Exclusive: Greg McLean Talks Mick Taylor, Wolf Creek and Classic Horror!

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Greg McLean is one of those guys that can instantly make you feel comfortable to be around. He is kind, laid back and he has a real passion for horror. The filmmaker who brought us the WOLF CREEK franchise, ROGUE and THE DARKNESS has a real knowledge of the genre and it is one that started early on. This has stayed with him throughout his career. With THE BELKO EXPERIMENT and the upcoming JUNGLE, he is certainly expanding his cinematic vision which is a very exciting prospect. Yet thankfully he is returning to the Outback and Mick Taylor country for the upcoming - and absolutely thrilling - Wolf Creek series on POP TV!

Recently, we had the fantastic opportunity to talk one on one with the talented McLean about the series, getting into horror, and what we can expect in the future for WOLF CREEK. Greg talked about casting the lovely Lucy Fry to star opposite John Jarratt, and about expanding Mick’s dark and scary world. He also discussed the upcoming feature JUNGLE starring Daniel Radcliffe. Wolf Creek, the series, which premieres this Friday in the US, is a great example of how to take a horror feature and expand it into something equally compelling.

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How did you get into horror?

When I was a kid my mom liked to watch Alfred Hitchcock movies. I remember getting to see those as a very young kid. They all were kind of the first things I saw. There was a very dark subtext to Hitchcock’s films and when you watch them as a kid they are great stories, but also a very dark subtext to them. And from there I remember seeing a lot of it on TV because we didn’t have a video player until very late. There were things like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON on TV and classic monster movies and Hammer Horror films. They were very big in Australia for some reason. And then from there it was just kind of buying horror comics and reading scary stories, and being obsessed with ghosts, UFOs and monsters. I don’t know why, but that was just something that always interested me and it became a bit of an obsession.

Did your parents ever think it would be just a phase and that it would pass?

No, because I was also a huge STAR WARS geek. So basically all of those kinds of things merged. I was loving sci-fi as much as I was loving horror. There was certainly a kind of interesting and strange storytelling about them, one that had a really big impact to make you go, wow, that’s amazing how a story can get that kind of emotional reaction. So when you are young and you see PSYCHO for the first time it makes for a very powerful impact. And when you see THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE or something like that, it’s like, wow, this is really an art movie in a sense because it’s just a beautiful piece of filmmaking. And it is a very intelligent piece of cinema. It’s funny though because people completely missed the point of what a great piece of filmmaking and sound design the first TEXAS CHAIN SAW is. Because it sounds like it could be trashy, the point is missed on most people. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE sounds like a bad, trashy B-movie, but in fact, it is actually incredibly sophisticated in the way that it works. PSYCHO and the original TEXAS CHAINSAW are the two movies that had the most impact on what became WOLF CREEK. Just creating the world and the character and the psychology of that kind of personality.

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A lot of horror movies come out saying they are based on a true story, and WOLF CREEK is one of them. How much is fact and how much is fiction?

The inspiration for the main character came from two cases. One very strongly and one a little bit. The first real case is the Ivan Milat case. He was convicted and he is in jail for several life sentences for killing seven backpackers. Real horrific crimes. So we took a lot of Mick’s personality that we found in this guy and how he would prey on foreign backpackers. The other case was a true case about a guy who abducted a woman and her boyfriend who were traveling, and then killed the boyfriend and the girl escaped and he sort of hunted her down. So she actually got away, and the guy was later found in jail serving life sentences. So there is some pretty scary folks in the Outback to base these stories on.

That could get tricky adapting a story like that without getting too into the creepy factor of the real life event correct?

Well in the way that TEXAS CHAIN SAW was loosely inspired by Ed Gein, there are so many differences in terms of what it is. In fact there was a little bit of that in PSYCHO as well to a degree.


Yeah, that as well. But I think you are taking certain elements of something, and as I’ve said a couple of times, we are not trying to tell a story of that character or those people. When you take a context like the landscape and the environment of that Outback and somebody who is that way, that’s really all you are doing.

With the first film did you have any idea that people would respond to Mick Taylor?

No, not at all. We just made it as a tiny little independent movie with no concept, not thinking anybody would ever talk or think about it again. I think everyone who makes any kind of independent film… everyone who makes a film hope that it’s going to touch people or move people, or do the thing you want it to do. We were delighted and thrilled when people came and responded to the character and the film. It got picked up at film festivals and distribution and all that kind of stuff. We had a dream run for a first movie. Everyone wants to have that experience where you make something and people respond to it.

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What I’ve liked about this franchise is that you go very different places with each film, as well as the series which is a more character driven story. What was the inspiration to tell more of a crime drama with the show?

