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Hey Kids, we had a fine time chatting with Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of the audacious, hellacious new horror musical (yes, musical!)  Repo! The Genetic Opera, starring Anthony Stewart Head, Sarah Brightman, Alexa Vega, Ogre from Skinny Puppy and Paris Hilton.  Just what kind of person would make such an unusual, provocative film?  Well, dig in, make sure all your bits and pieces are paid for, and find out.

 

Darren Lynn Bousman

 

Q:  How much of an influence was The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Repo! The Genetic Opera?

Darren Lynn Bousman:  I’ll give you a quick backstory about me: I’m from Kansas City and I never fit into any group, I was unathletic, not very bright when it came to school and when I finally got into middle school going into high school, there was no group that I fit into.  Finally, I got introduced to the theatre department and they always went to Rocky Horror every Friday and Saturday night and it was the first time, going to Rocky Horror that I felt that I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t.  I could be myself.  I mean, you had fat kids dressed in fishnet pantyhose and spandex bodysuits, skinny kids wearing like tinsel on them, hot girls wearing next to nothing.  It was like a mish mash of every type of person and no one cared.  I think that was the changing moment of my life, where I realised that I wanna do this, this is what I wanna do.  I always wanna feel comfortable.  That then turned into Jesus Christ Superstar, where I started watching that movie all the time.  Anytime it was showing as a play or movie I’d seek it out and I just immediately gravitated to those kinds of weird things.

 

Q:  What was it that involved you in horror?

DLB:  The reason that I got involved in horror is I love the idea of being able to offend or disgust people.  When you offend or disgust people it stays with you, it’s not a passing movement.  If you go see a comedy, like I saw Tropic Thunder, I thought it was funny, but my conversation of Tropic Thunder ended exactly when I walked out of the theatre.  I liked it; I thought it was a funny movie.  I’ll see a drama and I’ll be like ‘Yeah, that was good,’ and I’ll walk out and stop talking about it.  But if something offended me, when I saw Requiem for a Dream, I talked about that movie for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks later.  There was a movie Inside that came out, when I saw Inside, I talked about it over and over and over again.  This is probably the first time I’ve ever even mentioned Tropic Thunder outside of seeing it.  I think that’s why these kind of movies resonate with me – horror films or gore films – if you like it or don’t like it, you talk about it after the fact.  And that’s why I want to do, movies that people talk about afterwards.

 

Q:  Do you find that your projects overlap? Saw 4 and Repo aren’t very far apart release wise.

DLB:  The Saw films are done so fast and so quick. I’ll give you an example,; when I did Saw 3, from the minute that I stepped on the plane – without a script – to go to Toronto to when I turned the final product in was four months, that was pre-production, through shooting, through post was about four and a half months.  Repo was crazy because I did Saw 2, 3, 4 and Repo back-to-back, no breaks.  But Saw 4, I was in the edit room for Saw 4 from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon and I was pre-producing Repo from 3:00 in the afternoon until 10:30 at night, so they were both happening at the same time.

 

Q:  Did any bit and pieces from Saw 4 make it into Repo?

DLB:  Well, this is a funny story; I knew I was doing Repo when I was doing Saw 4, so I would make sure that I was thinking in Saw 4 of overlap, cos we had no money for Repo. When you look at the movie, you don’t think low-budget, but we had nothing.  In fact, Repo was less money than we had to Saw 3 or Saw 4, and those were low-budget.  So in the very beginning of Saw 4, I was like, “You know what? I want a mausoleum.”   “What do you need a mausoleum for?”  I was like, “We need a mausoleum in Saw 4.”  And so in the beginning of Saw 4, there’s a mausoleum.  There was no reason for there to be a mausoleum other than I knew I needed it for Repo.  There was scene in Saw 4 that got cut with a big graveyard, the whole reason I wanted a graveyard in Saw 4 was I knew I could use it for Repo.  So I was continually overlapping stuff because we had no money.  The same thing with costumes, I wanted this to be a weird costume thing in Saw 4, I wanted people to look gothic and they were like “Why do you need that?’  And now you know, it was because of Repo.   Repo is a movie I’ve been trying to get made for almost seven years now, before Saw 2.   I was directing the stage production of Repo when I got Saw 2.  People have asked me what it’s like to go from the Saw films to Repo; it was more what is it like to go from Repo to the Saw films and back to Repo, cos I was doing Repo for many years.

