Q&A with Stellan Kendrick, Director of “Goodnight, Gracie”
ALTER: Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
STELLAN KENDRICK: Frankenstein’s Monster has a special place in my heart. I think the first two universal films have a lot more in common with Wizard of Oz than they do with Dracula. The Frankenstein Monster is just a confused kid in a scary world. He goes on this odessy of sorts with everyone he encounters leaving their mark on him. The monster is just trying to find a “friend.” There’s so much going on there thematically and subtextually, but most people just judge the monster on the way he looks and sounds. I’ve always felt a deep sympathy for the Monster.
A: You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
SK: I’ve had some terrible ideas over the years. One summer in university, I went roller skating everyday. I was painting a house in the Inland Empire and the roller rink was literally the only hangout in town. So my friends and I went skating every night. It becames this kind of teenager hang out. So I had this idea for a movie about a roller rink that gets invaded by atomic mutants on a Friday night. Kind of a disco-meets-50s-scifi type thing.
Getting through a bad idea can be tough. Sometimes you have to ask yourself what attracts you to the idea. I find that often times there’s a nugget of truth in these bad ideas that can evolve into something really great later on. Some inspiration I’ve worked from has been decades old and come out of other projects. Other times, I’ve had to just write the bad ideas to get them out of my soul and move on to the next one.
A: Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
SK: I definitely consider myself part of the horror film community. I am much more involved in horror film screenings than conventions and other events. I hang out at the New Beverly Cinema, Nuart Theater, and the American Cinemateque in Los Angeles a lot. At those theaters, they screen some really rare horror gems. I’ve seen TV Halloween movies of the week on the big screen at those places.
When you’re in the audience watching a film with fans that are equally enthusiastic about this bizzare horror flick from from the 80s, it can really transport you into the experience of the film. Watching movies in a theater is far different than watching it alone in bed. It can make comedy more funny and terror more scary.
A: When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
SK: I like to look inside myself. I think there’s a lot of self indulgence to filmmaking. If I connect with some theme or scene, then there’s got to be someone else out there who will also connect with it. I look toward my feelings for a lot of inspiration. Whatever I am feeling that time of year, I try to harness that emotion and turn it into a film. Whether it’s my fears, my family, my relationships, or another aspect of my life, I try to get that emotion on screen. I also try to write what I like. I try to make movies that I’d want to watch.
A: What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
SK: I would have grabbed a weapon and ran. There’s a baseball bat in Gracie’s room. I don’t think you ever actually see it in the final cut, but there’s a scene we shot where she’s debating between the baseball bat and the bible as a weapon. She goes for the bible. I think I would have grabbed the baseball bat and run the right out the window.
A: Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
SK: Freddy Krueger for sure. I always loved Freddy as a character. Maybe it’s because I gew up in the nineties, but I always thought Freddy was so terrifying. Pennywise would definitely be in the crew too. And I’d have to have Dracula there. Dracula’s one of the only classic monsters that’s a straight up villain. That guy is like the Lex Luthor of vampires; he’s uses his brains to crush the competition.
A: Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
SK: Freddy, H.P. Lovecraft, Practical, Post-Apocalypse!
A: How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
SK: I hire really talented artists to make the props and sets. It’s incredible what a good team can accomplish. I tell them what we need and what we are trying to say. If I give them a 100% of my vision, they’ll give me back 140% of my vision. That’s one reason I love film. It’s truly a collaborative medium.
A: And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
SK: My favorite scary movie is The Last Man on Earth (1964). The film stars Vincent Price at his peak. It’s set in Los Angeles, but very obviously shot in Italy. It looks nothing like LA! It’s based on I AM LEGEND, and every zombie movie ever has a lot for which to thank this film. I read somewhere that Fritz Lang was originally going to direct it. I wonder how crazy that film would have been!