David Gordon Green Exclusive Interview – SNOW ANGELS

     March 12, 2008

The image you have of director David Gordon Green is about to be shattered. While his new movie “Snow Angels” won’t be the one to do it….everything he has coming up in the future will.

While in Los Angeles to promote “Snow Angels,” I got to speak with the talented filmmaker for about twenty minutes in a one on one setting. Since all of you know the way I interview and what I like to talk about…can you guess what I asked David? If you said “Pineapple Express,” give yourself a prize.

In case you didn’t know, David has finally been asked to join the Hollywood directors club and for his first feature, David directed a Judd Apatow produced stoner comedy that arrives this August. Along with “Tropic Thunder,” the two films make August an amazing month for movies.

Of course, once we finished talking about “Pineapple,” we talked about many other things including all the other projects he’s developing. Would you believe he’s trying to make a kids’ TV show called “Don’t Mind If I Do.” He said ‘it’s like “Perfect Strangers” meets “Full House”.’ He also gave me info on his remake of “Susperia” and he talked about a John Grisham adaptation he’s working on about death row.

Other highlights of the interview was David talking about how he used to work as a test screening recruiter, telling me that he loves big popcorn movies but isn’t that into art house films, and explaining why “Snow Angels” took so long to come out after premiering at Sundance 2007.

After talking with David, he came across as extremely happy with the way things are going and he seemed really happy about all the opportunities that are opening up for him.

And since we didn’t cover that much on “Snow Angels” due to my enthusiasm for all his other projects, I just want to make sure you know the movie opens this Friday in Los Angeles and next week around the country. Here’s the synopsis:

Framed by the sound of two gunshots, “Snow Angels” is the haunting story of two broken families and two romantic relationships, one just beginning and one nearing its end. Michael Angarano plays Arthur, a teenager experiencing both his parents’ separation and his first romance with Lila (Olivia Thirlby), while Sam Rockwell’s Glenn is a hard-drinking Evangelical trying to get back into the life of his estranged wife Annie, played by Kate Beckinsale with surprising vulnerability.

“Snow Angels” stars Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Jeannetta Arnette, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Katt, Tom Noonan, Connor Paolo, Amy Sedaris and Olivia Thirlby.

As usual, you can either read the transcript of my conversation with David or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. Finally, here is a link to the movie clips from “Snow Angels,” the reason why I got to talk with David.

The interview starts with me telling him how much I loved the test screening I saw of Pineapple Express and howI talked with Evan Goldberg about it….

Collider: I interviewed Seth’s (Rogen) partner, Evan. We talked all about it. I’m calling it this summer’s “SuperBad”.

David Gordon Green: Okay.

Collider: Because it comes out same time, the whole thing.

David Gordon Green: What about this summer’s “Tango and Cash”?

Collider: If you want to call…we can call…so the interview starts, David calls this movie…

DGG: This summer’s “Zapped”. This summer’s “Zapped Again”.

Collider: I’m going to say it’s better than “Zapped Again”. Okay, so a little back story. Let’s rewind a little bit. When did you first want to become a filmmaker? When did that all come about for you?

DGG: All the time.

Collider: Since like the moment you remember?

DGG: I love movies.

Collider: Okay. A lot of people…the thing about your name is that it’s always associated with very serious, very artistic, very…you have that name David Gordon Green kind of thing.

DGG: It’s a dramatic name, isn’t it?

Collider: It’s true.

DGG: I put the middle name there so it sounds more black.

Collider: I’m not going to comment either way on that, what I will say though is a lot of people associate you with these serious movies and with “Pineapple Express” you are officially kicking the door open into another genre. I’d heard that you had been trying to kick that door open for a little while and it was finally Judd Apatow who said come on in, we want you here.

DGG: Because everyone keeps saying you’re too weird and your sense of humor doesn’t fit in anywhere then all of a sudden they’re like, “no we want this. This will be great. Let’s go wild. Let’s go have some fun.”

Collider: So how did you get to meet Jud and how did for you “Pineapple Express”…if you don’t mind me talking a little bit about this?

DGG: You know Danny McBride?

Collider: I do.

DGG: Okay. So everybody saw Foot Fist Way and everybody said, “where did you come from? Have you ever acted before?” And he’s like, “yeah, I was in this movie “All the Real Girls” and everybody’s like, “what’s that?” So then everybody saw it and then they’re like, “oh we like this. Who made this?” So it was like it had a 2nd life sort of based on Danny’s kind of exposing it, so it was cool.