 

Q:  Can you tell us how you got involved with Repo in the first place?

DLB:  The genesis of Repo was it started in 1989 as these 10-minute operas that were performed in rock clubs and nightclub by these two guys {Darren Smith & Terrance Zdunich}.  They then decided to turn it into a feature or a play, a libretto.  I got the libretto in 2001, and I directed the first stage play of it in 2001 and then 2002.   When Saw 2 came out and it opened, the producers said, “Okay, you can do anything you want, it’s a blank check, what do you want to do?”  And I pitched the idea of doing Repo and they were like “We LOVE it!”  And I said, “And they sing the whole way through,” and they said “Out of the room!  We’re not doing it.”   So Saw 3 comes in, Saw 3 opens very well and they said, “You can do anything want.  Now, we’re serious, what do you want to do?”  So I repitched the same idea and I was met with blank expressions.  Finally, I said, ‘You know what? No one’s going to get this unless I show them what it is.’ 

I shot a 10-minute short film starring Michael Rooker, who was in Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, Shawnee Smith of in the Saw films and Terrance who plays Graverobber, and at the point Lionsgate had passed twice, Twisted Pictures had passed twice. So I called my agents up and I said “I want you to hold a meeting Friday night.  I want every exec in town to come out.  No one can see it beforehand.”  No one knew what it was other than Darren Bousman wants to make this next movie, so I had everyone in town show up.  We had jugglers and fire eaters, it was like a carnival and then we showed this 10-minute short film and 10 minutes later, Lionsgate said, “If we don’t get this, someone else is,” so they picked it up.

 

Q:  Is doing Repo the reason you didn’t do Saw 5?

DLB:  Here’s my reason for passing on Saw 5 and doing Repo.  I came to Los Angeles to do unique and interesting things. David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, Darren Aronofsky, these are all guys that said, “Fuck you, we don’t care if you like what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna make what we like. Hopefully, you guys will enjoy it as well.”  These filmmakers in my mind, had balls because they took risks.  And again I love commercial, popcorn movies, but I really respect what Lynch does, what Jarmusch does, what Darren Aronofsky does, and that’s what I came to Los Angeles to do and then I find myself doing a sequel, then another sequel, and then another sequel.  And I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t care if people hate Repo or love it, cos it’s gonna be a polarising movie, but that fact is we did something different.’  We did something that is unique, that is not a commercial, carbon copy, cookie-cutter movie and that’s what I wanted to do is do something that took a risk because there’s so few films these days that are actually doing something unique.

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Who do you think is going to come out and see Repo?

