If you assumed you knew what to expect from the latest Dennis Iliadis film, think again. The director, who brought us such nasty numbers as HARDCORE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, has suddenly turned his attention to the duel worlds of teen comedies and sci-fi brain-twisters with PLUS ONE (+1), a movie about a raucous college party that is disrupted by a slew of doppelgängers. (Would suck to see yourself at a party mucking things up for you, right?)
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Iliadis, who also wrote the story, about this new direction for him (bet you didn't know he's a big John Hughes fan), the complications that arose on set and playing against stereotypes.
PLUS ONE is a very strange film. Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from my love life, when I would f*ck things up to such an extent that I'd wonder what would happen if I could get those twenty minutes back, how could I change it. It started as a love story. And I've also always been fascinated with the idea of what would happen if you met yourself, but in a very charged environment, where you had no time to actually process it. It's more, you're there and you have a goal, and yourself from twenty minutes earlier has the same goal. It becomes a very interesting conflict. And I also wanted to explore the different approaches to that, and in the film, every character approaches the situation a different way.
It's an interesting melding of sci-fi movie and teenage comedy; were there any particular movies in either genre that you looked at?
I love the high school movies of the 80s, John Hughes, etc. I love that environment, it's not a cynical environment. It's when kids are in love, they have their hormones, insecurities, desires. That creates a very raw emotional environment. I think it's very interesting to take a brainy sci-fi idea and graft it onto that. I've seen that it's a problem for some people - having to watch these raunchy happenings and at the same time having to think, because something much more complicated is going on at the same time.
It's quite a change of pace from your last two films, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and HARDCORE. Were you looking to do something that was a bit lighter in tone?
Even HARDCORE is a very dark film but there's a moment when they lapse into fantasy and imagine themselves in "Beverly Hills 90210." I don't like to do conventional things. Even the way we were shooting in the house wasn't done in a "genre" way, sometimes the visuals are in contrast to what's going on. I've been attached to some bigger movies, most of the stuff that comes my way is kind of dark, but I wanted to do something fresh, something that was fun. That was one of the driving forces.
Part of the movie's appeal is the setting; it's an amazing house. Were the interiors actually inside the mansion or was it a set?
We really wanted this party to be heightened, but not unrealistic. We location scouted in a few places and we ended up in Atlanta, because Atlanta has the most crazy mansions. It was interesting because some houses were like a fantasy in a way, like someone said, "I want this house to be part Scottish castle, part villa." There were some great houses there, but yes we shot the whole thing on location. We constructed the pool house in the garden, however.
Can you talk about wrangling all of those teenagers? There must have been dozens of them in some scenes, was it difficult to control them?
You have a very complicated plot, there are a lot of continuity issues and everyone is getting lost in terms of where he is in time, so I had to be very focused on that, and at the same time our canvas had to be in hedonistic ecstasy, so it was twofold: we had to keep crazy energy going on the whole time, and then there's complicated continuity stuff. It was pretty schizophrenic.
There are several sequences where people are standing in the same room with their double. Was that accomplished with visual effects or were there any instances where someone actually had an identical twin on set?
Alison was played by identical twins, Colleen and Suzanne Dengel. Everything else is an effect. I don't think this movie could have been made earlier; right now visual effects can do what we needed to be done. It's actually having one person interacting with himself or herself, and it's very physical. Usually, you'd use a split screen, here there was a lot of camera movement and a lot of physical interaction, especially in the big climactic scene, where you have doubles in a tight room squabbling with each other. I don't think that's ever been done. We're extremely lucky that Lola, the visual effects company that did BENJAMIN BUTTON and the face replacements in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, came on board as producers. They did an amazing job, some of the shots were super challenging.
How about casting the leads, was that done via a traditional audition process?
The approach was to get great actors who could fit into the teen movie stereotypes, but then subvert them in a big way, because this is a night when everybody would do anything to be special. They're all very eye-catching and you're always trying to figure out what they're thinking and what they'll do next. For example, Rhys Wakefield who plays David, he starts off as sort of a John Cusack type character, but then goes to a very dark place. Teddy, played by Logan Miller, is your typical insecure, sex hungry character, but he becomes the strangest kind of leader. Ashley Hinshaw who plays Jill, explores both her sweet and toxic sides to extremes. And Natalie Hall, who plays Melanie, she starts off as a typical blond bombshell but then really surprises you.
Definitely. Before I let you go, can you tell me what you're currently working on?
I have two bigger projects, but I've become superstitious, so I don't want to say too much about them. But they're both thrillers and much darker than this movie.
Are you still attached to direct THE DEMONOLOGISTS?
I really don't know what's happening with that. THE CONJURING has a similar premise, so I don't know what's going to happen with that. It's hard to tell how things go.
Well, whatever it is, I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for the talk!
Great, thank you so much, Eric.
The official trailer for PLUS ONE!