By Jack Rico
One of the great stories of 2013 is the story of a young Uruguayan filmmaker who went from the obscurity of a third world country in the farthest regions of the world to directing one of Hollywood’s most iconic horror films, and a big budget horror film at that. His name is Fede Alvarez and his dream has come true, and most likely, even has exceeded it. Read our Q&A of how Alvarez made it.
On Friday, April 5th, the US release of the remake of “Evil Dead” will roll its opening credits and Alvarez’s name will be on it. It will be a triumph not for just Alvarez and his family/friends, but for any Uruguayan, Latino, Hispanic filmmakers, really anyone from any culture, that success isn’t just for the rich, but for anyone who aspires for greatness no matter what their social or economic background is.
It’s American Idol, with a Latino film touch. That moment of discovering a new talent and inspiring an entire generation of dreamers that anything is truly possible. But not everything can always be a dreamy visage. What happens if the movie flops and your career takes a nose dive deep in to the depths of the Patagonia? What if the “haters” are too much to handle? What if the audience just doesn’t really like it? I asked Fede himself all these questions and his answers were honest and almost unpredictable. Word coming out of SXSW is that the screenings are like rock concerts!
And the secret to that success is Alvarez. To me Fede is really a movie fan, he’s just disguised as a Hollywood director right now. He thinks like a fan and is probably pinching himself as we speak. That unspoiled spirit is what Hollywood needs more of and you’re going to get to see that with Alvarez for years to come.
ShowBizCafe.com (SBC): Fede, thanks for your time. You have a great story! Let’s start at the beginning. Talk to me about how you met Sam Raimi and how did he end up plucking a kid from Uruguay, located somewhere close to the end of the world, to make his directorial debut with the classic, iconic horror film “Evil Dead”?
Fede Alvarez (FA): With “Ataque de Pánico!,” the sci-fi short I shot in 2006 and finished in 2009. It was a lot of work, and one day, I just got it done. For me it was always about the pleasure of shooting and I didn’t really want to go to film festivals and show it at a short film festival. I thought it was going to be a small audience and I didn’t want that, I wanted to show it to everybody so what I did is when I finished, I just uploaded it to You Tube and shared it with all my friends and then it started getting out of control. Everyone was sharing it and next morning I had 150 e-mails from Hollywood people saying “I want to meet you, I loved your short.” It was surreal. I had to check if this was real because at first I thought it was just my friends pulling my leg, but it was actually real.
So that was it and then a week after that I went to LA and met a lot of people. I’ve always been a big Sam Raimi fan so out of all the people I’ve met, that was definitely the most interesting one for me to work with and he also offered me like blind deal to do whatever I wanted so it was the kind of freedom that no one would ever offer you. So we started developing a long feature version of the short first (Panic Attack). It’s actually still being developed and it may even be my next movie. During the development [process], Sam offered me “Evil Dead,” he thought I was the right person to bring back “Evil Dead” to the new generation. I think it was in part because he didn’t want a Hollywood director making this movie, he wanted a guy that loves to shoot and has a passion for filmmaking and he wanted someone that could write and direct, he didn’t want to go for the classic studio process. I think at the end of the day that was his master plan, he wanted an audience member, he wanted a fan to make an even better movie and that’s why I think the movie ended up being quite special and different.
SBC: Are you scared Fede about the pressure on you right now? If “Evil Dead” goes well, the rest of your career is set, but be honest dude, if “Evil Dead” flops, will it shake you up? I can only imagine the pressure you’re putting on yourself to really make this film a success, because you probably already have haters that are like: “Fede? Who the hell is this guy?” and you want to prove to Sam Raimi that he made the right choice and to prove to people that you are a Hollywood director.
FA: I’m not scared now, I was before, I guess. I was when Sam offered me [the director role], that was the moment when I was like “Oh fuck!” because the pressure was going to be huge and everything was uphill. When you are doing the remake of a classic… people make bad movies, but this is the remake of a cult classic, which is the hardest one to make, that was when I was more worried about the whole thing. But then, we found the story, I became confident when we had a good story. Also you have to remember that you have Raimi next to you going: “look this script is amazing kid, go for it, shoot the hell out it and you have a great movie.” The guy must know a thing or two about movies so if he tells me that the script is great and that we are going to make a good movie and to shoot the hell out it, that gave me a lot of confidence.
All of the things you were saying, what is most important [is] that Hollywood is really taking a gamble when they decide to go with new filmmakers, when they decide to go with young, unproved filmmakers. I really feel like I have the responsibility to make a good movie because that is when they are going to decide to keep doing it, instead of working with the same Hollywood people all the time. It’s great when they go outside and find new people. If you look back to the last five years most of the best movies that came out came from guys that were completely outside of Hollywood, look at [Rian Johnson] from “Looper,” Gareth Evans from “The Raid: Redemption,” those are guys that are quite outside the Hollywood standards, they are young, new directors that are completely outside of the system and they are bringing the best movies. I think there is a whole responsibility for us to really deliver, if we fail then they are going to close the shop and they are going to go back to the same people that they have been doing movies all over again. That was one of the biggest pressures, to make sure that the tale of – “You know I’m a guy that just went out to make a short film on You Tube that then got the attention [of Hollywood] and then made a movie” – is great. It has to be in order for the story to be a good story, right?
That fear in your brain… if you are just scared to fail that’s just going to fuck with your mind and you are just going to do a bad movie because fear is the worst enemy of creativity. If you want to do something good, you better not be scared while you’re making it. And now, because we showed it to an audience multiple times and that was the first moment when I really started feeling great. We saw the reaction of the audience going crazy and we’ve gotten standing ovations at the end. That was when I was like: “great! There is an audience out there that feels like me about movies and wants the same thing that I want.” But yeah, it’s definitely scary, but I’m ok now.
