The bizarre real-life story behind the new Elijah Wood movie Come to Daddy
Director Ant Timpson was inspired by the death of his father — and having to look after his body for five days.
In the new horror thriller Come to Daddy, Elijah Wood plays an entertainment industry wannabe named Norval Greenwood who reunites with the father he never really knew (played by Stephen McHattie) for the first time in three decades at a remote cabin in Oregon.
“He has been estranged from his father for 30 years,” the actor tells EW. “Gets a letter in the mail from his father asking him to come see him. We pick up at him having arrived at the house to see his father and reunite with this person he doesn’t know. Then Stephen McHattie, as his dad, opens the door, and they start to have a reconnection of that relationship, but it doesn’t go quite the way that Norval thinks it was going to go. And things take a turn for the worse. Things go awry.”
Come to Daddy is the directorial debut of New Zealander Ant Timpson, whose credits as a producer include the cult movie The Greasy Strangler and the horror anthology The ABCs of Death. The film was inspired by the death of Timpson’s own father and Timpson’s subsequent caretaking of the embalmed corpse for five days on the suggestion of his father’s partner.
“Dad drops dead in front of me [and] I spend a week with his corpse in a coffin in his house alone at night,” the director recalls. “During the day, strangers come, pay their respects, and I start thinking that maybe there’s an alternate history to my father. The whole process was cathartic and beautiful and creepy and sad. I came out of it staring, like, death in the face, and thinking life’s really short, I should get back to what really means something to me, which — apart from my poor dead dad — was getting back into making films. Instead of producing, I used to make films when I was young. I was an obsessive video filmmaker, every weekend, and then I just went down another path. I was like, this is a wake-up call. I wanted to make something that was a tribute to my dad, because it’s the type of film he loved: gallows humor, crazy characters, British sensibility. I approached Toby Harvard, who wrote The Greasy Strangler, with the skeleton of an idea, that was inspired by that whole traumatic, cathartic process.”
In the film, Wood sports a memorable haircut-and-moustache combo designed to reflect his character’s hipster nature.
“The haircut was sort of an evolution,” says Wood. “Both for costume and just Norval’s style in general, there were a lot of references. Some of them were really extreme. I’ve now seen that cut in the wild a couple of times.”
“I’ve seen it lots of times in the wild,” Timpson says. “I keep trying to take photos to send.”
“I think it’s mainly baristas,” Wood adds.
So, will Timpson wait around for another bizarre and traumatic event to inspire his next movie?
“Well, I’ve run out of parents,” the director says with a hefty dose of black humor. “So unless the other family members start knocking off, it’s going to be tough. But everything I’m involved with has to have some sprt of personal connection, I think. Toby and I get along great, and so we want to work together on something else. We’ll see what happens.”
Come to Daddy, which costars Martin Donovan and Michael Smiley, will be released in select theaters and on digital and VOD Feb. 7.