There isn’t much that can be said regarding the directing duo of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead. Since they arrived on the scene with one hell of a debut, RESOLUTION, the buzz has continually grown around the duo, and well, it’s all been well deserved. Easily two of the most talented storytellers in the genre, they’ve now returned with SPRING (review), which is one of the best romantic horror films ever created, and quite easily my favorite film of the year thus far. Always accommodating, Benson & Moorhead were both nice enough to chat with Icons of Fright for a bit, regarding SPRING, and their next project as well. Read on, and be sure to check out SPRING, which is not in theaters/VOD/iTunes!
Moorhead: Hey! Good moring Jerry.
Icons: How’s it going guys?
Moorhead: It’s going good.
Sorry if I’m a bit behind, my son woke up and just wouldn’t leave me alone.
Moorhead: Man, I HATE it when your son won’t leave me alone! (laughs)
Right?! Well Drafthouse sent me over a copy of SPRING this week, and even though we just talked about BONESTORM, after watching SPRING, I had to reach out to you two. It was profoundly amazing in my opinion.
Benson: Thank you!
Moorhead: That’s good!
There was such a leap in between RESOLUTION and SPRING, and even though I absolutely LOVE RESOLUTION, SPRING was just this beautifully haunting, wonderful story being told. I’m curious about what perhaps inspired this beautiful story?
Benson: I’ll let Aaron answer that one (laughs).
Moorhead: Yeah, cool. We we made RESOLUTION and that whole time, when you’re in that position, before RESOLUTION had gone anywhere, you really have no experience with the film festival circuit and you really don’t have any experience under your belt. So, during that, Justin just started writing again, just like with RESOLUTION, he sat down and just pounded out a script and one day it arrived on my doorstep. It was incredible, just like the experience that you got watching it, I got to read it for the first time. I think where the film really comes from, is the desire to create a new myth, where whenever we take meetings these days, people are so quick to just greenlight a vampire movie, or a zombie or werewolf movie. I feel like every monster comes from a cultural zeitgeist, you know, and just wanting to take something and create a brand new myth with it, with its own rules being based in science, and in this case, based within evolution. There was somewhat of a skeleton key to all of these things, if you looked at them each from a different way, it could look like all of these different kinds of things. So, that was kind of the basic idea, but all of the monster elements were all based within evolution. Werewolves kind of come from that past of primates, and zombies come from the decomposed body, so with ours, we wanted it to be based within that evolution and science. With RESOLUTION, we kind of had this deconstruction of an old friendship, and that was when we were kind of realizing the style we liked so much. So with SPRING, we decided to deconstruct a budding romance, and showing that love still be extraordinarily beautiful while being extraordinarily difficult and imperfect. You have all of these other movies where it’s a love story and the people can’t be together, because they’re love is perfect but their situation is bad, but in this case, their love is imperfect, but it’s still beautiful AND their situation is bad.
I found the love story between the two characters so well developed and beautiful and even allegorical, with Lou Taylor Pucci’s character really having nothing left to lose so he lets himself fall deeply in love with this girl. The creature elements almost seemed secondary to the relationship, was that a focus on yours, to focus more on the budding romance and less on the creature elements?
Benson: I don’t think it’s secondary, but the romance is more on screen than what you see OF the monster. When you do see the monster though, we spend the same amount of time on that as we did rehearsing. It takes SO long to get that stuff right, so it just doesn’t look like kids throwing spaghetti (laughs), so it was more like RESOLUTION and less like BONESTORM (because that was just balls to the wall), where the visceral elements would work so much better if you believe in this romance. We try really hard to get all of the humanity that we can on screen, with the time that we have with those characters. You’re right though, the film is an allegory, you can’t separate the love story from the monster story, so it is an allegory in the way that you are witnessing the beginning of a relationship and it helps relate to those first six weeks of an important relationship that you had in your life. It might not have been, “yeah, she’s 2,000 years old and having embryonic cells, but I recognize elements of this in my relationship”.
Jeremy Gardner made waves in the indie circuit last year with his film THE BATTERY. How did his involvement come to be in the film?
