Wes Craven Interview – PARIS JE T’AIME

     May 4, 2007

Opening today in very select release is “Paris, Je T’Aime”. If you haven’t heard of the film yet it’s about finding love in Paris. But unlike most films that feature one filmmaker with one story – “Paris, Je T’Aime” has 18 directors making 5 minute short films that each feature a different cast. And these aren’t directors you haven’t heard of as some of the people who made a contribution were Olivier Assayas, Tom Tykwer, Alfonso Cuarón, Sylvain Chomet, Gérard Depardieu, Bruno Podalydès, Gurinder Chadha, the Coen brothers, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Christopher Doyle, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Walter Salles and Gus Van Sant.

And these filmmakers brought along some talent as here are some of the actors who are involved – Nick Nolte, Gena Rowlands, Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Emily Mortimer, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Ludivine Sagnier, Barbet Schroeder, Rufus Sewell and Elijah Wood.

I got to see the movie and while not every short worked, as a whole I really enjoyed what the film was trying to do and absolutely recommend checking it out when it finally gets released in your neck of the woods. The best partwas the wide variety of stories that were told. Some involved couples that had been together for a long time and some are about finding love in a most unusual way…

To help promote the film Wes Craven did a press day recently and the transcript is below. He talks about how he got involved in this project as well as future remakes he might be making under his deal with Rogue Pictures. If you’re a fan of Wes or the horror genre you’ll dig the interview.

As usual you can listen to the interview as well as read it, so click here to download the MP3. And if you missed my article of high resolution images from the film go here.

How did you get approached for this?

It came out of the blue. I can’t even remember, I think it was an e-mail, “We’re interested in you participating in this and here’s what we’re up to. You’ll be shooting in Paris…” It was like by the time that word came by, I said, “Okay, I’m there. What plane do I need to be on?” And they sent the list of the directors they had so far and it was such a great list. It was kind of a no brainer to do it if I could possibly do it. It was right in the middle of the press tour for Red Eye so I was pretty busy needless to say. We did our location scout going from I think Berlin to London on the press tour. We just took a diversionary flight, got met at the airport, driven, raced out to this location and driven around it for an hour. “Okay, we’ll shoot there, there, there, there and there. Let’s get to the airport.” Back on the plane, back on the press tour and then we came back I think a month later because I went on to another press tour after that press tour and did a week of preproduction and two days of shooting and a week of post and that was it. And I wrote the script in two hours because I had done two other scripts and they had both been impossible to shoot because of a lack of the ability to get clearances for Jim Morrisson and then Edith Piaf. So this one was almost like an accident. It was strange and it just came up and I looked at it and said, “That’s better than the other one.”

Was adding the ghost story element just bringing Wes Craven to it?

Maybe. I guess maybe it was. I certainly felt like I’m not going to say I’m not who I am but beyond that, I don’t know. It was just that place is haunted by ghosts in a way in the sense that you can just feel these gigantic personalities of the people that are buried there. One of the Bonapartes is buried there and you have Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Balzac. You just walk around and it’s one great name after another. You realize sometimes giants walk the earth and a lot of them are buried here, so it’s pretty amazing.

Was doing it in French ever a consideration?

Uh, no. I couldn’t write in French. It would be a disaster.

Well, have it translated.

I wouldn’t trust anybody to. I need to be able to know what people are saying. It was fortunate because initially, they had mentioned that I could shoot in French if I wanted to. I don’t think I could do that. But they had some kind of a deal with the French government where they had to have a certain percentage of actors that know the language, being French and it was fairly high percentage. It was something like 80%. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the film yet but most of it is in French, is it not? I’ve only seen my own and I saw Alexander Paine’s and I saw the Coen Brothers and the one with Ben Gazzarra while we were editing, those were around. But the rest were in French and they didn’t have subtitles or anything.

How did you cast Alexander Paine as Oscar Wilde?

You know, I kind of discovered in the course of just being around the offices of that place that people had been doing cameos in each other’s films. And then shortly after that, I got a call from Alexander Paine who I’d never met and said, “How are you doing? I like your films. I like your films. I hear you have a role for Oscar Wilde you haven’t filled yet and I’d love to do it. What do you think?” I said, “Let’s talk.” So he came over and he looked like yeah, that could be Wilde. It’s not quite the famous Ambrose Pierce or whoever did those drawings of him but he has an elegance and a sort of charisma. He said, “You can revoice me. You’ll have to revoice me.” I said okay and it was as informal as that. He came down, got wardrobe I think in an hour and showed up a couple days later when we were shooting and pulled it off beautifully.

How was it to go down to making a short?

