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[Tribeca ’12 Interview] Everything You Want To Know About Grisly ‘Jack & Diane’

With the synopsis of Jack and Diane screaming love story and hinting werewolves, you may have asked yourself the same two questions I have. With this sounding more like a love story, is this worth my horror-thirsty attention? Can we expect Jack and Diane to be to lycanthropes, as Let the Right One In was to vampires?

I got with the director Bradley Rust Gray (The Exploding Girl) and proposed these questions. I got the answers plus a whole lot more. Read on, and you’ll see what a well spoken, intelligent film maker he is – how he chose the long hard road over the easy CGI fix – and why BD brethren should take an interest in this lycan-ized love story that has been flying under our radar. PUTREFIED STINGRAY ICE CREAM

Yes, you’re right on the mark, Jack & Diane is primarily a love story. And as much as I love Let the Right One In and I would dig the idea of someone doing for the werewolf genre what that film did for a vampire story – this is not that film,” said Gray.

Let’s say for example a love story is a bowl of ice cream and a horror film is a dish of stingray meat.

I’d say our approach was to putrefy the stingray, slow cook it, then caramelize the remains. Then we took some of those pieces and we mixed them into the ice-cream – not blended in, but slow stirred them in so they stay as chunks.

Then we placed a tiny little piece of the rotten caramelized stingray on top for garnish. So this way, the diner has a little taste from the beginning, then they forget about it. Especially as they eat more and more ice cream. Then suddenly they get a little bite of it again and it’s like a familiar but sudden shock of ammonia flavored cream.

In the end, the flavor is in the stomach but the taste is not still in the mouth.

That was our goal.


Gray: “My first film was set in Iceland and wove Icelandic folk-lore into the narrative. In the story, a girl turns into a seal which is an adaptation of a familiar Nordic legend. When I started work on Jack & Diane I was curious about the American equivalent for these types of stories, and then I began to think of genre horror films as American “folk-lore”. The genesis for the idea started with that approach, then I forgot about it until it slid it’s way back into the story.

Jack and Diane is about falling in love for the first time. What I wanted to do though was to try to show how one girl feels from the inside of her body and how perhaps all of the unspoken words and emotions become manifested into a different animal. I also wanted the audience to feel how she feels or how anyone feels when they fall in love. At first you’re excited and giddy and warm, but there’s also this terror of how vulnerable you’re becoming, these little pangs of fear of getting hurt, fear of not being understood or loved for who you think you are. These are the terrors of love I wanted to explore along with the sing-song side of love.


Gray: “I’d say the main reason for a “horror fan” to see the film though, is for the work of Gabe Bartalos (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, From Beyond) who’s work they’re probably already familiar with. There are no computer graphics in the film, it’s entirely created from robotics and other traditional techniques. As well, we mixed our sound at Skywalker Ranch and Kent Sparling created a very personalized set of singular creature sounds and effects. He even had voice box altered so we could modulate roars to fit the inside of “the creature’s” open mouth.

Gabe and I approached the film with as much realism we could muster given the unusual circumstances in the story. We tried to think about what the body would physiologically go through if it were to expand into a huge creature in a short amount of time. Probably, everything wouldn’t go right. There would be bloating and pock marks and bone deformations. And the skin from the girl would still be there. It wouldn’t disappear, it would just stretch or slide into different areas. We researched photos from a range of diseases which might reflect some of these aberrations, like syphilis, neurofibromatosis, elephantiasis, etc. We also looked at natural deformations, mutations, and trauma caused from accidents.

Some of this research also fed into the animations created by the Brothers Quay. For example, elephantiasis is caused from tiny worms which block the lymph nodes and create swelling. In our film, hairs are growing inside the girl, which reflect but don’t exactly emulate this idea directly.

When it came time to physically start work Gabe ordered a mold from a polar bear skull as the basis for our creatures head. I don’t want to give anything away, but we also molded the actresses face and teeth which are also part of the creature.

The head itself cost a giant chunk of the budget of the film. It cost more than my first two films combined. Probably more than double that… but this approach was also part of the idea in making the film. We wanted the love story to feel very natural and real, and so likewise the creature also had to feel as real and natural as possible.

It took over eight years to raise the money to make Jack & Diane, partially because of these unusual obstacles. But I’m personally very happy with the results. I love the performances from the actresses and the creature. I hope the audience appreciates and enjoys our efforts as well.

Playing at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month, the film stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough as Tomboy Jack and bubbly Diane who fall head over heels in love one hot summer in New York City. But neither Jack’s tough exterior nor Diane’s demure innocence prepare them for the intensity of their feelings. When Diane reveals she must leave the city for school in Europe at the end of the summer, Jack pushes her away. As Diane struggles to maintain their budding romance, she must also try to conceal from Jack the increasingly dark and violent visions that have begun to plague her.

Weaving horror elements into a distinctive and fresh yet timeless and universal first-love story, TFF alum Bradley Rust Gray (The Exploding Girl) applies his inimitable vision to this idiosyncratic story of the joys and terrors of first love. Riley Keough and Juno Temple bring a sweetness to their roles, which is offset by punctuations of macabre imagery to infuse their traditional summer love narrative with an ominous energy that is all the more evocative of their passionate love. It’s natural and beautiful, but also monstrous and frighteningóand ultimately, like the film itself, wholly and wonderfully unique.

Jack and Diane makes its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on April 20th and runs through April 28th in New York City.

Jack & Diane



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