Patrick Lussier Interview, My Bloody Valentine 3-D

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline sat down with director and editor Patrick Lussier and screenwriters Todd Farmer and Zane Smith to talk about their new movie, My Bloody Valentine 3D, a remake of the 1981 horror classic. Presented in stunningly real, cutting-edge projection, My Bloody Valentine 3D stars Jensen Ackles (TV’s “Smallville” and “Supernatural”), Jaime King (The Spirit, Sin City, Sin City 2) and Kerr Smith (Final Destination, “Dawson’s Creek”).

In 1981, the slasher film craze was at its peak, driven by the box office success of films such as Halloween and The Last House on the Left. Then, out of Canada came the controversial low-budget sleeper My Bloody Valentine, whose enormous cult following shocked even its creators. Now, My Bloody Valentine 3D brings the fear factor to a new level with an immersive and terrifying remake of the ultimate campfire story.

When it came time to select a director for a state of the art update of this blood-soaked classic, the producers found a filmmaker with just the pedigree they were looking for. Lussier, the editor of films including Scream, Dracula 2000 and New Nightmare, is a long time collaborator with legendary horror auteur Wes Craven and a virtuoso of suspense.

“This is the marriage of old school horror mixed with a great story and unbelievable new technology,” says director Patrick Lussier. “There’s also some good old-fashioned gore. It’s the intersection of so many different things. We’re doing a 3-D movie; we’re doing a slasher film, but it’s much more than that. It requires a new way of looking at storytelling, and it’s a very exciting opportunity.

Lussier found the prospect of revamping such a beloved film both daunting and rewarding. “The film is a Canadian icon,” says the director, who himself hails from north of the 49th parallel. “The offer to be involved in the project took me by surprise. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle it, but as I read the script and started working with it, I saw the opportunity to bring something new to the story.”

“The film is about this great love triangle,” he continues. “What else would you expect from a movie that has ‘Valentine’ in the title? But the love triangle has gone slightly awry – and as a result has gotten bloody.”

Patrick Lussier, Todd Farmer, and Zane Smith are fabulous guys and we really appreciated their time. Here’s what they had to tell us about My Bloody Valentine 3D:

MoviesOnline: How do you go about updating a classic slasher/horror film from the 1980s in this day and age and still remain true to the spirit of the original while keeping fans excited?

Patrick: Well it goes on all sorts of different journeys and with Zane, when you started, there was talk about taking it away from the original film. 

Zane: Yup, originally.

Patrick: And then it gradually found its way back closer to the original film and then we all talked about what the studio wanted out of the film, and what they really loved about the original film was the setting and the killer, and how to embrace that. You’ve got to do a lot of research. You’ve got to look at what people loved about the original film and you want to be sure to be true to those moments. At the same time, you want to look at what was maybe a little dated in that film and look at how to give it a fresh coat of digital paint and take it out and slick it up and make it what it needs to be.

MoviesOnline: Patrick, you had to call Todd’s wife to say he had to do the sex scene? Can you explain what the deal was with that?

Patrick: I asked him and he asked his wife.

MoviesOnline: Todd, did you think oh wow, I’d kind of like to do that or was this totally out of left field?

Todd: Look, I was Frederick in the Pirates of Penzance so this is a big step. We’re going around the world here. (laughs) You’re borderline, you know, this could end in divorce if you’re not careful so… It was a situation where it’s not a huge part, but it’s a very demanding part, because most people who have been in the industry will tell you the special effects stuff is not easy to shoot. It’s very time consuming and it’s very grueling and you’re in and out of make-up and then you’ve got to take your pants off which comes with its own elements of surprise and wonder. So, Patrick called up and he was talking about the difficulty that this was going to be to hire a local. I said, “It’s kind of a gamble. You’re taking a risk.” He said, “Yeah. Would you do it?” He was like, “Ask Melanie.” I explained to her and she was like, “It’s a sex scene?” I said, “Yes.” And she was like, “Rock Star!” So I said, “Yeah, okay, I guess I’ll do it.”

MoviesOnline: Patrick, were you aware that this was a Canadian cult classic?

Patrick: Oh absolutely. It’s mandatory viewing in Canada. That and Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Musi, you have to watch. Hockey night in Canada and Dudley Dooright, all those things. I was very aware of the film growing up. I worked at a video store at one point as a kid. I remember when it opened and that particular film is kind of unapologetically Canadian with its Moosehead beer and all its Canadian references throughout the film.

MoviesOnline: And it was made for $2.95.

Patrick: Yes. In Canadian dollars, which lately is probably around 3 bucks.

MoviesOnline: Was the basic case for the remake adding the 3D component?

Patrick: Multiple things. The basic case for probably getting our full green light was 3D. But for actually making the film, Mike Paseornek from Lionsgate had worked as an executive on the original film and had always loved it and loved the killer in it and loved the setting, and I guess for 20 some odd years had kept it in his mind that it would be great to revisit it if he ever had an opportunity to do so. Events transpired that allowed Lionsgate to acquire the rights, and at the time I was working with him on another project, and he came and approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing the updating, and then they talked to Zane and Todd about creating the script.

