APPLESAUCE Director Onur Tukel Talks Influences, Approaches and The Desire to fall in love With Cinema Again

applesauceOnur Tukel is easily one of the most unique filmmakers working today. His style, the way he approaches various topics (genre or not) and turns them on their head, he has such a talent for giving film lovers something different. Whether it’s 2014’s S.O.B. (SUMMER OF BLOOD) and its taking on the vampire subgenre and injecting a dose of reality into it, or this year’s APPLESAUCE (arriving on VOD on November 24th via Dark Sky Films), Tukel is a fresh voice in filmmaking, and his style and approach is something to witness. With APPLESAUCE, Tukel tells the story of two couples who are all affected by Tukel’s Ron character deciding to call into a radio show and admit to the worst thing he has done, an admission that leads to getting severed body parts delivered to him, his relationship crumbling and all hell breaking loose. It’s a wild and fresh comedy/horror film that owes more to the films of Linklater and Woody Allen than that of Carpenter or Craven.

We had the chance to chat with Tukel regarding APPLESAUCE, his inspirations for the film and his style in general and his thoughts on falling back in love with cinema in general. Give it a read and be sure to check out APPLESAUCE when it hits DVD/VOD on November 24th.


Your ability to turn everyday life and annoyances into pure comedy is in my opinion, unparalleled. I’m curious as a writer, if there were any filmmakers who inspired you?

Woody Allen, Neil Labute, Whit Stillman, Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Tom DeCillo, Nicole Holofcener and Quentin Tarantino to name a few.  1990 – 1996 or so, independent film rocked my life.  Being in college, having my mind opened by the point-of-view of so many different people and professors, coupled with a frenzied lust for indie all lead to profound desire to be an indie filmmaker.  But it all started way back in middle school, making movies with my childhood friends Kirk Wilson and Paul Choong on a vhs camcorder.  Our first movie was Camp Out With Death, a asinine slasher film that changed how I spent my hours after school.  At that time, John Carpenter was king.  Stephen Speilberg was a magus.  The director of Friday the 13th part 4, whoever he was, a God!    You talk about everyday life.  When that camera purrs, every day life becomes surreal.  You get sucked into that mystical world of make believe.  It’s still my favorite thing to do, make a movie.   Unparalleled.  Nice of you to say, Jerry.

Both APPLESAUCE and S.O.B. had the ability to tell genre stories in a very non-traditional way, which as a fan of both horror and comedy, was absolutely great to see. The radio tell all angle of APPLESAUCE was a cool way to bring the story into the film, was the character inspired by Howard Stern or anybody like that?

It was inspired by two movies.  Talk Radio and The Fisher King.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen each movie.   Eric Bogosian is still my hero.  Richard Lagravenese’s Fisher King script is still one of my favorites.  You can get so much mileage off a provocateur sitting in front of a microphone, launching words like missiles into the airwaves.  It was also an easy way to weave the wonderful Dylan Baker into our movie.   I love that he asks the question, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”  If you’re familiar with the movie Happiness, it’s a shrewd choice.

You always have the ability to create realistic characters who, unlike a lot of films today, feel like people you’d either know or would be. That grounded in reality approach to filmmaking is fresh and unique. Do you allow your actors to improv to help with that realness, or is that 100% on the script?

I write full scripts and then rewrite as we shoot, plus I give the actors freedom to change the dialogue to sound more natural.   When I’m directing, if the acting sounds off, it’s usually an indication that the dialogue needs to be adjusted.  Not always but sometimes.  I have no training as an actor so I’m aware of my limitations as an performer and a director, but being in the scene allows me to control the pacing and energy from within.  If a scene really pops, feels alive, that’s what I’m hoping for.

As I previously stated, both APPLESAUCE and SOB took genre tropes and put them into realistic and very funny situations. Are you a fan of the horror genre at all?

I used to be.  In high school.  Somewhat in college.  Now, I don’t know what I’m a fan of anymore.  I’m not quite the film lover I used to be.  They don’t excite me as much as they once did.  Maybe the movies haven’t changed.  It’s me.  Most of what I watch feels dumb and mediocre, including my own work.  I’d rather read a book.  Paint a picture.  I was in a movie years ago called Septien.  After we wrapped, the cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier told me that he planned on spending the summer watching movies, in the theater.  He was making a point to do so.  This sounds like a pretty good idea.  To fall in love with cinema again.  This was just before Saulnier made Blue Ruin, which is such a wonderful cinematic experience.  I need to change.  I don’t want to be one of people who sees three movies a year in the theater.  And isn’t it hypocritical to make horror films and not watch them?   I love the potential of horror films, the idea of confronting our fears head on and owning them, laughing at them.  That’s what horror used to mean to me.  Laughing in the face of horror.  Now you’re reminded every three minutes by the media of how scary the world is.  It’s a big, ugly corporate mindfuck.  “Be afraid.”  That’s what the perveyors of culture say. That’s what the politicians say.  Senator Lindsey Graham warned the other day, “There’s a 9/11 coming.”  Of course there is.  It doesn’t matter how many countries you invade, how many bombs you drop, it’s not going to stop it. Drop the atom bomb.  Bring back the draft.  It’s never going to stop six or ten armed gunman from staging an attack.  Lindsey Graham is the worst kind of politician there is.  He wants you to be scared.  It’s the exact opposite of leadership.  Instead of appealing to our virtues, he’s unleashing our paranoia.  We are at our worst when we’re scared.  I mention this because Applesauce deals with these themes.  I also mention it because Lindsey Graham is a dick.  There’s that question in Applesauce.  “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”  You let them mind-fuck you.

You seem to have a prolific work ethic, what’s next for you?

Something political with fistfights and mayhem.  Another dark comedy but this time about women.  It’ll be heavily scripted but like my current work, I hope it sounds natural and improvised.  Someone’s sure to call it Rumblecore.  But I hope not.  Mumblecore is dead.  Thank God.

APPLESAUCE hits DVD/VOD on November 24th via Dark Sky Films.

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