year old Spanish director
Eugenio Mira is presently in Cannes shopping his baby "The
Birthday" around. The film stars 80's
icon and horror favorite, Corey Feldman, in what seems
to be a mix of "Donnie Darko", Lynch, Spielberg and Lucas (quite the
mix!) When I saw the film's teaser (see it
for yourself here), I was intrigued, but after having chit-chatted with Eugenio, I can now safely say
that "I'm sold"! I want to see this picture! Read on and see if you
reach the same conclusion.
What’s your favorite
EUGENIO: Stanley Kubrick’s
"The Shining". No doubt about that. I perfectly remember when I was a kid,
my parents forgot to warn my sister and me of the type of movie we were
going to watch on TV that night. I suppose they thought that we could
stand the first scary-free twenty minutes and then we’d fall asleep.
No way. When I saw the twin sisters in the middle of the corridor in
less that 10 frames… well, that was enough. We started to cry and my
parents…started to argue, blaming each other for allowing us to see
the movie!!! I will never forget Jack with the axe, the old woman in
the bathroom, the corridors, the elevator full of blood…and especially
THE MAN behind the camera. Kubrick kicked our asses in several ways
that night!! "The Exorcist" would be next on my list, for sure...but
that’s another story.
You are presently
directing "The Birthday" in Spain, Barcelona (recently
wrapped) which stars Corey Feldman.
Can you tell us the story behind the film?
Well, It’s been a long
process. Everything started almost three years ago. I was releasing my
first short, “FADE”, for several film festivals and TV channels. I
then figured that it was the right time to have a feature length
project in my folder, so my friend and co-writer of The Birthday,
Mikel Alvariño, started to write a movie called “The Welcoming
Committee”. It was something like “Beautiful Girls” meets “House”
meets “Peggy Sue Got Married” (believe me, if you read the script, you
would understand) and we wanted to have Mr. Feldman for the lead.
We were very excited, but when I saw Richard Kelly’s “Donnie Darko”
in the Fantastic Film Festival of Sitges (2001)…well, it’s not easy
to express…let’s just say that we were doing exactly the same kind of
movie…with a year of delay. Kind of creepy. First time movie, 26
year old director, late 90’s mood on late 80’s period…ok, ok. I’m
ok. I love Richard Kelly… and I hate him. But I love him. But I hate
him. But I…
So Mikel and me didn’t
want to spoil our weeks of work and the passion we put into the project.
After considering starting from ground zero with totally different
material, we realized the jam of “The Welcoming Committee” was that we
took a character and a conflict seriously, despite the genre,
the plot or the fantastic elements. In the same way that Clint
Eastwood showed a different approach of his westernized shadow in “Unforgiven”,
I thought that Mr. Feldman was perfect for our proposes: travel in
time to the 80’s (especially to the AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT universe) with
an exceptional host… and handle every single convention with care… or
not, depending on what we want to deliver to the audience, minute
That’s how "The Birthday"
was born. We knew that Spielberg and Lucas set the Indiana Jones
movies on things that they wanted to see on the silver screen even
before they talked about the plot, the characters or the money. Well,
that’s what Mikel and I did. We had the mood, the spirit, the essence
of “The Welcoming Committee”, so then we had to talk about the shape
of the whole thing.
We knew that we wanted
to follow the wrong character to tell an extraordinary history that happens at a birthday party in a hotel in Baltimore. In 1987. In 90
minutes. We knew that we shouldn’t let the audience ever be a step
beyond what the protagonist perceives. In order to achieve that, we
decided to put Norman Forrester (Feldman) in every single shot of the
movie. When you avoid ellipsis (the best special effect of cinema), all
sort of problems start to flourish. You suddenly realize that you
don’t have many choices to do it right, but at the same time, bad
choices fall apart very quickly. It was exciting. The “Peggy Sue Got
Married” spirit was still there, but in addition, we had the "eye-candiness" of Blake Edwards’ high-brow and the sense of 40’s musical
movies that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" had (my
movie of ALL time!). And that’s it.
I heard you’re mixing
thriller and screwball comedy elements. Do you find it as hard, as
director, to find the proper balance between the scares and the laughs?
EUGENIO: Well, I think that the
best answer is: John Landis did it in "An
American Werewolf in London".
The producers used to say that the movie was “Too scary to be funny
and too funny to be scary”. But the movie works! I’ve
followed that policy. Let’s see if it works… but I’m sure that the
secret is belief in what you want the audience to feel for the whole
of the movie. It starts with the mood of a Clark Kent/Lois Lane
meeting in Donner’s "Superman". I’m not gonna spoil the end, but I can
say that everything starts to gradually get darker, but in a subtle
way. It gets really dark at the 25 minute mark. Think “From Dusk Till
Dawn”. We have a hardcore twist in the middle, too… but it works in a
different way. Norman (Feldman) never get his girlfriend out of his
head. This summarizes the key concept of the movie.
What kind of look and
style are you going for with the flick from a visual standpoint?
The GLORIOUS look of
Amblin entertainment productions shot in 2:35.1 ratio widescreen (like
"The Goonies" or "Poltergeist"), Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies’
sophistication (the first two) and, especially, the musical pace, mood
and shape of a non musical-musical movie like: INDIANA JONES & THE
TEMPLE OF DOOM!!! Did I already mention that it’s my favorite movie of all
(Yes, I think so…) Add to that, the TWO Davids, Lean and Lynch, and
you’ve got it.
How did the Corey
Feldman casting come about? What made him the man for the job?
