Kim Morgan talks w/ Neil LaBute abt The Wicker Man & the greatness of Nicolas Cage & more.
KM: "Exactly. The Wicker Man is obviously this very extreme vision of a matriarchy and a vision someone like Aaron Eckhart from In the Company of Men or Jason Patric from Your Friends and Neighbors might think all women are like. Like, all the time, whether outwardly or buried down. It’s like man’s ultimate nightmare of female revenge…"
NL: "Yeah, that would be it. [Laughs] Landing on the shores of this island, and it actually existing. It was probably just the right place having heard – I don’t know how many years at that point, close to ten years – but hearing of [having] this kind of misogynistic or misanthropic view. And when they were looking to change the story – and I think we’ve talked about this before – but it wasn’t me going to anybody else and saying, “Hey, I’d love to remake The Wicker Man.” While I had always thought it was a movie kind of ripe for remake because I always loved it, [but] I didn’t think it was particularly well made. It was a blast to watch but it makes you giggle too, but then the ending. It was completely sobering. It was, “Oh fuck. They’re gonna kill this guy.” And in fact they do. And that’s when you stop laughing. And so the idea was very much the same here. So it was: What’s another version? We can’t exactly do the same religious idea here. I mean, not that you couldn’t, but we opted not to. So … I threw out this notion of this matriarchal society, and this sort of honeycomb of a plot, and they said, “Great.” And they thought, who better to create it. And so off I went. And I think a lot of things happened along the way that chipped away at making it even stronger. When you have too many people with too many different ideas, even [ideas about] the kind of genre you’re working in, that’s tricky. I’ve now learned how difficult it is to make people scared when the sun is shining. It makes me watch The Shining in much more awe. It’s really tough to do that. Night is often used in horror films and thrillers for a particular reason: what you can’t see frightens us. But you know, we were fully aware that this guy is running around in a fucking bear suit [laughs] and you know, the karate chop battles with women. We thought: this is going to make people giggle. They’re going to think this is funny, especially with Cage unleashed, doing his thing. But in the end, we’re gonna kill him. They’re going to actually string him up and burn that son of a bitch. And I hoped that the end result was the same. I don’t know that it ultimately was, but that was certainly the intent anyway."
KM: "Well, I think, that the picture falls more into the realm of emotional honesty rather than what people perceive as realism, whatever realism means, and it feels like this terrifying male fantasia. So even the parts that are humorous play real to me, because men are so often fearful of looking ridiculous and especially a cop! There’s also a kind of satirically extreme aspect of super politically correct feminism. Were you riffing on that?"
NL: "Oh, I think so. There was definitely an idea to make, not so much a cautionary tale, but to take this to its illogical conclusion, and have fun with it. Put this guy in this position, the position that the young woman usually finds herself in – running through some town of backwoodsman, and this guy who thinks he’s got the power of the police and the patriarchy and all of these things in his pocket. And then take those things away and put him on a bike [laughs] and he’s running around on the island in his little shirt and tie… We thought that there was a lot of stuff to mine that would be, at least a shift; something you’d never seen before. For me, that’s part of what this is – to not do what somebody else does, especially if you’re doing a remake. I’ve now done a remake of a film where they wanted almost like, a shot for shot remake, not that close but pretty damn close, when we did Death at a Funeral. Talk about feeling like someone for hire…. You know, you’re like a photographer at a wedding. It’s a very different animal to be given a kind of carte blanche to say, “Hey, let’s come up with some crazy stuff here.” And certainly [Nicolas] Cage was egging me on to do the same thing. I think he’s happy to do work that he hasn’t seen before. To do characters that are out there. That’s success to him, whether it’s lauded by people or laughed at by people. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen. It’s such a fine line, that kind of movie. I’m doing it on a daily basis with this vampire show I’m writing, and half the time you look at each other going, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever thought of. This is ridiculous.” And then they watch this and love it. And you throw a bucket of blood at it and they’re happy. It’s a really fine line between being really arch and serious and becoming a parody of yourself and you just have to walk that line and hope that you don’t. I mean, there are bits in this movie that people have famously, for ten years, made videos of: of him screeching out lines, or the bees … Does that make it hard to sleep at night? Not really. It’s interesting, some people love it some people hate it and I guess that means it’s something people keep thinking about."