Amazingly, it’s been nearly ten years since director Lucky McKee first made a name for himself with the quirky character-based horror film May, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival way back in 2002. McKee’s latest project is The Woman, a sequel to the 2009 Andrew van den Houten-directed cannibal horror movie that was based on the book of the same title by cult novelist Jack Ketchum. Adapted from a recent follow-up novel written by McKee and Ketchum in a to-die-for-collaboration, The Woman premieres at Sundance next week and looks poised to rattle our collective cages in its story of “disturbed family man” Christopher Cleek (Sean Bridgers) who captures the last surviving member of the cannibal clan and in the process endangers the lives of himself and his family. McKee recently took time out for an interview with B-D reporter Chris Eggertsen to talk about the project, including reuniting with Bettis, what it was like teaming up with renowned “splatter punk” novelist Ketchum, and whether the nerve-wracking Sundance experience ever gets any easier. See inside for the full interview.
Bloody-Disgusting.com: I’m really happy to see you’ve reunited with Angela Bettis for the film, as I really loved your collaboration in “May”.
Lucky McKee: Thank you. That means a lot. I’m so happy people still remember it almost ten years later!
BD: What is it about Angela that keeps you coming back to her?
LM: Angela always elevates anyone she works with. She always surprises me and never disappoints. We’ve tried a few different tones and styles together and she is just brilliant no matter what I put her up to. Seriously…on this film, I was going through dailies, joking with my post team, “Goddamn. This woman is amazing. I should work with her again sometime.”
BD: Do the two of you have similar sensibilities?
LM: Angie and I are kindred spirits in a lot of ways, and also polar opposites in others. I think both of those qualities – the complimentary and the friction based – are what makes for good challenging creative decisions. I love her as I do my own family. She is my family. She gets me.
BD: Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role as “The Woman” in this film. She’s a beautiful woman but there’s also something exotic, slightly alien about her as well. Do you think her unusual looks contribute to her being such a good fit for a part that requires her to play someone so estranged from modern society?
LM: I think Polly is a very deep person. She dives full force into any given scene and puts everything she has into it. She is a total professional, and very sensitive to the emotions of humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. There is something exotic about her, but it’s more her insight and the immersive nature in which she works than just her physical appearance. That being said, it is a bit like hanging out with Wonder Woman. She is a spectacular person and very convincing when she has to be a bad ass.
BD: This is based on the upcoming “Offspring” sequel written by yourself and Jack Ketchum. I’d originally heard that the book was being released this month but now I see it’s coming out in May. Had you initially planned on releasing the book before the movie came out?
LM: Well, the movie isn’t out yet. The festival thing is a different sort of deal. No as much a release as it is a preview. It’s hard to time those two elements together, but we’ll just have to see how it shakes out. I guarantee, one will leave you wanting to absorb the other. They are the same story, but hit you in completely different ways because of the obvious difference in medium. The numbered edition of a specialty press hardcover is available from Bloodletting Books and it’s pretty damn gorgeous if one has the dough for it. The lettered edition should be out very soon.
BD: What’s different about the book as opposed to the film? Considering how violent most of the past books are is there anything you just couldn’t put on screen because it was too extreme?
LM: If I told you, I would have to kill you. Violently.
BD: Talk about the collaboration between the two of you on the novel – what was that like and how much input did Jack have on the screenplay?
LM: It was a 50/50 collaboration all the way down the line. It was a fantastic experience, and I was a bit nervous going in because of his stature and experience level. But as I learned working on Masters of Horror, these great veterans are very kind people that just care about the work. There were no egos involved in our process. Obviously Jack led the way with the literary side of things, and I led the way with the cinematic language. But both jobs really melded and blended in such a nice way, it just felt like this perfect fusion of what we are both pretty good at. I know we learned a lot of tricks about each other’s crafts from each other. In a way, it’s sort of similar to the creative experience I had working with Angela on ROMAN.
BD: There are several famous cases of “wild children” discovered living outside of society whom scientists have attempted to tame. Were you at all inspired by any of those real-life cases?
BD: Andrew directed the original film and is producing this one. How is this different from his film?
LM: Andrew and I are different, just as any person is different from the next. You seem to have seen a couple films of mine, so you can only guess that there is a bit of quirk in my approach. The one thing I can say is that it is not a repeat of the previous film, it is a tonal and stylistic shift while still honoring and respecting what came before it.
BD: Ketchum’s previous novels in the series, particularly “Offspring”, deal with the idea that in some cases ordinary, “civilized” human beings can be just as savage, in their own way, as the cannibal clan. Does that idea factor heavily into “The Woman” as well?
LM: I think that factors into the way I look at life. So yes. It weighs heavily. It’s part of why I had a connection with Ketchum’s work in the first place.
BD: Does the nerve-wracking experience having your movie debut at Sundance ever get any easier? This is I think your third time having one of your films open there.
LM: Man, my stomach has been eating itself on a daily basis. But this time it’s in a different way. Sure, you get used to nerves and handle them differently as you get older, but they are still there and that’s it. My anxiety is coming from anticipation, “What will they think?”, “Will they understand this?”, and on and on. But, I must say this is the most creatively satisfying experience I’ve had to date and the few people I’ve shared the film with have had such diverse reactions that I smile thinking of a crowd of 500 people all getting hit at once. It should be a very interesting shared group experience. Personally, I love the film, and people I love love it. So I’ll just have to keep that in mind as I let this sucker free on the public. It’s already given me something special so I can’t really ask for much more, just maybe that the movie gets seen and is loved or hated, not just sluffed over.
BD: What are you looking to do next?
LM: There’s lots of things I’d like to do, but I want to live this experience all the way out and listen to my gut. I’m determined to retain the creative freedom I have experienced on this film. I’ll build on that.