SBC: So what happens if the movie doesn’t do well at the box office, what do you do?
FA: I don’t know. You know what, I don’t think it will affect me much because the most important thing as a filmmaker is that you make good things. This is what everybody tells you, all that matters is that you make good films. One of my favorite movies of the last 10 years is probably “Children of Men”. I freaking love that movie and that movie made no money whatsoever, it was a disaster, it cost so much money and it was so dark that nobody wanted to see it, but do you think that affected Cuarón? Fuck no! That movie is amazing and that is what matters at the end of the day, you have to make good movies. I don’t know what is a good movie at the end of the day, but you need to make things that people respect and that the audiences like and that’s what matters. Then if it makes more or less money, it doesn’t really relate to the quality of the film, come on! If you look at the box office today, there are a lot of movies that are at the top of the box office today, not Sam’s movies, his are actually good, but there are a shit load of movies that are just so bad every year and they make a lot of money and they are not good at all and those movies are going to be forgotten because it’s about the marketing and all that, so at the end of the day what matters is to make a good thing. If the movie is going to make money or not, it’s really not up to you. The director cannot control that, these days it’s more about how they sell the movie so it doesn’t affect [the director]. Hopefully [“Evil Dead”] will make a shit load of money, hopefully, so that the studio makes money and gets some money back, but for me what is important is to make a good film.
SBC: Are you the first Uruguayan to make the crossover to Hollywood director?
Yeah, first one.
SBC: How do you feel about that and can you talk a little bit about what that represents for you, your country, your family and anyone who is a Uruguayan trying to make it into this business.
FA: It means a lot. I get e-mails every day from young Uruguayan filmmakers who come from the country side, usually from outside the city, that write me saying: “Look, I always wanted to do this but all of my family and everybody always told me it was impossible, that it was a rich man’s industry, that I should do something else.” After “Panic Attack” there is a big generation that got very inspired by it, all the generation of young Uruguayan filmmakers they got inspired by it. It wasn’t just Uruguayans, I got e-mails from all over the world when “Panic Attack” came out, and I had young filmmakers saying: “Shit man, you proved to me that it’s possible. You proved to me that you don’t need to know anybody, it’s not about connections and it’s not about money. It’s about just going out and doing what you like and putting it out there and it may happen to you.”
I think it was very important for Uruguay, I feel so great. Every time I get one of those e-mails from kids that are 12, 13, 15-years-old filmmakers [saying] that they felt inspired by it is always awesome because you actually feel like you did something that was worth it and you did something that makes a difference. It’s never happened in the the last hundred years in Uruguay. All you need is one example. For my generation that example was Robert Rodriguez. I grew up hearing that making a movie was impossible, that it was too expensive, that you needed millions of dollars and suddenly this guy named Robert Rodriguez comes out with a movie that he made with $5,000 and that movie inspired a whole generation. So right now I think that these little stories like mine, those are the ones that inspire a whole a lot of people and young filmmakers to believe and go out and shoot and trust that if they do good things they may end up working in a real big industry like this one and make their dreams come true and maybe tell the stories they want in the right industry, so I think it’s awesome.
SBC: How are you dealing with being a celebrity for fan boys?
FA: You exaggerate (he laughs). Actually, two nights ago we showed the movie in Philadelphia and because Austin already happened [SXSW] – Austin was a film festival so there are more filmmakers and film industry people – but Philadelphia was the first screening with just a bunch of fans and it was amazing. I did a Q and A afterwards and then it was the first time in my life that I spent like hours signing autographs and signing posters and taking pictures. It was really really bizarre. It was the first time in three years that suddenly something like this happened.
I think it’s great, it’s great to feel the love and these guys love movies and seeing that you did something for them, knowing that they were craving a good horror movie and suddenly you deliver what they want, it’s a great feeling. It’s a really great feeling because that is what I want someone else to do for me. Every time I go to the theater and I get disappointed and then suddenly I go watch a great movie, I love the filmmaker and I go like: “thanks man, thank you for giving me this film.” People are really hungry for good films out there and horror fans are really hungry for good films, so you feel that love and it’s awesome.
SBC: Let’s talk about “Evil Dead”. I hear this is one of the goriest films of 2013. What changes did you make from the original and is this remake better than the original?
FA: I can’t say it’s better, I think that’s up to people to decide. I am so happy that I read and heard people say that it is equally [good] which is already like the biggest compliment that you can ever have, and there is a lot of people saying that it’s even better than the original which I’ve never read that about a remake in the past. I remember back in the 80s for me Cronenberg’s “The Fly”was better than the original “Fly,” but it doesn’t happen every day so that’s already amazing.
I don’t think it’s the goriest movie of 2013… I think it’s the goriest movie of the last 10 years for a wide studio release. There has never been anything so hard and graphic and brutal like this movie. I’m talking about a studio release, not an independent, unrated, DVD movie but for a studio movie with a wide release it’s never been done. It’s really not me saying it. This is a fact. When you run into a problem with the MPAA trying to get it R-rated you realize how much you pushed the boundaries. It was hard to get it R-rated and we finally got it without having to butcher the movie.
SBC: Wait… are you telling me “Evil Dead” was an NC-17 movie?
FA: Yes. The first cut we got, Sony told us that the way it was was NC-17. We showed it to the MPAA and they said the same thing. They just asked us to remove five frames out of some shots that were so graphic. Instead of one scene being a one a half shot or two second shot, it ended up being like 10 frames less. That’s all we had to do, so we really pushed the boundaries for the rating. It’s definitely the [goriest] R-rated movie out there for sure and probably ever made, [in the last] 10, 15 years that I can remember.