Collider: And is that the reason why Danny’s in ‘Pineapple”?

DGG: Danny’s in “Pineapple” became I just don’t know how to make movies without him because he’s just too funny to have around. I mean, if you’re going to make a comedy, how do you do it without him. But so, yes, he introduced me to them and then I went out and hung out on the “Knocked Up” set and we all kicked around and had a great time so let’s do something together.

Collider: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about…I believe when you first came to L.A. you might have worked a little bit in the test screening process.

DGG: I did. I worked for an NRG.

Collider: Exactly.

DGG: How did you know that?

Collider: I do research before I come into rooms.

DGG: Oh, I didn’t even remember I said that anywhere. Interesting. Yeah, I did, yeah. I was the guy that would like pass out the shit and take and you know…

Collider: Yeah, I’m not sure maybe it wasn’t public knowledge. Who cares? What matters is…

DGG: That’s interesting because one of the guys I met working there I brought to all the test screens. He still helped…I mean not the guy…he doesn’t work there anymore now, now he does “Girl Gone Wild” stuff, but it was cool to have him come and help escort me through and talk through kind of the process from behind the scenes because he works there more and knew more about life than I do.

Collider: I wanted to know how did working for the company that does the test screening process—how did that affect you as a filmmaker? Did you learn anything from that, you know working for the company?

DGG: Yeah, I learned to get the hell out of there and make movies my way.

Collider: Okay.

DGG: You know like it was inspiring. It was like great, people want this kind of thing. I don’t like these movies. I don’t like the way the mediocrity is being driven into the minds of studio executives because of the tolerance of an audience. Let’s just make something crazy and if you build it they will come. Maybe not tomorrow but if you stick to your guns and put your fingerprints on shit and make it smart and surround yourself by people you trust and make cool decisions, people are going to want something fresh one of these days and I mean, I can’t tell you how many garbage after garbage screenings and recuts I had to sit through and be like it’s depressing they’re even spending money on any of these movies. So why don’t I just go away and do something entirely different, designed to fail from every commercial element and aspect. So I went away and kind of got confident and figured out where it works on the…the only movies I don’t go see are art movies. I love to make them but I only go see popcorn movies, so then I’m designing my own kind of confidence as filmmaker determined to find a world where that blends with what people are going to see because there were days when “Deliverance” was a huge box-office draw and wins Academy Awards or “The Blues Brothers” comes out and makes $120 million or whatever it made. You know like there were times when great movies made a ton of money and they were innovative and exciting and unpredictable. So I’m just a very optimistic guy. I just know that nobody’s going to give you money to go off and be weird until you establish yourself and convince them that that’s a safe bet.

Collider: I guess my follow-up to that is Judd loves to test his movies. He’s famous for testing after testing of all his films. You guys have tested “Pineapple Express” a number of times. How has the testing process adjusted or altered your cut?

DGG: Well, even on…we tested “Snow Angels” a couple of times just because I wanted to see where an audience thinks it’s too much, or “Snow Angels” is actually a specific kind of movie, even more so than “Pineapple,” to learn where I wanted to have comedy in it but where if Nicky Katz runs into the house and he slips and falls, we’d let him fall it’s fucking funny. He needs to slip but where within the frame do you get the big laugh vs. where do you get the human imperfection and just draw that line. So finding those within watching the crowd is very valuable to me and it’s one thing for me and my editor to be sitting in a room, but if you’re showing it to an audience of 1,000 people, there’s no arguing. It’s either funny or it’s sad or whatever it is they’re dictating it and the same thing goes for “Pineapple” and more comedic driven stuff like if I think something totally hilarious, but it’s an awkward silence in an audience of 450 people in Burbank… it’s probably going to be annoying to have that in the movie. There are a few things I thought were really…and there’s a few things in the movie that I don’t particularly think are funny but you see fucking 17-year old stoners rolling in the aisles, you know let’s give them one.

Collider: So you mentioned to me that you’ve done a few cuts and the movie’s gotten even wackier, you’ve added a new soundtrack. What is the…where are you at with the film now?

DGG: It’s done.

Collider: It could be released tomorrow?

DGG: Yeah.

Collider: And how are you…

DGG: The poster’s pretty cool. You know what the tag line is?

Collider: Um, maybe? I’m not sure if I know it or not.

