By Indiewire | Indiewire November 13, 1997 at 2:00AM
"An Interview with the Director and Cast of "Kiss or Kill"
by Anthony Kaufman
"Kiss or Kill" tells the story of two attractive grifters on the run from one
murder and maybe more. It reunites young up-and-coming actors Frances
O'Conner and Matt Day ("Love And Other Catastrophes") under the direction of
Bill Bennett, whose last film "Two If By Sea" (starring Dennis Leary and
Sandra Bullock) suffered from studio conflicts. The disgruntled director
now turns away from studio bureaucracies and big budgets to shoot in his
home country of Australia a much improvised, quickly paced, jumpcut edited,
low budget feature owing much to such post-noir paranoid flicks as "The Grifters" or early Polanski.
indieWIRE: I read in the press notes that you didn't have much time to
develop the project, so when did the actors become involved and how much
time did you have to improvise on set.
Bill Bennett: The thing had, in fact, a long development period of about 10
years. Over that time, I wrote a number of traditional screenplays, about
20 drafts or so and I wasn't really happy with any of them, so I kind of
shelved, thought that I couldn't really work it out. In July of last year,
I took another shot what turned out to be the blueprint for the film, which
was a 60 page scene by scene breakdown. Once that was completed, by this
stage it was about mid to late August, Jennifer [Bennett, wife and
producer] began casting. Matt [Day] and Fran [Frances O'Conner] came on at
that point. And the improvisational stuff didn't really happen until we had
a rehearsal period of about two weeks. Matt and Fran and some of the other
major supporting actors went through the script, the treatment and then we
went out and filmed it.
iW: How much did it evolve over those two weeks?
Bennett: The story was all there.
iW: The dialogue?
Bennett: I don't regard dialogue as, particularly in this type of film, as
being critically important. You know, what's important is structure and
character. The dialogue comes as the last layer on that. The dialogue came
on location. . . When I'm writing, it's the last layer.
Frances O'Connor: But it's funny because for the actor, it's actually the
first layer, it's what you start with. And then you kind of work back.
iW: How much free reign did you feel when you were working with Bill?
O'Connor: A lot. I felt very free. Also, the more we got to trust each
other, there was a bit more freedom.
Day: We knew when something was working right and when it wasn't.
O'Connor: And we knew the characters and so from there, I think we kind of
got creative with it.
O'Connor: Just because basically someone saying to you, you're in
character, let's work on that together and then let's put you in these
situations and see what happens. . .
Day: And film it!
O'Connor: And for an actor, that's like Christmas.
Day: And Easter.
iW: Did a lot of stuff that we see in the film come out of play?
Day: The moment I think of is the interrogation scene, with Chris Haywood
and Andrew Gilbert. In the treatment it was written that he was a bit of a
smart ass in the scene. We had him eating pizza and stuff. But we kind of
decided when we got there, and we looked back at the characters and
everything they'd been through, that it would be a good moment to show the
other side of Al, which was always evident in terms of character. But it
was a good opportunity to really show that to the audience, that he was way
over his head, that he really was damaged goods underneath this whole
facade that he builds up around himself which is really just to protect
iW: It definitely comes across.
Day: (laughing) All right!
iW: But you don't seem very vicious. You don't seem like despicable
criminals. You seem like people who have several layers. . . This moment,
in the interrogation scene, how much did you give them to work with? Did
you just give them the treatment and outlined where it needed to go and let
them do it.
Bennett: Whether the guy is a smart ass or whether he's eating pizza or
not, what's important is where the scene goes, where it travels, but also
what the audience takes from it in the end, but look, the reason why I
started working this way --
[Food is delivered. He ordered the cheese plate]
I was trained as a journalist. I made a lot of documentaries. The thing
that excited me about documentaries, was the spontaneity and
unpredictability, not in terms of camera and style and all of that, but
what people would come out with, people I thought I knew, would come out
with something that was totally left out, which I found very exciting. When
I started working in drama, everything was so rigid. What was there at
script stage didn't deviate from that -- I found that really boring. So I
then started many years back to basically combine the two -- those elements
of control that allows the story to go in a particular way, but still bring
in this element of controlled chaos, which I so enjoyed in documentary. And
that really is the way my work has evolved. I've kind of flip-flopped
between doing films like that and doing films that have been more
iW: You have worked also on some bigger budget films and some Hollywood films?
Bennett: The difference is really simple and that is, one you have control
and one you don't.
iW: It's as simple as that.
Bennett: It's as simple as that. . . Maybe there's another difference, with
one, you make film, and the other, you make a product. It's kind of like
going out and building a building, using a hand trowel and using a back end
loader. You know, you get the building out, but one's hand made and one's
made by this huge, gigantic machine that doesn't give a fuck about anything
that gets in its path. It's interesting [in Hollywood] when I went to edit
I thought 'I'm a nuisance here, they don't need me, they don't want me,
I've done my job...'
iW: [to Day and O'Connor] All right, Bill having said that, how do you feel
about jumping back into that. I mean, this film is probably going to do a
lot for your careers and what do you say when offers come in for bigger
Day: Yes! Yes! Yes!
O'Connor: Yes! Yes! Yes! Where do you want me? A house in Paris.
iW: No qualified "Yes?"
Day: You say the same thing that you would say at home. You have a look at
the script and you see what it's like and who you're working with and these
kind of things, and if don't like any of those things, you do the movie
[Day and O'Connor laugh.]