JOE LYNCH INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Richelle Charkot
Writer, director and genre-oholic Joe Lynch sat down with us to chat about his new film, Everly, starring Salma Hayek. Everly is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Richelle Charkot: Something I really enjoy about your work is that your voice as a filmmaker is really palpable – tell me, when you're making a movie, what's the most important thing to get across to your viewers? How do you want people to feel when they finish a Joe Lynch movie?
Joe Lynch: I think that every filmmaker thinks about that when they're making and promoting a movie. With Everly in particular I wanted people to get the same feeling that I would get when I was younger, going to the New Beverly or the Film Forum in New York, or a film festival, or when you go to a video store and find something that sounds so out there and odd, but unique. I feel like most movies lately have been belled down in terms of what people are expecting, because you see trailers and you're shoved marketing material and you kind of know what the movie is when you're going into it. Some of the films that inspired this movie and me have been movies that always throw a curveball, or maybe are a little edgy or dark or disturbing. This movie you can have fun, it might be dark fun and not your cup of tea, because its a strong, dark cup of tea. I like to entertain above all else, I just want people to turn to their friends and say, "Holy crap!" during some of the more out-there scenes.
RC: I'm always fascinated when I see child actors who really hit it out of the park, which is what Aisha Ayamah did in Everly. What was it like to work with an actress that young and how did you handle explaining some of the dark and frightening scenes that she was in?
JL: Aisha was someone that we found in London, I love working with all kinds, but there's something about working with kids because they haven't been sullied by the process. We needed to find someone who looked like Salma Hayek, so that the door doesn't open and you go, 'that definitely isn't Salma's kid.' The thing was that Aisha's mom looks exactly like Salma, so it was perfect. A lot of kids who came out we had to do audition in London, a few couldn't do the accent quite right, but this was one of those perfect Hollywood stories where she's never acted before and her grandma brought her in and put her on tape and she was spectacular. She felt very natural she wasn't trying too hard and that was so refreshing and I thought she was great. I had this feeling like when your gut is telling you something and you have to just go for it. The casting agent said she's never acted before, and I was like, 'I don't care, as long as she feels comfortable and protected,' and having worked with kids before, I was really excited about it. In terms of protecting her, we wanted to make sure it was just like how Everly protects Maisey, so that I'm not hit with a hefty psychologist bill in the future. Thankfully, on the first day everyone fell in love with her. Immediately we all became protective of her, any time we knew she was on set, we told the first A.D. to please give us a heads up because there was often blood and corpses everywhere, and we'd need the extra time to make sure she would feel safe when she came to the set. It was funny, one day Aisha was coming on set, and there were corpses just everywhere, and we were like "She's coming!" and all these people rose from the dead and ran off so that she wouldn't be frightened when she came.
RC: Tell me about the inspiration for the Everly character.
JL: It kind of comes from a movie standpoint, but also real life. The movie standpoint is that I've always had the biggest crush on Sigourney Weaver in Alien, I love Ripley. That was for me the first alpha-female that I grew up and respected; not to say I didn't before, but I watched a lot of slasher movies where the gender roles in those movies were always skewed with some damsel in distress, maybe with some fleeting moments of heroism, but it had to be the guy overall. I remember seeing Aliens in the movie theatre and she was so powerful, and it wasn't a gimmick like, "here's a twist for you!" This is a character where it does not matter whether she's male or female, and in Aliens, the maternal instinct that she had for Newt really shook me up. Then in real life it was a combination of my mom who raised three boys in a Long Island home and watching her hold he own was shocking in a great way. When we all eventually moved out and she was done with the housewife thing, she became a court officer; she had a gun in a tupperware box! I love the message that it instilled in me. Same thing with my wife; always very strong willed. She's gone through a lot and the fact that she can still take care of me and my two sons and so inspiring. Between those three women, that's where I saw Everly going, then Salma took her own perspective with the phoenix rising out of the ashes.
RC: Tell me about one of your earliest memories with expressing yourself visually.