DLB:  I can tell you who’s gonna come out and see Repo because we’ve done 6 screenings so far, and one thing I urge you to do, is go on YouTube and type in “Repo fan videos.”  This is my favourite story about Repo; the first screening we did was in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival. I had Maple Pictures at that time, which runs the Lionsgate division up there and they said, “Darren, we just want to warn you, don’t worry, this is a really hard movie. If no one shows up, just don’t worry, it’s weird, it’s going to take time to catch on.”  And I looked at the writer and we’re like, “We know there’s an audience for this.”  As we walk up to the theatre there is a line that wraps three city blocks around the building.  I said, “Is that the line for Repo?”  And they said, “No, no, that’s not the line for Repo, that is the waiting list for Repo.  The line for Repo’s over there.”  The line went on 10 minutes walking and they’re all Goth, it’s all people with long black hair, wearing whatever.  Here’s the best part, there was a storm when the doors actually opened, 50 tickets went on sale to people in the rush line who couldn’t get in; a mob rushed the door to get in.  Movies starts, it plays amazingly.  All these, I wanna call them fringe, I guess, kind of the outside-of-the-box people.  So everyone writes it off as a fluke, “This is a fluke. This is a weird thing. This is not it.”  We show up to Austin.  Austin calls us two days before we get up there and they say, “Guys we wanna let you know the tickets sold out 20 minutes after we went online.  We wanna add another screening, can we do a midnight show?”  And we’re like, “Yes, you can add a midnight show.”  We show up there and all the people are there dressed up now as the characters, as Graverobber, as Amber Sweet, and they’re singing the songs in the lobby.  So Terrance and I walk in and as we walk in, we see 150 people in the lobby singing Zydrate Anatomy, and it was like we were rockstars, we walk in the door and these kids just start this thunderous applause.  And here’s the crazy part, some the kids had actually flown down from Montreal who saw it the first time.  These kids have spent hundreds and hundreds and dollars to fly down to Austin.  But again, Lionsgate is like “Huh, this is just a weird coincidence.”  So they add another show, now we have three shows in Austin that have all sold out and there is a 1,000-person ticket list to try and get into Repo.  So we do another screening, now we’re in Spain, now we’re out of the country, we’re at Sitges Film Festival, again the same thing.  The guys over there say, “Darren we haven’t done a lot of promotion, this is weird. We don’t know who’s gonna show.”   We show up to Spain, there was a madhouse where they had to call the police to come.  We had to police officers because people were rushing the door.  These are all people that came dressed up as the characters.  So the question is, ‘Who wants to see this movie?’  Well, I guarantee you its not the football players, it’s not the jocks; it’s not the cheerleaders in high school.  While I hope they like the movie and they come see the movie, it is people like me in high school.  Or every person that goes to Chops or Hot Topic or {that likes} anime.

And again what I say about that is these people don’t have a voice.  If you think about it, what movie is for the people in that culture?  If you’d have seen me in high school, I had long black hair, I wore crazy eyeliner.  There really isn’t.  And everyone that tries to do a movie with them, makes them look like idiots; they put them in like, ‘Aww, I wanna kill myself’, black candles and stuff like that, that’s not who they are.  And I think that Repo’s audience is very niche, however, so is Marilyn Manson, look at Marilyn Manson, here’s a guy who maybe appeals to maybe 5% of the people. However, that 5% are loyalists; they will buy everything that Marilyn Manson does, they will buy his t-shirts, they will buy his CDs and they will show up in droves at his concert and I kind of think that’s what we are.

 

LMD:  Do you think that following Repo has began with your Saw films?

DLB:  No. You know, it’s funny, I do, but here’s a crazy thing, let’s look at the cast for a second.  You have Bill Moseley who is a horror icon.  Paris Hilton who is a media… whore?  Sarah Brightman, who is a classically trained opera singer.  Ogre from the band Skinny Puppy.  These are not genres that are supposed to cross.  Sarah Brightman fans don’t watch Paris Hilton movies.  Ogre people do not go watch Alexa Vega.  And so I think what’s happened is we’ve got the pure ‘what the fuck’ factor.  People look at the cast list and outside of the cast list the artists who played on this; we have people from Bauhaus, people Jane’s Addiction, people from Guns and Roses, people from White Zombie all playing the music on this.  So, whoever thought that a Paris Hilton and Sarah Brightman would be singing against Guns and Roses music, it’s all original music but they’re playing the actual songs on it. And I think again it’s from a just insanity standpoint.

 

Q:  Did you have control over the casting?

