It is a very brave director who decides to try and create a film that not only contains elements of comedy but also remain a poignant film that makes its audience think. One director who has recently set out to achieve this feat is American director Richard Bates Jnr.
Australian film fans were first introduced to Bates several years ago at Monster Fest when his film Excision was presented to the audience but now he teams up with actor Adrian Grenier, who most people would know from hit series Entourage, to bring audiences his latest film Trash Fire. With the film now being released on DVD, we sat down with Richard to discuss the film in-depth.
As we start to talk about the fact that Richard both wrote and directed the film, he admits that the film did come from a dark place. “I was depressed, and I mean really upset, and I was like that for a year,” he explains. “So I wrote the film about depression, so I wrote these kind of quirky, funny depression like characters and I wanted them to show their selfishness and how wrapped up in your own problems depression can make you. So I wanted to hold up a mirror to people who are like that in the hope that they may see something of themselves in the movie and want to change.”
For a lot of screenwriters writing something very personal is the hardest thing that they can do but Richard says that wasn’t a problem for him here. “My first film Excision was pretty personal, but I had a bit of a rougher time on my second movie so I went into this one with the thought that I will never make another film again unless I can make it the way I made Excision. So the big difference between this movie and Excision is that Excision is a three-act movie, it has a beginning, a middle and an end, whereas Trash Fire is just a two-act movie. And the second act is really only ten minutes so as an audience you are really smacked in the face, and you’re shaken as we get our point across that sometimes it can be too late to change, so pull your head out.”
I can’t help but ask what the issues were that made his second film such a wild ride. “Well my first film was really personal, and I had final cut, it was a miracle, it was wonderful, but on my second film, there were all these things happening behind the scenes. There was interference. There were a lot of fights, and it didn’t end up being what I wanted it to be. The fact that I was never happy with it killed me inside quite frankly. So I didn’t want to do this one unless I could do it the way I did Excision and luckily I could, and again it was a miracle.”
Of course, a lot of people are going to be interested in the fact that Adrian Grenier is part of the cast, but Richard said he wasn’t always somebody that he imagined would be in the film. “I didn’t always imagine him in the role,” he says. “I actually didn’t think of anybody in the role, to be honest; I hadn’t given a thought to cast at all when I was writing it. So the way I cast Excision and Suburban Gothic was to make it personal because I have already put so much of myself into it. So with Adrian these days everybody just knows him as the Entourage guy but the first independent movie that I saw him in was The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole, and that film meant something to me. So I said to him let’s go back to when you were taking all these chances and go with it. It turns out that he isn’t ‘this Entourage guy.’ I think Entourage is pretty specific because in that he sleeps with a lot of girls and hangs out with douchey guys and to people he has become that kind of character and I know that a lot of people love that show, but it’s not a kind of show that I particularly enjoy because I blame a lot of the hassles that I have to go through on that show existing. It’s meant that every single shithead in my country has moved to Hollywood just to get laid.”
So Adrian aside how did Richard go about casting the rest of the film? “Well, AnnaLynne McCord I put in because I trust her completely. We’re good friends, and I knew that she could pull that off. She will always push it right to the limit, and she will go to the depths of her soul to deliver, she is perfect for these kinds of characters. Likewise, Matthew Gray Gubler is one of my best friends, we both had pretty religious upbringings and Fionnula Flanagan I just love her. With things like Waking Ned Devine and that I knew she would be perfect to be the ‘someone’ commanding that I was looking for. When they drive back home, they are driving into another genre so there is 30-40 minutes of a romantic comedy, a dark romantic comedy and then they drive into a horror movie where everything is larger than life and exaggerated. I knew that Fionnula is somebody that could just chew scenery and intimidate them and she could just own every situation. She got the sense of humour immediately, and as soon as she read it, she called me and was laughing about all these things that people normally at her age wouldn’t even find remotely funny. With Angela Trimbur I met so many girls but Angela completely impressed me, and I could tell that if I could just put them all in the same room together that this thing would sell itself. This is the darkest comedy that you are ever likely to see and certainly the darkest I will ever make so just don’t watch it with your Mum… my Mum f**king hates it. But the main value is filmmaking is that you have to learn to ‘kill’ your parents. You can’t make a film for your family.”
Hot after winning an Audience Award at the Boston Film Festival Trash Fire is being released on DVD through Bounty Films.