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Set Visit: Southland Tales featuring interview with The Rock


Last Friday I visited the set of SOUTHLAND TALES with one simple goal: to find out just exactly what the film is about. Few projects are shrouded in more secrecy (and confusion) than Richard Kelly's much-anticipated follow-up to his cult hit DONNIE DARKO. Despite its ambiguity, the project has attracted an all-star cast, including The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott. All three of them were on hand to give their own unique interpretations of Richard Kelly's script.

Unfortunately, I left the set at the end of the day more confused than ever. I do know that it isn't a musical. And I'm pretty sure that there aren't any bunnies in this one. Check out what The Rock had to say about SOUTHLAND TALES.

The Rock

Can you tell us what this movie is about?

Yes, I can. Why do you ask? (laughs) You guys haven’t had a chance to read the script?


It’s very secretive and kept under wraps.  My interpretation of Southland Tales is this:  number one, I should preface it by saying that after reading it – I’ve been close to this now for over a year now.  Before I went to shoot Doom last year was the first time I read the script.  And read it and then re-read it and read it again and then re-read it again.  And then I came to the conclusion that the best thing for me to do was stop trying to piece everything together and get extremely close to (director) Richard Kelly.  Because there are so many things in that script that only he can answer and only he can piece together.  And a lot of it is left up to one’s interpretation.  So that’s what I did.  I stopped trying to piece everything together, got extremely close to Richard and made sure I understood what my interpretation of Boxer was.  We’re on the same page together with Richard.  And then I realized that Southland Tales is about myself.  (laughs)  That’s exactly what it is.  I came to that conclusion.

You and Seann have the luxury of getting close to Richard Kelly personally.  So what will audiences who can’t get to know him be able to surmise when they see it?

Number one, they’ll be challenged.  I think they’ll be challenged in many, many ways.  You don’t have to get close to Richard Kelly to understand what Southland Tales is.  By the way, that’s the beauty of what I believe we’re filming, which is left up to interpretation.  There are a lot of things that are going to be left up to one’s interpretation.  And it will make sense.  I’m sorry to be cryptic, if it seems like that.

Do you sing?

Umm, no. I was going to and then…no. 

Is it a musical?

No no no. It’s not a musical at all. I think earlier comments were, it’s a musical, sci-fi and thriller mixed in with dark comedy. But no, I can honestly tell you it’s not a musical. 

There are no musical elements?

Other than a great soundtrack, no. 

No actors break out in song?

No. But we do dance, though. There’s a great dance number at the end, with my wife and my girlfriend. (laughs)

Can you tell us who Boxer Santaros is?

Sure.  Boxer Santaros is a movie star who gets kidnapped, who has amnesia, doesn’t know he’s a movie star, who becomes a paranoid schizophrenic and also extremely neurotic.  Of course, that’s the movie star part of it, which I based on a lot of people I know.  That, and constantly searching for the truth.  And the one very important element that I forgot to tell you is Boxer has a supernatural gift.  He can see things and he can foresee the future.  That’s about all I can tell you.  He knows things are going to happen and he foresees the apocalypse.

And what’s his relationship with Seann William Scott’s and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s characters?

His relationship with Seann is doing research for a role.  So there’s a – this is where I start getting into details – but there’s a screenplay that Boxer writes, which he wants to direct as well, and he’s doing some film research.  And Sean is a Los Angeles cop.  And I go on a ride-along, essentially, with him.  And then it’s easier from that point on, instead of talking about Seann and his character, for him to tell you how things start to develop.  And my relationship with Sarah is, when I come through, Sarah is the one person in my life who I feel like I can trust.  And when I come through out of my amnesia state, she’s there.  And we develop this relationship.  Sarah is my girlfriend and Mandy Moore is my wife.

What appealed to you about this project to begin with that got you to sign on?

Well, when I first read the script – actually before I read the script – I was speaking to my agent and we talked about Richard Kelly.  I was familiar Donnie Darko – and I really liked Donnie Darko, actually.  And he said what do you think about working with Richard Kelly?  And I said I would love to, sure.  And he said there’s this project and it’s called Southland Tales.  And I said great, I’d love to see it, send me the script.  He said before that Richard had asked that he just meet with you first.  So I met with Richard, I loved his ideas for Southland Tales, I loved his visuals.  He had a couple of mockups of what we would look like and what he saw and this is what the mega-zeppelin looked like.  And I was really really really impressed with his creative process and his urgency not only to be different and to be creative and to be edgy but have it make sense.  The meeting went great and then he sent over the script.  He said, “Now you can read the script.”  I read the script and I loved the script and I loved the character.  There are a lot of different levels.

Do you share this sort of pessimistic view of the future?

Well, the truth of the matter is the movie’s set in 2008.

Not too far.

