rare moon, I interview somebody and it becomes more than just
"interviewer" and "interviewee" talking...it becomes about two
people shooting the shit. That's exactly what happened when I sat
down with Jonathan Liebesman, the director of the upcoming fear
flick "Darkness Falls" (also known as Don't Peek
and The Toothfairy).
As you will see, this interview just wound up being about two guys
talking shop and for me, that made it one of the more memorable
sit-downs that I've had in some time. Read on...
interview took place in August 2002)
read your review of "Signs" a
couple of days ago...it was very good.
dude! Have you seen it yet?
Jonathan: No, Iím gonna see it on Saturday, if it's not sold out.
Arrow: Go during the
Jonathan: Yeah, Iím planning to.
Arrow: So I saw
the trailer for Darkness Falls and it looked kick ass.
Jonathan: Thank you.
going for "old school" and I appreciate that being that Iím a big
horror fan myself. What rating are you guys aiming for with the film?
Jonathan: I have no rating in my
mind, Iím just trying to keep it as fucking scary as possible. I
donít know what theyíre going to make me cut out though.
Arrow: From the
script as it is right now...is it an R?
Jonathan: Yeah, it seems that way.
Arrow: Did you
write the screenplay?
Jonathan: No, I did not. John Pasano
wrote the screenplay (heís also the producer).
Arrow: What was it
about the screenplay that made you want to direct it?
Jonathan: I think for a first time
director, when you want to sort of experiment visually, a horror film
gives you the most potential to know what works visually. I
think that the base of filmmaking is visual and with horror movies
you get away with being visual and you also get to make another
movie because hopefully, it gets to make some dough. Thatís what got me
in, it was a film about darkness, light and dark-- which is great to
play with visually and it's also about a guy who sees something and
isnít sure if he saw it or not.
Arrow: So itís
Jonathan: Which I like a lot.
Arrow: Do you play
that card a lot throughout the film?
Jonathan: We do, but I donít know how
much of that will remain, it's being tested for audiences right now and if
theyíre confused, weíll probably have to make things a little
clearer up front which may work better for the movie. I donít know,
being my first film...I go with what I feel but I donít know how
going to come across.
Arrow: Do you feel
that you worked so hard on it, that youíre too close and don't see
Jonathan: YeahÖthereís one day when
we needed more money for a few more days of shooting and they wanted
to send back this one scene and I was like "please donít fucking send
in that scene, itís a fucking piece of garbage, donít send it back"
but that's the one they sent in anyway. The studio wound up really liking it
and it's one of the more frightening scenes in the movie. I see that
now, but I was way too close at the time. I know what I was going for, but I donít
know how much I pulled off.
Arrow: In a
perfect world, youíd get the time to step back from it a bit and come
back to it fresh.
Jonathan: And I wish I could man,
when you want to make films, you want to be able to take that
step back while youíre doing it cause you wanna be able to make a
better movie. I donít know what the fuck is cheesy anymore, I don't
know what the fuckÖ
You're just trying to make a movieÖ
Jonathan: Right, itís so stressful.
I think that most filmmakers are real movie fans too and we have the same
fucking complaints about movies. In my mind, I think this movie can
win awards, it's going to be the best thing ever, but then you have
studios and other constraints that happen. The best way to make a
good movie is to be able to take that step back and see everyoneís
input but unfortunately the nature of directing, at least with this
film, is that you can't take that step back...you always have to be
Arrow: With that
deadline looming over your head...
Jonathan: Exactly. And you have all
this input coming in and youíre like...shit, shit, shit.
Arrow: How has the
studio been with ya?
Jonathan: Very supportive, but at the
same time, the studio is obviously going to be a little nervous
about a first-time director. Theyíve helped me out when I
needed it, sometimes theyíd come up with comments and Iíd be like
"Oh God, what are they doing to the film?" but thatís when you try to take the time to step back and see their point
and say "okay, maybe it's not working and maybe the audience is going to be bored" and you
try it out. For my first film, I think Iím kind of seeing what works,
I know what I want to do and Iím seeing how I can accomplish that.
Arrow: Have you
screened it for an audience yet?
Jonathan: We had one little
screening for an audience.
Arrow: How did it
Jonathan: I thought it went well because nobody walked out.
Thatís always a good thing.
Jonathan: That was my first
experience. Now I donít know, Iím not in the studio's head but I
think that if they put in enough ingredients, theyíll get what they
want out of it. I think thatís what they see...I hope...fuck I gotta
tell ya...Iím just sitting here trying to guide the ship while it
gets hit by a lot of stuff.
Arrow: So now, the
movie works without the Stan Winston effects. It could work without
Jonathan: It's scary without them but
I think this audience needs a bit more. In a movie like this, I think
you need the creature to be a star too, to keep the movie going so
youíre gonna have to show it.
Arrow: But then
you have movies like "The Blair Witch Project" that didnít show anything
and were quite effective.
Jonathan: Thatís very true too.
Arrow: I think
that sometimes the studios underestimate their audiences.
Jonathan: I totally believe that too,
so what I tried to do with this film is to hold back as much as
possible to keep it ambiguous for the first half where you're not sure
and you donít see...it's all shadow play: was that a shadow, was it in
his head, what the fuck are we looking at?
Jonathan: Just keep it really
ambiguous where youíre afraid because you donít know if this guy is
going to kill someone or if there's something really there. And
then, when you see it, we were going for something like the first part
of "Alien" where you see pieces of the creature and you donít quite
know what the pieces make and thatís kind of scary too, so you donít
know what the big things are. So what I tried to do was to hold back
to eventually give the audience a payoff at the end. In the trailer,
you see a whole lot of stuff at the end and I have no control on
what they want to show people, but weíre trying to keep things tense
and unknown, knowing that once you demystify a monster by showing
Arrow: It stops
Jonathan: Right. And the audience is
inevitably let down. So Iím trying to hold back as much as possible.
Arrow: One last
quick question...when do you think the film will be released?
Jonathan: January 31, 2003.
Jonathan: Thank you, John.
Arrow: No problem.
I'd like to thank Jonathan for taking the
time to talk so honestly with me. Let's all hope that
the studio didn't ruin "Darkness Falls". The trailer made it
look subtle, creepy and "old school". And Jonathan, if ever you're in
the Montreal, Canada area...give me a holler because the drinks and
the loose women are on me!
OFFICIAL DARKNESS FALLS SITE HERE
more about the film and the San Diego Con panel
with star Emma
More San Diego Comic Con 2002