Jennifer Lynch’s laugh sounds just like you’d expect it to: full of mischievous fun, raspy and more than a little dirty. It’s refreshing to hear that even after her savaged 1993 film debut “Boxing Helena” and a string of spinal surgeries that kept her from making another movie for 15 years, she’s still eager to unleash that laugh, even at her own expense.
Her next two films, “Surveillance” (2008) and “Hisss” (2010), failed to find audiences, and “Chained” has run afoul of an NC-17 rating from the MPAA before it can be released. Nothing has quite gone her way, despite being the only daughter of “Blue Velvet” writer-director David Lynch.
Even so, the 44-year-old writer-director is moving forward with her next project, a thriller called “A Fall From Grace” that stars Un Certain Regard jury president Tim Roth as a St. Louis detective tortured by his inability to stop a killer of young girls. A few days before she heads to Cannes to sell “Grace,” Lynch spoke with Indiewire about the movies she watched as a kid with her famous father, what it means to know people think you’re strange, why she’s compelled to explore her fears and what caused her to spend two hours recently searching the bins at Blockbuster for a copy of “Punisher: War Zone.”
Is the “Fall From Grace” story based on real-life cases?
[Co-writer] Eric Wilkinson had written an original draft, and that was inspired by some real events that took place in St. Louis and involved a certain bridge in particular. But his script wasn’t about that event. I responded to the idea of the city and the bridges, but not to his original draft. I created a new draft, and this one is based on my own knowledge and fears of some of the crimes that happen in the world on a regular basis and a detective who is plagued with not being able to solve them.
Did you have some connection to St. Louis? We don’t see many films set there.
My connection to that city is very strange in that I had none prior to this. But I really felt a kinship with it. It’s as affluent as it is impoverished and seedy — and that’s sort of like me! [laughs] I can look pretty clean, but I’m fairly impoverished and seedy. Much like I felt about India, St. Louis is like the universe’s art department already showed up: that place is ready to shoot. Maybe I’m just jaded and I’ve seen so much of what’s been shot out already in other cities. But St. Louis just has a real sense of visual ghosts and of genuine hard work and years of the rise and the fall of the economy — it’s just really fascinating, so I’m tickled pink to get to capture it.
Is “Fall From Grace” your biggest budget so far?
I think it will be, yes, for sure. With the tax breaks and all of that, I’d like to see it be about $7 million, $7.5 million. What I want is to have as much as possible show up on screen, because that’s really where my heart is. It’s in that visual story. And it would be really great to be able to bring the tax breaks back to St. Louis. They have incredible facilities there and I think the economy would be really helped by bringing it back.
When do you hope to start filming, and how long is the shoot?
Best-case scenario, I’d like to be shooting for 30 days in the fall. The city, when the leaves change and the sun is present but not blazing, I love the mood of that. You can’t CG that kind of color against that kind of cobblestone and gray sky and bridges. With the Mississippi River running through most of the story and most of the areas in town, it’s just so haunting, it’s got a real mood and fall just feels perfect.
Who else is committed to the cast now beyond Tim?
I can’t answer that right now because the only person who’s actually committed is Tim. It’s out to a bunch of people. Tim’s on board and I have a double yearning. One is to fill the film with incredibly talented people, and now I also want to honor Tim’s talent by surrounding him with people of equal talent and value. What I love about Tim is he really is a chameleon. So maybe for a split second you’re thinking, ‘Oh, there’s Tim Roth.’ But then that fucker’s got you just believing he is who he says he is in the part. I want to make sure we do that with everybody. Because there’s some pretty intense characters in here and it would be a shame to lose some of their story and weight if we were too obsessed with who they were.
Does if feel significant to you being the rare female director making films in the horror and thriller genres?
It’s weird. It seems to have a lot of meaning to other people. [laughs] I honestly didn’t know I was a horror director until my father pointed it out to me the other day. I still don’t know if I agree. He said, “Yeah, you’re doing this horror thing.” And I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I make thrillers…” I feel like it’s surprising and strange to the rest of the world, and to me it’s sort of where I’ve landed for now. This may be why nobody sends me comedy scripts. But I’d love to direct some fucking comedies. I’ve got one on my roster right now that’s just wonderful and funny. That’s what I hope to be doing immediately following “A Fall From Grace.” So it is strange. But not to me. I wake up being a girl every day, so it’s not exceptional to me. But for some reason it seems exceptional to those around me that I’ve got this uterus and I’m doing things of this nature. [laughs]