Patrick Lussier broke into the film industry in the early 90s when he worked as an editor on Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Since then he's been the editor behind the first three Scream films, Guillermo del Toro's Mimic, Halloween H20, The Eye amongst many. In 1994 he was nominated in the Annual Gemini Awards for "Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series" for: Adrift and in 1995 he was nominated for "Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series" for Heads. He made his directorial debut with in 2000 with Dracula 2000, following that he has directed pictures such as White Noise 2, The Ascent. Lussier recently caught up with Cinematical and discussed his Hellraiser reboot and his latest film Drive Angry 3D, which stars Nicolas Cage.
When Drive Angry was first announced a lot of genre nuts grew excited pretty quickly because of who was involved and what it was about, but I think when the trailer came out people realized that you guys weren't messing around, that it was probably even crazier than people imagined.
Lussier: "Well the movie is what the movie is, that's just the movie we wrote. This sort of outlandish car movie with extreme violence and mayhem; a fun car movie with supernatural overtones. When we started shooting it, we were very coy about revealing too much of the supernatural stuff too early. We hadn't shot it yet and people wanted a synopsis so we were deliberately cryptic, but the supernatural part of it is a blast and I know it's something that Summit really was incredibly excited by. It was something they really wanted to capture as a selling point of the film."
And what genre would you say 'Drive Angry' is in, if it is indeed any one genre?
Lussier: "I guess I would say the main genre you'd call it is Badass. [laughs] It's sort of a hardcore action movie that's a throwback to those pre-'Jaws' '70s movies. It has a lot of both comedic and horrific elements in the story. The movies that inspired us when we were writing it were 'High Plains Drifter,' 'Race With The Devil,' 'Vanish Point,' 'Two-Lane Blacktop,' 'Duel' and then even things like 'Bullitt' and 'Seven-Ups' were things we talked a lot about while doing it. We wanted to create a character – the character Nic plays – that's not necessarily sterling, that had a really dark history but was undeniably the hero of the movie even though he was incredibly brutal and relentless."
So the supernatural, straight-out-of-hell element is completely embraced?
Lussier: "Oh yeah. Different characters figure it out at different points in the film, but it's something from the get-go that we wrapped our arms around as a key part of the story."
I'd like to relay an odd comment I saw someone leave on IMDb for Drive Angry, "I don't get one thing. Why are middle-aged men wrecking the classic cars that they grew up with? I just don't get that."
Lussier: [laughs] "I gotta tell you, that sort of thing never entered our minds when we were putting it together. Todd Farmer and I wanted to feature the cars of this era, we wanted the cars to be used in a way that was very specific to the character and how the character would use them and do with them at any given point.It's strange, comments about here we are just destroying these cars... there's more to it than that. It's not like we destroyed nine million classic cars in the movie. There are three main cars that Nic drives in the film: a '64 Riviera, a '69 Charger and a '71 Chevelle. And they all meet with varying... there's a reason he has to go from one car to the other, but it's all very specific to the characters. It's not just, "Now it's time to blow up some cars!" It's not random and that's definitely a comment from someone who hasn't seen the movie."
It just seemed like such a strange complaint to me, I was curious if you keep people like that in mind.
Lussier: "I mean, if you go back look at movies from even back then."
Yeah, they don't exactly end the movie with a full bill of health.
Lussier: "Yeah. The Nova in 'Seven-Ups,' gets destroyed. The car in 'Dirty Mary Crazy Lary' gets destroyed. So it's kind of just like, "Dude, what are you talking about?"
Since you've mentioned how character-specific the choices were and since I know how into his characters Nicolas Cage can get, I'm curious what it was like working with him. Is he a big collaborator or do you end up having to go with the flow?
Lussier: "Oh, Nic is a big collaborator. He and I spent months talking back and forth about the look of the character, the vibe of the character, how he would work, how he would talk, what the general persona was, what his whole history was. Nic is a very passionate actor. He's very passionate about the characters he plays and wanting them each to have their own unique element.One of the key things for Nic when we were talking about the movie was specifically how he'd play stricter in terms of the tone of the character. Working within that framework, which he loved – he said he'd never played a character that was this hard and this cold and this relentless. And even within that, Nic found the humanity of the character and brought it out; even more-so than on the page. He really found the human charm of this murderer that you root for and made him positively likeable, which was really key in bringing him to the story.He was the first actor we went to for the part. When we took the script to Mike De Luca his first response was, "Nic would love this!" And Nic did say it had everything he loved. He said, "It's got supernatural overtones, it's got love, it's got amazing cars and a character I've never played before."
