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INT: Bress & Gruber

01.22.2004

Directing duo Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber make their feature film debut with THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. Known primarily for their writing work (they collaborated on the screenplay for FINAL DESTINATION 2), they’re pulling out all the stops to make a splash with this film. It’s a virtual grab-bag of disturbing modern-day misdeeds, including pedophilia, animal abuse and kids killing kids. About the only thing missing is necrophilia. Bummer. We can only hope it’ll show up on the DVD. 

The young directors could hardly contain their enthusiasm as they sat down for the interview. Who could blame them – they’d waited seven years for it to get made. Here’s what they had to say about their venture into the crazy world of chaos theory...

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J. Mackye Gruber & Eric Bress

Let’s talk about the killing of the dog – that’s a pretty shocking scene.

Eric:

It’s weird – we didn’t expect that to be the most controversial issue of the movie. And it definitely was controversial. New Line pretty much told us we might have a big problem with the dog and that maybe we should substitute a cat. And we re-wrote the script to have a cat in it. But ultimately it didn’t make you hate our little kid villain enough.

J.

: Yeah, cause it was like supposed to be all psychologically motivated, where it was like, “all right, you take something away from me that I love, I’m going to take something away from you that you love.”  And people love dogs more than cats. And it’s something that definitely viscerally gets you right in the stomach.

It must be nice to go out and be able to a hard R-rated movie.  You didn’t hold anything back.

Eric

: When we wrote this, we never figured it would be a studio film.  We figured this was going to be an independent thing where we could get away with just pulling no punches. And we were lucky that when the studio got involved, we were still able to keep most of the insane stuff that we forget about as writers, and then you go back and read the script and we were like, “Oh my God, we’ve got kids stabbing kids and dogs...this is crazy.”

J.

: When we first wrote this, we had like 60 meetings in like a month and a half. Everyone was like, “Great script, but it will never be made. And if it’s ever made, it will never be done by a studio. Ever.” Just because of the subject matter. 

How did you get a child actor to say some of the heavy things that are uttered in this film?

Eric

: We found Logan Lerman, who is this great actor. He’s actually ten years old playing seven. It was the hardest part, trying to find that new Haley Joel Osment that can pull that off. To find a kid that can be so sophisticated. After we cast him and knew that he had the chops to do what he’d have to do, I made a tape where I set the camera up on me and I acted out that scene as furiously as I could and I sent it to him. Then we waited around for two months to see if he watched the tape I would as a ten year old and just memorized every inflection. Sure enough, when he came up on set there were things that I was doing that didn’t work for him. But there was no problem with kids saying “Fuckbag.”

What’s it like to re-write Larry Cohen? It must make you nervous.

Eric

: Yeah, I know. He’s one of the greats, so you know you’re treading on...

J.

: I think always doing rewrites for anybody, just us as writers, we really respect other writers, so it’s kind of hard sometimes just to even change their words.

Eric

: Yeah. You get a script and, I mean, we loved CELLULAR when we first got it. And our job was kinda to come up with the flaws – what we would change, what we would improve, but I remember reading it and going, “What do they want us to do? Because this is really awesome.” But for a paycheck I’ll come up with six things...(laughs).

What does Ashton Kutcher bring to the role?

J.

: To be completely honest, when we were looking for the lead, we had seen so many people, and when first his name came up, we’d been struggling to get this movie made for seven years, and I was like, “No way is he going to be in this movie.” Dude, Where’s My Car is not the person for this film. Cause no one had seen any dramatic work from him. And then reluctantly when we went over to his house, it was like, “Wow, this is not the guy.” He’s a very serious guy. He’s not like the sort of goofball character that he normally plays. And he had read the script so many times and his insight into the character was just amazing. By the time we left his house, I had done a 180. Both of us looked at each other and we’re like, “I think we got the guy.”

He’s an executive producer of this as well. Was that part of the deal?

J.

: Yes.

Eric

: These are all business things that I know nothing about. (laughs) 

What is your approach to directing?

J.

