For her debut feature film, writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour decided to make a black-and-white, Iran-set, Farsi language vampire-western about a female, skateboarding neck-biter called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. So, let’s get the most obvious question out of the way first: Why? According to Amirpour, she came up with the idea for the movie (which opens in L.A. and New York tomorrow) when she was making a short film and saw someone walking by with a chador, the open cloak worn by many Iranian women.
“I said, Let me try this thing on,” says Amirpour, who is of Iranian descent but was born in the U.K. and raised in the U.S. “I put it on and it has a certain type of fabric, it has weight, and it’s slick and it moves. It’s elegant, and graceful, and you feel like a badass. I just felt like a creature and I instantly realized. It’s a vampire! I wanted to be on a skateboard and feel the wind in it. I was like, Of course, this is an Iranian vampire, brilliant disguise. The whole thing grew out of that character.” As for the film being in black and white, Amirpour says she wanted to see her vampire “against white walls and white sidewalks. I was thinking of Rumble Fish a lot and this kind of surreal, hyper-stylized fairytale world. And then it’s Farsi because it’s an Iranian fairytale and she’s an Iranian vampire. That was just a given to me. Only a few people were like, ‘Do it in English!’ It’s such an absurd suggestion to me. It completely makes sense to me, all the stuff together.”
The film’s vampire is played by Sheila Vand. “I knew Lily from before,” says the actress, whose credits include Argo and NBC’s new Katherine Heigl-starring drama State of Affairs. “We’d done some shorts together and she asked me to do this film before it was written. It was a lot of fun. It’s fun to kill people!” Vand says that while she did some of the skateboarding in the film, most of the “fancy-schmancy stuff” was actually handled by Amirpour herself. “Lily tried to teach me how to skateboard and we did some lessons at her house,” says Vand. “But eventually our producer was like, ‘Let’s not have our lead actress break her leg three weeks before the shoot.’”
“I was a skateboarder as a kid,” says Amirpour.
“She got her period on a skateboard!” laughs Vand.
“I did,” confirms the director. “I was like, ‘Did I fall? I don’t remember falling today.’ I hope you write the good version of this interview!”
Amirpour got into gore at an early age. “When I was a kid, I consumed s—loads of horror movies,” she says. “I think I was 9 when it started. I was watching Faces of Death when I was like 10. When I was 12, my dad got this camcorder, and I made a slasher, it was 8 minutes long. I don’t really go for the horror [now]. I’m into fantasy. I still love Neverending Story, Legend, Blade Runner. Donner’s Superman. Back to the Future 1 and 2 together, that may be my real [movie] parents.”
Indeed, while A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night technically qualifies as a horror film, it is itself really a fantasy which tracks the love story between Vand’s vampire and a mortal, played by Arash Marandi. The result is an exotic and romantic tale, the poster for which it is easy to imagine, say, male college students pinning to their bedroom walls in the hope of appearing cool to the opposite sex. “Can you please write that?” grins Amirpour. “‘This is the poster that you need to have on your wall to get laid in college!'”
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is being distributed by Kino Lorber with assistance from Vice Films. But the film also arrives with the imprimatur of Elijah Wood, who is one of the film’s executive producers along Daniel Noah and Josh C. Waller, the Lord of the Rings star’s partners in the boutique horror film company SpectreVision. “Early on, our mutual friend, Sheri Davani, she co-produced Girl, told him about this film,” says Amirpour. “Elijah was just starting SpectreVision, loved the sound of it, got super turned-on, and was like, ‘Can I read the script?’ He read it was like, ‘This is what I want us to be all about: weird, arthouse, genre stuff that doesn’t exist. He’s just warm, and lovely, and enthusiastically into stuff that he loves.”
So what’s next for the pair? While Vand says she is enjoying her current gig on State of Affairs—“It’s fun and it’s nice to have a parking spot”—she is also keen to appear in “more weird indie stuff. I just think that’s the most exciting space.” Amirpour, meanwhile, reveals her follow-up to Girl will be both in color and in English. Hmm, sounds like she’s selling out. Then again…
“It’s called The Bad Batch,” says the director. “It’s a post-apocalyptic desert-set, cannibal love story.”