||The Spinning Image (TSI): Switchblade Romance features some extremely violent imagery. Did you have problems with film censors?
Aleaxandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur (AA/GL): No not at all, our producer Luc Besson said from the very beginning that we could do what we want, which was great. In the US they kept the film in its original state and so it was releases with an NC-17 certificate. In the UK we did not have to make any cuts either which was a big surprise as we are used to seeing UK versions of films on VHS and DVD with numerous cuts.
TSI: What are some of the characters and films that have scared and influenced you as a director/writer?
AA/GL: The witch of Snow White (laughs)! The Shining, all of Stephen King adaptations, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Maniac, Halloween, Friday 13th, all of the Elm Street’s. When we had this classic storyline in mind; 2 girls in a house, a killer, one night, we were thinking that is good way to make a tribute to all of these movies which influenced us so much as we grew up.
TSI: How did Philippe Nahon become cast in the ‘killer’ role? After his performance in ‘Irreversible’, it was a pleasant surprise to see him in another gritty, brutal role.
AA/GL: He is one of only a few actors who could play this killer without a face. You don’t see much of the killer until towards the end of the film; until then you only get glimpses of his boots scraping the floor as he walks, you hear him breathing, you see his hulking shoulders…. We wanted to portray the character as an ogre of sorts and Philip was is ideal in playing this role and he is very expressive and scary. He isn’t actually as tall as he looks however; both of the female stars of the film are very tall so we had to employ some tricks to give the viewer the impression that he was this giant of a man. When we offered him the role, Philippe was at first adamant that he did not want to portray another villain as he had done in Irreversible, but we soon managed to convince him to reprise his role just one more time. As an actor, you don’t know how the film will look on completion so it was excellent for him to have a great deal of trust in our abilities.
TSI: Gianetto De Rossi has worked on some of the most famous Italian horror films ever produced. When he was hired to provide make-up for Switchblade Romance, were you aware of his background?
AA/GL: We knew from the beginning that, even in a very low-budget film, we needed nothing but the best person to provide us with necessary special effects. To simply have some ketchup would destroy all of the tension that we have tried to build – this would be a terrible mistake. So, we asked around and we knew Gianetto and the incredible work that he has done. Our line producer was Italian and he was able to introduce us to him. After speaking with Gianetto, he accepted our invitation to work on the film and in fact he came to the set alone, without any crew or assistants. I think it was a very exciting for him to do this little film. He is a great guy, very creative. Even if you have a question about something which is not special effect-related, he is so in love with the genre that he would always suggest an solution.
TSI: How much involvement did Luc Besson have in the film?
AA/GL: When we initially took the script to him, he liked it very much. After we worked a bit on the script together, he agreed that his film company Europa would fund the film. People say he his very overwhelming producer, a tough producer. But at the end of the day, we were totally free to do what we wanted. When we showed him the final film, he was very impressed. What more could I ask for?
TSI: There's been word that you'll be directing a remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. Can you tell us anything about that project?
AA/GL: We are right now finishing the writing with Wes Craven (laughs). That is huge to say that! We are planning to start filming at the beginning of next year. Because it is a project we are writing, it means we don’t have to discuss at all who is going to have control over the final cut. It is French law that if you are the author then you have the final say in what the finished article will look like. In the US it is obviously very different. So by writing the script, it ensures that you will maintain control over the film from principal photography right through to the editing suite. I think The Hills Have Eyes will be great; it will be nasty, savage and very scary. For the film, I think we can just improve on what we tried in Switchblade Romance. Wes is a very sweet man, just great as he instantly makes you feel very comfortable. We first met Wes to talk about Switchblade Romance and then now we are working on a remake of one of his best known films. And it is much more than a simple remake; it’s a very good survival film.
TSI: This film challenges traditional perceptions of men and women (especially women) in horror films. Did the fact that your main lead was a woman allow you a greater scope compared to if it was male?
AA/GL: Alien, The Terminator, Silence Of The Lambs; these all have a female as the main protagonist. When the star of the film is a female, it’s much more interesting. It means you can play with all the typical cliques associated with this. You have the clique of a shy girl…..
TSI: The film opened the Dead by Dawn festival to great critical acclaim. Did you ever think the film would receive such a great reaction?