Well, I kind of looked at it as a scene because then I could, “Okay, it’s just a scene and we have two days to shoot it. That’s pretty good.” The tricky part is to get the whole story of these two people into that one five minutes which was another stricture of basically you need to- – your film needs to run five- – they gave me I think 5:20 or maybe 5 and a half but it needed to be basically in that ballpark. That was tough. There were things I had to take out and so forth because it would have been too long but it’s like a haiku where somebody imposes a certain discipline that can lead to good things.

Did anybody go over with intentions for DVD?

Not that I know of. It’s perfectly possible. I only met Vincenzo and Alexander Paine. They were the two guys that were around when I was shooting. It was kind of a long serial shoot where people would come and shoot and hang out a little bit and then go. So obviously mine was kind of in the middle and it was the one that was going the most and then Vincenzo was about to shoot I think right after I finished mine I went and played a corpse in his vampire movie and froze my butt off for a whole night. And then somebody else had shot just before us. I think Alexander Paine had just so that’s kind of who was around.

Did you audition for this or just go after certain actors?

I just went after certain actors. Emily I’d worked with before and we needed to do it very quickly, so I just called her up and basically she said, “Okay, great.” Rufus was- – we kind of had the strictures we couldn’t bring people from the United States. We didn’t have time and there wasn’t a budget for it. They kind of needed to come from Europe so I just said, “Who are the leading men that are around that are available?” His name was mentioned. I had seen some of his work and really liked it and said, “Let’s take a chance with him.” He was probably thinking the same thing about me.

What are you working on now or coming up?

We just finished coming off of Hills II being producer of that. That was very labor intensive. I spent quite a bit of time in Morocco also. I’m about to go to my little secret house on the island to begin writing something in the thriller genre that will be for Rogue pictures. We have a little housekeeping deal with them, formed a new company called Midnight Entertainment to producer $15 million and under in the genre. The first one officially will be a remake of The Last House on the Left but I also made a side deal which is just because I know Andrew for one that I would write and direct myself with a whole different structure for pay and everything.

Did I hear they’re talking about remaking Shocker?

Well, it must be out and around because somebody in the last- – the two films we did with Universal way back there, Shocker and The People Under the Stairs, are natural because Rogue Pictures is part of- – if you go up the chain far enough, you hit Universal. I think the one more likely to be done after we do Last House would be People Under the Stairs. And I’m not sure why but we’ve found a couple of directors who really want to remake that. That would be more likely. But there’s a limited amount of us. Marianne Madedalena’s producing all these and we don’t want to killer her so we’ll probably do one and a quarter a year, one 1/3 a year.

Would you be surprised if they remade Nightmare?

I don’t know whether it’s inevitable. I wouldn’t be surprised but I haven’t heard anything. Seriously, I haven’t heard anything but that doesn’t surprise me. They own the franchise. Nobody called me on Freddy Meets Jason either, so it’s their piece of property.

Is the budget on your side project much higher?

Not much higher frankly.

Do you know the story?

No. I’m not talking about it. I just think it’s bad luck.

How’s Last House coming?

Last House, well, it took a year to get all the legalities straight because these first couple- – The Hills Have Eyes was the same way. We had to find everything. It was like, “Do we have a contract on that? Where would it be? That turned up in a salt mine someplace.” Where business records are stored for long term storage. “Yeah, it’s in the salt mine. We found it.” The Last House stuff had a lot of entanglements and everything else so it’s taken a year to get that all straightened out. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re filming that by this fall.

Is that a more special film for you because it was your first?

I think it’s probably the film I’ve made the hardcore fans respect the most because it’s just so brutal. We don’t want to do it quite that brutal because it’s also just a great story. Bergman did the story and before that it was a medieval story so we’re going to try to split the difference. We’re trying to make a deal with a very interesting director who directed something. A Grecian I guess director who directed something called Hardcore about street prostitutes in Greece that I think is an amazing film. We want somebody who is a real artist who can give it his own vision.

You wouldn’t do it?

No, I don’t think it’s good health, good creative stuff to go back and redo your stuff. It’s hard enough to do it once. So the concept is to get a director who loves the original but isn’t in awe of it to the point where he or she won’t make their version of it. As Alex Aja I think was the best example of somebody who went off and wrote it himself, followed almost exactly the story but then went off into the whole atomic village and the miners that was totally his own and made it his own film.

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Would you work with Alex again?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I don’t think I could afford him anymore though.

People Under the Stairs was such a product of its time. What would a modern take be?

It’s not quite like- – the funny thing is we’re back into another Bush era. There was more in that era of Bush Sr. of the haves and the have not’s way down at the bottom and cutting social services and stuff. This Bush is so obsessed with the war that it’s not quite the same template but we’ve had a couple directors give some interesting ideas so we’ll see.

Could you see the day they remake Scream?