Moorhead: We adored Jeremy Garner, passionately, not just as a friend but as a cultural icon. We actually met him in Amsterdam, and we kind of just crossed paths for a day, and he was like “Aw, who are those dicks?!” and we were like, “Who is that dick?!”, and then we met again at another film festival in Brazil, and then we were forced to spend four terrible days together. We ended up getting along so well, that we were all just best friends. It was awesome, so when when SPRING was coming up, we were going over all of our options for who could play the Tommy character, and really as soon as Jeremy came to mind, it was “Yep, it’s gotta be Jeremy!”. There were union issues, but the fact is, that there really isn’t anyone LIKE Jeremy, so we had to fight for it, and won. So we were able to cast him in SPRING, and he came into town and stayed with us. He was great in it.
EVERYBODY was great in it. Lou Taylor Pucci was somewhat the only character I cared about in the EVIL DEAL remake, and he was awesome in your film. Was he someone you had in your mind as well, or how did that come about?
Benson: I script was written probably a couple of year before we met Lou. Some of the story of it is somewhat boring, but we had to cast a certain way that met certain business requirements, and doing that, you go through all of these agencies and reps and all of that stuff. They had send it hundreds of actors that we had no idea who they were, because Aaron and I don’t know who anyone is. With Lou, when he came in, we hadn’t seen EVIL DEAD yet and we hadn’t even seen THUMBSUCKER. After watching those, we were thinking, “Wow, why isn’t this guy just hanging out with us?!”, so we met with him and he said, “yeah I was telling my reps that I wanted to do a sci-fi romance”. They said, “That doesn’t exist”, but then our script showed up, and we met with him and he did it. He spent a lot of time on it and made the movie his top priority. It’s funny, because when he was on the set of SPRING one day, he was saying, “I don’t know, I just want to play a cross dressing prostitute”, and sure enough, a couple of months ago, I saw that he was a cross dressing prostitute on CSI (laughs).
Chemistry is key in a film like this, it all rides on whether the two people can connect. Was casting the character of Louise a difficult one?
Moorhead: Yeah, casting Nadia (Hilker) was a difficult one, because we had always been simultaneously been looking for our male and female leads. We had found our perfect male lead in Lou, The incredibly hard part was that the movie was greenlit, but we had to shoot the whole thing before Christmas, because after Christmas, the weather would just be impossibly bad over there. We were doing the math and realized that we had to find our leading lady in under three weeks. So we sent out this e-mail to every single European directors, producers, basically everybody that we knew, saying, “Hey, we know that this is an impossible request, but we need a girl who is extraordinarily talented with naturalistic acting, has an unplaceable accent, an unplaceable look, and can take on the role of someone who has been alive for 2,000 years”. So we sent out this list and Nadia actually showed up on a few of the lists that came back. We Skype’d with her and ran lines for the scene with the argument at the beach, and she was really good. We talked for a few days, Skype’d with her again to run some more lines, and then Justin and I said to each other, “She’s really good, right”, because it all depended on this, if we made a mistake, the whole thing would fall apart. But she was perfect, and IS perfect, so that’s how she got cast.
Aside from SPRING, and I know it’s probably too early to talk about it too much, but your next film deals with Aleister Crowley, is there anything you guys can talk about regarding that film??
Benson: Oh yeah, there’s plenty to say, it’s kind of our thing that we’re working on every single day now. It basically deals witha very small period in Aleister Crowley’s life, that takes place over one week. It’s a fictional account about what started as Aleister Crowley doing this kind of ritual, on the shores of Loch Ness. During the course of that week, the effects of that ritual, and more accurately, the actions taken by the man Aleister Crowley, what happened to what started as a man’s ideas on personal freedom, and his abilities and talents. It starts off with that young man, and what happened and transpired to make him what the press now calls, “The most wickedest man of the world”.
Awesome! Well I am definitely looking forward to that one, and once again guys, I absolutely adored SPRING, you both did a hell of a job with it.
Benson: Aw thank you man, I appreciate that.
Moorhead: Yeah, thanks a lot!