No, not too far at all.  And I think it’s a very feasible setting in 2008.  Three years from now, this could very well be the case, where we’re at now.  My interpretation is that it’s realistic and it’s a love letter to Los Angeles and it could be a bitch-slap as well.  Because culturally the entertainment industry and what we mean to the entertainment culture here in Los Angeles is very, very strong.  And I think that’s putting it mildly.  Then at the same time there is, as we all know, a very seedy underbelly side to Los Angeles as well.  So I like to look at it, again, as a love letter to L.A.  And there’s no greater place than L.A.

Do your new tattoos mean anything?

Yeah.  Well, Boxer is half black and half Samoan, and he when he’s asked, he makes sure that people know, “I’m Blamoan.  Black and Samoan.”  (points to his shoulder)  These are my real tattoos, which fit for Boxer.  What happened was, before he was stricken with amnesia, Boxer – when we pick the story up, by the way, he’s been missing for two weeks and nobody knows where Boxer is, and he went off and he’s traveled the world on his own in this state of amnesia.  And he discovered - or tried to discover - God or a higher being in many, many different ways, in many religions.  He thought he’d try out being Jewish (points to Star of David on belly button) to Buddhist, which is the most meaningful tattoo.

This one and one that I’ll show you guys.  And what this means in Chinese is: “There is a path to end all suffering.  You should take it.”  And I do tell my wife that, Mandy, in this.  Before I leave I’ll show you guys, there’s this beautiful picture of Jesus Christ on my back.  There’s some Muslim her somewhere.  So it’s all very meaningful.  There was a lot of work and a lot of detail put into it.  Even a year I was talking to Richard about Boxer having tattoos and the idea like he would try many, many different things.  Always searching for the truth, again.  I mean I could always go back to that.  He’s rooted in that reality.  It’s funny because when you guys see the movie, when you talk to some of the characters, there’s a lot of absurdity going on, where you go, “What the fuck?”  But for me, it’s nice that for Boxer there’s still a rooted reality, where he’s just always searching for the truth amidst some of the absurdity that’s going on.

Can you talk about working with Seann again? You have really different roles this time.

Seann’s great.  I loved working with Seann in The Rundown.  And you guys will be really surprised at what he’s doing and the work we’ve done so far I’ve really enjoyed with him, seeing this different side of Seann.  He’ll tell you – they’re twins.  So he’s got two people to play.  I’m sure he’ll tell you more.

Do you have any scenes with him being both people?

His character – there’s a present self and then there’s a future self.  With Boxer, there’s – I can’t give that away - Boxer legitimately knows the apocalypse is happening.  The interesting thing is, can he stop it?  Yes.  Does he stop it?  We’ll see.  And why doesn’t he, or does he? 

What scene are you working on today?

Today is with Seann and Will Sasso and Sarah Michelle Gellar and I’m trying to explain to them…Boxer’s written a screenplay, it’s called The Power and this is what it’s about.  And interestingly enough, the screenplay that Boxer has written basically unfolds.  And he’s trying to explain to Seann – before we go on the ride-along – what this is.  It’s about a crime saga in L.A.  I play a cop who (is) paranoid schizophrenic and he has a supernatural gift and he can do this and he can do that.  So to Seann’s character, it’s too much for Seann.  He’s like, “Oh neat.  Cool.”

He has amnesia but he remembers having written the script?

Ok. Well it’s almost like…he knows he’s written a script because the script has been so close to him.  But there are some things, it’s like selective amnesia.  There are a lot of things that he doesn’t remember.  He doesn’t remember – and I will try to be as clear with you guys as I possibly can so it all makes sense when you write it – but he’s forgotten the past two year.  The screenplay has been with him for many many many years.  That’s how he’s able to remember that.  He doesn’t remember that he’s married to the Senator’s wife.  He doesn’t know that he is who he is, this big movie star.

So is Doom a horror movie?

Buddy, Doom is…

People are nervous; no one knows.

No, Doom – I’ve seen it. It is an unapologetic, straight-up horror movie that is…it’s as violent as they come.

And have you finished Gridiron Gang?

Wrapped Gridiron Gang, yeah. That’ll be out September 15th of next year. 

Do you get to take a break after this or what?

After this I’m gonna go promote Doom. After seeing it – I saw it a couple of times – I’ll see it one time, the finished cut. And then I’ll go out in a big campaign and promote it.

What about this one?

Well, it was important to me to get really close to Richard and to understand his way of thinking and that process.  Because I think the character is so complex with Boxer, it’s important to stay close to him and to continue to say ok, well, this is my interpretation.  Every day, by the way, it’s something new, something different.  There’s an alter-ego, by the way, I forgot to tell you guys, to Boxer.  In the screenplay his name is Jericho Kane.  And there are moments that Jericho Kane comes out in Boxer.  And on the day, with Richard, I think this would be a good moment here.  We’ve already talked about it.  We thought maybe not, but I think maybe so.  And it’s yay or nay, a constant creative process.  Especially when you have a script like this, you have to be.  You have no choice.

Questions? Comments? Manifesto? Send them to me at





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6:16PM on 09/20/2005


Thanks for the interview. I'm very excited to see this one (more so than I already was).
Thanks for the interview. I'm very excited to see this one (more so than I already was).
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