DLB:  Again, this is a movie I’ve lived with for 7-8 years, so the funniest thing is, this is like a dream come true to me, I’ve always had Anthony Stewart Head.  When I was doing the stage play I wanted Anthony Stewart Head.  And it was funny because when I actually went to talk with the producers, I said here’s my list, here’s my top 5 Repo Men.  It said - I’m not shitting you - Anthony Stewart Head, one, Anthony Stewart Head, two, Anthony Stewart Head, three, I had that.  And they said, “Who the hell’s Anthony Stewart Head?”  And I was like, “First off, you’re ignorant. Go out and get his CD. Go watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And if that still doesn’t convince you, go get the original Jesus Christ Superstar album and listen to his brother Murray Head. That family is talented.”  They said no, and I started getting their names.  Their names were Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz and I was like, “Guys, that’s exactly who people would expect to be in the musical.  That’s why we cannot put them in it.”  Eventually, I got a copy of {the Buffy musical episode} Once More with Feeling and I made copies of it and I put it on everyone’s desk. Then – this is my favourite part - I called Anthony Stewart Head on his cell phone and he happened to be in LA that one day.  And so I was like, “Would you do me a favour, you don’t know me, my name is Darren, I directed the Saw movies. Will you come to the recording studio and learn this song,” and I had sent him the short film, “I need you for this movie, you are my hero, you are who I want for this.”  He learned the song in one day.  I love our website; the website has got everything on there.  It’s got his audition.  And the best was the producers show up and I was like, “Oh by the way, I brought in Anthony Stewart Head for you to listen to.”  And they felt kind of bombarded because now Anthony Stewart Head’s in the thing and he does the audition and we walks out and everyone said “You’re right. That’s Repo Man.”

 

Q:  Can you talk about having Yoshiki of X-Japan as the executive producer of Repo’s music?

DLB:  Well, Yoshiki came on board… this was like a puzzle and I had to piece everything together.  I wanted to gather an eclectic group.  I did not want this to be Chicago, I didn’t want this to be Dreamgirls or Rent and I like all those musicals, but this had to be the anti-Rent, the anti-Dreamgirls.  So I went out to assemble a crazy, unique group of people including the crew.  Yoshiki, being a huge star with X-Japan and Violet UK, he had an amazing studio in North Hollywood.  He saw the short film and said, “I love this. I want to do something with this short film.”  And I said, “Well, we have a feature script of it.”  And he said, “If you guys do this as a feature movie, come to my studio and I will help you produce the music.” So he was there every single day with the recording of it, with Sarah Brightman and Paris and all of that. He’s got an amazing ear for music, so with him and Joe Bishara, the other music producer, we spent a month and a half in his recording studio.

 

LMD:  But you’d already had Yoshiki’s music for Saw IV, didn’t you? {The X-Japan song I.V.}

DLB:  Yeah, that’s how I actually met him; he did the end credits song for Saw IV.  I was showing the short film to anyone that would watch it after the initial screening to try to get more people involved and he saw the short film because of that.

 

Q:  Can you talk about casting Paris Hilton?

DLB:  I was adamantly opposed to casting Paris originally.  The first thing that was said to me was, “Think of the press you’ll get if you put Paris in.”  Again, the same reason I rejected all the other actors, I said that’s not what I’m doing this movie for.  I don’t care, that’s not what I’m doing this movie for.  Then all of a sudden, almost as I bombarded the producers with Anthony Stewart Head, she was brought in to meet me.  And I was at a meeting and they go, “Oh, by the way, Paris is gonna be here in 10 minutes.”  And I was like, “WHAT?”  The next thing I see is lightning outside, I say, “Is it lightning?”  They say, “No, that’s paparazzi.”   She walks in, I’m sitting here like this, my arms are crossed, I’m not happy, because I’m like whatever horror cred I have is about to go down the toilet.  And she walks in and she sits down and she starts talking and all of sudden I found myself, my jaw drops and not only captivated, but I’m nervous.  I’m shaking because she is so charming; she is so not the person I expected her to be.  So she does this meeting, she walks out of the room and everyone in the room just kind of looks at each other like, ‘That was Paris Hilton?’  So she does this amazing meeting and I’m like, ‘Okay great, so she can come in and woo people, but can she sing?’  So I called her manager up and I said, “I’ll tell you what, I will give Paris Hilton a shot at this.  You have one day.  One day.  I want her back tomorrow at noon with this song.”  I emailed him the song.  That next day she came in and not only did she nail the song, but she nailed the character.  So I was like, “Okay this is a fluke, this is a fluke.”  So I gave her the hardest song in the movie that didn’t end up making the movie, and I said “You have until tonight – it was noon – you have until tonight to learn this song.”  So she goes away for six hours, comes back and does the song amazingly.  She’s in the recording studio with tons of musicians and she’s performing this thing and knows it, memorised it within six hours.  We met with maybe 35 other actresses, big actresses that were a lot more credible that weren’t half as good.  So for the next year of my life then I spent with Paris Hilton, from rehearsals to the recording studio to being on set and one thing I’ve learned about Paris Hilton is that no one knows who she is. 

