This Friday, the Science Fiction/Horror hyprid Splice hits theaters, and we recently got the chance to speak with director Vincenco Natali. Natali spoke about the upcoming film, the horror genre, and even his prospects of working on a film adaptation of the DC Comics character Swamp Thing.
In Splice, Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star as genetic engineers who recklessly splice human and animal DNA, the result being Dren (nerd spelled backward), a creature that brings to light the unintended consequences of messing with mother nature.
The Flickcast: The movie touches on medical ethics, moral implications of medical research, and it is very timely and topical right now. Was that your intention, or is it just fortuitous that some of these things are closer to becoming a reality?
Vincenzo Natali: The movie was really inspired by this thing called the Vacanti mouse, which was a mouse that appeared to have a human ear growing out of it’s back, it was pretty disturbing.
You know, we have a very visceral reaction to these things, and it really inspired me in a way. As it turned out, in the length of time that it took me to develop the script the science really evolved exponentially.
TF: It’s kind of cool that all these things kept happening and all the sudden your movie is not that far out there at all.
VN: No, in fact, I was almost afraid my movie was going to be out of date-there was every reasonable chance that there would be a real Dren that would show up before I got to release my film.
It’s hardly science fiction, our film is just maybe a little ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead. That’s why I try not to stray too far from reality in the way that the science is depicted in the film.
TF: How closely does the Dren we see in the movie resemble what you originally imagined when you came up with the concept?
VN: I think it’s pretty close, she really is the child of many parents, and I had really terrific designers and technicians that I worked with, and everyone made a contribution. Of course I would be very, very remiss not to include the contribution of Delphine Chanéac,who plays Dren in her adult stage, she really formed a lot of what the character became on screen.
It’s funny, but in her final form she really was pretty close to what was going on in my head in the beginning. Dren was rendered in a way that made her very, very realistic. Like that mouse, she had to be a creature I could feel for. I felt sorry for that mouse, and I also feel sorry for Dren.
TF: Yes, it is very heartbreaking when you start seeing how lonely she is, and you realize how wrong it is for them to keep her locked up.
VN: Exactly. That’s actually a recurring nightmare that I’ve had, that I have to look after somebody’s pets, and they die. So to me it’s a pretty disturbing scenario-you’ve made this thing, but there’s no way you can keep it, you know it’s going to die in its cage, and that is sort of what inspired Dren.
TF: You have a great cast. Did you have Adrien and Sarah in mind when you writing the script?
VN: I didn’t necessarily have them in mind when I was writing the script, but when it came time to cast the film, they were at the top of the list. Fortunately, they really, really liked the script.
It was a very straightforward process, we approached them and they responded. They’re probably both sick perverted individuals (laughs) so that helped.
They give great performances, and more than most horror films, this one relies on the acting.
TF: I was curious about Elsa’s mother issues. You don’t go into a lot of her back-story. I was dying to know what happened to her when she was younger. Did you shoot anything you ended up not using, or did you choose not to elaborate on it?
VN: I pretty much avoided going there. It was definitely a question that came up a lot between myself and my co-writers, but at the end of the day, I hate back-story. I almost didn’t want to have the story of the mother at all, but it seemed necessary , and I just felt less is more.
We get the idea, she had some kind of very unhappy and probably abusive relationship with her mother, and we didn’t really need to know more than that, I didn’t want to give her a sob story, a scene where she tells what happened to her or anything like that.
I was reminded of a Clint Eastwood movie weirdly enough, called Escape from Alcatraz, where somebody says to Clint Eastwood, “What was your childhood like?” and his answer is “short.”
That’s all you need to know, you get it all in that one word. I like leaving some loose ends with films. It’s a fine line between being ambiguous and sloppy, and I like a little ambiguity to leave the audience with something to chew on after the film.
TF: Some of the scenes look intentionally over the top and campy, in particular, when Fred and Ginger are introduced to the audience at the presentation. It is gruesome, but very funny. Were you trying to inject some comic relief to break up the heavy subject matter?
VN: Yeah, I think that’s necessary. Even if you look at a play like MacBeth, it has comic relief, so I thought we should too, and Ginger and Fred are obviously perfect for that.
TF: How did you decide on that dress that Dren wears when she is toddler? It is really creepy to see her dressed up in it.
VN: There was a great deal of discussion over how Dren should be dressed and when Elsa should start dressing her. It’s funny, when you work on a project so long, you kind of lose some perspective, and I was surprised that when I screened the film for an audience that at that particular moment, people gasped.
I didn’t anticipate that, then I realized that what’s shocking about Dren is not that she is a creature, but that she is being treated like a child. It’s the juxtaposition of those things that is so potent.
TF: A lot of the scenes are bathed in blues and greens, any particular reason you chose those colors?
VN: Oh yes, there is definitely a color scheme that my cinematographer and my art director and I worked on together. The film is really bifurcated, the first half is in these lab environments, which are sterile and quite industrial; cold.
Then the film makes a funny shift and it goes to this farm and we are in much more natural environment, and everything is quite warm, and it becomes a little more Gothic when we get into the woods and the barn.
I just felt with the film only using a few locations, we had to really differentiate to give us a little physical variety. It also reflects the tone of the movie, because the first part of the film is very much a bio-medical sort of horror film, but the second part of the film really becomes a psycho-drama, so I think those tones mirror the dramatic shift in the story.
TF: We have a lot of comic fans that read The Flickcast, and recently we have heard that Swamp Thing is on hold. Is that true?
VN: Well, Swamp Thing was never on.
TF: I know some people were pretty excited about the prospect of you directing it.
VN: It’d be a dream come true, but there is another monster out there, and it is called the internet, and that rumor really started because someone at a comic book convention asked me if there was any comic book character I would like to turn into a movie, and I said Swamp Thing, but I didn’t have the rights to Swamp Thing.
There was some basis to it because Joel Silver who is a producer on Splice, had been working on a Swamp Thing movie, but what I have since discovered, because I talked to Joel about it, is that the rights are very complicated.
It might happen, but it isn’t going to happen anytime soon is what I am being told.