JL: Ever since I started loving movies since two or three, I immediately wanted to jump in and get my feet wet with making stuff. My dad had a video camera and my brothers and I would screw around in the backyard and shoot stuff, but I never knew how to edit. We'd recreate scenes from Dawn of the Dead, Lethal Weapon and Star Wars; stuff like that. I remember figuring out how to dub between two VHS tapes and that was how I figured out how to edit. So, I would do a mashup of music videos between movies and songs because growing up I would always listen to music and keep thinking, "That would be good in a movie!" Like, what if there was some awesome moment in a movie and you hit the right beat to something like "You Spin Me Right 'round"? When I figured out how to put music to other footage, I would take these to parties and I would go in and be like, "I made this video and I want to show everybody," and most of the time people would be like "Eeeeennnnhh," but the few people that sat down and watched them...to watch them react if I hit a particular beat right and they'd laugh or nod, the feeling that I got was so insane. This is something that I created with and it made people laugh, it made someone go "Cool!" That was amazing. It was the first taste of the drug, for sure.
RC: Something I always enjoy in movies is when there's an emotional juxtaposition between scene and song, "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet always comes to mind immediately – which was why I really enjoyed the use of Christmas music in Everly. What are some of your favourite cases of songs being forever changed due to iconic movie scenes?
JL: Oh man, there's so many and I can't remember any of them right now. One of the ones that changed my life and is a go-to for many people is "Stuck in the Middle with You" in Reservoir Dogs, of course. The way he was cutting to the beat, it shook me. I couldn't believe that that could work, you can take a pop song and really change it forever. No one can hear Stealers Wheel ever again without thinking of that scene. With Christmas music I'll never be able to hear "Let it Snow" without thinking about Die Hard. Or in Nightmare on Elm Street 2, that song "Well I Do", that sweet loveable little song, it plays in a very dastardly way, I'll never hear that song without getting the creeps, I can't help it. Another that really shook me was Mick Garrison's The Stand the mini series, they used Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" in the opening of the movie. I don't think of the 'more cowbell' thing when I hear that song, I think about that virus, I think about Stephen King and how that permeates, it is a perfect Stephen King moment. I'm a life long fan of his, and my bucket list is to do one of this stories. When I would read his books as a kid and how sometimes he'd start chapters off with lyrics, I would seek out these snogs because I wanted to know why was he conveying some Bob Dylan song in some particular passage. Music has always been integral about what I love about movies, when you find that perfect needle drop.
RC: From your perspective as a storyteller, why do you enjoy making genre movies?
JL: Genre movies to me are caffeinated cinema. By that I mean I love drama and comedy, which is I guess a genre in and of itself, but when you're talking about horror and sci-fi, when you're seeking out a movie for what what you want to watch one night, when you're thinking about all the marks that you want to hit – be scared or be moved or whatever – it's easier to categorize what you want out of a movie. Westerns make me feel good, horror movies scare me; it's easier to figure out what you want to see by using that genre.
Growing up I loved watching people react to movies. Like Misery, I saw it ten times; first time I was so blown away, its not necessarily a horror movie, more of a drama with notes of horror, but when you have that moment when she hobbles James Caan, I jumped out of my seat ten feet. And then would go back to watch the movie again and sit at the front so that I could turn around and watch people react. That was a movie that made me go because I wanted to. When the director gets to work with the writer and have their hand in every department, when I was in that theatre and saw how many times people screamed laughed cheered, I would think to myself, "Whoever is orchestrating all of this, thats what I want to do."
A lot of the films that always interested me were genre films like Star Wars and Lethal Weapon. They have more fun with character and drama and circumstance without having to worry about if its real enough. Sometimes there can be more drama if it's in a heightened context. More metaphorical and parable, more fun by doing that and allowing the audience to think, "What would I do in those shoes?" What is it like being Admiral Kirk when you deal with the death of a friend? With something like Brian's Song, you're faced with death in a very real sense, sometimes people don't want to go that deep. But if you're in Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan and escape this planet, but still have the real emotions, it's fantastic. For me, genre is the ultimate sugar high. You get to do a lot of real cool things and see in real life space ships and serial killers, and all in a way to instill real drama. Star Trek 2 had no right to get the tears that it did; its making me emotional just thinking about it. Genre is a much more fun wheelhouse to work in. Of course it depends on the story; if something comes along the line that's very real and gritty, I'll tell it how I want to tell it. But there's something about genre and playing in that world. It's like you get to have your cake and eat it too. I can have spaceships and samurai swords, but I can have drama too.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Joe Lynch for stopping by and chatting with us. Make sure to catch Everly by clicking one of the links below!
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