Shock Till You Drop recently spoke with Chained director Jennifer Chambers Lynch and the films star, Vincent DOnofrio.
The pair gave us their thoughts on making a character driven horror film, moving away from the “torture porn” style that the film was originally written in, and Lynch fills us in on her upcoming documentary (about the making of Hisss) Despite the Gods.
Chained hits DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 2nd and tells the story of Bob (DOnofrio), a cab-driving serial killer who stalks his prey on the city streets alongside his reluctant protégé Tim, who must make a life or death choice between following in Bob’s footsteps or breaking free from his captor.
Shock Till You Drop: Where did the original idea for Chained come from?
Jennifer Lynch: The original idea is from a screenplay written by a gentleman named Damian ODonnell. His screenplay was optioned by the two producers, Lee Nelson and David Buelow. They sent it to me and I read it. I was riveted, but I was a bit stunned that they had sent it to me. It was written in the style of torture porn. I say that not out of disrespect for Damian, but because of what I am willing to do. Many people are good at making torture porn films, but thats not something that Im interested in doing. So, one of the first questions I had for the producers was why they thought of me for this? They told me that I am known for doing thrillers with violent undertones and they wanted to see what I would do with the script. I took a pass at the script and removed what I thought to be too much gratuitous violence and took the approach of dealing with the characters and getting in to how the human monster is made. I wanted to get in to how much more terrifying that can be. Im more terrified when the killer is similar to me. It scares me when I can feel what they have been through, and yet, they are still a monster. Thats what I worked on in my rewrite. It still maintained the same basic ideas as Damians script. I kept a tremendous amount of the same nuances but made the film a lot more about the two primary characters.
Shock: So, in your treatment, you took the focus off of the gratuitous violence and moved toward a more character driven film?
Lynch: Yeah. I also made it less about killing. Many people die, but the treatment that I did focused less on the actual killing and more on the ramifications.
Shock: This seems like a role that Vincent DOnofrio was born to play. Was the original script written with him in mind?
Lynch: It wasnt written with Vincent in mind. Once I had done my rewrite, though, I said You know who could knock this out of the fuckin park? Bless his heart. We sent him the script and he called me less than a day later. I think he and I are of the same school of thought, in that, if something scares us in the right way, we realize that we have something to learn by doing it. Thats what this project was for me and I think that is what playing Bob was for Vincent. He goes above and beyond the call of duty in this. Its a perfect performance.
Shock: This time around, did you have creative control to make Chained the film you wanted it to be?
Lynch: I had a lot of control. I will say that, absolutely. I still want to do a directors cut. Because the film was presold, both domestically, and internationally, I had not just producers notes, but distributors notes in my cut, as well. I wanted to call the film something else. I also had a few scenes that I wanted in the film that arent. Hopefully those scenes will be in the directors cut. I had a tremendous amount of control, given the situation. I am grateful that I was able to tell the story, as it is. I feel very good about this cut, even though it doesnt include certain things. I think its a very brave interpretation of the film I set out to make and of compromise in all the right ways.
Shock: What did you want the title to be, if not Chained?
Lynch: I wanted to call it Rabbit. I actually shot the film calling it Rabbit. People kept telling me that they didnt know how to sell a film called Rabbit. I told them that we should sit down and talk about it, because I had some ideas. But, that never happened. Because Damian ODonnells original screenplay was called Chained, I think they felt that they could put it in the horror section and call it horror. They thought that was an easier sell. For me, I dont think that Chained suits the film. It doesnt hurt the film, but I thought that calling it Rabbit was a lot creepier.
Shock: I can see that. Changing gears, here, can you tell us a little about Despite the Gods?
Lynch: Yeah. Despite the Gods started out as EPK [Electronic Press Kit] footage. As things started to go steadily more absurd and terrifying during the shoot, Penny Vozniak asked if I would mind if she mic-ed me seven days a week and kept filming. I told her that was fine and thought I would learn a lot by looking at the footage, later. I had no idea what she intended to do with it. I gave her free reign and I think that she did what I was not able to do. She made the film that she set out to make. I think shes done a beautiful job. Someone pointed out to me that I didnt go to India to make Hiss, I went to India to make Despite the Gods. The way that Hiss ended up was really traumatic for me, but Despite the Gods is a really beautiful documentary. Its hard for me to watch, at some points. She couldnt put everything in there. Its nine months of footage. I think she made a great film and Im really proud to have been a part of her career.
Shock Till You Drop: Chained is an intense film. Did that translate to the atmosphere on set?
Vincent DOnofrio: We didnt have a lot of time to make the film. On set, everybody was very on all the time, from the props department, to the actors, to the camera guys, to the DP. Jennifer is a very present director. Shes right there, hands on and involved in everything that happens on set. We kept everything very positive and kept everything moving forward.
Shock: You and Eamon Farren are excellent together. How did you build that great on screen chemistry?
DOnofrio: Sometimes it just happens naturally. You meet an actor for the first time on location and sometimes you hit it off, sometimes you dont. There are instances where it takes a couple weeks to find that rhythm, sometimes it happens immediately. With Eamon and me, it happened immediately. We got along really great. I could tell after the first days work that he was a very committed actor that wanted to do the right thing. Thats all you need to be. You just need to be committed to your character and want to tell the story correctly. That should be your whole world while you are making a film. Thats what he was. Thats all you can ask for from another actor. I ask the same thing of myself. I think the two of us got along because we recognized one anothers commitment.
Shock: As an actor, do you enjoy taking on these dark roles?
DOnofrio: I do. I dont like doing only dark roles, but I like parts that are a challenge. The role of Bob was definitely a challenge. How to tell the story correctly without the character overwhelming the story is tough. Its challenging to figure out how to play parts like this that are extreme. You dont want it to come off as cartoony. You want to be as realistic as you possibly can and than can be tough at times. I think I like a challenge, as most actors do.
Shock: Jennifer said that after she completed her pass of the script, you were the first person that came to mind for the part. Did you have any reservations about accepting the role?
DOnofrio: No. I learned from a friend that she was interested in me. I asked him to get me the script, because I love her. As soon as I read I got in touch with her saying that if she would have me I would do it.
Shock: The script was originally written more in the style of torture porn. If it hadnt been re-written as a more character driven film, would you still have taken the part?
DOnofrio: I doubt it. I didnt know that. But, if it was that before I wouldnt have done it. I like horror a lot, but I dont like torture horror. Its not my taste. I know its very popular, but I like horror that has more of a story to it.
Shock: Was any of your performance done off the cuff or did you stick with the script as it was written?
DOnofrio: I think we mainly stuck to the script and did it word for word. There were maybe a couple of times where things are improvised a little bit. Theres a scene where we are playing cards with drivers licenses that was improvised a little. But, Im not sure if what is actually in the film is what was scripted or if it is what was improvised. Thats the only scene I can remember that we improvised a lot of. I really only remember sticking to the script, other than that.