Loren Horsley & Taika Waititi Interview – EAGLE vs. SHARK

     June 19, 2007

A film that has already opened in very select release is “Eagle vs. Shark” – a quirky New Zealand movie that was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. And while you may have a hard time finding it right now, this weekend it’s expanding to a lot more theaters.

If you don’t know about “Eagle vs. Shark,” here is a synopsis:

It all begins with Lily (LOREN HORSLEY), a lonely oddball and fast-food waitress whohappens to be a hopeless romantic. Then there’s Jarrod (JEMAINE CLEMENT), the man of Lily’sdreams, another lonely oddball and video game clerk, who has spent the last decade plottingultimate vengeance on a bully from his high school past.

When these two connect at a “dress as your favorite animal” party, she’s an anemicShark and he’s a fluffy-headed Eagle. It’s a match that seems made in outcast heaven, but whenLily decides to risk everything for love, her hopes are nearly dashed. After a brief fling, Jarroddumps Lily because he’s too busy “training” for his all-important payback mission. But neither ofthem can anticipate just what kind of grit the steadfastly optimistic Lily will show in herheartbreak. As Jarrod’s day of reckoning arrives, and everything hits the fan, Jarrod and Lily willfind something that goes beyond romantic fantasies and revenge — faith in who they are.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit off the normal path I recommend the movie. It’s along the lines of a “Napoleon Dynamite.” And if you missed the review that ran on Collider a week ago click here.

To help promote the movie one of the stars (Loren Horsley) and the writer/director (Taika Waititi) recently sat down at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about the film and let us know the behind the scenes stories. The interview was done in roundtable form but everyone who participated asked good questions.

As always, you can download the MP3 of this interview by clicking here.

“Eagle Vs. Shark” has opened in very select release and it’s expanding this weekend.

Were you worried about non-New Zealanders getting the humor?

Taika Waititi: Yeah, I think there are definitely moments in the film where no matter where you are, everyone laughs at these moments. But yeah, for sure, there are…A lot of European audiences laugh at completely different things.

Loren Horsley: Yeah, the Dutch laughed at stuff that no one else did.

Taika Waititi: They like a lot of the kind of darker stuff. And New Zealand as well. I guess our humor is maybe a little more subtle in that I think we really love those kind of moments of…

Loren Horsley: Pain.

Taika Waititi: …pain and discomfort that comes from watching dysfunctional families, and relating to them in a way. So yeah, definitely, the audiences have reacted differently. But I guess I was pretty pleasantly surprised that everybody basically really enjoyed the film and got it.

Loren Horsley: We were most nervous about Germany. [We were at] the Berlin Film Festival and that was terrible. We would like go, “This is going to be a disaster.”

Because of their penchant for over-the-top humor?

Loren Horsley: Yeah. Exactly. [laughs]

The really physical stuff…

Loren Horsley: And a lot of slapstick in this one. [laughs]

Why did you choose to insert animated sequences throughout the film?

Taika Waititi: Well, that actually kind of developed a little bit from the script stage right through the very final edit, where we had these little…we had like maybe one…originally there was going to be one moment of animation, and that kind of threw everything a little bit too much. And then the animation story broke into two, and then it got chopped up a lot into different moments, which I think some audiences kind of freaked out when they were watching the film and then sudden it breaks into this new format. And I think a lot of people couldn’t handle it. So yeah, we kind of tied it right in from the very beginning, created it and saw it through to the end. It actually works better, I think. Yeah.

Loren Horsley: And that’s because you love animation. Animation is Taika’s favorite thing. So any chance to put it in would be great. And then he’d always say, “This is my low budget, my first feature, I can do what I want.” And we didn’t think anyone would see it apart from New Zealanders.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, originally, we never really thought that this film would do anything, except maybe a few festivals here and there, because it was a very small, intimate New Zealand film. And the only New Zealand films that do well are like dark family dramas where kids die. And so it’s definitely, I think it’s a new development for New Zealand cinema to have comedy, and especially romantic comedy, get as much attention as this one.

