INT: Eugenio Mira

The Arrow interviews Eugenio Mira

Twenty-six year old Spanish director Eugenio Mira is presently in Cannes shopping his baby "The Birthday" around. The film stars 80's icon and horror favorite, Corey Feldman, in what seems to be a mix of "Donnie Darko", Lynch, Spielberg and Lucas (quite the mix!) When I saw the film's teaser, I was intrigued, but after having chit-chatted with Eugenio, I can now safely say that "I'm sold"! I want to see this picture! Read on and see if you reach the same conclusion.

ARROW: What’s your favorite horror movie?

EUGENIO: Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining". No doubt about that. I perfectly remember when I was a kid, my parents forgot to warn my sister and me of the type of movie we were going to watch on TV that night. I suppose they thought that we could stand the first scary-free twenty minutes and then we’d fall asleep. No way. When I saw the twin sisters in the middle of the corridor in less that 10 frames… well, that was enough. We started to cry and my parents…started to argue, blaming each other for allowing us to see the movie!!! I will never forget Jack with the axe, the old woman in the bathroom, the corridors, the elevator full of blood…and especially THE MAN behind the camera. Kubrick kicked our asses in several ways that night!! "The Exorcist" would be next on my list, for sure...but that’s another story.

ARROW: You are presently directing "The Birthday" in Spain, Barcelona (recently wrapped) which stars Corey Feldman. Can you tell us the story behind the film?

EUGENIO: Well, It’s been a long process. Everything started almost three years ago. I was releasing my first short, “FADE”, for several film festivals and TV channels. I then figured that it was the right time to have a feature length project in my folder, so my friend and co-writer of The Birthday, Mikel Alvariño, started to write a movie called “The Welcoming Committee”. It was something like “Beautiful Girls” meets “House” meets “Peggy Sue Got Married” (believe me, if you read the script, you would understand) and we wanted to have Mr. Feldman for the lead.  We were very excited, but when I saw Richard Kelly’s “Donnie Darko” in the Fantastic Film Festival of Sitges (2001)…well, it’s not easy to express…let’s just say that we were doing exactly the same kind of movie…with a year of delay. Kind of creepy. First time movie, 26 year old director, late 90’s mood on late 80’s period…ok, ok. I’m ok. I love Richard Kelly… and I hate him. But I love him. But I hate him. But I…

So Mikel and me didn’t want to spoil our weeks of work and the passion we put into the project. After considering starting from ground zero with totally different material, we realized the jam of “The Welcoming Committee” was that we took a character and a conflict seriously, despite the genre, the plot or the fantastic elements. In the same way that Clint Eastwood showed a different approach of his westernized shadow in “Unforgiven”, I thought that Mr. Feldman was perfect for our proposes: travel in time to the 80’s (especially to the AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT universe) with an exceptional host… and handle every single convention with care… or not, depending on what we want to deliver to the audience, minute after minute. That’s how "The Birthday" was born. We knew that Spielberg and Lucas set the Indiana Jones movies on things that they wanted to see on the silver screen even before they talked about the plot, the characters or the money. Well, that’s what Mikel and I did. We had the mood, the spirit, the essence of “The Welcoming Committee”, so then we had to talk about the shape of the whole thing.

We knew that we wanted to follow the wrong character to tell an extraordinary history that happens at a birthday party in a hotel in Baltimore. In 1987. In 90 minutes. We knew that we shouldn’t let the audience ever be a step beyond what the protagonist perceives. In order to achieve that, we decided to put Norman Forrester (Feldman) in every single shot of the movie. When you avoid ellipsis (the best special effect of cinema), all sort of problems start to flourish. You suddenly realize that you don’t have many choices to do it right, but at the same time, bad choices fall apart very quickly. It was exciting. The “Peggy Sue Got Married” spirit was still there, but in addition, we had the "eye-candiness" of Blake Edwards’ high-brow and the sense of 40’s musical movies that "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" had (my favorite movie of ALL time!). And that’s it.

ARROW: I heard you’re mixing thriller and screwball comedy elements. Do you find it as hard, as director, to find the proper balance between the scares and the laughs?

EUGENIO: Well, I think that the best answer is: John Landis did it in "An American Werewolf in London". The producers used to say that the movie was “Too scary to be funny and too funny to be scary”. But the movie works! I’ve followed that policy. Let’s see if it works… but I’m sure that the secret is belief in what you want the audience to feel for the whole of the movie. It starts with the mood of a Clark Kent/Lois Lane meeting in Donner’s "Superman". I’m not gonna spoil the end, but I can say that everything starts to gradually get darker, but in a subtle way. It gets really dark at the 25 minute mark. Think “From Dusk Till Dawn”. We have a hardcore twist in the middle, too… but it works in a different way. Norman (Feldman) never get his girlfriend out of his head. This summarizes the key concept of the movie.

ARROW: What kind of look and style are you going for with the flick from a visual standpoint?

EUGENIO: The GLORIOUS look of Amblin entertainment productions shot in 2:35.1 ratio widescreen (like "The Goonies" or "Poltergeist"), Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies’ sophistication (the first two) and, especially, the musical pace, mood and shape of a non musical-musical movie like: INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM!!! Did I already mention that it’s my favorite movie of all time? (Yes, I think so…) Add to that, the TWO Davids, Lean and Lynch, and you’ve got it.

ARROW: How did the Corey Feldman casting come about? What made him the man for the job?