DGG: Put this in your pipe and smoke it.

Collider: Is that what’s on the poster?

DGG: Yeah.

Collider: Here’s what interesting. A lot of people talk about the MPAA and what you’re allowed to get away with and what you’re not allowed to get away with and that’s something else I wanted to ask you about. You guys made a…or you made a stoner comedy about pot, about weed, about smoking, about everything the MPAA frowns on.

DGG: Yeah, it’s rated R.

Collider: And how do you advertise this? Are you running into any stumbling blocks?

DGG: Yes, a green band trailer. Wait until the 28th when they put a trailer in theatres. It has no cuss words or violence or weed.

Collider: I mean as a filmmaker are you a little concerned or do you think the Internet can basically break…because you guys released a red van trailer

DGG: Leaked

Collider: Yeah, exactly.

DGG: It’s fine. Sony is fucking great at marketing it will be fine.

Collider: Are you looking forward to going to Comic-Con this year?

DGG: Am I going to Comic-Con? I would love to go to that Comic-Con. That would be fun. I think we come out right before that though.

Collider: I think you come out in August or do you come out in…

DGG: It’s August 8th.

Collider: Comic-Con’s the end of July.

DGG: Then I guarantee you we will be there fucking hustling.

Collider: I was going to say you could…

DGG: I’ve never been so it would be fun. I’d go when they had the Con’s in Dallas. That was pretty fun.

more with David Gordon Green on page 2 —–>


Collider: So let’s go into “Snow Angels” for a second. As a filmmaker, how tough is it to make a film, premieres at Sundance, and you have to wait 13 months for it to actually hit the theatres?

DGG: I didn’t bother me.

Collider: A little bit or is it…?

DGG: No for me honestly I was intimidated by coming out against “Into The Wilds” and “There Will Be Bloods” and “The No Countries for Old Men” and then getting my ass whomped. You know? The higher profile movies of the same kind of emotional gravity and reaching for the same crowd, I was just intimidated by my idols, so I wanted to make sure we steered clear of that and it was a Warner Independent concept to find…actually it was about a year ago we were talking about this and I knew the forecast of ‘07 and they had it all laid out and we were looking at it and they said…which I think is really smart…they said this is a year ago today. It was right after the Indie Spirit Awards, and they said we want to be coming out when the “Wild Hogs” of ’08 are coming out. I said that’s perfect. That makes perfect sense, because you can see “Jumper” or “Step Up 2” or “Snow Angels” rather than trying to make a decision within the same texture or same world.

Collider: When you are traversing the subject matter that you are choosing the traverse, how tough is it for you to get financing for your movies?

DGG: It’s tough to make little movies. It’s easy to make big movies.

Collider: And do you think that now that you’ve kind of done this big budget Hollywood movie is your next goal to kind of do one for them, one for me?

DGG: No, just do them all for me.

Collider: Okay.

DGG: Yeah, a lot of people say that. They try to…I look at guys like Michael Ernbaum. He makes movies all over the place. They’re crazy. They’re not all great, but they’re all very bold and innovative and he’s trying something. He’s always making them for himself. I think that’s pretty cool. Like I say me, but my collaborators, my gang, my posse, which is growing and expanding and they go away sometimes, they come back sometimes. So it’s all very exciting, it’s just like what other bizarre opportunity and experience can we have?

Collider: So I guess as I’m running out of time…

DGG: We’ve already reached out goals so we might as well have a fucking wild ride and having fun.

Collider: And I wanted to know what are you currently writing right now? What’s on your plate at home?

DGG: I’m just about finished with “Susperia”.

Collider: Okay.

DGG: A remake of an 70’s Italian horror film.

Collider: Yes.

DGG: And a John Grisham adaptation of this non-fiction story of an innocent man on death row. So I’ve been researching that, hanging out in Oklahoma.

Collider: With “Susperia”…are you thinking about directing that?

DGG: Um-huh.

Collider: So you’re thinking about doing a horror movie?

DGG: Think about it? I’m getting ready to fucking hopefully go do that shit. I don’t know if I’m getting ready, but you know that’s the idea.

Collider: Are you planning on doing this independently? Do you have studio backing?

DGG: No studio backing.

Collider: And are you already thinking like a budget in mind? Casting?

DGG: Just wild. Just artistic opera of horror. Beautiful Jonathan Demme, Polanski, Kubric horror.

Collider: That’s fucking awesome.

