Horror Squad: How are you? How are things?
Christopher Smith: I just finished Black Death and I'm sitting in a coffee shop about to get on writing this kids film I've been working on for a number of years called CHERUB. It's kind of like a Rodriguez Spy Kids but not a big budget version; like a Shane Meadows Spy Kids movie. It's that kind of film. It's about a bunch of state kids working for the government, it's quite a cool film based on a series of books.
Horror Squad: Very cool, when's that going into production?
Christopher Smith: We're hoping to shoot in the summer. There's a big franchise of books in England called CHERUB and what it is is like a Nikita story. It's about a young kid from a broken family who suddenly realizes that he's an orphan and he's being cared for by the government. We're doing it quite realistically, so instead of the kids, ya' know, jumping out of helicopters and doing that, it's more about how the government uses kids in the same way drug dealers would use kids to traffic things. It's more Bourne Identity than it is James Bond.
Horror Squad: Is it going to be for adults or for kids?
Christopher Smith: No, it's for kids, but we're trying to do it so it's not a children's story. It's kind of a mix of This is England and Goonies. It's a very cool thing.
Horror Squad: Sounds like it. Now before we get into the Triangle questions, I have to thank you for something. I've actually been using an image from Creep as the banner image for my own horror site for over four years now, so I'd like to just thank you for not suing me.
Christopher Smith: No, no, no, I know the shot. It's the one of Sean, isn't it? Yeah, I've seen it on the net. I love that image. I just love the blues and yellows.
Horror Squad: It's a great shot.
Christopher Smith: I know. It's weird, when we did that sequence, it was a very good choice. It was actually the DP's idea to not make it kind of moody and to go the other way with it. But it's kind of tricky when you do that, because you could have made it like Se7en, that scene. But it's really bright and it's twisted because of it.
Horror Squad: Can you give me some background on Triangle? This was your first UK/Australia co-production, how did that come about?
Christopher Smith: Originally it was obviously going to be set in the States. It was supposed to be Florida and its still set in Florida, we came over to try and get the film made, tried the studio route, but found that the subject matter and the way the story works was a bit too indie, quite understandable for most studios, I think. But while we were over there we hooked up with Icon, which really loved the script. At the time there was a co-production Australian fund and because Icon is an Australian company, it's actually Mel Gibson's company, so we decided to do it in Australia and were the first company to get that new tax break.
It was a case of how to get Australians playing Americans. It wasn't met to be that way, though, because the original casting was Melissa and it was just a coincidence that she was Australian as well. A lot of people don't know that though, a lot of people probably think she's just American.
Horror Squad: Actually, you're right; I was surprised when I read about the all Australian cast as I always just assumed she was American.
Christopher Smith: Oh good, well there ya' go. We had a good voice coach.
Horror Squad: So how'd you guys actually build your half of an ocean liner? Did you try to find one or did you always plan on building one?
Christopher Smith: We did try to look for one, but the tricky thing is how far do you keep looking. Ocean liners are not like cars. Before a ship is scrapped, it's fused permanently, so what you need to look for one that's no longer in operation. But all ships are in operation! They start in America and they just go down to the third world countries until eventually it becomes a cruiser for a poorer nation. And then they're scrapped, so we couldn't actually find one we could use that was the right size.
Although I wish we'd spent a bit more time, because it was such a big deal to build that ocean liner.
Horror Squad: What happened to it? Is it still out on its outcrop or did you have to disassemble it?
Christopher Smith: No, unfortunately we just built it and collapsed it, but because it was kind of a big thing. I had this dream when I was writing the script that I would be jet skiing to work every day and I'd have this big ocean liner parked off the beach. I had this lovely idea and then we ended up building the whole thing. But the good thing about the way we built it, though, was that it meant you were really out by the sea. It gives you the effect that every time you spun the camera around, the ocean was in the shot.
Instead, if we had done it with green screen, you wouldn't be able to get that effect. You wouldn't be able to move that much and you'd be locked in and static.
Horror Squad: What was your writing process like? Did you have to lock yourself in a room with flowcharts breaking down all the iterations of the story?
Christopher Smith: Yeah, I had the original idea, which was the moment she looks back and she sees herself on the upturned yacht...I don't want to give too much away, but the essential twist was my first idea that she's the one looking back at herself. It was almost like a Twilight Zone idea, so I then had to build a narrative around it.
I had to say, So what's the setting? Is it the Bermuda Triangle? Well, I don't know if I want to make a Bermuda Triangle movie...maybe we'll just leave the title Triangle. All the things that are in the movie, like the title, are all because the film organically grew. Where I began the writing process and where I ended up are kind of two different places. I liked the idea that it maybe it was about a troubled mind, the idea that either she's dead, or its schizophrenia.
My biggest inspiration, as you can see by the movie with the corridors and stuff, was The Shining. And like with The Shining, you're never sure if you're in Jack Nicholson's mind or if you're in the Overlook hotel. And it's a bit of both and you kind of feel it could be either, but you're satisfied with both. So I kind of wanted that to happen.
Once I worked out the general structure it was a bunch of post-it notes. It was like I was the character from Memento trying to remember where I was. That's why it took so long. I didn't want there to be any loopholes and there aren't. Sometimes I'll read on the Internet and some guy well go, "Oy, there's a loophole!" There are no loopholes in this thing; there really aren't! You only have to think a little harder, the answer is a bit further. If you journey back through the second loop in your mind, you'll find answers you didn't find the first time.
