Just in time for the apocalypse comes director Darren Lynn Bousman's 11-11-11, the tale of an American author in Spain, recovering from the death of his wife and child, who finds there are mysterious forces planning something for the film's titular date. Bousman recently took a quick break from editing the film (due out in limited release on, you guessed it, November 11th) in his Toronto studio to talk a little bit about its religious implications, and what he'll be doing on 11-11-11. Read our chat after the jump.
The amount of dread in your work seems to escalate with each new film – your Saw movies featured individuals in danger, Repo! gave us a society destroying itself, and now with 11-11-11 the entire world is in danger. Do you find yourself getting increasingly cynical as your career progresses?
Yeah. I find that the older I get the more…It's funny, with 11-11-11, it was based around a bunch of conspiracy theories. A conspiracy theory is the mentality that it's you against them. Who is them? That changes depending on what the conspiracy theory is that you're actually reading about. But I'm fascinated with the idea that there is a conspiracy, there is a cover up. There is something that "they" know that you don't know. But who is "they"? 11-11-11 deals with that idea that there is kind of something hidden from us that on this specific date, at this specific time, will become clear. That always kind of fascinates me, not only from a movie standpoint, but from a personal standpoint as well. What is it that I know or don't know that everyone else does know.
It seems this is also the first time you're dealing with religion in a film.
When I grew up, I had three films that were on repeat at my house. That was The Exorcist, that was The Omen, and that was Rosemary's Baby. I loved those films, because I think it's very easy to… There was something about Rosemary's Baby, for example, that was so simplistic, yet so macabre and so frightening at the same time. This level of trust that we put into people – your next-door neighbors, the preacher, the dentist that you go see… There's this level of trust. What happens when we betray that trust? Did the doctor really prescribe you pills for the pain you're experiencing? The next door neighbor's making you bundt cake for mysterious reasons. That terrifies me. So I've always wanted to make a movie like that, and I think that 11-11-11 was the first chance that I got to skew what we show is going on into what really is going on. I've always been fascinated by religion as well. Again, the idea in Rosemary's Baby of having the Devil's baby. The idea of the birth of the antichrist. I was always fascinated by that, and I wanted to do my own version of that. 11-11-11 gave me that opportunity.
Is it easier to do a film like this in Europe because of the sheer amount of religious iconography?
When you walk through Barcelona in Spain, you're not looking at a little church on the corner. They have those, but you're looking at massive cathedrals, and you realize what they've built in the name of religion. It's insane. They're awe-inspiring. So I always wanted to make a movie based in religion, and I wanted to do it in a place that we weren't comfortable with, nor were we that aware of. As a society, we always love these fish out of water stories. To me, as an American, the story of an American who is made to go to Spain, and has to maneuver, not knowing the language or the locale, or the terrain, that in itself is unnerving. Then when you put in the kind of Gothic religion behind it, it just becomes more and more scary.
Can you talk a little about your actors – Timothy Gibb and Michael Landes?
Yeah. I wanted to go with people who had no baggage to them, because I want you to really buy into the story. I wanted to go, specifically with Timothy Gibbs, for a lead that had the American male look to him, but whom you couldn't point to and go, "Oh, he's the guy from X, Y, or Z."
Timothy Gibbs' is an insane story. We met with forty, fifty people for that role, and I didn't like any of them. With Timothy Gibbs, he'd retired from acting. He was a New York actor who was on some soap operas, who gave up acting, trying to do feature films. He was insane, doing a short film here or there, a commercial here or there, but he moved to Spain after a tragedy happened in his own life. This movie is about an American author who, after a tragedy occurs in his own life, goes to Spain. So already out of the gate, Timothy Gibbs was that character. He happened to be living above the place in which we were casting. He had not auditioned for a film in I don't know how long. And he sees there's an open casting call coming down. How weird is it that I'm in Spain, and a New York actor happens to be living above the place that I was casting; that not only was the character, but embodied every aspect of the character. It was very serendipitous…
Wendy Glenn is beautiful. She's the kind of person you meet and are awestruck by. She's so amazingly beautiful and articulate. Michael Landes, he's a guy that has been in some genre films – he was in Final Destination 2 and films like that. But again, he didn't have baggage. You don't look at Michael Landes and immediately think of twenty movies. I wanted everyone to blend in with their environment, and they all did that.
Spain's Gaudi architecture also seems to create its own universe of horror.
Yeah, it's funny you mention him. Where I was staying in the city was right in the middle of a bunch of Gaudi stuff. There's something ominous and frightening and beautiful about him as well. In essence, that's what religion is. It's frightening when you think about the implications of if it's real, and what it could mean – Hell, the Devil, Satan. It's beautiful when you think about what it could mean – Heaven, everlasting life, living with your loved ones. So I think the Gaudi architecture completely fit in with the idea of what I was doing. And again, it's so ominous when you're standing beneath it and looking at these huge, huge buildings. And you're so, so small inside of them. It's something I could never have gotten in a million years in America, trying to get those kinds of buildings and that architecture. So the production design, the production value that we have, is staggering.
What can we look forward to on the DVD?
The story of the making this movie is as fascinating as the movie itself. The problem is, as a filmmaker, all the fans out there know you're trying to promote and get as many people as possible. That means you gimmick – you try to do gimmicks to get people in the seats. This is not the case in the stories that we're telling about what happened in this house. Some of the things that occurred when we were filming this, even myself, I don't talk about, because it makes me sound crazy. When I hear what I say, I think, "That sounds fucking insane." But it's all real. We have about an hour and a half, two hours worth of stuff, of weird things that were happening on set. I hope that when the movie comes out that they cut it all together. I know that they cut four different spots of just weird occurrences, but there were so many things that happened when we were filming. I walked in not really believing in a lot, and I walked out with my opinion of the supernatural and all of that completely changed.
Taking a step back – when did you first get involved with the project?
The first time I'd heard about it was a year and a half ago. The producer Wayne Rice called me and said he had an idea for a movie and wanted to meet with me. He came in and all he did was put this package on the table. On the front of the package was a digital clock reading 11-11. I had seen that number numerous times growing up, and in my college years I'd looked at the clock and see 11-11. I never really thought about it outside of the fact that I'd heard the wives' tales that every time you see it you should make a wish. But I didn't know why. Well, when he started talking to me about it, he said, "Listen, go home and research it. Do your own research." So I went into Google and I typed in 11-11. And I could not believe the amount of websites devoted to the 11-11 phenomenon.
Basically the 11-11 phenomenon is about spirit guardians. People who believe in it believe they are being contacted by something called "midwayers": beings that exist midway between our world and theirs. And they use the number 11 to try and contact you. It's based on an idea that was proposed in a religious book. The idea is pretty insane, but these people basically believe in this book that purports that 1,111 midwayers have been sent to earth guide our humanity to a higher understanding. Those that believe it believe the number 11 is sacred. Well, the more I researched it the darker it got to me. I thought, "This is an awesome idea for a horror film, and we can actually use this as a horror film." So I called Wayne back and we sat around for an afternoon, and by the end of the afternoon we had an amazing idea for a movie. A script was written almost immediately, and in the next month I was on a plane to Spain filming this thing.
So how will you be celebrating 11-11-11?
I'm gonna keep making shit it until somebody pulls the camera away from me. So most likely I'll be here in Toronto editing.
The idea of 11-11 is something that millions of people believe in, this idea that they are being contacted by beings from another realm. This movie is about who's actually contacting them and what they're trying to say… My whole thing is this... I'm very excited by this movie. It's a new kind of film for me. The cast is amazing and I see myself working around the clock on this movie until I have a cut of it.
Thanks for your time, Darren.