ARROW NOTE: We were just told by a reliable source that contrary to the information we got when this interview was conducted; GIALLO hasn't entered production yet. Its being held up by the paperwork stage.
Unless you're very familiar with low-budget monster movies with titles like MAMMOTH or KRAKEN: TENTACLES OF THE DEEP, then the name Sean Keller might be unfamiliar at the moment. Well, that will most likely change within the year, as the screenwriter is leaving behind the Sci-Fi channel movies and moving into much more hallowed ground. With co-writer Jim Agnew, Keller has sold screenplays to horror icons Dario Argento and John Carpenter. Those names you may have heard of.
The Argento film, GIALLO, is already underway in Italy, with Ray Liotta, Asia Argento, and Vincent Gallo starring. The Carpenter project, L.A. GOTHIC is in pre-production, with some casting announcements soon to come (hopefully).
Sean was kind enough to contact me after I wrote an article about GIALLO and we got a dialogue started.
What came first, conceptually - GIALLO or L.A. GOTHIC? Can you explain the train-of-thought that led to both?
L.A. GOTHIC was the first thing Jim and I wrote together. We met while working at a bar in Hollywood, I was a bartender, he was the DJ. We would sit around after closing time and bemoan the state of Hollywood saying “we can do better than that” and that’s when he told me about this idea he had been wanting to write for nearly a decade. He said he wanted to write a horror anthology like Creepshow or the awesome old Amicus anthologies like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, but to set it in Hollywood and make the monsters all somehow intrinsically linked to showbiz. Everybody is trying to make it in Hollywood, why not the monsters too?
As For GIALLO, we were trying to come up with something fresh and different from the glut of remakes and Asian adaptations flooding the market and out o the blue Jim said “Let’s write a Giallo!” We’re both big fans of the genre and just hoped our enthusiasm for it would win over a few fans. We got pretty lucky in that regard.
Can you give a rundown of the GIALLO plot? Pretty much all we know so far is that it's about a detective chasing a serial killer...
I don’t want to give too much away... Our producer Rafael Primorac put it this way: The picture stars Vincent Gallo in the lead role of a serial killer, with Ray Liotta playing the detective who has long been tracking him. The plot revolves around the snatching of a fashion model (Elsa Pataky) just as her flight attendant sister (Asia Argento) jets to Milan to meet her on a shoot. The cast will be rounded out with a cameo by an internationally renowned fashion designer.
How did GIALLO end up in Dario Argento's hands? It seems such a match made in heaven, was he in mind while you were writing it? Of course in our dreams we were thinking Argento would be the perfect man to shoot this, but that was just a pipe-dream.
We never thought he’d ever read it, let alone like it enough to want to direct it! The script had landed in another director’s hands first ad he was all set to shoot it, but a “better job” came along for him. Rafael said “you’re already working with John Carpenter, I’ll just send it to Dario Argento, he’ll read it.” Less than a week later Il Maestro said he was in! We were totally shocked... Carpenter and Argento like our writing! After years of struggling to be read and dealing with people who simply didn’t understand our style, this was enormously validating...and still a little hard to believe.
How do you feel about GIALLO'S cast so far?
Liotta, Gallo & Asia in a bloody giallo by Dario Argento? We’re as happy as can be.
[NOTE - Last we heard, Vincent Gallo was attempting to remove himself from the project. We'll try and find out if that's still the case...]
There have been a few synopsis's floating around for L.A. GOTHIC, but some seem to conflict one another. Can you set the record straight?
I rather enjoy keeping mum on this one. Nothing like teasing the audience a little to keep them interested. I will say that this is our love letter to the history of horror cinema and we threw the kitchen sink at it...and thankfully Dr. Carpenter helped us straighten out some of the mess that we made.
It certainly seems to be up John Carpenter's alley - how did he become involved?
Our Manager, Josh Kessleman, had heard that Carpenter was looking for material and he wanted to know if I thought it was a good idea to send him the script. My heart sort of skipped a beat there. We had been talking with several young directors (Adam Green and Scott Glosserman were both involved at different points in the development) and it hadn’t occurred to me that we could get an icon like this to direct the film. Miraculously, he liked it.
There's been talk of some "name" actors being attached... Any chance for a scoop?
Was L.A. GOTHIC going to be affected by the strike? Or is it moving forward full-bore at the moment?
We are moving full-bore. We went though an extensive rewrite with Dr. Carpenter over the summer and nailed all the contracts just before the strike set in, so we’re good. We actually signed our contracts on Halloween... a good omen, no?
If these two projects go off without a hitch, there are going to be a lot of eyes on you... Do you have your NEXT screenplay in mind already? And do you feel added pressure, now that you've bolstered your resume with these high-profile scripts?
There’s no pressure. We can only do what we do and hope people like it. Right now we’re working with Neo Art & Logic on a creepy bit of body-horror. It’s going to be gross and scary and really fun.
Were Argento and Carpenter big influences on you?
They made us who we are! Jim and I grew up watching Carpenter flicks. Escape From New York was the first rated R film I saw in the theater. I went on a serious horror-jag in high school and rented everything I could get my hands on. The guy behind the counter recommended Suspiria to me when I was sixteen. It broke my brain. I couldn’t explain what I had just seen, but I knew that I loved it!
Jim and I are overjoyed to be mentioned in the same breath as these two masters. Their influence upon us has been tremendous and now the impact they are having on our lives is almost overwhelming.
What is the status of DAMNED - which, according to IMDB, is somewhat far along?
DAMNED hit a minor snag, but will be up and running soon. It’s our cabin-in-the-wood flick and I think it’s our scariest work yet.
I'd like to thank Sean for taking the time to do this interview... GIALLO will hopefully hit our theaters at some point later this year.