Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Frightfest Preview: Interview - Greg McLean

Australian director Greg McLean exploded onto the horror scene back in 2005 with the taut, nerve-shredding tale of Outback terror that is Wolf Creek.  It was one of the most intense genre movies of the noughties and one of the most promising calling cards in the history of horror cinema.  He followed this up in 2008 with the deeply underrated Rogue; the story of a group of tourists who find themselves at the mercy of a giant killer crocodile whilst on a river cruise into the wilds of Australia.  Now he returns with Wolf Creek 2 which is due to screen on Friday 28th February at Glasgow Frightfest 2014.  This sequel promises to dive deeper into the dark heart of Outback serial killer Mick Taylor.  Personally I'm certain this is going to be one of the highlights of the festival.  Greg was kind enough to agree to answer some questions as part of the Afraid of the Dark festival preview frenzy.

AOTD: Tell us a little bit about how Wolf Creek 2 came about? Was it always your intention to return to the character of Mick Taylor and is this the last we’ll see of him?

Greg McLean: I had always had in mind that if Wolf Creek 1 worked, there would be more opportunities to tell stories featuring Mick Taylor - the villain. I'd always thought that Australia should have it's own Boogieman - drawn from aspects of our culture and history that while specific to folks downunder - resonate around the world because the essence of the character is universal. So once I finished and sold the first movie, I was offered the chance to do a sequel immediately. I turned this down because I felt that it would very hard to come up with something quickly that woud be any good and I didn't want to ruin a movie I was very proud of by popping out a shitty next movie. So it has taken longer than I'd thought for many reasons but the positive thing about this is that the script and idea for the film had real time to develop and become something special. The goal for me was to make something that people who love the first movie would feel is a worthy successor and expands the character of Mick Taylor and the universe he lives in. Will this be the last we see of him? Well, there are 2 prequel novels out now telling his early life and development and in terms of another film - we're up for it - but it's up to the audience really. If the audience wants more Wolf Creek that would be awesome. For me a director I'm only interested if pushing ideas further and further and finding real challenges and there's quite a few challenges left in exploring the pure evil of this character. We've barely scratched the surface actually.

AOTD: How much weight is there to the claim that Wolf Creek was “based on true events” and to what extent is the same true of the sequel?

GM: Both stories are based on actual events and characters. Both are inspired by Ivan Milat - the "Backpacker Killer" who was convicted of the brutal rape, muder and beheading of 7 young backpackers and Bradley Murdoch, the man convicted of murdering Peter Falconio and the attempted abduction of Johanna Lees. That said, this is a horror movie first and foremost and we are not making a documentary about one real person's life, but anyone with Google and 5 minutes can watch both films and piece it all together. Actually what happens in the movies is about 80% less fucked up than what happened in real life. That gives you an idea of how depraved and truly terrifying the real cases were. 

AOTD: The spine severing scene in Wolf Creek is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. How did you feel as you were writing that scene and did you think it would stir controversy?

GM: It is disturbing and more so because it's real. This is something that backpacker killer did to his victims. I couldn't come up with something like that. I'm not sure it's controversial as much as it is deeply revolting and agonizing. The movie is a tough watch as the dread and sense of impending doom is very oppressive. So Wolf Creek 2 definately takes a different approach but it does have a few moments that may have people squirming in their chairs - especially men-folk. You'll know why when you see the scene. I'll just say, "German Sausage" and leave it at that. 

AOTD: I’ve seen Rogue a few times now but it was only when I was researching questions for this interview I noticed that John Jarratt played Russell.  Obviously you guys have hit it off big time.  What’s he like to work with and what qualities as an actor does he bring to the table?

GM: Yes John totally transformed to play that character in a really cool way. Initially I didn't want him to be in it - as I thought he'd be too recognizable from Wolf Creek - but he did his own wardrobe and makeup test and sent it to me and blew me away. So he got himself the role and has some really great scenes in the movie, quite moving ones too. John is a real pleasure to work with, he's very fun and very entertaining and most importantly he loves what he's doing. He loves movies and he loves acting and brings a great energy with him on-set. We tend to goof around a fair bit so it's really fun working with him. So it's a very collaborative relationship and a very free exchange of ideas and ways of doing things and we just look for the best idea or line or way to play something and he's pretty fearless also. He'll try anything which I think is crucial to good acting, you've got to jump out there again and again and again. I admire what they do greatly.