: We kinda share a brain. Especially with a script that we’ve been struggling to get made for so many years. We’ve discussed it over and over, every little aspect, so there were no discrepancies between us. I’m stronger in certain areas than Eric and Eric likewise in other things, but we kinda flipflop over. I mostly deal with all of the visuals and the shot design and the look and working with the production designers, etc. Eric deals a lot more with the actors. But if Eric’s got a great shot or an idea or whatever, that’s all thrown into the mix, and if I see something with an actor performance, I’ll jump right in. But we’re always side-by-side. We’re just constantly talking throughout. 

Eric

: I honestly don’t know how one director can pull off everything that needs to be done. As writers, we sit around and talk all the time, but there aren’t the barrage of questions that you get when you – you know, you’re used to being a hermit, and then when you show up for pre-production and there’s a thousand questions fired off by everyone. It’s definitely overwhelming. And it’s so great when I can just relax for five minutes. Because we had worked on the film for so long, we already knew what color the napkins had to be in a certain restaurant. Everything was so meticulously planned out that we could totally trust each other.

J.

: We try to set up a situation where it doesn’t make a difference who anybody speaks to, whether Eric or myself. You are always going to get the same answer. We don’t like to confuse anybody.  It’s great because, working with both of us, we like to create a situation where no department ever feels that they’re lacking. 

Can you talk about the visual effects – in scenes where Ashton’s character travels back into his past?

J.

: It was actually this whole big process. When we first wrote the script, because we knew that it had very much an indie flavor, we were first going to go for straight cuts. We almost were going to play around with confusing people with the realities, just like as your mind would sort of splice events together. But then, once we progressed and we were going to be doing the film with New Line, everyone was like, “We just want to make sure no one does get confused.” So we were like, “All right. Let’s play around with effects.” And we had never done anything like that before, so it was just like a journey for ourselves.

Eric

: It was important that also that we built. We didn’t want to just throw the great stuff out right in the first part of the movie. First it’s just letters in a journal, and then a subtle change in the room, and by the end of it the whole room is spinning around him and crazy things are going on. We worked a long time with the effects people because we had these different ideas. We really had to work with them to finally get a look that we could feel that if I’m in the theater, this is gonna work. I’m gonna feel this and I’m gonna buy that we’re going back.

It seemed like it was hard to nail down a release date for this.  What exactly was going on?

J.

: New Line and marketing realized that, right of the bat, everybody gravitated toward this project and really loved it, and they wanted to find the perfect release date, that we wouldn’t somehow be overshadowed by bigger films. So it went back and forth and there was another film that Ashton had coming out, and everyone just wanted to space them apart and not oversaturate the market. It just seemed with New Line and all the other product that they had going there, they wanted to hold out for what they thought would be the perfect release date. Even though we were frustrated after seven years, we were like, “Come on. We’re ready to give birth. Just let it out there.”

Do you have any plans for the DVD?

Eric

: Oh yeah. The DVD is actually – we’ve been working on it. Ever since we wrote this thing, we were like, “That’s gotta be on the DVD.” 

J.

: The DVD’s gonna be interesting because there’s actually another version of the movie that’s gonna be on the DVD. It’s a whole different cut – it’s gonna be called the Director’s Cut or whatever. It’s a little bit different – it’s got about five scenes that are not inside the actual release and it’s a completely different ending.

And that was planned from the outset?

Eric:

Yes. We realized that our ending was way too controversial and freaky to be in any sort of theatrical release, because, you know, we want this to make money too.

J.

: It was like almost kind of understood. At least everyone allowed us to shoot our ending, because we knew that it was back and forth.  That was one of the problems over the years: everyone thought the ending was amazing, but they didn’t know how it would fare with a mass audience. Thank God for DVDs. We think the theatrical ending is a great ending. Thematically, both endings are the same, it’s just how we go about it (that’s different). 

Has anyone seen your ending yet?

J.

: No, no one actually has.

Eric:

It really has not been tested in front of an audience. If we’d had more time to solidify the special effects involved with the ending, we would have had that opportunity. But because we were in such a time crunch to finish the real movie and not be too concerned about the extra scenes that may or may not ever show up, we really just didn’t have that opportunity. But New Line was amazing.

Source: JoBlo.com

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