I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to make a Scream 4. The actors are still around. Courtney and David are out of a job. No, Courtney’s doing a series. I shouldn’t say that.

What are your feelings on digital filmmaking?

I have nothing against it. I still prefer film. I just think it has a beauty to it. But some films don’t need that. 28 Days Later, my understanding was that was digital. I think it was terrific for that. Thirteen I believe was digital. The Michael Mann film about four years back, Collateral was digital or large parts of it were. So whatever helps you get the film into a theater, whatever is necessary. Certainly like The Hills Have Eyes II was shot on film but the minute it was shot on film, it was developed, I don’t know how they did it but I don’t think we had a negative. We certainly never had work prints. It was straight to digital on everything. We had all of our screenings in digital, the first time I’d done that and didn’t see a film version of it until we had the film totally made. At which time we found out there was a misregistration flaw in like 80 shots that we would have seen in dailies but we never looked at dailies. We just looked at digital versions. Whatever the lab was in England screwed it up so there are downsides to that. Find out some things very late.

Ever want to do a romantic comedy?

Of course. That’s why I did this.

What would Wes Craven bring to a full length rom-com?

I suppose a wicked sense of humor or something but it’s always struck me as kind of weird that I fell into making scary pictures. It was pure happenstance. The first time somebody talked to me about making a film, “I’ve got some money from these guys and they want a scary movie for their theaters.” I literally said, “I don’t know anything about writing scary movies.” “You were raised as a Baptist, right? Well, pull all the skeletons out of your closet.” And after that, both he and I, I’m speaking about Sean Cunningham, neither one of us wanted to go on and make another horror film. We felt like that was enough. And we went I think almost four years individually and together trying to get other things going and just could not get any money. We knew no one in Hollywood. We never even approached Hollywood at all, trying to get money out of New York. But people were always saying to both of us, “If you want to do something scary, I can get you the money.” At a certain point I was broke and needed to make child support payments and things like that, so I went and made Hills Have Eyes. And once you get a name for doing something really scary, people assume that you’re crazy and live in a cave and all those things. Somebody asked me this morning, “What did your friends think when you made a romantic comedy?” I said, “My friends all know who I really am. I’m not somebody scary in real life.” It’s just one of those things that you have to get into this very special environment. I think this film could help but it’s kind of an art film and I don’t know how many will see it. But you have the perception on the part of many, many, many people that I am scary and do scary things. So how do you get another audience into the theater waiting to be amused and made to laugh?

Do you like romantic comedies?

Yeah. Occasionally. Sure, I watch whatever I feel is a good film.

Any lately?

No, not really. Have you? I mean, there was the Wedding- – what was it, Wedding planner? Wedding Crashers, that was kind of but I didn’t point to that film. Something about marriage.

Was there a point you became comfortable being known as the scary director?

No. I think there’s always a part of me that feels like, “Fuck, if I had just not- – or if I had worked harder or come to Hollywood.” Btu I had no credentials at all in film except making Last House and that was a film that made a lot of people angry at us and think that we were perverted, nasty and horrible people. I think I did what- – if I wanted to make films and I did and you can do it, you can make a scary film then go make a really good scary film. And don’t be restricted to just being violent but be interesting and talk about things that reflect the world around you. I was able to do all that. At a certain point you realize I’m just lucky to be making film. Nightmare on Elm Street was a good example. I was studying Eastern philosophy at that time. I was like, “Okay, we’ll do something with levels of consciousness. Consciousness is awakeness, not being enlightened and conscious is being asleep. It lent itself perfectly to both this kind of philosophical look and to real life things. Once you realize that then you say, “Well, these are little art films. It’s just the audience has to scream in them.”

Filming in Paris for two days, what was that experience?

It was really nice. We were kind of isolated from the rest of Paris but just the thought, I can remember just thinking between shots, “I’m filming in Paris, this is so fantastic.” I’ve been to Paris many times and it’s so photogenic. I’ve often thought, “God, I’d love to do a film in Paris or a film in Europe.” Suddenly there you are. It’s just a very heady feeling to be working with French people and the offices were this old building that used to I think repair trolly cars or something. We’d look out our office window and see this big Gantry crane that used to be used. And all the people coming and going on the streets, I was just like, “This is really cool. It’s like the old days.”

Any thoughts of a future projects you’d like to do in the city?

No. It just seemed so unlikely I didn’t think about I frankly. I had no idea how this film would come together. I just did it in a really on the run between two or in the middle of two big press conference tours. It was like do the best you can and then [zoom noise] you’re off doing all this stuff. I said, “I wonder how that’ll turn out” but that’s how it was.

What’s the fasted you ever wrote a feature?

I wrote Last House on the Left in a weekend. That was I guess the fastest. I did a major rewrite on a script that was almost a page one rewrite in five days.

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