It really is a puzzle. That's a bold statement, it'll get the kids on the net going.
Horror Squad: Bold, but you're right. I've seen it twice now and when I watched it again the other day, I picked up on so much more in her second iterations and how long she's been in this loop. In some ways, the narrative becomes a kind of time travel move in the way it jumps from one version of her to another and the audience has to unravel it. It does make sense.
Christopher Smith: Also, the thing with some time travel movies...okay, all of them... because time travel is the stuff of science fiction at the moment, or may always be, if you look at stuff like Back to the Future, which you feel makes sense, it doesn't make sense. Because, how many different versions of them are traveling back and forth with Doc in the time continuum? They're everywhere! And when was the first one? If you ask that, the whole thing doesn't make sense.
The whole thing is 'what came first, the chicken or the egg' and that's the thing that makes your mind go 'woah', because he'd never have gone back in time because he already would have fixed his family.
Horror Squad: All time travel movies have that cause and effect glitch. Obviously Triangle doesn't have that problem as it's not an actual time travel movie. But we enter the narrative loop with her at certain times.
Christopher Smith: Yes, you go back in at the same time. Exactly right. And whether there's another one 20 minutes ahead, well, that's another riddle.
Horror Squad: Can you give us anything on Black Death? It was just delayed in the UK, wasn't it?
Christopher Smith: Yeah, we basically finished the movie at the end of the year with it coming out in February. But there are all these other movies coming out and we weren't sure if wanted it out before Season of the Witch or Solomon Kane and it all became mad scramble, so we just went. "Ya know what, why don't we just release it properly? Let it live in film fests for a while and then release it in the summer?" We were rushing for no reason and there are a number of film festivals we wanted to take it too first. I'm glad, there's nothing worse than finishing a movie on one day and releasing it two weeks later.
You wouldn't get a chance to live with it yourself. But it's all finished, it's all done and I love it. It's a super dark, kind of realistic retelling of a guy on a mission movie set during Medieval England. And it's not done like a fantasy movie, it's done very gritty and very 'what would it be like back then'. There was a time when people believed that the plague was either sent by God or sent by the Devil and they believed one of those two. That's what a lot of our characters feel and then we find out there is a devil in this village...
Horror Squad: Are there any deals for a US release on the horizon?
Christopher Smith: That's the thing. The plan is to bring it out to a lot of festivals. There's a plan to bring it out to a festival in LA, I've got to get a hold of them actually. No we've stopped rushing it, we can think about the strategy.
Horror Squad: A lot of foreign genre directors make waves on the festival circuit and then get swallowed into the Hollywood system, sometimes remaking their own movies.
Christopher Smith: Yeah, you have to make a concerted effort, in a way, to make a trip to LA and I haven't. I'd like to make a movie in America very much. It's got pluses. It's always worded negative in a way. Remaking your stuff not so much, but I don't see a negative in having a studio going, "Let's go do some reshoots or let's put some more Money into it!" because that kind of thing helps if it means you get a longer shoot time.
What's happened is that every time I think, "Let's look for another film"...right before Triangle I was in the loop for a number of films that have now since been made, but I always kept coming back to the stuff I've written and ended up going, okay, I may as well make what I know I can make that I wrote; instead of putting my stuff up with another 10 directors going for the same project.
But I think from now on, I am going to make an effort. I'd like to try stuff...not so much with remakes, though some of the remakes I've liked and some I haven't. A lot of people go, "Oh, No". I mean, I don't think anyone out there likes the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre more than I do. I love that film! I've been obsessed with it since I was 12. When I saw the remake...I didn't hate it.
Horror Squad: It's not too bad.
Christopher Smith: It's not! It's not a bad little film. If it wasn't a remake, you'd go, "Actually, that's a fun little movie," you know? But because it's dealing with the Holy Grail of horror movies we have to hate it. I despise it.
Horror Squad: Have you gotten any offers to remake some of your films in the US?
Christopher Smith: No, but I wouldn't mind. I think the one I'd like to do is Creep, weirdly. I wouldn't mind revisiting Creep, there's such a big world under there. Not a remake, but I wouldn't mind doing an Evil Dead 2 with it and kind of rebooting it with a bit more cash. I like the steer of that film. Group of American tourists land at Heathrow and get the tube -- it writes itself; couldn't be an easier movie to make.
Horror Squad: Well if you do do that, I, for one, would be a big fan.
Christopher Smith: I'll tell ya' what, I'll let you have the first image rights. No, no one in England sues anybody for anything. I wouldn't worry about putting your images up, so long as you use English movies. We're all gentlemanly here, we don't sue each other.
Horror Squad: Great! Well until that day, good luck on CHERUB.
Christopher Smith: Thanks. Oh, and just so the horror guys know I haven't lost my street cred, there's a really twisted horror movie in the pipeline as well.
Horror Squad: Oh, really? Any details?
Christopher Smith: No, not at the moment. It's going to be one of two different things, I'm not sure yet. If I go in to make it then I'm going to charge in and it'll be swallowed up with a real big horror movie. But I love the genre, so...