Hatchet - Adam Green interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
ADAM Green talks about the inspiration for his horror film Hatchet, the difficulty of getting it made and standing up to the Hollywood remake culture.
He also discusses luring horror icons Robert Englund and Tony Todd to the project, taking on a romantic comedy and why he needs a vacation…
Where did the inspiration for Hatchet come from?
Adam Green: When I was eight-years-old, my parents sent me to summer camp and, once there, the counsellor said: “Stay away from the cabin or the Hatchet face will get you.” My brother had already shown me a bunch of slasher films, so I was excited and started to ask: “Well, who’s Hatchet face and what’s he going to do? How’s he going to get me?” I’m sure at some point in the history of the camp they had a story, but they drank it away over the years and that was just the cabin where they were going to party and they didn’t want us going near it.
So, that night when we were falling asleep the other kids in my cabin said: “Do you think Hatchet face is real?” So, I made up the whole story about the deformed man who is locked away in the house and the door catches fire, and his dad was chopping down the door with an axe and accidentally hit him in the face with the hatchet… Anyway, the kids started crying in the cabin and the counsellors called my parents and they were going to send me home. For the rest of the summer I was the weird kid at camp. So, for two decades I sat on that story and whereas other kids had imaginary friends, I had Victor Crowley. Now, it’s amazing because when you get to the point in the story where they tell the [Victor Crowley] story and show the flashbacks, I think I was eight-years-old when I thought of this.
Q. Where did the name Victor Crowley come from?
Adam Green: I just thought it sounded cool. At one point I was told that I needed to make up a story about where the name come from. They said: “Say he’s the guy in your neighbourhood who used to have sex with cats or something!” But it really wasn’t – the name just sounded cool. It has that ring to it that goes with a lot of names like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger.
Q. Where do you personally hope Victor will stand in the great rogues gallery of horror heroes?
Adam Green: The creator of it would love to see him be alongside those characters but the jaded horror fan in me says: “No way, not yet, you’ve still got a way to go before you can consider yourself an icon.” Obviously, when the critics started saying that this is the next icon of horror it was the most flattering you can hear. But let’s wait and see… What if the sequel is the worst thing that anyone’s ever seen? It’s also down to the fans and how much they embrace it. The coolest thing yet is that they’re making Halloween masks and I got to go into the shop and actually wear the Victor Crowley Halloween mask on my head. When you have people making you toy offers and are making masks, that’s really what makes an icon. It’s been about 20 years since we’ve had a good boogeyman, so I think it’s time and maybe this will be the one.
Q. The quote on the poster – “It’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on a Japanese one” – seems to be a deliberate shot at the expense of a lot of contemporary Hollywood horror films…
Adam Green: Well, my agent sent the script out when I finished it and he only sent it to a couple of the big studios. But one of the rejections said: “We love the writing and want to meet with Adam but you do have to realise that this film will never get made because it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel and it’s not based on a Japanese film.” I wish I could have posted the actual email and the guy’s name [on the poster] but that is the state of horror. They don’t think that people want anything other than remakes, or sequels or PG-13 movies. I remember we were making the poster for the Tribeca Film Festival and we needed a tagline on there, and I wanted something that showed the good humour of the film without making it look silly. So, we made it the tagline.
Everyone who looks at it smiles and it’s sort of our way of winking at the audience and saying that we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. But at the same time, f**k all these other posters that are next to us! [Laughs] Right now, the posters are hanging in American cinemas next to the Halloween remake poster and somebody said to me recently that it should have said: “At least it’s not the Halloween remake!” But I like Rob Zombie too much to have actually done that [laughs]. But Hollywood is watching Hatchet right now because the buzz is so strong. We had no marketing, we open in very few theatres, so we’ll see what happens. But I’m challenging the fans because they’re the ones saying they’re sick of remakes, so here’s your chance. We went through hell to get it this far but we got it to the finish line and now it’s your job to kick the field goal!