EUGENIO: I wanted the Gene Kelly from “Singing in the Rain”, the Jack Lemmon from “The Odd Couple”, and I desperately needed the Michael J. Fox of “Back to the Future". The whole movie is designed as a choreography with thousands of cues and references that have to be there at the right moment. And Corey can deliver all of that. He hits the mark as a dancer does. “The Birthday” is not one of those movies where the director tries to catch terrific performances with long shots and then he actually “directs” in the editing room, choosing the best pieces and testing different ways of approaching a scene (like, for example the Scott brothers). Let’s say that “The Birthday” was pre-cut. We only did shoot what we were going to put on screen.

The planning was so accurate that sometimes we were scared of going too far with fresh “on the day” ideas. They could be cool, even better than the original plan…but as soon as you started to consider it, you realized the scope of the decision and how that could affect the whole thing. Corey always respected me, but sometimes I had to defend my reasons to follow my plan. He always wanted to keep the sense of the real-time emotional continuity alive. I think that’s what seduced Corey when he read the script: the idea of following a character for 90 minutes in his “real” life. After the script, Corey wanted to see some of my previous films. I only had “FADE”, my short film. Thank God he loved it. That was the definite trigger for his involvement in the project. I had a phone conversation. 38 minutes. And that’s all. A week after, he was here in Barcelona with his beautiful wife, Susie. 

ARROW: Knowing Corey’s past reputation, how has he been behaving himself on set thus far? Has he quieted down since his "glory days"?

EUGENIO: I suppose that you’re talking about the early 90’s. Ok, let me tell you something. During one of our conversations before the start of the shoot, I tried to show myself as “not a fan” serious professional director. I wanted to justify the fact that I wasn’t gonna ask him about “The Goonies” every single day or “Stand by Me”, “The Lost Boys”… because those movies are part of MY LIFE. He started to laugh and said “Don’t worry, man. Those movies are part of my life, too”. And he was telling the truth. Corey, before anything else, is a film geek. He loves movies. Getting deeper, I told him that, for me, “The Birthday” really was about the transition of the shiny 80’s to the dark 90´s, from Michael Jackson’s glorious days to Kurt Cobain’s suicide, from “Dirty Dancing” to “Seven”, from Reagan to Bush (father and son). All in 90 minutes. Corey said “Man, I understand perfectly what you’re saying. I was there.”

It’s 2004. The movie is set in 1987. Think about it, and believe me, his attitude throughout the shoot was… awesome. Enthusiastic, motivated, excited… what can I say? He was always focused on delivering a natural Norman, despite of the cartoonized situations and the surreal atmosphere. He did have some issues with the “Lost in Translation” syndrome. For him, most of the crew were like Japanese people, especially the first weeks (I like to think I was his own private Scarlet Johansson…professionally, I mean). Despite all that, he delivered what I expected. And I had great expectations. I have no complains. Far beyond that, I’m fascinated. I’m a lucky bastard. I’m 26, I made my first movie and Corey Feldman was the protagonist. What can I say? Earth to Hollywood… Earth to Hollywood: Corey is back, and he’s ready to kick some ass! Check it out!!! “THE BIRTHDAY. Coming to theatres near you 2005.”

ARROW: I have to ask, was Corey Haim ever considered to play a role in the film?


ARROW: How graphic and gory is the picture?

EUGENIO: That’s a surprise.

ARROW: What kind of visual effects will the film sport, if any? Are we talking CGI or practical?

EUGENIO: Practical. Definitely. If I have the chance to make more movies (I hope so), I’m going to start a crusade against using CGI for EVERYTHING. I think that this technology should be solely used for composing different actual physical shoot-on-film elements, as the glue in a collage. I can’t believe how people don’t realize that the optical effects of movies like “Alien”, “Blade Runner” and especially “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” are miles away from the result of our days’ big budget productions like… well, you name it. Anyway, I must say that “The Birthday” is closer to “Rosemary’s Baby" than “Poltergeist” (a movie that I love), for example. But I love special effects. I wanted to make movies because of Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies.  ILM. Steven. George. What can I say?

ARROW: When I heard the premise, recent films such as "RSVP" and "The Invitation" came to mind. They sport similar premises. What will differentiate "The Birthday" from other '10 little Indians' films of this type?

EUGENIO: The spirit. The visual approach. The real time policy. The fact that the protagonist is in every single shot of the movie. The deliberated attention to the ordinary dilemma instead of the extraordinary s Ah… premises. Well, for me, the premise is just the text that you have to put on the press books. If “The Virgin Suicides” can be considered a “10 little Indians” movie… then I agree. I love Sofia. And I would like to think “The Birthday” is closer to her universe than the movies you named. If you see the 4 minutes promo we’re gonna show at Cannes, you’ll understand (Arrow note: JoBlo saw the promo reel and said it was "Good shit!") I say this because the internet teaser is more about…teasing. The mystery. But the spirit of everything I’m trying to explain with my half-assed English is in the promo. It's more than a trailer. Or less than a trailer. But definitely more than a teaser. I hope to be allowed to show you this promo soon.

ARROW: Does the film have any type of distribution attached to it? When can we expect to see the flick?

EUGENIO: We're working on that right now!! Mainly, it’s up to Cannes. We had a couple of very interesting offers, but we want to wait and see after the biggest display of film industry. I think that 2005 is gonna be the year. And, yes…USA is part of the plan. Of course.

I'd like to thank Eugenio for dropping by the site and for giving us some extensive insight into what looks to be a badass film. Hopefully when it comes out...it will be a Happy Birthday To Us (lame, I know but that's all I got right now). BRING ON THE JARVIS...I mean...THE FELDMAN!

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