Director Lawrence Roeck talks to SHOCK about his bloody western DIABLO.
With S. Craig Zahlers brutal horror/western hybrid BONE TOMAHAWK making many critics Best of 2015 lists on its fast-track to cult status and Quentin Tarantinos barbaric and ingenious THE HATEFUL EIGHT currently drawing in the masses and dividing the critics, it seems that the age of the hard, violent western once so much a part of the fabric of late 60s cinema is back. With a vengeance.
(High Plains) Drifting among the escalating wave of new wave oaters is co-writer/director Lawrence Roecks deep, dark, psychological western thriller DIABLO, a picture that rides the rail between western and horror, with a particular leaning towards the latter genre.
The film stars western icon and American writer/director Clint Eastwoods son Scott Eastwood as Jackson, a decent man whose wife is kidnapped. As he journeys deep into the untamed west to find her, he ends up bloody encounter and bloody encounter, tormented by a malevolent gunslinger named Ezra (THE HATEFUL EIGHT’s Walton Goggins);imagine a post-Civil War FIGHT CLUB and youre sort of on the right track. LETHAL WEAPON legend Danny Glover also stars.
This is only Roecks second feature film and his strange film is aided greatly by the image-making of John Carpenter-collaborator, DP Dean Cundey; together they have crafted a bizarre, beautiful and often brutal morality tale.
SHOCK: The western has long flitted with darker, psychological themes but DIABLO goes farther into overt madness and lethal mental illness than any western in recent memory. Can you talk about the genesis of the picture?
ROECK: Yeah, I mean I really wanted to take a different approach and just tell a story that was more than just, yknow, man loses woman, fights bad guys etc. Scott and I talked about trying to steer away from all the trappings of the westerns. Ezra is a relentless killer, almost like Javier Bardem in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It was a lot of fun to concentrate on this one character and see whats in his head. But the film still has some classic western elements, I think
SHOCK: Well, it sure looks like a western. Dean Cundeys work here is top notch
ROECK: Dean is incredible. Ive been a huge fan since HALLOWEEN and hes one of the Steadicam pioneer; he is one of the first cinematographers to prowl around, use the killers POV and really use style to cheat the fact that, in HALLOWEEN, theres no blood and yet its terrifying and disturbing. Hes the best DP to have around as a newer director, which I am. He guided me with setting up shots and theres this great scene with Danny Glover where Danny is looking out the window at Ezra and you just know everything, without any dialogue; its an amazing, a tiny moment, deceivingly simple and that was all Dean.
SHOCK: Having Scott in the film and having him look so much like his dad, invites scrutiny from western fans. Has Clint seen the film and what does he think of it?
ROECK: You know, Im contractually bound to defer any questions about Clint Eastwood to Scott, but I can say that we didnt want to copy anyone and we wanted to stay in the spirit of Leone but do something new. Leones ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was an influence; its cool, quirky and the pacing in that film in particular is what I wanted to explore. Its hard to make a film with that kind of pacing and keep it tense and tight. So when Scott and I set out to do this, we wanted it to be a certain way, a story about a post-civil war vet with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), actually.
SHOCK: And you have Walton Goggins, who is currently getting rave reviews for his work in THE HATEFUL EIGHT
ROECK: It was his performance in JUSTIFIED that sold me on Walton, in fact. The character is actually a more twisted take on the character he plays anyway. I had a feeling that Walton would explode when I heard he was tapped with THE HATEFUL EIGHT you just knew. Hes just so talented.
SHOCK: Another important element of the film is the majestic score
ROECK: Our composer was Timothy Williams who did GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; hes an amazing guy and we were stoked with what he came up with. I sat with him for 4 months and we wrote this music together. It was a total collaborative process. Theres so much silence in the film that we really wanted to pay attention to music and sound. And at the end, I think the score is another character in the film.
DIABLO hits limited theaters and VOD this Friday.