Texas Frightmare Weekend ’11: Inside Pulse Exclusive Interview – Lucky McKee

Texas Frightmare Weekend is one of the premiere horror conventions in the country. This year’s convention features appearances by Roger Corman, Robert Englund, Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, Shawnee Smith, Don Coscarelli, Sid Haig, and many many more. One of the spotlight films shown at the convention this year was Lucky McKee’s controversial new film The Woman. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the writer/director/actor for a few minutes during the convention.

Jenny (Inside Pulse): You’re actually my third interview ever.

Lucky McKee: Well, third time’s a charm!

IP: I’m not very good at this, let’s see…

LM: It’s OK, just talk to me.

IP: Well, I’m just really curious how you got started. How did you and Angela Bettis meet and then begin that working relationship?

LM: Well, I wrote a script called May when I was in college, in my junior year and years later this kid that I had gone to school with was starting his own production company and had remembered that script several years later which was kind of cool – it made an impression on him – he said, “do you still want to make that movie?” And I said yes. He said, “Do you want to direct it?” And I said yes. So I came down to LA and we started working on the material and then finally got the material where we thought it was as good as it could be and went around town with it to the casting agencies. We auditioned a bunch of people and Angela Bettis just fell into my lap one day. We’ve been friends ever since, she’s like my sister.

IP: Yeah that’s amazing. You just met her at a casting agency?

LM: We auditioned, you know? The script was given to her by her agent and she read it and she said, “This. is. my. part.” *laughs* And she came in and proved that to me.

IP: She sure did! Yeah she’s amazing.

LM: Yeah she is I’ve used her in almost everything since.

IP: And you’ve worked on her projects too, did you have anything to do with Drones? Just out of curiosity?

LM: No no, didn’t have anything to do with Drones.

IP: That was fun, I hope that one gets distribution.

LM: I haven’t seen that yet.

IP: Oh it was great, it’s hilarious. She’s so funny in it.

LM: She always is.

IP: About Jack Ketchum, how did you get connected with him?

LM: Well, my friend Chris Sivertson who ended up making a movie called The Lost, and another movie called I Know Who Killed Me, he’s got another movie coming out called Brawler. We made our first film together, we co-wrote and co-directed this backyard zombie movie called All Cheerleaders Die. We’ve been friends over the years, he’s a very avid reader and big Stephen King fan. Stephen King was always talking about this writer Jack Ketchum, so he started reading Jack Ketchum’s books. Read a couple of them and just started giving them to me. And said “Man, check this stuff out, this is awesome”. He really liked The Lost, I really liked Red. Then I got a chance to make a movie for a studio and I made a little bit of money, and one of the first things I did when I got a big check was I bought an option on The Lost for Chris so he could get a chance to make one of his favorite books. Because he’s my brother, you know? And he got the rights, wrote the script, put the money together, and got it made. It was awesome! I helped him put that together and made friends with Jack Ketchum over the course of that. Ketchum saw my movie May and really dug it. We hit it off and have been friends ever since. Finally all these years later, we wrote something together.

IP: You said (at the Q&A) that he was on set, but was only supposed to be there for a few days but just decided to stay. How was that having him just hang out?

LM: It was wonderful because he respects what I do. He wasn’t just sitting there going, “Eh Lucky, I don’t know about this…” If he saw something that stood out to him, and I would ask that about anyone on my crew, if you have a better idea of how we should be doing this, come to me at the appropriate time. But when you direct, you have to keep your ears open. You can’t just think that it’s going to be like your little storyboards or your script, because you’re dealing with real environments and real people with limited resources. So it’s great to just have good brains around. Like I said, we’re good friends and it was actually a real treat. I was glad he decided to stay with us.

IP: You mentioned All Cheerleaders Die, is that going to ever…

LM: Yeah, we’ll come out with it. We’ll see how our next couple of movies do and if something makes a lot of noise it would be fun. Say “Hey look, this is the first thing we did!” It’s a fun little movie, it’s aging like wine too.

IP: *laughs* Is it?

LM: *laughs* Yeah, it’s really funny. It makes me feel old when I watch it because we were so young when we made it.

IP: Yeah I’d love to see that one! Back to The Woman specifically, the character of Chris is a very sinister character. I mean, he had the best intentions –

LM: Did he though?

