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CON: Donnie Darko



Richard Kelly (writer/director)
Sean McKittrick (producer)
Beth Grant
Stuart Stone
James Duval

The film stars:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Jena Malone
Drew Barrymore
Patrick Swayze

Release date:
July 23, 2004 (limited)

The DONNIE DARKO “Director’s Cut” panel was the first one that I was covering as this year’s convention and it was appropriately decent, but not necessarily, enriching in terms of any surprises or newfound content (Kelly apologized that Newmarket didn’t send over any clips from the Director’s Cut for the panel…bummer). Kelly was the first to take the stage and was surprisingly young (he’s only 29 now) and good looking (as one of the girls in the audience remarked later “hot) He introduced the three other members of the panel, but as the Q&A took place, it was obvious that he would be the center of attention, answering almost 90% of the queries presented by the audience. He seemed a little uncomfortable in front of the pretty big crowd, but handled himself quite well nonetheless. He was nervous most of the way, but also cracked some jokes, didn’t come off as “pretentious” in any way, and had good manners (yes, I’m Canadian…it matters)

That said, as per usual, there were some “odd birds” that asked some strange questions, most of which he was able to deflect politically. By the way, the organization of the panel was as bad as I’ve seen any panel over the years, with no moderator handling the audience, and Mr. Kelly essentially being left to his own devices. There was also a ‘sociopathic’ type that stood up at some point and asked a plethora of questions, and there wasn’t any security or anyone from the event to stop him. Eventually, Kelly himself had to stop the dude (more on him below), which left the manchild quite dejected, and seemingly angry. He stormed out of the room immediately and seemed quite upset. That said, the panel on the whole was informative and “light”, particularly because of Kelly’s demeanor, which was both jumpy and open to provide fans with information. Below are some of the points that I retained from this presentation:

  • Donnie Darko’s Director’s Cut was to open in limited theaters on July 23rd (in L.A. and NY) with a possible wider release across the country after that. Kelly said that he was surprised by the opportunity this early after the film’s release (“I expected it for its 10-year anniversary or something”), but also glad for it (“It’s a luxury that I am grateful to have”) He also said that the new cut certainly doesn’t “discount the theatrical” cut, of which he’s very proud, and that he’s just happy and proud to have both versions out there for people to see and discuss.
  • Newmarket pictures apparently neglected to send down any clips from the Director’s Cut for this panel entitled “Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut”, but Kelly was cool enough to show a minute or two from the theatrical cut, in particular, the entire scene which starts with the students jumping off the back of the school bus to the tune of Tears for Fears’ “Head over Heels”. Kelly joked that the song was actually “replaced” in the Director’s Cut by a “Britney Spears ballad”.
  • When asked about his next picture entitled SOUTHLAND TALES, Kelly said that he couldn’t say “much about it”, but that it was “completely different from Donnie Darko”, but that it would likely still appeal to everyone who liked his first film. He said it was “a comedy, a thriller, a musical…”, to which his producer partner McKittrick, said that it was a “musical for everyone who doesn’t like musicals.” Kelly said that those who liked musicals would also like it and that it was “twice the size of Donnie Darko and quite epic…” He also said that the film would begin shooting in September of 2004 and that some of it had already begun shooting “in secret”
  • When asked the most obvious question about what DONNIE DARKO “meant”, Kelly replied with a twinkle in his eye, “What does it mean to you?”, to which the audience laughed. He then explained that wasn’t trying to be facetious, but that the film didn’t follow the same sort of byline as regular films and that each person should draw their own conclusions. He also said that the Director’s Cut would “provide a little more logical design” and answer some of the questions that some may still have about the movie.
  • When asked what his parents thought of him after having seen DONNIE DARKO, Kelly said “I haven’t spoken to the them since they saw the movie” in jest. He then said that he’d always had a great relationship with his parents and that continued after the movie. They had always helped him develop his creative and artistic sides since he was a young boy. He also said that they sort of “understood me better” after having seen the film.
  • When asked about what drew him to directing, Kelly said that one moment in time that stood out for him was having seen the music video for Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” and being blown away to the point of calling MTV to find out who the director of that video was. After a long wait (4 hours), he found out that it was David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, SE7EN). He then went out and bought a Premiere magazine and read more about him and his next project, which at the time, was ALIEN 3. He said that he “wanted to be as good as someone like that.” He then convinced his parents to send him to USC (University of Southern California) and the rest is history.
  • When asked about who the “man in the red jogging suit” was in DONNIE DARKO, Kelly didn’t want to say too much, but did say that if you look closely, you’ll notice that he’s the “FAA guy”, who knows that there’s something supernatural going on in terms of the engine and that he’s obsessed with the kid. He also said that he has “fashion” issues and likes to smoke as he jogs.
  • When asked about how he could make a film like this at such a young age, Kelly let his producing partner, McKittrick, respond. Sean said that he and Kelly had known each other since college and that after graduation, he got a job at New Line, while Kelly got a job at a post-production house. During Christmas of 1998, Kelly showed Sean his 160-page draft of DONNIE DARKO, which Sean passed around to all of the contacts that he had made during his time “in the business” working at New Line. Within three weeks, Kelly was signed, but said that he didn’t want to sell the script unless he could direct it and Sean could produce. They showed it to almost everyone around town after that (who all tried to convince him to change elements of it to become a “horror movie” or to get an older director to do it), and took about a year and a half to finally get it into Drew Barrymore’s hands, who loved it, said she wanted to play the teacher, which helped them clinch the final end of the financing they needed for the film (budget: $4.5 million)
  • When asked about his creative influences, Kelly cited both “Peter Weir and Terry Gilliam”, in terms of his creation of DONNIE DARKO. He was also asked to recommend certain films to the audience, a question which left him sort of speechless, but which he finally responded to by recommending “early Peter Weir” movies like THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS, THE LAST WAVE, etc…
  • When asked about the rumor that a Frank the Bunny figurine would be made by McFarlane Toys, Kelly said that it was in the works, but that it was pulled at the last minute. He did say that they might likely do it one day and that he would be one of the first to buy it.
  • When asked about the rumors that had him directing THE CONTORTIONIST’S HANDBOOK, Sean said that Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company had optioned the project and that they were working on it with them. He said that they were too busy with SOUTHLAND TALES at the moment, but that it was definitely a project that they would be doing.
  • Asked about the DVD release of DONNIE DARKO, Kelly said that it would likely be a 2-disc set packed with all kinds of new behind-the-scenes stuff including a “fly on the wall” Production Diary, unlike the basic EPKs that you get on most discs. He also said that there would be a “new commentary” track, but wouldn’t disclose who would be on it.
  • When asked about the importance of film school to his process, he said that it was “pretty essential”, but that nowadays, “you don’t really need film school because of DVD”, but that the resources that he had available were great. He also said that film school is “what you make of it”.
  • At this point, actress Beth Grant (Kitty in the film) showed up on the panel and sat next to the rest of them. She was apparently great in her audition and so “into’ her part that she cried and really threw herself into it, but was upset when she flubbed her last line. Kelly had said “Don’t worry about that…you’ve got the part”. She also said that he adores the movie and that she’s seen it over 15 times herself and that she and her husband (a Julliard trained actor) consider it a “masterpiece”.
  • The strangest part of this panel came when a red-haired man in his late 20, early 30s, dressed up in full “Donnie” garb (the gray hooded jacket, the skeleton Halloween costume, etc…) stood up and started asking several questions of Kelly, who initially seemed amused, but eventually…a little scared (like the rest of us) The “funniest” part of the guy’s query was his first one in which he went into detail all of the time-travel elements in the movie and how he researched the book from the film, but that certain things were missing, etc and so forth. To this, Kelly could only pause for a second and reply: “Well, that’s because I made it all up”. A hearty laugh was had by all in the audience. Later, he re-iterated an obvious question from someone else in the audience, trying to “force” Kelly to answer the query about what the film “really means”, to which Kelly smiled and said, “It’s about love.” After a while (5-6 dumb questions like “How much are you getting paid to be here today, Mr. Kelly”, a “nod” to the film), Kelly had to move on to another person, which didn’t seem to amuse this weirdo, who stormed off like a child who wasn’t given his candy, abruptly jolting the door out on his exit.


Source: JoBlo.com
Tags: Hollywood



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