I think in order to keep the character interesting and the franchise interesting, you have to keep it interesting for the creators and the audience. I think the consistent thing in the stories is the character Mick. I think what you need to do is find a different way into that character. A different style of story that you are telling. It also makes it interesting for me as well. You can say, well we’ve done that story, we know what that is, what else can we do. What is another way into the character, still in the environment and the landscape. For a long time when it came to the series,  we wanted to make something that was essentially a crime drama where we have another character trying to understand Mick through the audience. It means we get to explore his personality in a new way. It will serve a different kind of narrative because of the revenge aspect, because the one is being hunted. So throwing all those things on its head kind of felt like an original and fun thing to do.

It’s also nice to find that leading character that fits so well into the world and goes through this incredible change. What was it about Lucy Fry that caught your attention?

I met her because she was in my Blumhouse movie called THE DARKNESS, so she was in that movie. And when we were casting the show, I knew we needed a really amazing actress who has amazing range and is gorgeous, and somebody who can take the challenge and believably look like someone who can take down Mick Taylor. So we had a couple of conversations and she was really into it. Her thing was, as a young woman growing up, one of her favorite movies was GLADIATOR. And she always felt like, as a woman, they hate playing girlfriends and wives. No actress wants to play the girlfriend or wife role unless she has an incredible story. So the chance for a young actress to play an ass-kicking, revenge taking, take no prisoners character who transforms and has a complete journey was really attractive to her. And I knew she could do it because of how good an actress she is. It was a big challenge for her. She put everything into it and focused on creating an intense character and articulating her journey as much as she could as an actor. She’s gonna be a big star.

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What was the thought process in making her such a flawed character?

I think it just humanizes her. To be human is to have problems. When you have characters with flaws and personality defects they feel more real because you like them because they are like us, they fail in some way. No one is perfect. So having her with her own set of demons really just kind of made her more attractive, because she is more realistic. She is just trying like the rest of us to deal with what they’ve got to deal with. And interestingly, even though it is tragic what happens to her, it kind of galvanizes her personality into something very focused. Once she has a mission in life, it really transforms her. And even though it is a horrible thing that happens, at the end of it she is a new person which I think was an interesting character arc.

I also like the fact that she goes to very dark places, and not all of them involve Mick. It opens up the world quite a bit. What was it about opening up this world outside the two main characters?

I’m very interested in the world of Mick Taylor and the Outback. I felt like we hadn’t really explored Mick’s history, where you took people into that environment and were able to play in the atmosphere of the kind of characters that exist in that place. The visual look of that place as well. So part of the series was actually being able to go in the Outback in a Twin Peaks kind of way. We could finally explore different storylines and characters that aren’t related to the main story, but they are part of the Wolf Creek story universe. 

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There is definitely a more serious tone from WOLF CREEK 2. How do you think about moving forward with the series and WOLF CREEK 3? Can you do both? Continue on with another WOLF CREEK feature as well as another season of the series?

Yeah, you can because the horror movies necessarily have to be scary stories, like they work in a very particular way. Ultimately it has to be a scary story. The series can be a crime thriller, it can be a drama and could be suspense. With the movies, they’ve got to work as nightmares. You’ve got to scare the hell out of people. That’s all it does. It can talk about other things semantically, but primarily it has to be structured like that.

That must create new challenges.

It does. I think that it’s a big challenge because you’ve got to work out what steps you are going to take for the character and the tone. Horror fans taste change every twelve months. You have to find different ways and different forms to approach it. Sometimes you have to go back to old fashioned forms that we don’t see anymore to keep it interesting.

Are you looking at going into WOLF CREEK 3 soon and will it tie in with the series?

The series basically will probably be the first. You know, we’ll do another Wolf Creek series and then the movie will be probably later after that.

What can you share when it comes to the upcoming JUNGLE?

It’s based on a book, so it’s an autobiography about a guy that the situation really happened to. In 1981, an Israeli backpacker named Yossi Ghinsberg was backpacking in Bolivia in South America. He met up with two friends, an American and a Swiss guy who are traveling together. They met a German guide who is a jungle guide, and he offered them a three week trip into the jungle to go on the trip of a lifetime, and go see tribes and pan for gold and all that kind of stuff. And the story that happened is one of those incredible kind of survival tales. It all went totally wrong. And basically Yossi (Daniel Radcliffe) survived in the jungle for twenty days by himself with nothing. So it’s an incredible survival story, and incredibly emotional and spiritual because of what he goes through, what he loses and what he discovers. It’s an amazing story. And Daniel’s performance is extraordinary.

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You are drifting a little away from horror with this.

It’s really just a true life story. Just a true life, amazing, inspiring story. It has some thriller elements to it because of the question of is he or isn’t he going to survive, so it’s not really scary. It’s a telling of an extraordinary event.

What can we expect with Wolf Creek season two?

It’s still under wraps, and I can’t say too much about it. You can expect much more Mick. You can expect a much bigger body count. It takes the set up of the first season and spins it on its head again.

Extra Tidbit: Wolf Creek The Series premieres Friday on POP TV! Check it out!
Source: AITH

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