In his relatively brief career, writer-director Richard Kelly has seen plenty of controversy. His 2001 debut, “Donnie Darko,” played the Sundance Film Festival, flopped at the box office and then went on to find a massive and loyal cult audience on home video (not to mention bolster the career of star Jake Gyllenhaal). His follow-up, “Southland Tales,” was a wild, sprawling narrative set in a futuristic version of Los Angeles that drew a decidedly mixed reaction when an early cut screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006; it was more than a year later before the movie saw a very limited release in the U.S.
Just before Kelly debuted new footage at Comic-Con on Friday, he told Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre in an interview that “The Box” is the most personal of all his films. It opens Oct. 30.
What made you want to adapt this particular Richard Matheson short story?
How was it to work with material that was originally created by someone else?
This is the first time I’ve made a film that isn’t a 100% original screenplay, but I feel OK with it because it was only six pages long and it was almost begging to be revisited. It’s such a tantalizing concept that it sort of deserves feature-length treatment. It warranted that — if anything I just wanted to make sure to kind of thoroughly investigate the premise and really do it properly. It took a while to figure that out. Sometimes you find that the best way to go about something is to go back to your family. I imagined what if this were my parents. What if my parents got this button unit back in Virginia in 1976 and my dad having worked at NASA. I thought about NASA and the nature of the experiment, the government and everything that exists in that area of Virginia in terms of the CIA, the FBI in northern Virginia, all that infrastructure there. All of a sudden it started to click in my mind and become something really interesting and complex, a big kind of conspiracy.
I hope so. I’ve got my new script done.
It’s a thriller and it’s about 35% motion capture. To be able to create a world from scratch is an exciting idea and seeing what all these amazing filmmakers like Jim Cameron and [Robert] Zemeckis and Peter Jackson — I’d love to be able to use some of the tools that they’re pioneering. That would be really exciting for me.
After everything that happened with “Southland Tales,” was there less pressure on you with this film?
It actually was a pretty easy experience making the film with the studio. I actually kind of enjoyed it, just the security of knowing it’s going to get release, that you have them have a vested interest from the beginning. I got to make exactly the film I wanted. “Southland Tales” was such an ambitious film, just getting it finished. I knew that after Cannes it was going to be a very small release with no marketing money and I was just grateful that Sony gave me some more money to finish the visual effects. The cut wasn’t finished at Cannes. We had so much unfinished visual effects work to make stuff look right. It was frustrating, it was difficult, but I bit off a lot, and it took me a long time to chew it. I’m so proud of what we accomplished with that film. If anything I would love to be able to revisit it down the road, do a director’s cut, maybe one day when I’m in my 40s, who knows. It feels good to have the third film done because maybe the first act of my career is sort of over and I can move into the second act. In the same way, “The Box” is my first grownup film. The first two were certainly adolescent in the sense of being really provocative and aggressively unconventional. Now, “The Box” is a much more conventional story, but I will say it still is idiosyncratic. I don’t feel like I’ve sold out or watered myself down. I still feel like it has my sensibility. It’s the most personal film of all the three ironically.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.