Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Singing Slasher

Savannah Magazine, 11.4.10
Photography By Adam Kuehl/SCAD

Screen sensation Vincent D’Onofrio shares his unorthodox cure for boredom.

Over the past 30 years, Vincent D’Onofrio has given unforgettable performances as Private Leonard in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” Det. Robert Goren on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” Ed Wood, Abbie Hoffman and Orson Welles. In 2005, he directed and starred in the short film “Five Minutes, Mr. Welles,” garnering attention at film festivals around the world. He joined us at the Savannah Film Festival Monday night before the screening of “Don’t Go Into The Woods,” his feature-length directorial debut.

Q: Why a slasher-musical?
A: I don’t know! It started when I was driving with my wife in upstate New York and we were waiting for this other film I’m directing to come through. It was taking too long and I was getting bored and I wanted to shoot something. I asked my wife, “What do we have? What can I do?” and I realized that we have 100 acres of woods where we could shoot something. And one of my good friends is a composer and lyricist and I have friends that are writers and a whole crew of guys who would come if I asked them to. I thought that maybe we should just do some kind of crazy horror-musical.

Q: The crew you used on the film are professionals but all the actors you used had no training or experience. Why did you cast non-actors?
A: All the kids were basically off the street. I wanted it to have a flat kind of tone, so it would be this kind of odd feeling … a musical with all this kind of flat acting.

Q: No one overacted? Did you coach them?
A: Nobody overacted. I helped them out a little bit, but they are all incredibly talented musicians. Everyone sings and plays for real in the movie. It is really them. Music is where their talent was, and they were artists in other respects. Some were sculptures or puppeteers. They were a bunch of New York kids. Their perspective on things was clear, they weren’t in a bubble, and they were pretty worldly kids considering I just kind of found them. Every time I saw them go too far I’d tell them “That’s not you — you’re trying to be someone else. You’re here because I cast "you.”

Q: Was it fully scripted, specific dialogue?
A: Yeah, I had to work with them on that with exercises, but they handled it really well. Personally, I think that there are a lot of flat performances in everything that we see these days. There is a lot of very unskilled acting going on everywhere. I don’t mind it, actually. It’s different from my generation of actors but as long as they are not posing or modeling, I like it because it’s honest. It might not be this multi-layered performance, but at least it’s honest.

Q: Are any of them pursuing acting thanks to “Don’t Go Into the Woods?”
A: Yeah, a couple of them. We’ll see!

Q: The next movie your working on sounds very different.
A: Yes. It’s called “Johnny and Me,” and it’s about a father/daughter relationship.

Q: Will that be more conventional and straightforward?
A: Yes, but it also has a weird kind of twist.

Q: Have you always wanted to direct?
A: Not really. I just kind of got the bug lately…so I’m just doing it.

Q: What about your short, “Five Minutes, Mr. Welles?”
A: Yes, I did a short that was successful; it traveled around for a couple of years. The complete opposite of tonight’s movie. It was a true art piece. This thing that you are going to see tonight is not art by any means. It is total fantasy.

Q: You made it for a young audience?
A: Yeah…I have a feeling that you are going to hate it.

Q: I might. I saw you many years ago in Sam Shepard’s play “Tooth of Crime, Second Dance.” It was a post-apocalyptic, dark play set to a T-Bone Burnett score.
A: You saw ‘Tooth of Crime?” You did? God, my daughter was 4 or 5. It must have been 1996. I sat her in the chair during rehearsals.

Q: So when I heard that this was a musical, it seemed like familiar territory for you.
A: That’s funny that you are bring up “Tooth of Crime” because I was going to sleep last night and for some reason Sam Shepard came into my mind. Halfway in and halfway out of sleep I thought “have I ever worked with Sam Shepard?” And then I remembered the play and realized that it is not unlike what I am doing in this movie. That was a very difficult play to do.

Q: So, you like theater and singing —what about horror movies?
A: Not really, I watch them if they are done by good directors.

Q: Is "Don’t Go In the Woods" frightening?
A: There are a couple of jump moments but it is gorier. The whole movie is based on an artists mind and what you have to do to be an artist. In this case, a musician. Not in a deep way, just in kind of…if you have spent anytime with a self-indulgent type of artist, they have this one thing that they all have in common.

Q: Yes. That would be a mirror!
A: No, that’s a narcissist. I’m talking about self-indulgence.

Q: Will you do anything like this again?
A: This one looks like it is about to sell, so if it sells and people go see it…and I make the $100,000 back that I put into it, I’m good. The next one will have a bigger budget.

Q: How much time did you spend in pre- and post-production?
A: Three weeks in post. I had to do everything fast because I didn’t have the money. Two weeks to write the story and music and we shot it in twelve days. I’ve been in the business for a long time, so if I tell my friends to show up they do. People I’ve worked with for over 30 years — cinematographers, grips, electricians — we are loyal to each other, this group of friends that I have. Also, we are going to know each other for he rest of our lives. So they kind of have to do it! I find it easy to make a movie. The days can be long and the politics can be tough at times but it is not difficult to see a movie through from the first shot to the last.

Q: The idea alone makes my mind spin. I look forward to seeing your movie and your future acting and directing projects.
A: Thank you. Enjoy the movie.


val said...

He must command a lot of loyalty from those he knows. It says a lot about him, all of it good.

mauigirl said...

This is one of the best articles I've read about him in a long while - so much great info. Thanks for finding it.

trigger said...

His smile is so bright, especially his eyes. I enjoyed this article very much. I'm glad to hear that Don't Go in the Woods is about to sell. I'm not a horror fan, but I will buy it and watch it because it's his. Support the ones you love :-)

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List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson


A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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