EUGENIO: I wanted the Gene Kelly
from “Singing in the Rain”, the Jack Lemmon from “The Odd Couple”, and
I desperately needed the Michael J. Fox of “Back to the Future". The whole movie is
designed as a choreography with thousands of cues and references that
have to be there at the right moment. And Corey can deliver all of
that. He hits the mark as a dancer does. “The Birthday” is not one of
those movies where the director tries to catch terrific performances
with long shots and then he actually “directs” in the editing room,
choosing the best pieces and testing different ways of approaching a
scene (like, for example the Scott brothers). Let’s say that “The
Birthday” was pre-cut. We only did shoot what we were going to put on
The planning was so
accurate that sometimes we were scared of going too far with fresh “on
the day” ideas. They could be cool, even better than the original
plan…but as soon as you started to consider it, you realized the
scope of the decision and how that could affect the whole thing. Corey
always respected me, but sometimes I had to defend my reasons to
follow my plan. He always wanted to keep the sense of the real-time
emotional continuity alive. I think that’s what seduced Corey when he
read the script: the idea of following a character for 90 minutes in
his “real” life. After the script, Corey wanted to see some of my
previous films. I only had “FADE”, my short film. Thank God he loved
it. That was the definite trigger for his involvement in the project. I
had a phone conversation. 38 minutes. And that’s all. A week after, he
here in Barcelona with his beautiful wife, Susie.
past reputation, how has
behaving himself on set thus far? Has he quieted down since his
EUGENIO: I suppose that you’re
talking about the early 90’s. Ok, let me tell you something.
During one of our conversations before the start of the shoot, I tried
to show myself as “not a fan” serious professional director. I
wanted to justify the fact that I wasn’t gonna ask him about “The
Goonies” every single
day or “Stand by Me”, “The Lost Boys”… because those
movies are part of MY LIFE. He started to laugh and said “Don’t worry,
man. Those movies are part of my life, too”. And he was telling the
before anything else, is a film geek. He loves movies. Getting deeper,
I told him that, for me, “The Birthday” really was about the
transition of the shiny 80’s to the dark 90´s, from Michael Jackson’s
glorious days to Kurt Cobain’s suicide, from “Dirty Dancing” to
“Seven”, from Reagan to Bush (father and son). All in 90 minutes.
Corey said “Man, I understand perfectly what you’re saying. I was
2004. The movie is set in 1987. Think about it, and believe me, his
attitude throughout the shoot was… awesome. Enthusiastic, motivated,
excited… what can I say? He was always focused on delivering a natural
Norman, despite of the cartoonized situations and the surreal
atmosphere. He did have some issues with the “Lost in Translation”
syndrome. For him, most of the crew were like Japanese people, especially the first weeks (I like to think I was his own private
Scarlet Johansson…professionally, I mean). Despite all that, he
delivered what I expected. And I had great expectations. I have no
complains. Far beyond that, I’m fascinated.
I’m a lucky bastard.
I’m 26, I made my
first movie and Corey Feldman was the protagonist. What can I say?
Earth to Hollywood…
Earth to Hollywood: Corey is back, and he’s ready to kick some ass!
Check it out!!! “THE BIRTHDAY.
Coming to theatres near you
I have to ask, was Corey
Haim ever considered to play a role in the film?
How graphic and gory is
That’s a surprise.
What kind of visual
effects will the film sport, if any? Are we talking CGI or practical?
EUGENIO: Practical. Definitely.
If I have the chance to make more movies (I hope so), I’m going to
start a crusade against using CGI for EVERYTHING. I think that this
technology should be solely used for composing different actual
physical shoot-on-film elements, as the glue in a collage. I can’t
believe how people don’t realize that the optical effects of movies
like “Alien”, “Blade Runner” and especially “Close Encounters of the
Third Kind” are miles away from the result of our days’ big budget
productions like… well, you name it. Anyway, I must say that “The
Birthday” is closer to “Rosemary’s Baby" than “Poltergeist” (a movie
that I love), for example. But I love special effects. I wanted to
make movies because of Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. ILM.
Steven. George. What can I say?
When I heard the
premise, recent films such as "RSVP" and "The Invitation" came to
mind. They sport similar premises. What will differentiate "The
Birthday" from other '10 little Indians' films of this type?
The spirit. The visual
approach. The real time policy. The fact that the protagonist is in
every single shot of the movie. The deliberated attention to the
ordinary dilemma instead of the extraordinary s Ah… premises.
Well, for me, the premise is just the text that you have to put on the
press books. If “The Virgin Suicides” can be considered a “10 little
Indians” movie… then I agree. I love Sofia. And I would like to think
“The Birthday” is closer to her universe than the movies you named. If
you see the 4 minutes promo we’re gonna show at Cannes, you’ll
understand (Arrow note: JoBlo saw the promo reel and said it was
"Good shit!") I say this because the internet teaser is more about…teasing. The mystery. But the spirit of everything I’m trying to
explain with my half-assed English is in the promo. It's more than a
trailer. Or less than a trailer. But definitely more than a
teaser. I hope to be allowed to show you this promo soon.
Does the film have any
type of distribution attached to it? When can we expect to see the
working on that right now!! Mainly, it’s up to Cannes. We had a couple of very
interesting offers, but we want to wait and see after the biggest
display of film industry. I think that 2005 is gonna be the year. And,
yes…USA is part of the plan. Of course.
I'd like to thank Eugenio for
dropping by the site and for giving us some extensive insight into what
looks to be a badass film.
Hopefully when it comes out...it will be a Happy Birthday To Us (lame, I
know but that's all I got right now). BRING ON THE JARVIS...I
SEE THE BIRTHDAY TEASER TRAILER HERE
VISIT THE OFFICIAL PRO
COMPANY OFFICIAL SITE HERE
VISIT THE OFFICIAL COREY FELDMAN