movie. It’s not going to be a classic monster movie. It’s not going to be the thing you think it is. It’s my version of a monster movie. It’s different. It’s unique. It’s like The Shining meets Jaws, in the woods. I just don’t want to ever be pigeonholed into, “Oh, that’s the Saw guy,” or “That’s the Repo! guy,” so I constantly try to juggle as many different types of movies as I can.
Do you have a dream project that you’d love to do, at some point?
Bousman: I’ve been really lucky, in that I’ve done my dream projects. I had two dream projects when I came to Hollywood, and that was making The Barrens and making Repo! At 32 or 33 years old, I was able to accomplish both of them. I think there’s one project that I’ve always wanted to do, and that I’ve tried to get made for years and years and years, but no one will touch it with a 10-foot pole. I hope, at some point, I have the credibility or clout to get it made, but that is based on the V.C. Andrews book, Flowers in the Attic. They made a bad movie of it, in the ‘80s. But, if you go back to the book, it’s a bad-ass book, and it’s extremely emotional and disturbing. It’s a monster film. If you actually read the book, Flowers in the Attic is a monster film, with the mother and the grandmother being the monsters in it. At this point in my career, if I could do anything, I would probably go do Flowers in the Attic. But, I’ve tried for 10 years and no one wants to make it, due to the incest. I had a couple studios offer to do it, but they wanted me to remove the incest, and that’s not the same movie. I want to shoot the movie version of the book. It’s masked as this young adult thing, but it’s so horrific. I’m not the demographic for that thing, but even reading it now, as a male adult, it’s just gut-wrenching.
Do you know what you’ll be doing next? Do you have your next movie ready to go?
Bousman: No, I don’t. There’s another movie I’m working on, with the same producers behind 11-11. That film was only in the theaters for about a week, but overseas it did extremely well. So, the producers behind it have come back to me to do another movie with them, which will probably be the next film that I do. I can’t really get into what it is, but I will tell you that it’s another faith movie. But, it’s up in the air. It’s hard to say. My ultimate thing would be to do another Devil’s Carnival right away.