INTERVIEW Matthew Parkhill
Ask any successful musician what the most difficult album is to make and most will tell you it’s the second one. The same can be said for directors, which is why many experience a lengthy hiatus between their first and second features. Even by those standards, eight years is a long time, just ask Matthew Parkhill.
In 2003, Matthew released psychological thriller Dot The I to a strong critical reaction and relative box office success; since then, he has been very, very quiet. Until now, with the release of his second feature, the Puerto Rican co-production, The Caller. The supernatural chiller boasts stars of America’s top two vampire franchises, Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre and True Blood’s Stephen Moyer.
Following her divorce, Mary (Rachelle Lefevre) moves into a new apartment and is keen to get on with the rest of her life, including building a budding new relationship with the charismatic John Guidi (Stephen Moyer). When she begins to receive phone calls from a mysterious woman, she at first dismisses them for a confused caller, but as the calls continue, the lonely Mary eventually begins to strike up an unlikely friendship with the woman, whom she discovers is called Rose.
However, as the calls become more regular, Mary becomes disturbed by Rose’s claims that she is calling from Mary’s own past. As her sense of being haunted escalates, an alarmed Mary tries to cut off all contact, but Rose makes it frighteningly clear that she does not like to be ignored. With Rose threatening a terrible revenge, the two become embroiled in a petrifying game of cat and mouse that traverses time through Mary’s past and present.
With his second and no doubt biggest film set for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 24th October 2011 (scroll down to the base of this interview for your chance to win a copy), which plays on the dark and atmospheric Puerto Rico locations, subtitledonline.com brings our readers an interview with director Matthew Parkhill which took place at the Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this year, where The Caller received its UK premiere…
The Caller is your second feature, but the first that you did not write. What attracted you to the script?
I got sent it by these two producers I’d worked with. They’d seen my first film and they got sent the call up as potential investors. They said, “Go and speak to Matthew, and if he’s interested then we’re interested in investing.” I get sent a fair amount of genre scripts, and this is the first one where I thought, “Wow, this is smart!” I really enjoyed it; I didn’t know what was coming.
I’m not a straight genre guy, but I liked the psychological element of it. I remember really, clearly sitting in my study reading the script and my mind was racing away. I also felt, from a director’s point of view, there was a lot of stuff for actors to get their teeth into.
It’s interesting you mention teeth given the film’s star. How did Rachelle LeFevre and Stephen Moyer become involved?
Luck! I found out that Moyer was interested and I knew him from True Blood. I’d heard he was interested in the role of the ex husband, and I thought straight away, it would be more interesting if he played the boyfriend. When I first spoke to him, he said, “I’m more interested in playing the role of the boyfriend.” and I said it’s funny you should say that!
The luck factor was that Rachelle stepped in for Brittany Murphy. It all happened very last minute. We were shooting when we had to replace Brittany. Rachelle read the script at 9 o’clock at night, got a plane at 2am, arrived the next afternoon, and was shooting that night. The chemistry between Rachelle and Stephen was really strong – they look great together, they work great together… I swear to God, we didn’t know that was coming – they’d never met! We inherited all these vampire fans, and it looks now like very clever casting. I should shut up and say it was all down to me, but it was just fortune.
What were they like to work with?
They’re both very smart actors – they really think about what they’re doing. Moyer would be very much on it. Rachelle, especially on the more emotional stuff, would take a few takes to get into her zone, so it’s quite interesting watching them work together. But, from my point of view, it was a real pleasure. I always think half the challenge of directing is getting the best out of people, and you can only do that by encouraging them to stretch themselves.
Given that this is your first horror film, what influences do you feel inspired the look and feel of The Caller?
I had three very specific influences for this movie personally. The first was Let The Right One In. I remember when I first saw that movie, I loved it. It was so beautiful – the poise of it, the stillness of it… These are words you don’t often associate with a genre movie. The second influence was Repulsion, which is a 1965 Roman Polanski movie with Catherine Deneuve. It’s all about Deneuve’s character going crazy in her apartment, so, obviously, there’s a certain similarity in terms of shooting a lot of material in the one place, within four walls. The other one was The Grudge, both the American version and the original. It had a great tone and atmosphere – and confidence.
I always remember Polanksi talking about – when he was shooting Rosemary’s Baby – there being a fear in the atmosphere, and that was something that I felt in those movies, and something I was very conscious of.
You began your writing career as a novelist. Did you always intend to go into film and TV?
Not at all, but only because I didn’t know you could. My parents were teachers; I grew up in a small town in Essex and I didn’t know filmmakers – I didn’t know people worked in TV or in music. I went to see Star Wars when I was about 9 and I was amazed – it blew me away – but I didn’t know people wrote the script, I didn’t know how it worked… Had I known, I think I would have wanted to get into it a lot earlier than I did – I found my calling quite late.
Let The Right One In. So beautiful – the poise of it, the stillness of it…
I wrote a novel, which got published, and it got offered to a film company and they wanted me to write the screenplay. Initially, I was like, “Why do you want me to write the screenplay? Why don’t you hire someone who knows what they’re doing?” I nearly talked myself out of a job. But they wanted me to do it because the book was based on personal experience, so they encouraged me to read what I needed to, and go to whatever courses I needed to go on.
Can we expect to see another Matthew Parkhill film soon, or will there be another lengthy gap?
I hope not. I’ll shoot myself! There were various reasons for the gap. I heard an amazing statistic, something like 4% of first time directors go on to make a second film. For me, it was different. My first movie went to Sundance and it did really well and sold really well. Financially, it did okay, and Summit got their money back. I then made what I consider a mistake – I didn’t get on to the next project. What I realise now is that you have a window, but I thought, “If they like me now, they’ll like me when I’ve found the next thing I want to do.” It was a long gap, but I’m not going to make that mistake again. My only aim is making a movie that’s good enough to allow me to do the next one. I’d be very happy if for the next twenty or twenty-five years I could just do that.
If you want to find out if The Caller is good enough, we have 3 copies to giveaway courtesy of Universal Pictures.
To enter, email: firstname.lastname@example.org – please include a unique reason why you would like to win this prize for your entry to be considered.
Remember, you must include your full name, date of birth and address with your answer for your entry to be counted (we can’t send your prize otherwise!), and if you are entering more than one competition, please send as separate emails with your details contained in each (each email should have the competition title as the subject).
The closing date for this competition is 10th November 2011.
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