Can you talk about the casting process? You had some really eccentric characters that worked well.

Taika Waititi: Yeah. Well, Loren’s character, that was like a given right from the start. She was going to play that character.

Loren Horsley: We cast the film together.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, and a lot of the characters were written based on certain people, or like with actors in mind, just thinking, “This guy will be great for this role.” And the actual casting, we didn’t actually audition that many people. We just sort of screen-tested our first choices, and a lot of time, they were perfect.

Loren Horsley: New Zealand has got a really strong…Lots of the actors do lots of theatre, because there’s not a lot of film, and it’s kind of really rubbish TV. [laughs] And so there’s lots of really fantastic character actors around the place that we know and have worked with, and so…at last we got a chance to pull them in and give them something to do.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, and in some cases, a lot of the actors are really just playing themselves. You know, there are a couple of people who had never acted before. I mean, like the kid who…you know, Jarod’s nephew who’s like the big guy. He’s got the band with the little girl and the ponytail. And he plays guitar and stuff. And I wrote a character based on him, because I had met him when I was in my friend’s house, and I just found him this incredibly weird kid. And I just wanted a character like that in my film, and then eventually just cast him as the character. I didn’t think I’d find anything better. So yeah, and he was exactly what I wanted. [laughs] So it was great.

Is there a real Meaty Boy in New Zealand? Do you have any stories from the fast food frontline?

Taika Waititi: A friend of ours used to work in Kentucky Fried Chicken. And their store manager used to come to work with a brief case every day, and he was wearing a suit and was very professional. And all the other employees used to wonder what was in the briefcase, and they’re like, “Why do you need a briefcase to come to work managing KFC?” And eventually like after a few months, when he wasn’t looking, he had gone off to do something and they snuck into the office and they opened up his briefcase, and inside it was a single apple and a bottle of Prozac. [laughs]

Loren Horsley: It’s true. It’s really a true story. We remodeled that…That’s the exact store where he worked.

Taika Waititi: So Meaty Boy doesn’t exist. That was the KFC, and we changed everything. So I didn’t want to have a world where anything was very specific and that anyone could relate too much to. And so we made up the video game. That was based on a game called Mortal Kombat, and it’s a very…

I was going to ask about that. What was the inspiration for Mortal Kombat?

Taika Waititi: Well, I mean, I really like…I love video games, but I never really get into the new kind of games. I really like arcade games, and like the ’80s and early ’90s kind of games, just because there’s a real kind of naiveté to them, but there’s like a real inventiveness to it as well. And so Mortal Kombat, that was a huge game for us, and it kind of blew everyone away because it was like this photographic game.

Loren Horsley: I think you were 10 or something, right?

Taika Waititi: Well no, I was 15. But yeah, that’s another one of the elements in the film that was made up. You know, we made up this game, Fight Man. And also, I guess, it’s just nice when you watch a movie and you see a little bit of effort has gone into the production design, where they’ve actually created new things. And you automatically know it’s Mortal Kombat, or you know that it’s a McDonald’s or a Burger King. But it just helps to set it in a slightly different world as well.

So Loren, are you as adept as Lily (aka “Dangerous Person”) at pulling out people’s spines?

Taika Waititi: No…

Loren Horsley: Absolutely not. No, I was raised without a television, and I have a loathing for video games of any sort. So it was a… joystick, is that what they’re called?

Taika Waititi: [laughs] Aw!

Loren Horsley: You know, the thing. I had to get lessons on how to look like I was…

Taika Waititi: Console.

Loren Horsley: Console! He’s the boss of that stuff.

Taika Waititi: I’m not even…I hardly ever play video games.

Loren Horsley: You don’t have a PlayStation. No, you don’t, that’s true.

Taika Waititi: But if I get a chance to play something from the ’80s, I would definitely jump into it. I love it. And again, like that’s the biggest thing for us, was the ’80s as a reference, like the computers are all these archaic machines. You can probably never actually run the internet on them or stream video.

