Giving genre fans a film that bypasses the typical in your face approach in favor of subtlety, Jason Krawczyk’s SXSW hit HE NEVER DIED offered up one hell of a performance by the film’s lead, former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins. Everything about the film is an unexpected treat. and was easily one of the standout titles to play during the festivals Midnight series. As we always enjoy bringing you fright fanatics some interesting interviews, Krawczyk was nice enough to chat with Icons of Fright a bit regarding the film, the balance between comedy and horror and what a dream come true casting Rollins was. Read on!
So yeah, I saw your film today and absolutely loved it, it was very entertaining.
Oh cool, thanks, that means a lot.
The film has such a unique premise and I’ve VERY curious what possessed you into wanting to make this particular film and tell this particular story?
I’ve always been fascinated with movies about terrible antagonists, and kind of wanted to springboard the writing of a film about just a terrible person who shouldn’t but is still alive, but I wanted to sort of empathize with him. Although he’s somewhat supernatural, I kind of wanted it to fall within a stone’s throw of realistic boundaries. I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around that, and thought to myself, “If someone was that old, how would they react to a regular human being?”. I didn’t know if he’d be that Dracula or suave’ Dorian Gray type of would he be this sold old man, so I ended up going with the latter.
Taking the supernatural elements out of the film, the violence is very much grounded in reality, was that something that was important, tonally, while shooting the film?
Oh totally, yeah. I wanted to make sure that when he killed someone, it’s almost ungratifyingly quick and more about the calories. So when he does kill someone, you’re like “Go get him Jack!” until you just does it brutally and without mercy, so you’re like “Slow down!”. It’s kind of hard to watch at times.
Yeah, it was. Having been a huge fan of Henry Rollins’s work in both Black Flag and with the Rollins Band, when I saw down to watch to the film, I was continually waiting for that Rollins firecracker to go off, What we got though, was somewhat of a subtle and quiet performance. Was that written for Henry, or was it just good luck?
Yeah, I actually wrote it with him in mind. When I was writing the script, he just seemed like the perfect visual representation of what I was looking for with the character. He had that stocky and chiseled, not a model, but still a good looking vibe about him. You could look at him and say, “yeah, that guy’s a cannibal. ” Plus the guy was always a big deal when I was in high school, so when I his name one the list from my casting agent, there were a million good names on it, but he was Henry freaking Rollins! He knew when it needed to be funny and when the more human he becomes, the more violent he becomes, so he chooses not be. Henry brought a lot of that stuff to the role, because a lot of the other people who had read for the part, they all brought this Bruce Willis-like approach. Henry brought this slower paced, damaged approach to Jack, which I feel was easier to cling onto.
I couldn’t agree more. With a film like HE NEVER DIED, that has tonal shifts that go from comedy without feeling forced to more dramatic elements that never quite feel exploitative, is it hard to make those shifts all while making a completely entertaining film?
I think it took a lot of work and a lot if of trust. We weren’t trying to do anything ironically funny, which I feel a lot of movie do these days. I’m not knocking those movies, but we wanted a good balance, with it’s not a joke that makes the scene funny, it’s the situation. The same with the drama, we never wanted it be to over the top for everyone.
It’s obvious with HE NEVER DIED, that telling a smart genre story was important to you, which leads to my last question. Within the the last year or two, we’ve seen a huge amount of very important and well written films falling into the genre. Why is it that you think we’re seeing such smart genre film gain?
I think it’s because we’re getting desensitized by “really cool looking things!”, because even with the lower budgeted movies, the technology is catching up. For me, it’s always story first, and how it’s executed second. Especially with how good TV has gotten these days with shows like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, it’s so easy to make a zombie or something else look so realistic, that you have to up the ante, story-wise,