Exclusive: Director Simon Rumley on 'Little Deaths', 'The ABC's of Death', 'Stranger' and 'Skin'

Simon Rumley has made a name for himself in indie horror with films like The Living and the Dead and Red White & Blue. But he's poised to reach a much bigger audience with his next films, Stranger and Skin, both of which he discusses in the following interview. In the mean time, however, Rumley is contributing to The ABC's of Death, and his latest work "Bitch" is as heady as ever. The third and final segment of the new anthology film Little Deaths – which, with its distrubing views of sex and death, hit unrated DVD yesterday via Image Entertainment – "Bitch" examines the sadomasochistic relationship of an English couple, and what happens when that relationship's balance of power goes unbalanced. After the jump, find out what Rumley had to tell me about "Bitch" and his next projects.

 Your previous work dealt with the twin themes of sex and death. But in this film they're an especially immediate presence. What fascinates you about the two?

I guess it comes from the fact that if I make a film about characters and their relationship with each other, there's a lot of baggage. For anyone who's been in a relationship there's sex or a lack of sex. Quite often we don't receive that part of relationships in films, whether we get the PG version or whatever. But I think sex is one of the most important things in a relationship. I guess [the film] is an exploration into how sex with your partner affects your life, and of course by corollary, the relationship.

You've said "Bitch" is inspired by one of your experiences.

Yeah. I was in bed with my girlfriend. I'd probably just had sex with her, and she was naked. And this spider out of nowhere crawls on her and she completely freaked out. I thought, "That's an interesting thing to happen, for someone to be confronted by their phobia in bed, which is essentially where you're meant to feel most at home." So I started writing a short story about it, and I never finished that short story. That's when I was thinking, "Maybe I should become a novelist." Twenty years later it's a story that never quite left me. I had this opportunity with Little Deaths, and I thought it was perfect for a film thirty minutes long. Not quite long enough to be able to flesh itself out as a feature, and a twelve-minute short would be too short. So it was a great opportunity, and quite a rare opportunity, to be able to tell a thirty-minute story like this.

Can you talk about your cast? You have two bold actors playing the leads in this film.

Yeah. Getting the cast was really a trust issue, because a lot of people who read it had no interest in doing the part whatsoever, whether they were offended by it or whether it was too graphic or just too nasty or whatever. So we had a lot of auditions, and even people who were coming to auditions were like, "I don't know." But we offered a few parts to a few people and even after sitting down with me and the casting director they were like, "Yeah, we don't want to do this." So it was a very strange process really. Basically Tom [Sawyer] and Kate [Braithwaite] came on the same day. Casting is one of those things where the casting directors, when they do their job properly, are the unsung heroes of many a film, because getting the right person is a tough thing to do and you're never really sure how the chemistry is gonna be between people. But Kate came in and did a really great reading. I made her do the scene with the dogs and she ended up bursting into tears, which I was really impressed by. Tom just had a very easy, kind of casual feeling to him. I thought he had an interesting, unusual look. Tom's quite good looking, but in a strange, unconventional way I think. He has really amazing eyes… So yeah, they both came in and I ended up casting them. It actually turns out that Kate actually didn't want to do the job initially. It was only after her agent had spoken to her a couple of times that she convinced Kate it would be a really great thing for her to do. In the end, she did it. I'm really happy with both of them.

Your next project is another anthology film…

I'm doing the ABC's of Death with twenty-five other directors. My short film I shot in Suriname, which is a country north of Brazil, where my DP, Milton Kam – he did Red White & Blue and The Living and the Dead – comes from. So I'm just finishing that up, doing the sound mix next week. At the moment, I've got two other projects. One is Stranger, which is a kind of chase movie. It's basically Steven Spielberg's Jaws meets Lost in Translation. We're literally just casting for that at the moment. We're [speaking] with a great actor in LA, hoping to hear back any day. Then the other film is called Skin, which is produced by a guy named Trevor Albert, who did Groundhog Day, and James Keach, who did Walk the Line. It's about a girl who has low self-esteem, and she's in a car crash, and she ends up marrying the plastic surgeon who saves her face. At one point the surgery goes completely wrong, and from that point she starts plotting her revenge on the surgeon and his loved ones. That's being co-written by me and Adam Alleca, who wrote the remake of The Last House on the Left. Once I've finished ABC's of Death, those are the two main things I'll be in the process of getting made. I'm actually now just starting a spec script myself to round things off.

Thank you, Simon.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.