Can you talk about your experiences at Sundance?

Taika Waititi: Yeah.

Loren Horsley: It’s the best place in the world! [laughs]

Taika Waititi: It’s an incredible opportunity to really learn a lot about filmmaking and your script. Someone who I was there with said she had just done like three years at USC, and she said like in front of everyone, “After like a week, I feel like I just wasted three years and I should have just come and done this. I’ve learned so much.” So yeah, it’s a real privilege to get access to all those minds, who all come in and it’s a very concentrated process. And then Loren got to come as the actor when we work shopped the scenes. And we got Judah Friedlander, who’s a great American comic, and he came in and he played the part of Jarrod for the Sundance scenes. And it was just a fantastic opportunity.

Loren Horsley: Everyone comes for free, so automatically it’s all about community and mentorship and all of that fantastic stuff. So it really feels like they set you in the right direction as far as making work for the right reasons. They kind of infuse a feeling of responsibility to try and be rigorous with yourself about everything.

Is that how you got discovered by Miramax before the film got to the festival? Because it’s sort of an odd story…

Loren Horsley: It is an odd story.

Continued on the next page ——->


You already had a distributor before you got the festival…

Taika Waititi: Before we had even finished editing the film.

Loren Horsley: [laughs] Taika got an Oscar nomination, which means that they were already watching him, I think.

Taika Waititi: So I had met a couple of those guys about a year before or something, and kind of talked about…They asked me what projects I had, and I sort of mentioned this and that, and my kind of strange ideas, and they weren’t very interested at all.

Loren Horsley: They were very excited!

Taika Waititi: “Oh, you must be so excited.” And that was the end of it. So we made our little film in New Zealand with the film commission, and then the Oscar nomination thing kind of came out. And that’s actually probably helped me get funding as well, because of that. Sort of like the whole film got fast-tracked by the film commission because I was suddenly the kind of…

Loren Horsley: Golden boy.

Taika Waititi: Golden boy. Yeah, for a brief moment in New Zealand. [laughs] Which is great timing. Especially having a script that was as odd as this one, and then having those guys kind of just go, “Well, we don’t get it, but here’s some money. Go and make your film that you want to make. We trust you.” [laughs] And I think that hardly ever happens. So it was just totally lucky.

How was it in New Zealand? Did you have people watching as you were filming scenes or did they not they care?

Loren Horsley: New Zealand is a really odd…we’re not even going to look at you…

Taika Waititi: New Zealand. We’ve got a thing called the tall puppy syndrome in New Zealand where if anyone is doing really well, it’s quite common to try and bring them down — like cut them down and say, ‘You’ve been to the moon? So what? I mean plenty of people have been to the moon.’ Even before ‘Lord of the Rings’ a lot of films were made in the cities and stuff and they were a few other American productions made there and I think a lot of people really don’t really care about seeing a production. Obviously, anywhere you go, there’s always somebody who likes to just look but also I think in New Zealand the chances of actually seeing a star are so slim. People kinda just think, ‘Well who am I going to see, like some guy from a New Zealand soap opera who I see in the supermarket anyway.” So those sorts of things are never really a huge deal:

So what are you both working on next and what have you done since this?

Taika Waititi: Loren is….

Loren Horsley: [Laughs] Okay, you do me and I’ll do you.

Taika Waititi: Loren’s got a film collective back home called The Chapel Collective and it’s her and a bunch of other artists that make films and they’re currently making a feature but trying to do low budget feature films outside of any kind of studio or financial system and just concentrating purely on making a story. She’s probably going to go back home and continue with that. I’m finishing a script based on the Oscar-nominated short and this is called “The Volcano” and it’s about some kids growing up, a coming of age story, kids growing up in New Zealand in the countryside in the 80s around the time when Thriller came out. It’s a coming of age story but with my twist on it, I guess.

