Wes Craven ('Paris, Je T'aime')
'Take A Walk on the Wilde Side with Wes!'
In PARIS, JE T’AIME, celebrated directors from around the world, including the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Alexander Payne and Olivier Assayas, have come together to portray Paris in a way never before imagined.
Made by a team of contributors as cosmopolitan as the city itself, this portrait of the city is as diverse as its creators' backgrounds and nationalities. With each director telling the story of an unusual encounter in one of the city's neighborhoods, the vignettes go beyond the 'postcard' view of Paris to portray aspects of the city rarely seen on the big screen.
Racial tensions stand next to paranoid visions of the city seen from the perspective of an American tourist. An American starlet finds escape as she is shooting a movie. A man is torn between his wife and his lover. A couple tries to add spice to their sex life. These are but a few of the witty and serendipitous narratives that make up PARIS, JE T’AIME.
Chatting recently to one of the films directors Wes Craven about his own vignette entitled 'PÈRE-LACHAISE,' I first wondered who had actually been the one to orchestrate this ensemble work and why had they chosen him for the project? Wes Craven "I think they may have had me confused with somebody else, I don't know," he dryly states. "It was just a telephone call from Emmanuel [Benbihy] out of the blue. Initially I knew nothing about the project. But when I looked at the list of directors that they already had I was like 'OK, I'm on the next plane. What do you want me to do?'"
"The only hesitation I had was where they wanted me to shoot. As I thought I'd get the Eiffel Tower or something wonderful down in the heart of Paris. But they said 'No, we have a cemetery that we'd like you to shoot in!' And I thought it was going to be the old cliché of someone wanting me to do something scary just because I was Wes Craven. But, they said no, no no, and told me I could do anything I wanted. If I wanted to do a comedy, or romance, whatever I wanted. And it just felt so open and so filmmaker friendly, I said yes."
"I didn't know anything about the cemetery and actually did the location scout between two cities when I was doing my press tour for 'Red Eye.' We just flew into the airport and did the location scout in the morning and then got back on the plane and flew to Brussels. And it was such a stunning location that I just felt it was extremely exciting. I had always wanted to shoot something in Paris – I love the city - and just felt like that this was great. It was five minutes, it was doable, the people were great. It was one of those things that you look at the serendipity of it and just feel like you're really, really lucky that it happened. That you're in such company and that everything came together."
"I was able to get Emily Mortimer, with whom I’d worked before, so that part of the casting was easy. As for Rufus, I’d never met him, but I knew his work and knew he’d be great, so the casting was done in a few long-distance calls. The DP, Maxime Alexandre, had just shot 'The Hills Have Eyes' remake for us so I had a couple of people I knew well. But the rest of the crew I didn't know from Adam, but they were all great. And everything turned out really, really well."
Being that the shooting location was handed to you was the actual script also handed to you on a plate, perhaps? "No, there were no plates. There was a table, but I had to supply the plate and what was on it. And ironically, the first thing I wrote about the cemetery involved Jim Morrison. Because I first went and looked it up on Google and saw that it was the place Jim Morrison was buried. So I wrote a script about a couple at the grave of Jim Morrison. But that presented a great amount of legal problems, and in the end we couldn’t get the rights to use his name, or the music, or the grave."
"So then I wrote something for Edith Piaf and that took a couple of weeks while I was doing press. But when I came back to start doing four days of pre-production on that, they said they couldn't get the rights to her either! So, I asked who else was buried there and they said Oscar Wilde. So, I said OK, and then just spent an afternoon reading a lot about Oscar Wilde that I over the years had forgotten or not read. I was especially struck with the way he was put on trial for his homosexuality and how he had held up under that. Basically physically broken. But, he never became bitter and he retained his wit throughout."
"And being that we literally had to shoot the day after next I asked Emmanuel for an office and just went in there and wrote it in two hours. It just came out. So, I asked Emmanuel what he thought and he said that it was wonderful. The actors then showed up and literally had the scripts for a day and a half, before we just went out and did it. And I think the restrictions on time and the restrictions on the place in a way worked. Because there wasn't time to fiddle with it too much. It was fresh and had a certain grace to it. The actors did it beautifully and it just all came together. It was like wow," he laughs, "let's not think about this one too much 'cause it just kind of happened."
Is there an underlying message within your vignette? "Well, I think there's two things, but it's probably encompassed in that one line that Oscar Wilde says, 'The Death of the Heart is the Ugliest Death of All.' If you stop having a place in your life for that craziness of love, and the huge risks that are involved with that you'll start to die.
And in a sense, humor is like that too it requires that you let your armor down. Both psychically and spiritually. Those two themes spoke for where I was in my own life and it seemed to be what Oscar Wilde was all about too."
You also got to act in Vincenzo Natali's vignette entitled 'QUARTIER DE LA MADELEINE' - as a vampire's victim no less! How much fun was that?! "Well, it was a very, very cold night. I can't say that it was fun when I did it because it basically involved lying in a cold puddle for eight hours in the middle of the night! It was like 40 degrees. On the first take the camera came out on the crane and smashed right into my head," he laughs. "So, I don’t know if the lying in cold water was such a great experience! But it was just fun working with such a talented young filmmaker.”
"And I must say Vincenzo’s piece turned out to be quite beautiful. I read the script but I wasn't able to predict how beautiful and haunting it would be. I was very happy to do it. And it was wonderful to have Alexander Payne come in and do Oscar Wilde in mine too. The shoots were overlapping somewhat. Somebody would be in pre-production whilst somebody else was shooting and somebody else was in post. Those kind of three projects probably went back in the linkage for months and months. But that's how we three directors came together to do work on each other’s things."
Being that if I didn't ask you a horror question our readers would go nuts, I'm wondering if you feel that both 'Scream' and 'Nightmare On Elm Street' will ever be resurrected again? And if so, would you be in the director's chair once more?
"Well, those questions are asked in all innocence by writers, but the fact is I don't have control over either of those franchises. The SCREAM franchise is owned by Dimension Films, run by Bob Weinstein. I’ve heard rumors that he’s thinking about a SCREAM IV, but there nothing definite about that at this time, so far as I know.”
"And I haven’t heard anything from New Line Cinema about a NIGHTMARE sequel, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another FREDDY/JASON thing in their pipeline. But Newline has all the ownership there, so any decisions about those sorts of films would be in the hands of Bob Shaye" [Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of New Line]. "Those things, they're kinda like giant machines now owned by other people. It could happen, but in all honesty I haven't heard anything except for the same rumors you've heard."
"I mean, the films that we're remaking are the first couple that I made by and large only with two different friends. Both 'Last House on The Left' and 'The Hills Have Eyes' were made on a shoestring and were owned by myself and Sean Cunningham and Peter Locke, depending on which film. So those made sense for us to remake, but the others are kind of somebody else's product at this point."
Finally, is it true that you're also remaking you 1989 film 'Shocker' for 2009? "Yes, that is another potential remake. We have had interest expressed by Universal for both 'Shocker' and 'People Under The Stairs,' so that is a possibility. Possibly next year or the year after. Right now we're developing a remake of 'Last House On The Left' kinda in the series of remake films."
Interviewed By: Russell A. Trunk
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