IP: I think kind of – well, in his mind…

LM: Well, he’s like a Hitchcock villain. I’m a obviously a big fan of Hitchcock, he’s like the Shakespeare of cinema. He created so much film language, and one of my favorite things about Hitchcock are his villains. They’re always so handsome and well spoken. And there’s just that darkness underneath. So we were really looking at a lot of that stuff, specifically Shadow of a Doubt, Joseph Cotten’s performance in that. Strangely when we were making the movie, this Jimmy Stewart vibe started coming out of Sean Bridges which is kind of cool and we just went with it. The whole idea was just the casual nature with which he doles out abuse was really disturbing, because when you think about it that might be a little more realistic in a lot of ways. He’s not standing in the corner in a dark room with peanut butter in his hair, you know what I mean? He’s a lawyer, he’s a normal guy and he knows what he can get away with and he DOES it. He’s not worried about anything. THAT’S scary.

IP: I think those were some of the creepiest scenes was him at work, and show how happy he is around everybody else.

LM: You see that mask!

IP: Yeah

LM: But look at his eyes, they’re dead.

IP: Oh I know! I was so afraid of what he was going to do to his secretary. I was just waiting for him at any moment to do something to her.

LM: Not entirely a nice person.

IP: No, no. But I think he believed he was, you know? Like Hitler. He thought he was just fine.

LM: Yeah, he knows he’s right. He KNOWS he’s right.

IP: Exactly! With The Woman, when he captures her. He kind of attempts to reform her. Did he have different plans for her then he had for the others? Were his intentions to do something different with her?

LM: It’s all about power. It’s all about exerting power and expanding that power. And when you look at his family, nobody’s saying anything, nobody’s reacting to this thing the way you would think a normal person would react, and you’re wondering why that is. And it’s not really revealed until the end why that is. It’s about power, it’s about control. Sean Bridges says he believes in the fallacy that you can control things.

IP: The short after the credits –

LM: Yeah, Darlin’s dream

IP: Yes yes, you did mention it was a dream sequence. Before you mentioned that, I saw it as a sort of continuation of the story. Like what happened to her after everything.

LM: That’s the way my dad sees it too, that’s great! My dad said the same thing. It shows that she can make friends with monsters.

IP: Yeah! And it shows that she will be OK…

LM: Yeah. You know, you put people through all this dark, heavy stuff and you want to leave a little ray of light. Towards the end just say, “Hey, I know it was rough, sorry!” That’s why when people walk out during the rape scene, or during one of the scenes of abuse, that’s their end to the film. That’s a really dark place to be. That’s why you have to watch the whole thing play out, in order to find those moments of brightness and hope.

IP: The end seems so open, I wanted it to keep going.

LM: Good, good!

IP: You can’t stop it right there! What’s going to happen next? Do you already have the ideas brewing?

LM: Oh yeah yeah, I’ve got lots of ideas brewing.

IP: Will there be a book, or just waiting to see what happens?

LM: I want to do something different next and we’ll let this go out in the world and see how it treats people; if there’s a real fascination there. There’s got to be something that takes it to another place, it can’t be a repeat of what’s been done before. Offspring was such a different movie than this. I think the next one may even be a different director, somebody with a different vision. I’m not closing any doors.

IP: Darlin was all of the bright spots in the film, she’s just precious. You met Shyla at Frightmare last year, so her parents are big horror fanatics?

LM: Her parents sell, her parents are vendors! They sell art with latex designs. Really cool latex necklaces with all these cool designs. They were right next to me and my dad spotted Shyla and was like, “Hey that looks like that character you just wrote.” A friend we were with just happened to be lifelong friends with her parents and we just started talking. She ended up in the movie a few months later, it was really cool. It’s neat when that happens. Especially kids, we could be auditioning for weeks and weeks and weeks to find the right kid. To find any part, but to just have her appear like that, it was really cool.

IP: Yeah that’s pretty amazing. And that her parents were so OK with the material.

LM: We were really careful with the way we handled everything.

IP: Of course…

LM: But it helps that she’s used to this kind of atmosphere, the horror convention, it’s what she grew up around. She’s got a lot thicker skin than a lot of kids.

IP: That’s important, that kids are introduced to this kind of thing early on.

LM: And that they’re trusted to be intelligent enough to deal with the situations, because kids are people.

IP: Exactly! Well, that’s really all I have for you, thank you so much for talking with me.

LM: Thank you! You did a great job!

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