And I’ll give you a story that changed my mind of her 100%.  So I cast Paris Hilton, new breaks, I cast Paris Hilton, it’s everywhere.  My mother calls me crying from Kansas City and she goes, “Why did you cast her, that harlot!”  She’s freaking out, she’s like, “You’re just gonna kill the movie.”  And I was like, “Mom, stop, you don’t know.”  And she was like, “I just saw online…” something that Paris did.  Well, we’re at the recording studio, and everyone in the recording studio is smoking, but they have to smoke outside in the back. Normal cigarettes - this is an important part.  So everyone walks outside and we’re all out there and we’ve been in the studio for 6 hours and Paris Hilton walks out and she’s having a water and she’s talking to me.  Now we’re sitting there and we’re standing again the wall and all of a sudden a van drives up, the van doors open up and the paparazzi go insane.  Now, 6, 7 hours later, that ended up on TMZ and it said ‘Paris Hilton caught smoking dope in back alley.’  Now, Paris Hilton was not smoking dope, she was drinking a water and there was smoke around her, which was from all the recording guys out there and she was behind a studio.  Now, people log in to all these websites – my mother – and they see, ‘Paris Hilton caught smoking dope in back alley,’ that’s not Paris Hilton.  I went out with Paris Hilton one night in Toronto and we went to a club and the entire time was Paris Hilton was just talking to fans and singing autographs.  That was spun though, the next morning when she got in it was, “Paris Hilton vain.”  “Paris Hilton looking at her own pictures.”  But what happens is, people spin these stories of her and that’s how people know Paris Hilton.  Think about that, if every second of your life a camera guy is following you around and they spin it.  So, after knowing her for about a year, I saw that everything I thought about her – has she made some bad choices, yes she has – but so have I.  If someone knew about half the shit that I did growing up?  I think that’s sad and I think that Paris Hilton holds her own in this movie, she really does. 

 

LMD:  Well, that leads to a question about that thought, because her big musical number features her writhing on the floor, doing some stripper type moves.  Was that originally in the script or did the choreography change because Paris is kind of known for dancing on tables or wiggling around in the Burger King commercial and trying to look sexy.

DLB:  No, if you go back on our website and go look at the stage production of that song, you can actually see it’s the exact same thing.  We had a choreographer and the choreographer looked at the stage of that song and that’s what Paris did.

Another thing I’ll say of her which blew me away about her is I think that my idea of Paris was this really, really spoiled rich kid that was better than everyone else, right before I met her.  Yet, Paris Hilton stayed in the exact same hotel as all of us, she ate at the exact same restaurant as everyone else, she went to the same shitty bar, she showed up to every rehearsal and just sat there until we needed her.  So, there was no favouritism played with her, nor did she ask for it.  I’m a dive bar kind of guy and she did come with an entourage or a single dog, it was just her.  I think it was important for her at the time - she had just gotten out of her legal trouble - to show that she wasn’t this person.  She really impressed me and won me over as a fan.

 

Q:  Was Repo! The Genetic Opera in any way an homage to Repo Man the cult classic starring Harry Dean Stanton?