Loren Horsley: And he’s just finished doing the HBO series with Jemaine who’s in Flight of the Conchords. He plays Jarrod who’s just done the HBO series. He’s just written and directed two episodes of it just finished two weeks ago.

Taika Waititi: They’re shooting now and it’s coming out the same weekend that this film comes out.

What that on purpose? Was that timed?

Taika Waititi: Not by Miramax. I think Miramax — originally the date was going to be a couple weeks earlier but they put it off because there was another romantic comedy – both well known actors in it. They didn’t really want to compete with another romantic comedy so I have to just go out there and compete with Fantastic Four instead. [Laughs]

Are you going to try to mix in your love of old school video games and arcades into your script?

Taika Waititi: Yeah, well it’s definitely got more of an 80s setting. I grew up in a really, really tiny town and there weren’t any video games or arcades or anything of that sort. Television was the only sort of connection to the outside world and especially to America.

Loren Horsley: And you used to make your own sticks.

Taika Waititi: My own what?

Loren Horsley: Your own video games.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] I don’t want to talk about that.

Now for the million dollar question. What are both of your favorite animals?

Loren Horsley: Mine just changed. Mine was baboon until last night when Taika showed me this BBC Planet Earth – their latest documentary. Have you seen it? Oh my God!

Taika Waititi: I don’t think they were Amazonian. They were from the Philippines or something.

Loren Horsley: It was a parrot.

Taika Waititi: A bird of paradise.

Loren Horsley: That you’ve never seen before ever in your life.

Taika Waititi: He flips his wings out and it’s like…

Loren Horsley: He looks like a squid, but it’s a bird.

Taika Waititi: Black. A big black bird with like a strip of blue with these two blue things that look like eyes.

Can you tell us about the HBO show and how it went?

Taika Waititi: Yeah, it went well. It’s going to be hilarious. It’s going to be huge. It’s basically about these two New Zealand musicians living in New York who I guess you could say try to make it but that’s not really any of the story. It’s just about these guys from another country hanging out in New York and I guess their perspective of life in America – a little bit like that TV show in the 80s. What was it called? Perfect… with Balki [Bartokomous].

Perfect Strangers.

Taika Waititi: [Laughs] Perfect Strangers. Perfect Strangers with two New Zealanders instead of an Albanian or wherever he was from.

I think they made up the country he came from.

Taika Waititi: [Laughs] Right.

Loren Horsley: It’s outrageous.

Taika Waititi: Bret and Jemaine speak in the same accent as that guy. [imitates Balki’s accent]

How was working for HBO? Did they give you a lot of creative freedom? Did they give you notes?

Taika Waititi: No. It was fine. They were great actually. They were all about …. I mean I think the fact that they were taking a chance on these two guys from New Zealand and giving them a TV show, it shows they’ve got enough balls to let them do what they want and back them. I came on about half way through their shooting so for me the job was a lot easier because they had already established their characters and the settings and the tone and everything. So, you know, I just walk on set and say ‘And go!’

Loren Horsley: Be funnier.

Taika Waititi: ‘And action!’ No, it was totally great. Obviously with TV there’s not a huge amount of creative freedom because you need – because there’s format and you can’t really be as poetic as in film but still there’s some pretty unconventional humor in this show, I think. It’s pretty cool. I can’t tell you what it is. [Laughs]

What about the costumes – making them and [to Horsley] for you actually wearing them? What was that like looking at yourself in dailies?

Taika Waititi: [to Loren] How was that?

Loren Horsley: I was wearing a wig so automatically I had great fun. If you put a wig on, then you’re finished. I don’t know if you watched any of the dailies but that costume was so uncomfortable. It was just genius. It was one of those things that felt bad so it wasn’t the nicest thing to wear but they’re beautiful costumes. The costume designer made them all from scratch. She kind of stitched around them. Taika kept on saying, ‘No, they have to be made worse, more…

Taika Waititi: The original costumes were really well made and I wanted them to look more like…

Loren Horsley: Yeah, take a pair of scissors and ripping it [pretends to tear the costume] and she was going like ‘What is going on!?’

