Image Credit: Warner Bros.If you’re surprised that you haven’t heard more from director Vincenzo Natali since he made a splash with his low-budget 1998 horror movie Cube, then you’re not alone. “I’m surprised too, believe me,” laughs the Canadian filmmaker. “But I never found anything in Hollywood that I really wanted to do. Or the things I did find, no one else wanted to make. Maybe I have too much integrity — or I’m just bad at selling out! So I just kept working on little independent films.”
Natali also kept working on another horror film, Splice, which he first began writing in the late ‘90s and which Warner Bros. is finally releasing this Friday after what the director describes as “a very slow and — I have to say — painful birth.”
Those gestation problems are appropriate, given the movie’s subject matter. The Canadian-French co-production stars Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody as a a pair of scientists who “grow” a creature called Dren from both human and animal DNA. The consequences of their actions are both horrific and, in one unforgettable scene, decidedly erotic as the adult Dren (played by French actress Delphine Chaneac) and Brody make like the birds and the bees (maybe literally, given the potpourri nature of Dren’s DNA).”That scene was the reason I wanted to make the film,” says Natali. “And that’s why it’s such a miracle this film exists. No studio wanted to make it, because of sexual part of the story. So we had to go to France. And the French, of course, had no problem with it.”
After the jump, Natali talks more about creating Dren, what it was like working with legendary producer Joel Silver, and how he came to make the “dullest” Terry Gilliam documentary of all-time.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How much thinking went into Dren’s hotness, for want of a better word? Above the waist, she’s pretty attractive. But she also has the legs of an antelope, or a kangaroo, or something, which is kind of off-putting
VINCENZO NATALI: Well, I think Dren’s hot. But that’s me. I cast Delphine partly because I felt she had an androgynous quality. I didn’t want to make Dren overtly sexual. I wanted people to fall in love with her rather than in lust. Also, I feel like an androgynous beauty is perhaps a little more evolved. Like David Bowie is maybe more evolved than the rest of us.
Dren does have a sort of Man Who Fell to Earth quality to her.
Yeah. I really think that Dren is an object of desire, but not in the most obvious sense.
If everything went fine with the research in the film it wouldn’t be much of a movie…
But as it stands, Splice could be taken as an anti-research tract. Is that a concern?
Yeah, it does bother me. Hopefully people won’t take the film so seriously. In a way, the movie has more to do with character than it does science fiction.
I love it.
I recall him saying that film was his version of Kramer vs. Kramer.
Right, right. Cronenberg is an influence on me, for sure. I mean, I’m from Toronto, which is his home town. There’s definitely some Cronenberg DNA in Splice. And other filmmakers too. And then some of my own personal life experiences. Hopefully it’s a potent cocktail, something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Splice was bought for Warner Bros. by producer Joel Silver, who has this cigar-chomping, shout-y guy-type rep. What was he like to work with?
He’s been wonderful. I really didn’t know what to expect. Because, of course, Joel Silver has a reputation as a tough guy. And frankly, once the film was bought by Warner Bros., I gave up all control. But he has been as respectful as anyone could possibly be. It’s been a tough, long, process getting this film made. But there was something in this movie that willed itself into existence. It wanted to live. It really was a case of life imitating art. Because the film is in some senses about the life force. And this film had an undying life force. Whenever we thought it was dead, it would resurrect itself. And here we are.
You made a documentary called Getting Gilliam about the making of Terry Gilliam’s 2005 movie“> Tideland, which seems to have been a relatively disaster-free shoot by his standards. Was that disappointing?
Well, I think that’s why my documentary is very dull. [Laughs] It’s probably the least interesting of all the Terry Gilliam documentaries.
Did you sit there and think, “Come on Terry, have a heart attack!”
No, no, no. I really didn’t. In fact, what I wanted, was to make a movie about Terry Gilliam — not a Terry Gilliam disaster. I didn’t want those things to happen. Partly because I like Terry Gilliam. But also because I really wanted it to be about the work. I felt that those other films weren’t really about his process as they were about this carnival of disaster. So that’s what I got to do. I got to make a film about one of my idols at work. For me, it was just like being at film school. He’s a genius. People will be writing about Terry Gilliam long after they stop writing about Michael Bay.
What’s next for you? Is it true you’re adapting the William Gibson cyberpunk classic Neuromancer?
Yes, that’s the latest thing. It’s unbelievable. I’m writing the script. It’s one of the seminal science fiction novels. They’ve been trying to make it for many years. I think ten years ago the audience wasn’t ready for it. But after the Matrix and Avatar and films of that ilk, I think the ground rules have been laid.
And I believe you have William Gibson experience. Weren’t you a storyboard artist on Johnny Mnemonic?
Yeah, I was. I didn’t do all the film. I just did the re-shoots that they did in Toronto. It’s funny how these things come around.