Q. How difficult was it to get made?
Adam Green: Very difficult but I think other people have probably had it worse because they still haven’t got their movies made. The one thing that we did right was that instead of just giving out a script to potential investors, we put together this amazing package where we went out and made this mock trailer that showed what it could be like. It really whet their appetite because the mock trailer was a shot of a camera moving through the swamp and a little girl telling the story of Victor Crowley. At the end it said: “Coming Halloween 2005…” This was in 2003. It kind of made them salivate because they can see it’s real and can envisage their name being there. We then put the trailer online and all the horror websites found it and started asking what it was. We’d Google Hatchet to see what came up and there were all these websites talking about it.
The other thing we did was to show them a whole business proposal that said: “This is what could go right for your money…” And we showed them what the Halloween franchise has done, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre... And then you say that even if it bombs and it sucks and it goes straight to video and nobody ever sees it, look how much money you’re still going to make! Either way because we were making it for so little, they were still going to make money, even if I completely screwed it up and had no idea of how to make a movie.
At this point, they already want to make the sequel because they have made their money back and it hasn’t even come out yet. So, I’m in a very fortunate position right now at the box office is amazing for me. If it makes $10 that’s awesome, but if it makes $10 million then that’s awesome too! I would just like to see it really do well as a sort of way to slap Hollywood in the face and say wake up. They don’t believe it has a chance because it doesn’t have the big marketing machine behind it, which is a fairly valid point. If people don’t know it’s playing, they’re not going to go see it. But we have had better reviews than any other horror movie that’s out and the word of mouth is building so we’ll see what happens.
Q. I’d imagine that cameos from the likes of Robert Englund [aka Freddy Krueger] and Tony Todd [Candyman] will help. How easy was that to secure?
Adam Green: It wasn’t easy to get them because you have to track them down. I stalked them like an animal! With Robert Englund you can’t get through his agent because it’s all about money. That’s not Robert Englund’s fault! He gets offered 50 of these things a day – some of them real, some of them not. But you can’t have him reading 50 scripts a night and then ask where the budget is and proof that they can do it. At that point, we had our budget but we couldn’t really afford what Robert Englund was worth.
However, I went to The Masters of Horror Kick-off party and while I was there Robert showed up with his agent. My friends urged me to say something to him but I saw that loads of people were bothering him so I decided against doing that. But a few moments later he tapped me on the shoulder and asked where I got my shirt – I was wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt that said “Suicide Kings” on the back, which was a movie that his partner had made. I said: “Well, I got it at the Marilyn Manson concert.” And he replied: “Well, I want to get that shirt, how do I get it?” I didn’t know the answer, so he walked away. But that night I got on Ebay and found the shirt closing for $78 brand new in a size large, so I bought it, called his agent and said: “I just want to send Robert this shirt as a gift. I met him last night and he liked the shirt.” His agent then said that he’d been standing right next to him and asked why I hadn’t said anything then. I said that I hadn’t wanted to bother him and because I didn’t bother him, the script [for Hatchet] went into the pile. That’s a good lesson for other independent filmmakers – first, listen to Marilyn Manson and, second, don’t be an idiot when you get next to people that you like… [laughs]
Q. And Tony Todd?
Adam Green: John Buechler [special effects man on Hatchet] was directing a movie that Tony was in and I had come to the set to ask John a question and he said: “How would you like to play a dead security guard at Tony Todd’s feet?” I said: “Well, I was going to lie by his feet anyway!” So I went and lay there and afterwards we went to lunch and started talking. At least he [Tony] knew who I was at that point. But I had to call his manager and was given five minutes to passionately explain why it had to be Tony Todd in the role and it couldn’t be anybody else. His agent was really cool and said: “Sometimes you forget in this business why you got into it in the first place, how much money do you have?” I was honest and said that I didn’t have much but he said he’d give Tony the script and we’d see what happens. He just really responded to the script. I found out afterwards that all of them had corresponded with each other to find out if it was real because they didn’t want to put their name on something that all of a sudden sucked. That has happened to all of them several times. But I was really lucky to get them and, as a fan as well, they lived up to every expectation I could have.