Taika Waititi: Yeah, originally it was supposed to look like these guys made the costumes themselves and we originally wanted you guys to actually make them themselves but there was just no time. Everything was like once we got into the second week of pre-production, everything spun out of control. It was like there was no time to do anything but make the film.

That’s a lot to ask of your actors to make the costumes.

Loren Horsley: [Laughs] No, we were dying to. No, we really wanted to. I was really pissed off I couldn’t.

Taika Waititi: Yeah. That would’ve been great.

Can you talk about this next project that you’re working on? Has making this movie and the reception that it’s gotten critically across the world helped with financing for your second movie? Do you feel like you’re….?

Taika Waititi: I think this will definitely help with the next film. The next film obviously has a bigger budget. It’s funny. The next film is actually the original script that I took to the Sundance Writer’s Lab the first time I went there so the next one’s actually my first film. I’ve gotten rid of any expectation on my second film by making that first and now I can just go back and make my debut film which is going to be brilliant. [Laughs]

Lower the expectations?

Taika Waititi: [Laughs] Yeah, lower the expectations first…

Loren Horsley: Shift the expectations.

Taika Waititi: …and then come down with the big guns.

Loren Horsley: It’s like David Copperfield – smoke and mirrors.

The stop action photography part that you guys did, especially the sleeping bag scenes with the setting sun, did you guys fake the setting sun or did you really shoot for a whole day just being dragged around in the sleeping bags.

Taika: Yeah, that was like about 5 or 6 hours of shooting that stuff. There were extras in the…there were like….

Loren Horsley: There were doubles. I did it in Sundance. That’s what Taika made us do in Sundance which was like 2 hours in Sundance and it’s like I’m never…I have a high tolerance for doing stuff but this was against all rules. It’s like you move—stop. You move—stop. For 2 hours.

How many extras did he…did you just use one extra double each or did you…?

Taika Waititi: Yeah. Everybody was sunburned at the end of the day. We were off shooting other stuff and we just missed them with the 2nd unit crew and …

Loren Horsley: …and they were crawling through cow dung and …

Taika Waititi: …and they were crawling on grass patches with prickles and stuff and cow shit. It was so funny.

Loren Horsley: They were weeping at the end.

They were crying?

Loren Horsley: Yes, seriously. And it was a little girl.

Taika Waititi: It wasn’t a little girl. It was like a woman. We don’t use little girls, what are you talking about?

Loren Horsley: In New Zealand it’s kosher. They love it, those little girls.

Taika Waititi: A four year old girl who can double as Loren.

Continued on the next page ——->


I’ll ask the question about the DVD. What have you have planned for it?

Taika Waititi: I’m having some conversations about the DVD at the moment. I obviously want to do commentary and we overshot this film completely and so there will definitely be some extra scenes and I think we dropped about 25 minutes of the story from the final movie. I’m not going to put 25 minutes of extra stuff on the DVD, don’t worry about it.

Was there a scene that you were really regretting cutting?

Taika Waititi: Yeah, and I put it back in at the last minute.

Or any tiny bits or something that we just…

Taika Waititi: There was a dream sequence actually that we shot.

Loren Horsley: Sort of Ingmar Bergman.

Taika Waititi: It’s a very Bergman dream sequence in black and white that was shot for the film where Lily has gigantic robotic arms from the video game and she’s on the beach fighting seagulls and that never made it to the film but it’s something that I really want to be on the DVD. It’s funny; the film commission gave us this money and basically gave me complete creative control. Left me alone. The one time they came to see it was the day that we were shooting the dream sequence and they turned up….

Loren Horsley: I was covered in blood.

Taika Waititi: …what’s going on here? She’s got blood all over…pretending she’s fighting these seagulls and I’m yelling out—Ok, they’re pulling your heart out of your chest. Fight them off. And they’re “your film looks interesting Taika”.