DLB:  No, it actually wasn’t.  But the funny thing is, when we started filming this we tried to get Harry Dean Stanton to do a cameo.  We tried to get two cameos outside of Joan Jett, we tried to get Harry Dean Stanton and we tried to get Tim Curry.

 

LMD:  Then you would have had two Franks {Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Show, both played on stage by Tim Curry and Anthony Stewart Head}

DLB:  Exactly!

 

Q:  What do you think about the horror genre today?

DLB:  I think that its stale and I think that it’s hard to find a unique, good horror film.  Again, why I made Repo is… I know there’s gonna be tremendous hate no Repo, but it’s the first move that I can take to say that there is a way to make unique, strange, out-of-the-box kind of movies.  Because if I see one more fucking remake, or a movie that’s the exact same, I’m gonna go crazy!  For every 15 scripts that I get 13 of them are a remake, or a Saw ripoff.  People cash in whatever’s popular at that time and it was important for me to go so far outside of what was popular, and I think in the very end, it’s gonna take some time for Repo to catch on, but that pure ‘What the hell are they doing?  They’re singing and there’s comic books and there’s leather-clad midgets?”

I don’t think you’re gonna see more rock operas like this, but what I think it’ll do is if it catches on like it has been thus far I think it’ll give people more room to experiment and take risks.  People are sick of seeing the same things.  I think people are craving something different.  Now maybe this is too different, maybe it needs to be something else, but that fact is people want to se something different and that’s what I hope happens to horror films, that we start seeing new and unique things.

 

LMD:  It seems pretty clear there’s room for a sequel.

DLB:  The idea was a three part movie.  This being the middle part, this was the smallest part of the Repo story.  There was a prequel and then there was a what happened after the fact.  We wrote it as one big thing.  When we finally got the green light we were like, “We can’t do this massive….”  There was a scene of a massive flood that killed everyone and then the organs, so we had this huge thing and then we has this what happened after the fact.  We can’t do any of this, so let’s take this middle part right here which is the opera part and do that as a movie.  We wanna do another one.

In the stage play there was a song called Depraved Heart Murder that got cut out that explains who gets harvested and why there’s specific people harvested.  There’s 3 CDs, there are 22 songs that are on Amazon and ITunes and in January, the 36 - song version actual, real CD comes out, but in reality, there’s 70 songs recorded for the movie.

 

LMD:  And you got this all done in about a month?

DLB:  We had four weeks to record all the music and there were 70 songs that we recorded.  Now that means that every person each had three or four days to record and we had a week of rehearsal.  We had 30 days to shoot the movie.  To put it into perspective, look at Moulin Rouge; they would have 4 or 5 or 6 days to film the Can-Can scene, we would have to do three songs a day.  And to even go one step further on that, the minute we were out of a location it was torn down.  So like the graveyard, we had three days the graveyard, it was torn down immediately.  So it was one takes most of the time, get it in –go!  Originally, this movie was a 26-30 million dollar budget, that’s about it.

 

LMD:  Was working with the small budget your biggest challenge?

DLB:  No, the biggest challenge was getting the movie made.  No one wanted to make it and I don’t think anyone really got it.  The stage play started with three guys pushing this rock up the hill, myself, Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich.  We were supposed to be open four nights in Los Angeles it was a little thing for four nights.  We sold out two week before the stage show opened, so the guy kept extended our run.  So a four night engagement ended up staying open four weeks.  It was off-Broadway, in this little black box theatre, people started showing up dressed as the characters.  And so, we make the movie and everyone’s like, “What the hell is this?  No one’s gonna see this movie,” and then all of a sudden we have people wrapped around the block to see it.  It’s constantly been this grass-roots, small effort of a couple of guys trying to get this thing out there.  That’s been the hardest thing, it’s not been the time or the money or the budget or the casting, it’s been convincing people that this will work and not giving up.  Cos so many times I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, ‘Fuck it all.’

 

The Lady Miz Diva

~ Oct 29th, 2008

 

 

 

 

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