DAN REED'S rape/payback thriller STRAIGHTHEADS has been getting strong word of mouth thus far. The film stars X-Files' Gillian Anderson and Danny Dyer (Severance) and it will grace the UK screens this year on April 27th. There's no news as to its US release just yet (I hope we get one soon, I can't wait for this film!) but that doesn't mean its too early to find out more about the picture. Dan recently crashed the AITH HQ and here's what he stabbed our way.
How did the casting of Gillian Anderson come about? Did you pick her (if so why) or was she imposed on you?
Hell no, she picked me! The lead character in Straightheads is a confident, charismatic loner, an ice-cool lady in her mid-30s. She has a real edge about her, this is a woman unafraid to take risks, be reckless even, because she’s always in control. I’d seen Gillian in House of Mirth, a period movie from 2000, and in a few X-files eps and I had this overwhelming feeling that she’d be perfect for the part. I couldn’t even think of another actress who could inhabit that role. When I sat down for coffee with her in Notting Hill in London my heart was in my mouth. Then she rolled a cigarette, looked up at me and said she loved the script…
This is your second theatrical feature film. What we’re the major differences between shooting Straightheads and say, a TV Movie or a TV show?
It’s my first theatrical feature. On a low-budget film like this the technical set-up is similar to a TV drama of the same budget, but the difference was that we were playing for much higher stakes, and with a much darker script than you’d be allowed to shoot for TV. Everyone gives it that little bit more because they know it’s for the big screen.
Did the screenplay change much throughout production? If so what was altered and why?
I sat down and wrote Straightheads over a six-month period, which encompassed 1st and 2nd drafts. The 2nd draft jumped out pretty much in one piece. The financiers were really hot for it and decided to go into development, and attach first one producer, then a second. Over the next three years the screenplay went through more than 25 drafts and I received literally hundreds of pages of notes representing the input of 17 different people.
What changed in the course of all these drafts was 1/ the dialogue (this was given to someone else to rewrite, in a less oblique, more TV-drama style – but actually there’s very little dialogue left in the finished cut); 2/ the end of the film, which is much “harder” and more brutal in tone than in earlier drafts and 3/ the entire middle of the film was cut out, including many more scenes between Alice (the Gillian Anderson character) and Heffer, the man who rapes her, in which she stalked him and got closer and closer – unhealthily close in fact.
What was the more arduous obstacle you encountered during the shoot?
The cold, the mud and the rain. Straightheads was originally written as a summer film, but we ended up shooting in the dead of winter. Gillian and Danny Dyer the male lead had to shoot their first sex scene, which was set in a forest, in temperatures well below minus 5 degrees Celsius. Gillian wore a diaphanous silk dress. We surrounded the “sex tree” with huge gas heaters blasting warm air, and that seemed to work, though we couldn’t get the blowers too close for fear of ruffling her silk dress. Later on we had to post-synch the scene, moans, gasps and all – which Gillian and Danny recorded separately.
Would you say that the film is graphic in its violence, more suspense oriented or a bit of both?
A lot of people who’ve seen it come away feeling it was an incredibly violent film. There isn’t that much violence in the film, but there’s an atmosphere throughout that’s paranoid and hostile. I guess it’s just the shocking rawness of the violence that does occur, which upsets people.
Word as it that Gillian Anderson has a steamy love scene in the film. How steamy is it? Trust me, my readers and I want to know!
There are three sex scenes between Danny and Gillian, getting progressively rougher as Danny’s character sinks into a sexual crisis. I think quite a bit of steam will be generated by all three.
What’s easier to shoot for you; a love scene or a tension laced sequence?
A love scene – much harder to control and you’re at the mercy of the chemistry (or lack of it) between the actors. Fortunately Danny and Gillian got on together very well and there was plenty of on-screen chemistry between them.
Did you keep the film’s impending DVD release in mind while shooting it? Did you prepare some weighty extras for the disk while on set? If so, what will they be?
When you’re on a really tight filming schedule it’s almost impossible to devote time to the extras – though the DVD will have plenty to keep people interested in the way of making-of footage and interviews, deleted scenes, a commentary by Gillian, Danny and me, etc…
What’s next for you; any other features in the works?
I’m writing a couple of low-budget features right now and also working on ideas for a big genre movie.
Is a Sraightheads sequel feasible in your mind?
Yes. But let’s see how this goes down first.
What do you hope audiences will say after stepping out of a Straightheads screening?
I need a drink – badly!
Thanks for the straight talk Dan and break a leg with Straightheads! BRING IT TO OUR SHORES ALREADY!