By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire May 23, 2012 at 3:00AM
I guess it’s always been my plight in every aspect of my life to, when I’m afraid say I’m afraid, but keep going. I want to investigate what scares me and worries me. It’s funny, with my last picture [“Chained”] I just got this NC-17 rating for violence. My feeling is, of course it’s a violent scene, but it’s not violent the way people are expecting it to be. It’s emotionally upsetting. And I think violence should be emotionally upsetting. And that’s what I’m looking at in that last film. And it’s more of the same thing in “A Fall From Grace.” This stuff is happening, and I don’t want to glorify it, but I do think it shouldn’t just be put to us in little sound bites on the evening news. It should be something we stand up and say 'no' to. And the best way to say 'no' to something is to have yourself familiar enough with it to define what you’re rejecting. And again, I hope that in each of the situations I’m telling there is as much redemption and hope as there is terror. Because I’m not interested in just the dark stuff. What I think is great is how the human spirit tends to champion those things. I don’t think violence comes from nowhere. I think it comes from the fact that we’re crummy to ourselves and each other as children. And that stuff sticks. We’re creating and perpetuating this cycle, and there’s a lot of that in “A Fall From Grace,” where it’s abuse that has gone on for ages and ages and ages and gets swept under the rug or it’s just too uncomfortable for people to look at and so we let the hurting continue. And that’s not only gross, but really curious to me. So I want to stick my finger in it and wiggle it around. [laughs]
That should improve everyone's mood.
But you know, there’s also kittens and puppies and wonderful things. Put it this way, and I always go back to this: It’s not about evil, it’s not about sadness, it’s not supposed to depress us. That’s not my intention. But in the same way that the planet is half dark and half light at all times, so is any given situation. And every great story has that same balance. That’s what I want to play with. I don’t set out to upset. I set out to investigate for myself, and not at the expense of an audience but with an audience in the hopes that we can sit around and talk about it. I love how a story can help someone discuss something they otherwise would not.
Do you consider your creative sensibility strange or outside the normal? And either way, is that an advantage or a liability?
I don’t consider it strange or abnormal. I think that, again, in the same way that the whole uterus thing affects me, I think other people do. But I’ve always been in my head, so I don’t really know the difference. [laughs] I do think others see it as a liability. I hope to someday make it seem more accessible and less abnormal to people. Because I’m really just asking questions and playing around. I can only say, in looking at what certain people will say after I have said something, that yes, it must be abnormal. [laughs] But I really do approach everything with a sense of kindness and curiosity. It’s not about wanting to upset or be crazy or strange. That’s something people have decided I’m doing, which is not the case. It’s obviously the path I’m on. Without intention, I am where I am. I’m just following my heart.
You’ve certainly plowed your own course outside the mainstream film industry. What would you say to a young filmmaker today staring at the obstacles in the way of getting an independent film financed and produced these days?
This sounds cornball, but don’t give up. I’m flattered and puzzled to be asked advice even hypothetically for young filmmakers. I say, really at this stage, for me the most important thing is try not to get caught up in needing a budget, needing a lot of other people and a lot of approval. There are ways to make a film now for so little money. The more you just start making your film, the more you are enthusiastic about it, the more you’re willing to hear a good idea when it’s simply a good idea, the sooner that film will get brought to fruition.
Have you been to Cannes before?
I have. We were in Cannes for “Surveillance” in 2008.
What was that experience like?
It was magical. The film was very well received. I had recovered from my third spinal surgery, and my daughter and I, at that point, had been hoping we could walk hand-in-hand even to the end of the driveway. And to be able to walk the red carpet with her was a twofold triumph in that, Wow, after 15 years of not making a film, I made a film and suddenly people were going to see it. Which is all really I can ever hope for. I don’t even hope they like it, I just hope they see it. [laughs] Them liking it is just frosting! But to be able to walk with her and not drop nearly dead from pain was a phenomenal experience. And Cannes is a magical place, let’s face it. They’re not bullshitting you when they say the Cannes experience is one of a kind. It really is.
What are you hoping to do at Cannes this year?
I’m hoping to sell the shit out of “A Fall From Grace.” I’m hoping to do a lot of walking. I want to meet people, I want to see other people’s films as much as I possibly can. I’m dying to see “Paperboy,” Lee Daniels’ new film. I’m also hoping I get a chance to speak to some people about my last picture with Myriad over there. I’m hoping to do a lot of work, and because I love work so much I guess that at the same time means I’m hoping to have a lot of fun.
Have you made cuts or changes to “Chained” based on the MPAA’s NC-17 decision?
Yeah, we just went into the flame room, and we’re removing a lot of stuff in a particular scene. And we’ll see what the MPAA says. The flame room is where you go in to paint out blood or change things, it’s a CG room. I’m hoping that this satisfies them. I’m sad to see the scene go from its original intention. I hope I get to do a director’s cut and have all the things in there that I want in there. What’s weird is, I think horror fans are going to be shocked that I got an NC-17 for this film. I hope that they’re not disappointed in me, because I never ever thought we’d get an NC-17. I thought for sure we’d get an R based on what else is getting R’s. People shouldn’t see that film at 9:15 in the morning, and that’s when [the MPAA members] were watching it. So already I felt like, Geez, this isn’t a breakfast movie! Even I know that! [laughs]
Did you watch a lot of movies with your dad as a kid? Did you have favorites?
I did. The two that we watched repeatedly were “Rear Window”  and “It’s a Gift” . It’s one of the funniest movies you’ll ever see. W.C. Fields. I highly recommend it. “Rear Window” is so simple and pure for me. Jimmy Stewart could cross a room and I’d stand up and cheer. I just think it’s such pure storytelling and beautifully shot, and it just stays simple the whole time but creates an amazing amount of tension and fear without being grotesque at any time.
What’s a film that you’ve seen recently and really liked that you think would surprise people?
Gosh. I really liked “Punisher: War Zone.” I just had so much fun in that. I just had a blast. [laughs] We recently rented that. When the Blockbuster near us went out of business, I think we spent two hours looking for “Punisher: War Zone” because I really wanted to own it.