DGG: That’s the next stage of being weird.

Collider: That’s awesome.

DGG: Have you seen the original?

Collider: If I have I was very, very drunk.

DGG: Fucking goblins, synthesizer music and it’s really awesome. It’s at a ballet school in Germany.

Collider: Are you planning on…how close is it to the original…have you?

DGG: It’s very close.

Collider: And have you just added any sort of modern….

DGG: Character development not modern shit. I don’t like stuff like that. Just a little character development and some fleshing of stuff out and a little more mythology. Because he’s done that trilogy now of the 3 mothers, Argenta. So I just watch a lot of Argenta movies and some other crazy…I don’t know we’ve watched a lot of weird shit. I read it with my sound mixer—our production sound mixer—he’s worked on all my movies.

Collider: And I guess I have another question for you about the writings process. What is your writing process like? Are you able to go all day? A lot of filmmakers talk about there’s a golden period each day for 2 or 3 hours where you’re really….?

DGG: It depends because I like to write with other people a lot, so in those cases I like to just get up early and do a little bit myself and then get in a room with them and pound ideas back and forth and you go for a walk and put on some music. You know I can go all day.

Collider: And with the John Grisham is this something that you’d think about directing or is this something…

DGG: Um-hum. Yeah, I want to direct. It would be fun. It’s heavy, heavy shit. Death row is fucked up.

Collider: And what’s the research been like for you looking into these kinds of things?

DGG: Very quiet.

Collider: Have you spoken to a lot of people?

DGG: Um-hum. I guess you have to do a lot of research and meet the real people and go visit, talk to wardens and things. It’s weird. Everybody’s quiet when you talk about death row. Even on death row nobody’s yelling and banging on pots and pans. Everybody’s just looking at you. It’s eerie. It’s its own horror movie.

Collider: And how close is it to the book?

DGG: It’s a lot less than the book. The book is massive and epic and this is like a character study of a guy.

Collider: And so I guess what is the one liner for both of these projects that you’re writing?

DGG: With that one “an innocent man on death row”, what’s the other one “Susperia”?

Collider: Yeah.

DGG: “Coven of witches run a ballet school in Germany”.

Collider: I know I have to go, I cannot believe that this is the project that you’re….so that’s what you’re doing next for sure?

DGG: No, not for sure. It’s a funny window of time right now with the perception of “Pineapple” where…people are just talking to me about interesting stuff so as long as it’s funny and as long as I can’t believe what somebody’s talking to me about then it becomes entertaining.

Collider: As a filmmaker are you more excited now than you’ve ever been?

DGG: Yeah because the opportunities are greater now than they’ve ever been, so that’s cool.

Collider: Yeah, I welcome these movies with open arms. Cool.

DGG: And I need to do some sort of staged sit-com with like a laugh track, you know? I’m working on that.

Collider: So the David Gordon Green TV 3 camera’s is coming.

DGG: Like “Full House”. It’s called “Don’t Mind If I Do”. It’ll be good. Actually it will be bad, but that’s good. It’s like “Perfect Strangers” meets “Full House”.

Collider: Are you being serious with me?

DGG: Yeah.

Collider: Okay.

DGG: I don’t know if the network will want to do it but I might just do it some weird shit.

Collider: But hasn’t the Internet kind of opened up the ability to do whatever you want?

DGG: You know HomeStar Runner?

Collider: Absolutely. Strongbad.

DGG: Those are my buddies and so we’re working on kid show ideas and stupid stuff, serious stuff that we could do. They’re great.

Collider: Last question for you. You produced “Great Wall of Sound” .

DGG: World of Sound?

Collider: I said that wrong and I’m sorry. I actually promoted the film on the site. Are you trying…

DGG: They have a cool web site for that. Have you seen that? The Chapman Brothers did that.

Collider: I have not seen the web site but the movie’s really cool. Are you trying to do more producing?

DGG: Just for my great friends like Craig. I have a movie coming out in April that I produced called “Shotgun Stories”. It stars Michael Shannon…you know Michael Shannon? He’s one of the great character actors of our time.

Collider: If I saw his face I’d definitely know.

DGG: He’s amazing. So that’s coming out in April but these are guys I go to school with that I have a long track record with and I know aren’t going to turn into weirdoes. A lot of times you get into producing…I’ve flirted with people and then all of sudden they start acting weird like…go deal with yourself. Great people, man. I’d do anything to support great movies getting made.

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