MoviesOnline: So what kind of challenges did you face as a director with this film given the 3D, the constraints of shooting in a mine 200 feet underground, and something that’s a whole new experience for you?

Patrick: Yes, I was too naïve to know how hard it was or hard it would be. Every day you just kind of did it. You’re Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill and you’ve just got to push the ball up, right? The rock gets heavier and heavier but you have a great crew and a great cast helping you. There were events and challenges in doing it in the real terrain but it all was incredibly worth it. In terms of the look of the film, to have built the set wouldn’t have been anywhere near as satisfying as to actually shoot in that real terrain and to just feel the rock formations, to see that environment. You put the audience inside that space. For the 3D and for the audience participation, it was invaluable to do that. So, really, it was the kind of thing where you just decide it will work because you’re too stubborn to think otherwise.

MoviesOnline: Were there any safety considerations?

Patrick: Oh yeah, we all had to go to safety class before we went underground. Bob Black from the Tour-Ed Mine gave us a whole safety class. We all had to wear hard hats and things like that and we had to know what the safety rules are. You know, they tell you stories, “Yeah, we were in here one day and we were just chatting away and suddenly this piece of the ceiling came down and cut my friend’s nose off.”

Zane: It truly is one of the most hazardous places I have ever seen. This is very true. I had a summer job in college working for Magna Copper Company. I worked in a copper mine 2200 feet under the surface. It was only a three-month job as a mechanic apprentice, but I think in the three months three people had been killed. It’s an extremely hazardous environment.

Todd: Good times.

Patrick: Real good times.

MoviesOnline: If Lionsgate likes this movie so much, has there already been talk of a sequel?

Patrick: Perhaps. Yes.

MoviesOnline: With the surviving original cast returning?

Patrick: Yes.

MoviesOnline: Does it take place in the same town against the backdrop of the same mine?

Patrick: Maybe not the same town.

MoviesOnline: So there have already been ideas floating around? You guys have already been working on stuff.

Patrick: Yeah.

MoviesOnline: There are alternate endings too for this. What’s going to be on the DVD?

Patrick: That.

MoviesOnline: Alternate endings?

Patrick: Actually quite a bit more of Todd. He’ll leave nothing to your imagination.

MoviesOnline: So are there several alternate endings?

Patrick: No, no. By alternate endings, there are variations on themes of the ending. There are the different ways it kind of could have gone in its final moment. The one we have in the film we actually came up with while we were shooting the final [sequence] and it was very clear that was the way to go. We had talked to the studio and they were like, “Well, please shoot what was originally written.” “Yeah, that sounds perfect.” So that’s how the alternates came to be. It wasn’t because oh, we don’t know what we want. We knew what we wanted the second we thought of it, but because these other things existed, they were like, “Please protect us in case we change our minds and in case this doesn’t work as well as you think it does.” The second we shot it, we knew “Oh yeah. That’s so it!” You know, it was very clear.

MoviesOnline: Is there any commentary on the DVD?

Patrick: Yes, that’s all being determined. A lot of that stuff is still happening.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about the new demands that 3-D puts on a director in terms of cameras and the need for additional lighting?

Patrick: Yes, you need a fuck of a lot of lighting. Excuse my French. It is unbelievable how much light you need for the film which means heat which is great shooting underground where it’s constantly 55 degrees. My favorite part of that element was shooting in the mine because of that. But what it means is you’re dragging around massive lights everywhere you go. When we were shooting in the boarded up house, they had to be dragged up this hill to where we were shooting which was incredibly hard on the crew, because it was raining and there was mud and poison ivy and all this stuff was everywhere and to do that was… Lighting was the biggest albatross.

MoviesOnline: You need that much light to make it look that dark?

Patrick: Yes. No, you do because you’re losing so many stops of light. You’re losing it because of the beam splitter, you’re losing it because of the glasses, you’re losing basically 3 stops of light so you’re shooting at basically 100 ASA. You’re going back 20 years in filmmaking technology in terms of exposure. So, by virtue of that, you have to… And of course, when you’re shooting underground in a real mine where you can’t fly walls, you can’t do anything, you’re having to figure out where the hell are we going to hide these lights and trying to figure out how to do that. That’s why there are pillars and those cribs and everything are down there because they’re hiding massive lights.

MoviesOnline: But it’s not a single camera shooting a double negative, is it?

Patrick: No, no. It’s all digital photography. You’re shooting two cameras. You have to capture two separate images as your eyes would see and then you marry them in postproduction.

MoviesOnline: For a movie like this, it was odd that there was only one naked girl. She was very naked, but only one girl.

Patrick: She was as naked as you could get.

MoviesOnline: Was that your intention all along that there would only be the one girl who was naked?

Patrick: We felt that we would shoot our wad with that. She was going to be enough ‘nakidity’ for the whole film.

