Ben Wheatley is quickly making a name for himself. The writer-director-editor’s first feature, “Down Terrace,” opened in 2009, garnering awards at the Austin Fantastic Fest, British Independent Film Awards, and other festivals. He honed his skills on a few made-for-TV movies over the next couple of years, then, in 2011, he awed and terrified audiences with his horror thriller, “Kill List,” which has already been touted as one of the best horror films of recent memory. (Here at The Playlist, it placed tenth out of the Top 25 Horror Films of the 21st Century So Far”). A not at all shabby feat for a relative newcomer.
Of course, Wheatley’s success is probably due—at least to some small degree—to the friendships and mentors he’s cultivated along the way. One such person who believes in Wheatley is Alex Cox. The writer-director-actor, best known for “Repo Man” and “Sid and Nancy” (and as a contributing screenwriter on “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”), is admittedly excited by his fellow Brit’s growing filmography, and it was this excitement, which led him to suggest Wheatley as a filmmaker he could have a conversation with for a recent episode of “The Talkhouse.”
Over the course of quite nearly 40-minutes, the two men wax about the art form that binds them. Interestingly, despite their established acquaintanceship, they hadn’t ever actually spoken together. Theirs had, to date, been an entirely electronic epistolary relationship. Perhaps surprisingly, though naturally, they spend the first couple minutes of their first-ever spoken conversation talking about what so many of us love to gab about. Food.
The conversation quickly bites into the meat of the day, though, and they dive into their experiences working in and love for film. Wheatley quickly launches into a short story about finding himself star-struck when meeting Charlie Kaufman “for about ten seconds.” In that short amount of time, he found himself unable to contribute much more to their conversation beyond his opinion that Kaufman’s films are great. Of course, he’s more than fine with that, because even when you’re an increasingly successful filmmaker of your own right, “When you meet people that you like their stuff, you have to say you like it.” Wheatley’s anecdote begins with a funny error on Cox’s part. Owing to a poor phone connection, Cox thinks Wheatley met Charlton Heston, not Charlie Kaufman, which, as Wheatley rightly points out, would have been rather terrifying. (Heston died over seven years ago in April 2008.)
They then proceed to share anecdotes about their own work. Wheatley discusses his 2016 release, “High-Rise” which just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival barely a month ago. He often brings the discussion back to Cox’s “Repo Man,” though, a film he has an obvious affinity for. Not ones to be labeled egotistical, the men devote much of the conversation to sharing film recommendations with one another. Cox, for example, loves “Wild Tales,” Argentina’s Oscar-nominated entry into this year’s Academy Awards. The suggestion comes at a time when the men are swapping reminiscences about feature films composed of overlapping (or perhaps autonomous) shorts helmed by different directors (such as the 1989 “New York Stories”). Cox describes “Wild Tales” as a handful of vignettes about “people driven to rage and acts of revenge” and explains that, “there’s no real connection between the stories at all except this vague thematic thing that they all feature someone who’s really angry.”
Wheatley and Cox have much more to say about film—both their own and the work of others—including what it was like to watch “Goodfellas” for the first time. Listen to the full 40-minute conversation below.