Follow Us on Twitter

Triangle - Christopher Smith interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

BRITISH director Christopher Smith talks to us about his mind-bending new psychological chiller Triangle, why he likes the ambiguity surrounding the film and why Melissa George was a perfect fit for the central role…

Q. Where did the idea for Triangle come from?
Christopher Smith: Well, the original idea was imagine you see a boat arriving and you see someone looking down on you, and presuming that it’s one of the people on the boat, and that whole idea of what if the demon, or the bad person, was someone quite close to home.

Originally, I just wanted to try and do something where I explored what it would be like if the victim is the killer, and if you can empathise with the killer. Weirdly, I’ve always had that interest. If you look at the second half of Creep, I feel sorry for him. And the killers in Severance, I take their standpoint. I don’t think they’re crazy; they have a reason to hate these people. I don’t know why I sad with the baddies. But the idea was to create that type of feeling you get when watching films like Memento – that nausea in a story that plays in what feels like a classic narrative, but which keeps turning itself inside out.

Q. Talking of feelings you get from other films, The Shining also seems like quite a big reference point on this?
Christopher Smith: I love The Shining so much that I even made the room that they go in [on the ship] the same room number in The Shining. The Shining was a real model for me because The Overlook Hotel is a real hotel and it’s also maybe his mind. The ship [in Triangle] is a real ship… I don’t like movies where you find out there’s a twist and people then start to go: “Oh, I bet it’s this…” The good thing about Triangle is that you get that twist 30 minutes into the movie and then you get another and another and another. I don’t like movies that hang on a twist at the end; I like films that have an emotional connection. There’s a twist at the end of The Shining – I don’t understand it… was he there before? Was he always the janitor? But I like it and I like that ambiguity, so I tried to put that into Triangle.

Q. Is it fair to say this is your most ambitious film?
Christopher Smith: Definitely, without a doubt. I want to make an old-fashioned monster movie next. But this was really hard. It was hard to come up with the idea. I started to get scripts coming my way after Severance, because it was liked, it was a horror-comedy, so I started getting lots of horror-comedies sent to me from America. But I resisted because I wanted to do Triangle and then your bank balance drains, you’re into your overdraft and then you start to wonder whether Triangle is ever going to happen. It was an obsession to try and make this riddle work.

Q. What kind of feedback have you had from fans? Have they found flaws in the riddle?
Christopher Smith: No, no. We’ve had great reviews from across the board. Even those that are soft have been 3 out of 5. We went to Frightfest and the worst thing I got was someone asking: “If that happened, does that mean this didn’t?” But that’s what I want from the film. I want you to feel at the end that it’s either all starting again or she’s going back in to try and change things. I want you to feel both. I don’t want you to go: “Oh, that’s what happened.” There are three different ways for you to understand the story: there’s the “Is it a Bermuda Triangle story and it’s all supernatural?”; there’s the “is she having a breakdown”?, and there’s the “did she get in a crash, get concussion and go off for the day?” All those three things can work and you should feel emotionally satisfied at the end. The movie definitely has frustrating moments and you may get annoyed, but it then suddenly does something to surprise you and you’re back in again.

Q. Was Melissa George always first choice?
Christopher Smith: The truthful answer is that when you go to America they give you a list and tell you who you can have for the role. On that list is a whole spectrum of people, of which Melissa was one ranging all the way up to people like Julia Roberts. So, I looked at the list and thought: “If I could have anyone, I don’t want it to be a vehicle for someone.” I was always looking for an actress like her, so that you’d get an authenticity to the performance. And the clincher for Melissa was that I saw a TV series called In Treatment, where she plays this amazing, fractured nutcase character, which is exactly what I wanted. So, I just told her: “That’s what I want from you. Exactly that.”

Q. Did she take any convincing?
Christopher Smith: Well, she’s a bit like that. She’s got that way about her, which is why – much to her dismay – she keeps getting cast in horror/thriller kind of stuff. But it’s because she’s a Hitchcock blonde. She’s got this kind of damaged/quirky thing going on which makes her really interesting and I think that’s why she’s working. She’s also personally always drawn to dark stories, even though she doesn’t want to keep doing those kind of horror stories.

Q. So, is this a first step away from horror for you as a director, because it’s more psychological than gory or scary…
Christopher Smith: Yeah, it is. It’s definitely a departure… and a knowing one. You can still see traces of violence. There’s a spurious scene where she splashes the blood from the neck, so there’s still traces because I love the genre. But I wanted to do something that initially leads the audience into what they think is going to be a ghost ship movie and then suddenly wrong-foots them. Hopefully, when people see the trailer they’ll realise that it’s not just a film about a girl being chased around on a boat.

Q. Do you like to push things, including yourself, as a director?
Christopher Smith: Well it’s weird. When Creep came out, the good reviews were that it was scary and twisted. The bad reviews were that it was clichéd. But it’s not really because you’re with the killer. And I respond to that type of criticism. So, I thought: “OK, I’ll make something really ironic next…” And I made Severance. Now, I’ve really made something f**king mental, which is Triangle. I watch a lot of movies… I always have, and not just horrors. I’m a real film fan. And I hope it’ll carry on for me. I hope I continue to get the luck to keep making movies. When you look at the people from the ’70s who are still working, they’re the ones that keep on watching films.

Certain directors seem to get stuck on the movies they like, but I try to keep watching stuff and mixing it up. I’m still fairly young, but when I get older I hope I’ll continue to keep watching films like Martyrs, which is hardcore, and stuff like that. I worry that my niece, who is 11 now, is going to watch Creep in the next year or so and ask me: “Uncle Chris, what was going on in that torture scene?” I’m really surprised and pleased we got Triangle made. But I think that the [horror] genre is really interesting at the moment. It’s not like it was in the ’80s when, with the exception of Nightmare on Elm Street, the stuff coming out of America was mostly video titles. Suddenly, horror has become really cool and people are watching it.

Read our review of Triangle