Following the SXSW world premiere of Honeymoon, I had the chance to sit down with genre newcomers Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei. The two collaborated on the script for Janiak to direct.
The film, currently looking for distribution, finds Harry Treadaway and Rose Leslie enjoying a romantic honeymoon in an idyllic lakeside cabin until things take a nightmarish turn. (You can read my review here.)
I get that it's a bit early for you, my dear reader, to jump into an interview for a film that likely won't go wide for a little while. We talk about the film in broad strokes, however, and hopefully you'll get just a bit more excited for it. At the very least, you'll understand where Janiak and Graziadei are coming from as fledgling filmmakers… And it's a pretty good place.
Ryan Turek: Body horror appears to be making a comeback, where do you think that's coming from, moreover, what made it the right fit to tell your story?
Leigh Janiak: I think it's a good time for it and it's one of the things that brought us into Honeymoon. We were doing a very intimate Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie. If you look at those movies over time, they're dealing with some sort of social issue. In our case, it was dealing with personal identity. Being in a relationship and knowing who you are. Look at Twitter, this giant hive mind which is awesome and terrifying. I think that's where the renewed interest in body horror is coming from. It's becoming this: What does is mean to be human. Our body is our most…well, people would say our soul or our consciousness that…
Phil Graziadei: It's the thing you think you know the best, right? It's a great way to explore something that everyone is very familiar with through something that's pretty fantastical.
Janiak: And terrible.
Turek: We love seeing that slow corrosion. Was there a more grisly version of the script?
Janiak: It was really about what we could execute well. When we wrote the script, worked out the budget and our resources, what we have on screen was the right sweet spot in terms of what we could pull off and feeling satisfied with the level of gore. I'd love a little bit more. Our special makeup FX artist was huge in the making of this movie. It was all practical by Christopher Nelson who did all of the body gore and stuff.
Turek: Ah, Chris has done a lot – that's great.
Janiak: He's worked on American Horror Story and he's so key to the success of this movie. If you don't feel that visceral quality, you're just pulled out of it.
Turek: What was that key thing that helped get this movie made for you, a first time director?
Janiak: Honestly, people have said, "Where did this movie come from?" and I'm like, we've been writing this for years and years. The short films I've done, they're not things I'd want to put on the Internet. But we wrote the script in 2012 and the first person we called was Patrick Baker, who I worked with at a production company. And he left to be an independent producer. So, we wanted to send the script to him – he's smart and a good guy. He wanted to produce it and he came on. Patrick and his wife came on and supported me from the very beginning. Also, here's the other thing, if you say you're going to do something, just do it. It's that confidence that inspires others to follow the project and believe in it.
Graziadei: There are other things we did on the script in which we wrote it in case we needed to cut it down or call in big favors. We did something we, well, we could have made it for more…
Janiak: It would have been a different movie. It's a different thing. We shot last spring.
Graziadei: End of March, beginning of April.
Janiak: And here we are debuting a SXSW and I couldn't think of a better home.
Graziadei: That audience was amazing last night.
Turek: For you, Leigh, talk a bit about working with Rose and Henry. You helped them find a good intensity…
Janiak: Yeah, and it was actually more difficult to have them come down rather than finding that intensity. They were in such a pressure cooker environment. Harry's career is long and he's worked with amazing people. Rose is just starting but she's been on two intense television shows. However, neither of them have carried a movie. They were up. It was always feeling that pressure. We sometimes had to calm it. Their energies are completely different and balancing that was interesting. Harry approached his character method and from the inside. And she came from the outside. It worked in favor as far as where their headspace came from.
Turek: What, personally, helped anchor the truth of this relationship?
Janiak: I've had long term relationships where you feel like you know that person so well. But sometimes you have that feeling like, "Whoa, who are you?" My boyfriend is a twin, an identical twin and we've lived together, the three of us for a while.
Turek: This is a terrific Cronenberg-like set-up…
Janiak: [laughs] For a sitcom. They are filmmakers, too, and they were shooting their movie up in Vancouver. One morning I woke up and saw my boyfriend sitting there and I didn't have my glasses on. I just came up behind him and I touched his back gently. He turns and it's Matt. Both of us were like "Oh!" There's nothing worse than touching someone in the most familiar way and…you're not who you I think you are. For me, that's what it was.
Graziadei: For me, it was how well could you really know someone? You feel like you've got a relationship that's completely honest but then it can tear you apart.
Janiak: I think the one other thing is – and this has to do with the body horror, too – how many pieces can you change before it's the same thing? I think it's called the Ship of Theseus, I think. If you change your hair color, I'm still me. If I lose my arms or legs, I'm still me. How much changes before I become a different person.
Turek: You said something that excited me last night and that's you want to stick within the genre. You always hear people say, "Well, I want to do a different genre next…"
Janiak: I want to do a sweeping epic. [laughs] I love the genre. I love reading those books growing up, I love watching those movies. If I can make the movies I want to see, I'll have success. I love horror, but I really love sci-fi.