The writer/director talks to us about Snow Angels, Pineapple Express, medieval dwarves and more.
As the director of Pineapple Express—aka this summer’s Judd Apatow-produced comedy—David Gordon Green may well be on the brink of becoming a household name. But he’s the last person you’d expect that from.
Until now, Green has made his career on writing and directing small-budget indie movies with critical raves and small audiences, such as 2003’s All the Real Girls. And indeed, Green was on the press tour promoting his newest indie, Snow Angels, which debuted at Sundance, when I caught up with him.
Snow Angels, which stars Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, is an intense drama about three couples in varying stages of their relationships connected by an act of violence that rocks their small town. Before directing Snow Angels, Green adapted it from the novel by Stewart O’Nan. “I thought this book provided its own sense of structure and discipline as a writer that might be nice rather than the lyrical, Southern crybaby qualities of some of my stuff,” quipped the Arkansas-native.
“I just thought it would be a great piece to get an ensemble of actors together and really explore three generations of love stories. It’s probably the most interesting and bizarrely cinematic emotion of movies is love and relationships for me, and I don’t mean in a romantic comedy, Fool’s Gold kind of way—which I’m sure is great. But something where an author can explore, then a screenwriter can adapt, where actors can take it one step deeper and then use the editors to filter everything out, so it’s got various lives,” Green says. “And I thought it would be a great way to get me experience working with some hotshot actors that I could have some fun with.”
The story of Snow Angels is rather heavy, to say the least, but that didn’t really plague Green as much as one might expect. “As a writer, I’m gettin’ rid of them demons in a healthy, sane, safe way,” he explains. “The production, everybody’s really funny and we had a really good time making this movie within the cast. Where it got harder was in the editing room because you’ll spend all day on two people yelling at each other.”
The talk of the media, of course, is how someone who spends most of his time working on serious, small-town indies, like Green, winds up directing the next big, bold, brash Judd Apatow comedy. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy. Green, who is friends with up-and-coming comedic actor Danny McBride (The Heartbreak Kid, Drillbit Taylor), visited the set up Knocked Up where he met the Apatow gang. “[I] realized how similar in a strange way their process was to mine,” says Green. “Where Seth (Rogen) and Judd and those guys were making commercial comedies, they’re making them with a loyal crew base and giving actors freedom and allowing improvisation and insisting on those natural moments. I felt right at home when I was on the set and talking to them about it, and they sent me the script a couple of weeks later. We started talking about what we could do to blend their team and our team.”
Pineapple Express, which was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (i.e., the writing team behind Superbad), has been described as a 'stoner action movie,' if that makes any sense. “That’s all you need to know,” Green says. “What makes it special is the specifics that are not within the concept. I mean, ‘two guys on the run from a drug dealer.’ Cut to the funny stuff."
Oh, and Seth Rogen actually plays the straight guy and James Franco the comic relief. "We got these three dudes that are in all sorts of mischief and anything they say is funny for an hour and 45 minutes," Green explains.
An hour and 45 minute-long comedy? “Yeah, it’s long. It’s a wild ride,” he says. “But it’s one of those things where we felt good in the editing room and we thought we had something interesting. We put it up in front of audiences and they wanted more. So we take it to the next level and add weirder stuff, the stuff that we were hesitant about. 'Let’s just give them everything.' So we gave them Thanksgiving Dinner and a very specific feast.” Intriguing indeed.
And what does Green plan on doing after Pineapple Express undoubtedly takes theaters by storm this summer? The better question might be what doesn’t he plan on doing.
“I want to do a $100 million action movie, I want to do a horror movie, I want to do some weird medieval movie about a dwarf,” Green says.
I demand an explanation. “There’s a book called, The Dwarves, that I want to make with Peter Dinklage that’s pretty awesome that we developed, another challenging movie.” But there’s more. “I’m working in adaptation of a John Grisham book called The Innocent Man. It’s a nonfiction story about a guy in death row. Pretty awesome,” he adds.
Not to mention a “demolition derby action comedy” he co-wrote with Danny McBride (as a vehicle for McBride), and an adaptation of Brad Land’s frat memoir, Goat, that Green adapted and will produce for director Jeff Nichols once the financing comes together.
“Ultimately,” Green says, “we’re a bunch of nerds that like making movies and it’s fun, regardless of if you’re making something harsh and gothic and bleak or if you’re making something where people are singing and dancing in the streets.”
Snow Angels opens in limited release on Friday, March 7, 2008. Pineapple Express will take over theaters in August.