MoviesOnline: Except for the shoes.

Patrick: And that was all Betsy (Rue). For Betsy, the shoes were the way into the character. We had to write the shoes into the script. The shoes were originally written differently.

Todd: Yup, they were UGG boots and every man I asked “What’s sexier?” because Betsy was saying, “No, I’m going to wear high heels.” And I was like, “Look, every man I ask what’s sexier, the UGG boots or high heels, every man was UGGs.” And Betsy was like, “But my legs will look short.” And we were like, “Okay. Fine.”

MoviesOnline: This was Betsy Rue?

Patrick: Betsy Rue. Yes. And so, they were her shoes. She brought them. We had a bunch of other shoes for her to try and she’s like, “No, I’m wearing these ones.” And that, for her, was the way into the character and I wasn’t going to argue that.

MoviesOnline: We’ve been told she has no inhibitions.

Patrick: No, Betsy is awesome. Betsy does an amazing thing in the movie. She goes from being the naked girl to having a performance that’s so intense that you forget she’s naked because you are literally hooked into the terror that she’s experiencing. She is an amazing, fearless performer.

MoviesOnline: How was it working with Guillermo del Toro and do you have other projects planned with him?

Patrick: It was great to work with Guillermo. I worked with Guillermo on Mimic back in ’96 and ’97. Mimic was a brutally hard film to make. It was very tough on Guillermo and everybody involved. It was unbelievably ambitious. Guillermo is one of the few, absolute artists I’ve ever worked with. Everything that he does, from the doodles that he did of he and I doing like this [shaking] in absolute terror as we were dealing with the studio, which I still have, to just the cinematic language that he speaks, is gorgeous. Guillermo is a genius. I’ve encountered very few of them in my life but he’s certainly one of them.

MoviesOnline: Zane, given your experience working in a mine, did you find that aided you in terms of script development when you were planning things out?

Zane: A little bit. It was a 3-month job, but it’s a natural setting for something terrible to happen because it’s so inherently dangerous that [when] you insert a crazed killer with a pickaxe, it makes it that much more crazy and almost surreal.

MoviesOnline: One story question, at the end when Jaime has the gun, why didn’t she shoot? They never cut back to her.

Patrick: That’s an excellent question. There’s footage of her that we had where we cut back to her. That exists. It was just as problematic to have that in as it was to not have that in. The fight scene that is occurring at the same time appeared very late in the script. It was literally at the read-through when we realized that these two guys have to fight. And then, quite simply, the reason she doesn’t shoot and we don’t cut to it is because every time we did it thinking we had to do it, it was more distracting from the fight itself and we needed to let the fight happen and then go to it afterwards.

MoviesOnline: I kept wondering why the sheriff didn’t yell “I need a little help here.”

Patrick: But you have to think, that plays completely into his character and his character’s ego. His ego would tell him that he doesn’t need that. And that’s very much in keeping with his character. The other character, of course, doesn’t want that to happen either because he fights with a large degree of over confidence, hence, his downfall. And he’s winning hugely up to the point where he isn’t, and then the shooting starts.

Zane: You also have to understand that for Sarah, Tom is the love of her life. This is part of the story. So, the fact that she doesn’t blow him away right away I think is perfectly understandable. She comes to the realization but she still loves this guy so it buys her a couple minutes.

MoviesOnline: Now will your feelings be hurt if most of us still consider the sheriff to be a jerk?

Todd: No, I mean, the idea all along is these would be real characters because we’re all jerks. Look, he’s a jerk. We wanted the characters to be real. We didn’t want them to be plastic. And we’re fans of the genre and always have been so we wanted to treat it… I mean, horror fans are smarter than a lot of people give them credit.

MoviesOnline: And you give the jerk some redeeming moments in the film.

Patrick: Absolutely, and that was important to do that. It was important that he behave in such a way that you could suspect him completely and utterly, and at the same time, when the reversal happened, that you needed to root for him for all his flaws.

Todd: And it’s the actors too because these actors make us look like better writers.

MoviesOnline: Do you consider Wes Craven a mentor?

Patrick: Absolutely. Yes.

MoviesOnline: And how important?

Patrick: You know, Wes has been a huge part of my life for a lot of years. I started cutting for Wes in 1991 and then basically have cut pretty much everything he’s done since then and we’ve worked together coming up on 20 years. It’s been an invaluable relationship. I’ve learned so much about moviemaking, the importance of storytelling, the importance of character, the importance of simple storytelling over flash and just kind of like the music video filmmaking techniques which aren’t about storytelling at all, and how intrinsic that is to an audience’s enjoyment, and how you don’t have to be flying your camera over every single which way, that a close-up is far more valuable in terms of how to tell a tale.

MoviesOnline: What other projects besides this do you have coming up?

Patrick: Nothing that’s ready to go yet. I have a few things waiting in the wings but nothing that’s ready to be talked about at this time, so, hopefully soon.

“My Bloody Valentine 3D” opens in theaters on January 16th

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