Well it sounds like the tone was embraced right off the bat, so maybe this isn't the best example, but is it as hard to get original movies greenlit within the studio system as outsiders like me imagine it is?
Lussier: "We didn't actually go through the studio system, so I would say probably yes. We often talked about how if we had made it for a studio, we'd probably have to change a lot in it that we didn't. Todd and I wrote it to be very specific; a hard-R action movie with a lot of violence and gore and sex and mayhem. When we took it De Luca and asked what he would change about it, his response was, "I'd shoot it!"So it was never developed. We did do some script changes, but they were just for production purposes and things like that. Millennium embraced it, Summit completely embraced it. That was really advantageous, that we went through Millennium and Summit, because I can see this film having a lot of things that the big studios would have a problem with. There is so much raunchiness to the story; it has a character that is so edgy and so violent that all of those things could easily have thrown a major studio off. So we were so lucky that everyone who came to the table – Millennium, Summit, Nic, De Luca – loved what they read and wanted to see that movie made the same way we did. They didn't want to change it or make it something it was not, they always allowed it to be what it was."
Moving beyond 'Drive Angry,' I'd love to hear about a few projects you're attached to, particularly the 'Hellraiser' remake, as I am a big, big fan of the original. You and Todd are officially a go on that, correct?
Lussier: "We are. We are officially a go to get it written and we're hashing out the story right now and then we'll go through Bob Weinstein with how we want to approach the massive 'Hellraiser' mythology that exists and how to work within that do something unique. One of the things we didn't want to do... We think Clive's film stands on its own. We think it's brilliant and it made such a specific, dark vision at that time unlike anything that had come before it. So going to do just a remake of his movie but with more money is not something we wanted to do. We wanted to work within the Hellraiser lexicon."
So I take that to mean you're not going to be pulling strictly from Clive Barker, but will also be pulling from the sequels and overall world of 'Hellraiser'?
Lussier: "We want to pull from the world that Clive created. Specifically that's what we wanted to do. In that original film he opened so many interesting doorways and opportunities that that's what we want to explore-- always keeping in mind what he had done and how he did it and just working within that world."
Since this is a project that's been stumbling to get off the ground for a number of years--[laughs]
Lussier: "Hah, no s**t."
Was this something you and Todd actively pursued? Or was it something the Weinsteins came to you with?
Lussier: "They talked to us about it about a year ago. We were talking about 'Halloween 3D' and everything about that. We had worked something up for it at that time but then 'Halloween' sort of lept to the forefront. And then a year later they came back to us and said, "Hey! About that thing that you have, how would you feel about fleshing that out more?" I think we had a different approach than any of the others that they had heard. We wanted to make a grown-up movie, not a teen movie."
So those teen rumors definitely aren't true?
Lussier: "Oh, God no. No, no, we definitely did not want to do that. If you're going to make a 'Hellraiser' movie... you're basically looking at a franchise that went from Clive's movie up to the 'Hellraiser'-in-Space movie, 'Bloodline,' which had some great stuff in it, actually; the way it goes backwards and forwards in time, and Angelique is such an interesting character."
So you're not setting this one in space? It would be a bold move.
Lussier: [laughs] "No, not in space. No 'Hellraiser' in space.The thing is, it went on to do 4 or 5 sequels that were all smaller in tone and scope, so the idea was that if we're going to do it, let's be epic. There's a part of this world that we're never allowed to see because there's never been the resources to show it, so let's show it."
So where is 'Halloween 3D' at? Is it just back-burnered or are you guys off of it?
Lussier: "You'd really have to ask Dimension Films and Bob Weinstein. We were very excited about the script we wrote. Malek Akkad was very excited about the script we wrote. We loved Malek and we'd love to make the movie with him, but that's up to the grown-ups who are above our pay grade, so who knows. I am frequently surprised by whatever happens next."