Interview: Anton Yelchin and Jeremy Saulnier on GREEN ROOM

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SHOCK’s final interview with the late Anton Yelchin.

When news broke yesterday that actor Anton Yelchin was killed in a car accident, the film industry immediately poured their hearts out to honor the 27-year old actor who had a knack for choosing excellent roles in non-genre films such as LIKE CRAZY and CHARLIE BARTLETT to horror/genre films like 2011’s FRIGHT NIGHT remake, 2013’s ODD THOMAS and more recently, Jeremy Saulnier’s brutally realistic look at violence, GREEN ROOM.

With the passing of Yelchin and with the film’s Blu-ray release coming July 12th, we thought we’d let you in on a recent interview with Sauilnier and Yelchin regarding the siege film.

(For our previous interview with Yelchin and Saulnier by writer Phil Brown go here.)

SAULNIER: Hey Man! How’s it going?

YELCHIN: Yeah man, what’s up?

SHOCK: I’m absolutely great. SO I watched GREEN ROOM back at Fantastic Fest and it really blew me away. I didn’t think there could be a film that would be an hour and a half-long panic attack. ..

YELCHIN: Right?!

SAULNIER: That’s Awesome!

SHOCK: I’m curious, Jeremy, From MURDER PARTY to BLUE RUIN, you’ve really established yourself as a filmmaker whose films feel completely different from each other, but with GREEN ROOM, it was something way different. It feels like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 meets STRAW DOGS. What inspired you to want to take on this film and tell this violent story?

SAULNIER: It’s funny to me because it’s always so hard to trace the origin of an idea, this one had just kind of generated over the course of a decade. Going to rock and roll shows, playing shows, mostly going to these punk rock and hardcore shows in the ‘90s was kind of the start of it all. I was the singer in a band but it was my bandmates, the musicians who had all of these stories of van road trips and tours and falling asleep behind a wheel and even just crashing on dormitory couches. So I know and love that world, and my experiences with it were just so physical, the environment was so much fun. I didn’t want to make a film about “punk” because when my friends would go out and cause a little vandalism, we never would go out and declare how “punk” we were. So I got this idea of “You know what would be cool? To do a siege movie in a concert hall and the Green Room came up because it’s a controlled space but it’s also very contained. I thought if I was going to do a siege film, it would be a lot of fun to do it in the green room of a punk rock/hardcore venue. The idea was almost a decade old before I sat down and wrote it. I wanted to make a film that almost felt like a John Carpenter film with good makeup FX and shit.

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SHOCK: I love how much of an ensemble piece it is, and the story is made even better by having so many layered characters, especially the character of Pat. Anton, could you speak on what made you want to do the film and take on that role?

YELCHIN:  I had seen BLUE RUIN and I read the script and I was so taken back and I genuinely felt fortunate to read a script about punk rock. It really felt like somebody cared and wasn’t using punk rock as a stereotype or cliché. It really felt like a real punk film to me.

SHOCK: Yeah, definitely.

YELCHIN: The films that I care about that come from the punk era, they’re not really about punk or what being punk is,…I mean, maybe SUBURBIA, but the films I watched were more about punk in nature and punk in its ethos, and I really saw that in the script for GREEN ROOM. Plus, I really like genre films and I love that mode, and it was a punk thriller man! When I met Jeremy, I learned that he had been in hardcore bands, so it felt earnest.

SHOCK: Speaking of a film feeling earnest, LIKE CRAZY is one of my absolute favorite films of all time, and you did a great job in that one. 

YELCHIN: Oh wow, thanks man! That’s one I don’t hear about very often so that’s really cool that it resonated with you.

SHOCK: Yeah, definitely. 

YELCHIN: I had seen BLUE RUIN and I thought the cinematography was just amazing, so I really wanted to see what Jeremy would do with THIS film, because you really don’t make a film like GREEN ROOM unless you actually care about it.

SAULNIER: As far as casting, I’ve learned how important performances are to everything, so if you don’t have good actors, it negates everything else you’ve put towards the film. With BLUE RUIN, it was an exercise in trusting someone; I put the entire film on Macon Blair’s shoulders, and there was a great synergy there. For GREEN ROOM, getting actors was fairly easy, especially for the 25 and under crowd, because we were offering people roles they never get. These are super grounded, relatable characters. They’re not badasses and they’re not superheroes. They’re the kids we all knew growing up.

SHOCK: I’ve got to ask, did you always have Patrick Stewart in mind for Darcy?

SAULNIER: I certainly didn’t aim that high initially, I didn’t expect to land that kind of cast, but Patrick came in late in the game and kind of saved the day. He had just joined the same management company as me, so his assistant passed his name to me and luckily, Patrick was looking for something like this to shake things up.

SHOCK: For me, the film had a running theme of violence leading to more violence, when the people you wouldn’t initially think of having to be violent would be forced to be that way by violence.

SAULNIER: It really is about “How does this violence stop, where does it start?” You know, “Where does it come from?” And I think we did a good job of possibly exploring those questions.

SHOCK: Well guys, it was a lot of fun chatting about the film with you; it’s a really great movie.

YELCHIN: Yeah, totally man, I hope we get to talk again…