Loren Horsley: They smiled and nodded and walked away really quickly.

So what was the reaction after they finally saw the final film?

Taika Waititi: Oh they never saw the dream sequence so they were pleased. They forgot about that. The other things I imagined that would go on the DVD are….I thought it would be really funny just to do the entire film but do the rough assembly which is about 2-1/2 hours long just to punish people. It would be really funny. Funny for me.

Loren Horsley: It hasn’t be released in New Zealand yet, so it’s been released here first so not many people have seen it. The film commission has seen it and loved it but …

What was the decision behind that?

Taika Waititi: Well, apart from the fact that I don’t think we can do anything in New Zealand without getting approval from bigger countries….

Loren Horsley: If you like it we won’t.

Taika Waititi: I think the main reason is for the distributors in New Zealand and Australia, it makes much more business sense for them to wait and see how a film does here and it makes their job a lot easier advertising the film in New Zealand. They can just say this is what these guys said about the film or you know.

Loren Horsley: Our main paper which shows (inaudible) publishing our bad Variety review saying Eagle vs. Shark got a terrible review in Variety.

Taika Waititi: Americans say Eagle vs. Shark won’t fly. Something like that you know.

Loren Horsley: All these people were coming up to me going I’m so sorry, and I’m like what?

Taika Waititi: I got e-mails from people saying oh, man it’s just…don’t worry man, I’m sure the film is good. It’s so funny because it’s like a big deal in New Zealand to concentrate on like the negative stuff.

So did you go to Variety and try to find them?

Taika Waititi: You can’t do anything about it.

Was it always an eagle vs. a shark and did you pick those animals because of certain symbolism?

Taika Waititi: Yeah. I think…I’m not sure about the specific symbolism about an eagle and a shark but for me they represent the loneliest of the animals. Very solo animals who are….the pattern that they are, they both circle around looking for something. Running around and around in circles but are in just completely different environments. They’re very different but also very similar as well.

What’s the one thing you’d like an audience to take from this film?

Taika Waititi: A receipt. I think it’s important to me that people don’t go into this film just thinking ok, it’s like a broad comedy that’s good for a couple of laughs for a hour and a half and then you can forget about it. I hope the film connects with people on a deeper level and that people realize that we are all outsiders and that this is one of the main themes for the film is that you can connect to that fact that none of us belong and it helps to ground you a little bit more in the fact that we’re all together in this and it’s not a film where you laugh at people who are different. It’s a story about recognizing that we all are those people. They’re just extreme versions of ourselves.

Loren Horsley: We can wake up the empathy that are part of people’s natures. That would be good.

Taika Waititi: My big theory is that human’s are the outsiders in the animal world and we’re like the nerds of the animal world and we don’t fit in and they’re all secretly looking at us and shaking their heads and saying what are those things? When you think about it, we’ve evolved so much now that I just don’t think we belong here anymore. These clumsy ridiculous animals—we’re not even animals we’re just like strange awkward clumsy beasts.

That sounds like your 3rd movie.

Loren Horsley: Yeah, Clumsy Awkward Beasts. Great title.

Did you get to take anything from the set? Did you bring anything home?

Loren Horsley: Too much.

Taika Waititi: What did you take?

Loren Horsley: No, you brought too much. The numchucks…our living room is like numchucks and all this samurai swords, the candles.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, I took a lot of stuff.

Loren Horsley: The candle. Far too much stuff. He’s been away for a month. I’ve been putting it into the attic.

What did you take?

Loren Horsley: Nothing I don’t think.

Who has the costumes?

Taika Waititi: Miramax has the costumes at the moment. They’re over here doing…

Loren Horsley: People are really wearing our real costumes around that’s really funny.


Taika Waititi: Yeah. We’re submitting the costumes to the Academy for consideration.

Loren Horsley: Historical research and…

Taika Waititi: …for best wardrobe in 2006.

And don’t put it past him, he might get a nomination.

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