AA/GL: We did not believe it would have such an impact. French critics liked the film but at this time the life of the movie for us was finished. And now it has just grown from this. For us it was a tribute to all the films we liked very much; a way to say we like the genre, that we like to make this kind of film so lets see what we can do, nothing more. And now, to see all these reviews and to hear all these people discussing the film, in the press and on net is great, it is huge. We are very happy.
TSI: Was changing the films name from Haute Tension to Switchblade Romance something you had a say in?
AA/GL: After we finished the film, the next step was to find a suitable title that would work in foreign territories. After some thought, we came across Switchblade Romance and instantly felt very happy with it. When Lions Gate bought the film, they were very quick to inquire as to who came up with the name, saying that it felt out of place. Optimum Releasing however felt that the title suited the film wonderfully…which was nice!
We now speak to star of the film, Cecile De France
TSI: How did you get your role in Switchblade Romance?
Cecile De France (CDF): I met Gregory and Alex in a café, we discussed the film and the role they were keen to offer me. I was very quickly interested; I took the script home and read it like a very good book. It gave me a real thrill; it genuinely scared me but I devoured it!
TSI: How was the shoot?
CDF: Mentally it was not hard at all because I was so excited to work on the film, to see all of the workings of the special effects and make up which were provide by Giannetto de Rossi.
For me I was very excited. But physically, it was very hard. All of the exterior scenes were filmed in the middle of the night and I was barefoot. All of the crew bar Maiwenn and I were wrapped up in warm jackets and I was just in my vest! As well as this, the imitation blood is very sticky so you cannot put a blanket or anything over you between scenes as this would create more work for Gianetto. But I was prepared because I did 2 months of physical training before filming began. I wasn’t used to such exertions so I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of muscle. I did this for 2 reasons; Alexandre knew the conditions would be hard because it was a low-budget film. He was also aware that we would be asked to do a number of scenes which involved us running around so he wanted me to build up my stamina. He also wanted me to look thinner and my face more angular so to hint at the darker side of Marie’s mind. I am always keen to do whatever is required by my director to ensure that I bring all I can to whatever role I am playing.
TSI: Which was your favourite scene in the film?
CDF: My worst scene was the masturbation scene (laughs); it was very hard as it was so personal! I was completely alone with a big crew just standing around. My favourite scene was the climax of my character in the greenhouse. I don’t wasn’t to spoil the film so I cannot tell you the details of what happens…you will just have to watch the film!
TSI: Did U watch many horror films when you were young?
CDF: When I was young I didn’t like horror films. But as soon as Alexandre offered me the role, he asked me to watch The Hitcher, Duel, The Shining, Silence of The Lambs, Aliens, Rosemary’s Baby.
TSI: Did you get on well with Maïwenn?
CDF: Very well. We were in the same boat so we gave each other as much support as possible. She was in pajamas, often soaked to the skin in blood. The harsh conditions brought us together. Sometimes we'd say we'd give anything just to be home in the warmth. I honestly think our characters gel really well. Alex, Greg and I went to see her on stage in her one-woman show and we all said immediately that it was like finding the missing piece of a jigsaw.
TSI: What was your reaction on seeing Gianetto’s effects?
I was so impressed when I first saw the kind of things he could create. I spent a great deal of the time in his trailer, asking questions about how he created such gruesome and realistic effects. It’s wonderful to see how impressive his works look on the big screen, especially the decapitation scene! I was transfixed when Gianetto was preparing the scene; even Philip Nahon was somewhat nervous as he didn’t want to make a single mistake! I was like a little girl who had just discovered what was happening behind the mirror. Gainetto is quite clearly a master of his work as well as being a terrific character and great fun to be around.
TSI: Marie your character is a dualistic character. At times tragic, at other times brutal. Was that a challenge for you?
CDF: For an actress to play someone who appears so fragile and gradually reveals her true self is a dream! She is a bit of tom-boy, in the shadows at first. She seems vulnerable. When evil arrives however, she tackles it head on. She is suddenly unbreakable and incredibly strong and it is interesting to see her determination and inner strength. It sounds obvious maybe but I much prefer to act in a roll that requires me to challenge myself than something that I can just breeze through.
Switchblade Romance is released by Optimum Releasing in cinemas on Friday September 24th