WGTC: So was Daniel Radcliffe always going to be your Ig Perrish?
Alexandre Aja: I knew the key of the movie would be the cast, because to make the link between genres and make sure everything co-exists in an organic way, we needed someone perfect. In the same way of another spiritual fable like It’s A Wonderful Life, that’s very different, James Stewart is that character hero who goes from one emotion to another while making that link. I wanted to find a similar actor and Daniel reached out to us, he read the book and was obsessed with the character of Ig, and it was right before The Woman In Black opened.
For me he was Harry Potter, and I couldn’t really see him in anything else, but we talked about his personal life, his interests and so many other things and truly he was exactly the character. The way Joe Hill describes Ig, the music interests and the very romantic dark side of him – not romantic in a cheesy way, but philosophical – he was exactly Ig. I talked to Joe Hill after that meeting because he’s so close to the character and I just said “This is him.” Who else can be this face of a generation? Who else can be this guy who grew up with the audience and can bring that identification? What he brought was this very familial feeling for a lot of people, he was like a brother or a first love, someone you were seeing every year who stays with you. I cannot imagine anyone else.
WGTC: Well when I first heard about Daniel’s casting it was right after I saw him in Kill Your Darlings, and I couldn’t be more on board…
Alexandre Aja: He was amazing! When I met him he hadn’t shot Kill Your Darlings yet, he was going on set and Horns was right after.
WGTC: So Horns is a bit of a departure for you. While it has a few psychedelic scenes and minimal violence, it doesn’t have the horror extravagance you’ve become so famous for. Did you find the pulling away from horror to be challenging at all, focusing more on storytelling?
Alexandre Aja: I try to make every story character-driven. I believe fear can only be achieved if you believe in the character. It’s all about the character development and character immersion. Immersion is like the center of my creative process. I want people to forget they’re watching movies and be carried on this journey. Yes, this story was not a scary story, but I didn’t try to put scares in it to turn it into a horror movie. The point for me was bringing the same feelings I felt while reading the book to the film. I see it as a continuing of my work in a very different light, something accessible to more audiences, because horror wasn’t the purpose. There’s a balance here. It was really interesting to present the movie at Fantastic Fest and see all the love displayed so far, which makes me really happy, but it shows that an audience who might normally say “it’s too soft, there’s not enough gore” can also respond to something this different. It’s a genre movie without being a straight genre movie.
WGTC: Looking ahead at your next project, you have The 9th Life Of Louis Drax gearing up which is another adaptation. Is there a reason you’re turning to novels more for stories?
Alexandre Aja: I’ve been developing a lot of projects. I’ve directed six movies and produced another five or six, and with a bunch in progress, some are based on pre-existing movies because the timing wants that. Today it’s easier to re-visit a title and re-invent the story than completely stealing from a previous story. Then there’s book adaptations. It’s just a matter of what’s happening and not happening and it’s great. When you do a remake or adaptation, you can always come back to original feedback on the material, which is very similar to what audience members will have when watching the movie. You remember why you love the story. In a job where you spend so much time arguing with people and defending your vision, it’s so hard to make a movie because it takes two years, three years, five years, or even much longer. When you have the luxury of going back to that original feeling, you remind yourself why you’re doing it, why you’re here. That, for me, is great.
WGTC: Alright, so after these two adaptations, is Space Adventure Cobra going to be your return to crazy, over-the-top gore with intense action mixed in?
Alexandre Aja: Space Adventure Cobra is not horror, it’s like Pirates Of The Caribbean in space, this amazing Japanese manga story. It’s hard because it’s a very expensive project, finding the right actors takes time, and it’s a property that’s HUGE in Asia and Europe but absolutely unknown in the US. That’s one of the reasons why you need to cast huge names, so it takes time, but I’m not giving up!
I’d like to thank Alexandre Aja very much for the interview. Be sure to see Horns when it opens on October 31st!