Robert Englund is even out doing promotions for Hatchet without being paid to do so. He doesn’t even have that big of a part in it but he does believe in it and I think that’s because this is a genre they’ve helped to build and this was their way of putting their stamp of approval on it and saying they supported it.
Q. Your leading man, Joel Moore, is obviously another inspired piece of casting for you because you’ve worked with him again since?
Adam Green: We just did Spiral, which he co-directed. Joel just came in to audition for Hatchet like everybody else and just completely won me over. We had a really good working relationship because I respect the hell out of him as an actor and he really respects me as a director. So, when he was going to do Spiral he wanted to direct it but realised he had never really directed anything before and he was also the main character in every shot. There wasn’t much time or money, so it wasn’t the best experience to start learning on. He asked if I’d come in and help him with it. We got on famously co-directing too. It premiered at Frightfest and I couldn’t believe how much people liked it. I didn’t believe that audience would get it because it doesn’t have the gore and nudity that other films had. It’s a Hitchcockian psycho drama but I think they liked it more because it didn’t have the gore.
Q. What’s next?
Adam Green: I’m doing a romantic comedy! I started in comedy with my first movie. It didn’t get released but it got bought so that it could be turned into a TV series. I then wrote a few TV pilots that were comedy, I used to do stand-up, so I’m sort of equipped. I even consider Hatchet to be a comedy even though there’s people getting torn to shreds!
Q. Do you have a cast yet for the romantic comedy?
Adam Green: We don’t have the cast at a place where we can start telling anybody yet but I’m hoping that within the next few weeks we can at least announce who the producer is because it’s a huge, huge name. We had the movie set and ready to start shooting last year with a cast. The sets were being built but we realised the investors making the film were complete scoundrels and they weren’t really getting the money from where they were saying. We just wanted to avoid having a really bad situation, so I stalled the casting and when their option was up I walked away. It’s the best thing I ever did because now it has a huge, huge star. So, I think I’m always going to follow my gut because so far it’s always been right.
Q. Is Dead West [based on the graphic novel featuring zombies and Indians in the Wild West] still on the cards?
Adam Green: Yeah, it’s a graphic novel that a producer brought me with a view to writing and directing it. I didn’t have time to write it because I’ve been doing so much press for Hatchet, so we hired Jacob Forman who did <>i>All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. It’s an amazing script, I saw it about two months ago. I know they’re putting it together now but my schedule has been so tough. After Hatchet, I think I sold a new TV series – I haven’t seen a contract yet – and I’m doing a short film series for American Eagle Outfitters, I’ve got the romantic comedy and they want to do Hatchet 2 in the winter. I also haven’t had a vacation in eight years and I’m so tired! But you can’t stop, you have to keep going… maybe I’ll be dead by the time I reach 40 but I’ll have had a really good time along the way.
Q. Are you amazed by how much it appears to have taken off for you right now?
Adam Green: Well, really, we shot it in 2005, we started trying to out it together in 2003, and I thought of it in 1983, so yes it’s hard to believe when you see the lines of fans and reviews but at the same time it’s been a long, hard road. Even after our triumphant premiere at Tribeca, the offers we were getting from studios were unbelievable – it was like: “We’ll give you $50,000 for it and it’ll go straight to video.” So, I kept rallying the fans, going and doing another screening and after a while the distributors caught on. There’s only so many good reviews you can show them but finally they agreed to come and see it for themselves.
The thing about distributors is that they hate films. All the people who work at the studios in Hollywood never go to the movies. They’ll go to a premiere if there’s good food and there’s going to be a star there but other than that they watch everything half-arsed in their office, or hearing things like: “They’re saying it’s good, they’re saying it’s going to win an Oscar.” But that’s bullshit. We finally got them to come to a screening and they saw the fans were going out of their minds for it and all of a sudden they were saying they loved it. I’m obviously insanely proud of my crew and my cast and the fans that they really are standing up to Hollywood with this movie because they’re the ones carrying it across the finishing line.