Friday, March 14, 2014

Fear on Demand Interview Excerpt: Patrick Re-Make Director Mark Hartley

I recently got to see Patrick Evil Awakens and chat briefly by phone with the director, Mark Hartley. Mark is also the director of Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation, a documentary about Australian horror and thrillers from the '70s and '80s, and he'll soon deliver what he says is his last documentary. That's a look at Cannon Films which delivered many Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris films in the eighties.

Hear the audio version on the Fear on Demand Podcast.

Sid: I watched Patrick last night, and I thought it was really good and visually creepy. I’m glad to talk to you today.

Mark Hartley: A pleasure. I’m glad you thought it was creepy.

Sid: I’m guessing the decision to do a remake grew out of your documentary Not Quite Hollywood, but tell us how everything came about. Why Patrick Evil Awakens? Why a remake?

Mark Hartley: When we were doing Not Quite Hollywood, Justin King, who was the researcher on Not Quite Hollywood, and I were sitting around. It was at the time when I think every single film that had played on one screen in America in the last hundred years was getting remade. We said, “If you got to choose any film in Not Quite Hollywood to be remade, what would it be?” One of the main ones was Patrick just because we both thought the central premise was so timeless. A guy with unlimited powers but very, very limited ambitions and all he wants to do is focus his powers on making this nurse fall in love with him. We thought that was such a great idea. We thought if we could do something different from the original, make it a lot more atmospheric and make it even more of a throwback to an old style Gothic chiller it would open up a lot of possibilities to make a pretty interesting horror slash suspense film. Tony, the producer, really liked the idea and thankfully he found some money to do it.

Sid: You mentioned giving a lot of attention to the atmosphere, the visual style. I’ve read that you had some thoughts about Hammer Films influence. What was the creative process like in planning the look of the film and the feel, the atmosphere?

Mark Hartley: I think the Hammer sensibility kind of came by accident. Gary Richards, the cinematographer and I wanted this film to seem like it was a Gothic chiller made by Hitchcock protégés. We wanted to reference Argento and De Palma and we also loved the sensibilities of the Spanish horror films like The Orphanage and Julia’s Eyes. They were kind of the blueprints for the feel of the film, and I think things just grew from there. Since we were making an old style horror movie, obviously there are certain tropes that go along with that that just lend themselves to being a lot like Hammer. I think the difference between Hammer and this film—obviously the colors are really intense in a Hammer Film, the reds, the blues. Our color palate is a lot more subdued than that.

Sid: True, true. 

Mark Hartley: We certainly wanted to evoke films from the sixties and the seventies.

Sidney: Kind of the Gothic feel. There’s really a richer feel than the original had, I think.

Mark Hartley: Yeah, in the original, the lack of atmosphere is the biggest thing about the original. It’s a city clinic in broad daylight, and we certainly didn’t want that. We wanted our set well away from prying eyes, down the coast in a fog-bound kind of atmosphere. As soon as you do that, you’ve got atmosphere to burn.

Sid: Absolutely. It looked wonderful as I mentioned. You also had a wonderful cast, Sharni Vinson, Charles Dance, Rachel Griffiths. I read that you really, at the script stage, worked to make it a project that would attract a great cast. You were working with Justin King, the screenwriter. What went into the script to make it really draw that talent?

Mark Hartley: The script was incredibly overwritten. It was verbose. We wanted to somehow attract a prestige cast. We thought if we just went out with an ordinary horror film, it would just seem like a dumb movie. We wanted the script to read like a smart dumb movie. We really overwrote it. Happily that appealed to Charles and it appealed to Rachel, and we were very, very lucky to get both of them. They both worked together a decade earlier on a film called Hillary and Jackie. That got Rachel an Oscar nomination, so I think that was part of the appeal. Charles and Rachel to get to work together again. Charles obviously got to come to Australia during our summer and escape the English winter. Rachel had loved the original Patrick when she was a kid. I think that was part of the appeal as well, to re-imagine Julia Blake’s role from the original.

Sidney: I thought Charles Dance was just great as the doctor, really, really wonderful. He can be so villainous. You were on a really tight shoot schedule…

Mark Hartley: We were. We shot it in 25 days. There’s a lot of setups in that film, and we didn’t have a lot of time for rehearsals or takes. Thankfully they just got it. Charles was great. He has to be sort of vaguely inspirational at the start of the film. Then he can just switch to … insane, it’s amazing. I said to him one day, he said, “Have you got any notes?” I said: “I’m just delighted to hear you bring this dialogue to life.” It was a wonderful experience watching those two work.

Sid: It was absolutely great to watch. You have a couple of cameos or at least one cameo from the original film?

Mark Hartley: Yeah, there are nods to the original, and obviously there are key scenes that are taken from the original. We had Rod Mullinar and Maria Mercedes turn up from the original. There’s original props. There’s original costumes. There’s original locations. If you’re a crazed fan of the original, there’s certainly lots you’ll notice in the remake that harkens back to it. … Films like this, I don’t think they’re made that often with this sensibility. We were lucky enough to get Pino Donaggio, famed Italian composer, who did things like Don’t Look Now, Dressed to Kill and Carrie to do the score. I know that his score certainly evokes and announces the film’s sensibility from the first frame. If people are willing to go along with that and buckle up for an old school ride, they’ll enjoy it.

My review of Patrick is here.


Charles Gramlich said...

You're a true historian of the field, my friend. I'm not nearly so knowledgeable.

Sidney said...

Ah, I just try to keep up.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...