AOTD: Your movies really capture the beauty of the Australian outback while at the same time presenting scenarios that would have any potential visitor thinking twice about venturing into the remoter areas of the country.  Are you deliberately trying to destroy the Australian tourist industry?

GM: I get asked that a lot and the answer is yes. I am. It's my secret dream to end tourism to Australia. Joking of course, I guess the truth is I like thriller/horror and suspense tales and wide open spaces are really neccesary sometimes to create that fear - and the Outback is so spectacular I've just ended up making 3 movies out there. Probably also has something to do with the fact I really love being outdoors, I love being in nature and looking at landscape myself, so that's a part of it. I grew up studying fine art and painting and landscape art was a big part of that. So in many ways I'm admiring and showing off how beautiful and epic the natural world down here is, but it's also dangerous to the naive or those unaware of the lurking dangers. 

AOTD: You’ve not only directed each of your features but wrote the scripts too.  Would you consider directing a script written by someone else or do you prefer to develop your own?

GM: Absolutely, I'm looking at a couple now by other very talented writers. Again, it's not by any design the movies I've done so far I've written. I've certainly pitched on studio movies by other writers but didn't land the gig so I'm not adverse to that at all.

AOTD: All your movies so far have been horror films.  Are there any other genres you would like to try your hand at or is horror where your heart lies?

GM: Totally, I'm currently developing 2 animated family films, an epic war movie, some sci-fi projects and some action/adventure projects as well. I'm pretty prolific in developing projects across all genres. I do love the horror and thriller but really I'm a fan of cinema. I love movies period and so long as it's mindblowing in whatever it's trying to acheive - I'm there. 

AOTD: Each of your movies have so far presented non-supernatural threats. Have you deliberately shied away from more fantastical horror or is that something you would like to explore in the future?

GM: I have been developing one just like that actually, so stay tuned to see if I enter the realm of the supernatural in the next couple of months. I am a massive fan of supernatural horror so getting into a house environment will be a real treat for me if this one comes together. 

AOTD: Are there any film-makers, horror or otherwise, who have inspired you and why?

GM: Dozens. And usually they inspire me because they make great movies that have moved me or expanded my imagination. To name a few I adore: Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Guy Hamilton, Peter Weir, Kathryn Bigelow, David Lynch, David Lean, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers and Steven Spielberg would be some of my favourites. I tend to get really obsessed with a particular director or genre and watch everything I can for a few months and then get really into something else. RIght now my favorite director is Scorsese because I just saw The Wolf Of Wall Street 3 times and my jaw is still on the ground at what a great fucking director he is. He has bigger creative balls at 70 years old than 90% of film directors will ever have in their entire careers. And that's after he's made about ten other masterpeices including Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino etc etc etc etc. That's pretty inspiring. 

AOTD: The wilds of Australia have formed the backdrop for some great movies. What are your favourite outback movies and why?

GM: I think the ones for me that really use the landscape well are:

Mad Max (1 & 2) - because it instills a terror in the open spaces
Razorback - because it shows a very original vision of the Outback
Wake in Fright - because it shows the insanity of the people dealing with the Outback environment
Picnic at Hanging Rock - because of its atmosphere and suggestion of deeper, darker forces at work in the landscape
Walkabout - because of the profound and frightening spiritual aspect of the landscape it depicts

There's many more but those are a few personal faves. 

AOTD: Wolf Creek 2 is receiving its UK premiere at Frightfest in Glasgow at the end of February. Do you have a message for the audience?

GM: I do. You are the reason I make movies -- people who love challenging, scary, disturbing and outright terrifying movies. The greatest thing about horror movies for me is that they really are a genre almost totally focused on the audience. So there's no better place for me for Wolf Creek 2 to be screening than before an audience prepared to go into the unknown and see what horror lies beyond the safe confines of our little lives. I really hope they enjoy the movie.

I'd just like to finish off by saying thank-you to Greg for taking the time to put together some thoughtful, entertaining responses.  Look out for reviews of Wolf Creek and Rogue within the next week to be followed after the festival by a review of Wolf Creek 2.  I'll leave you with the trailer for the latter.

No comments:

Post a Comment