James Gunn Exclusive Interview – Comic-Con 2008

     July 28, 2008

Written by Nico

James Gunn (Slither, Scooby Doo) was in San Diego to promote the upcoming new XBOX Live original comedy pilots from top horror directors including James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence), David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), Lucky McKee (May, The Woods), Andrew Douglas (The Amityville Horror) and Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th). His own project being Humanzee. James spent the interview with his tongue firmly in cheek so you can bet the comedies he pulls together from this diversely talented group will deliver. Look for the XBOX Live original content sometime this fall.

NICO FROM COLLIDER: Tell me about Humanzee.

JAMES GUNN: Humanzee is the story of myself and my mutant chimp hybrid son played by my brother Sean Gunn. We think that the humanzee is an atrocity and that he shouldn’t exist, he’s a complete abomination and this is sort of propaganda proving what a terrible, terrible, terrible creature the humanzee is. No, actually it’s fun little a sitcom. My friend Lucky McKee describes it as Sanford and Son meets The Elephant Man and I don’t think that’s so far off from what it is. Except there’s lots more girls in bikinis than in either Sanford and Son or The Elephant Man.

NFC: So that’s an improvement.

JG: Totally. Don’t you think The Elephant Man would’ve been cooler if there were a bunch of girls in bikinis there?

NFC: Yeah. Actually, I do. I know you’ve talked about this in your blog — what spurred the idea for you?

JG: The whole idea for the whole series. There’s two different things there’s the idea for the series which is – I’m Executive Producing a series of short films which is horror directors shooting comedy shorts. It gives everyone a chance to work outside of the box – do something different. That idea came from — I’m cheating, I’ve always done comedy, but I was talking to my friend Rob Zombie one day and I told him I was doing this Ben Stiller movie and he’s like, “Aw, I’d love to do something like that, but everyone thinks of my as a horror director but I would love to do comedy.” Then I talked to James Wan at the Wrong Turn 2 premiere that night and James Wan was like, “Oh, you know, I would love to do comedy but everybody thinks of me as a horror director.” When I met with XBOX a couple days later, XBOX came to me, they said, “We’re going to be doing original content for XBOX Live. That you’ll be able to download shorts in High Definition, watch them and it’ll be more like a network now. Do you have anything that you think you could do for us? Right away I came up with this idea of horror directors shooting comedy shorts and they went for it immediately. I started calling up some of my friends – James Wan, David Slade, Lucky McKee – to get them involved in doing other shorts. So that’s how that idea came about.

The Humanzee idea came about simply because my friend Stevie Blackheart whose about the most boring guy in the world, and he’s a know-it-all… a true know-it-all, I use him for research all of the time because he’s got a photographic memory and he’s constantly babbling on about some story or another whether it’s some old war or how an air conditioner works or whatever. Everybody, all of his friends just sort of tune him out because he’s very, very boring. Then one day he’s talking about Oliver the Humanzee, which is a creature back in the ’60s that people thought was a half human half chimp. He walked upright like a human; he was much smarter than a regular chimp. He had lighter colored skin and less hair and people thought he was the result of a person fucking a chimp in the forest. It ends up he wasn’t. Whatever, but Stevie telling this story about the Humanzee …everyone around is listening. If this story about Humanzee is interesting enough that people will listen to my boring friend Steve Blackheart then it’s gotta be very interesting. So I went out that night with my friends and we were kidding about having human chimp hybrid sons and how that would be fun to have them meet chicks and stuff like that and then somehow I wrote a blog about it. The MySpace bloggers went crazy over this Humanzee thing and that started posting photos of me as a human-chimp hybrid and they started posting photos of what my human-chimp hybrid son would look like because they knew I was excited about the possibility of having one so it just caught on. That’s really where Humanzee came from. Seeing how excited people were about this concept. How excited I was. That’s all it is.

NFC: Are you still doing stuff with demolition derbies?

JG: I’ve got to go to another demolition derby soon. I feel like I’ve been a little lax in my demolition derby fandom. I love demolition derbies. My – I feel weird calling them a fan club – but the James Gunn Appreciation Society this year actually sponsored a car at the demolition derby at the LA County Fair and our car won out of like a hundred and something cars which was one of the greatest moments in my life. It was. It was really great.

NFC: You wrote a part for your brother in this. You also wrote a part for him in The Specials

JG: Yes, and in Tromeo and Juliet.

NFC: And Tromeo and Juliet.

JG: Yeah.

NFC: Is there a bit of [nepotism] going on there?

JG: You know… he’s… He’s not very talented. My brother Sean. Because he’s not very talented, he’s chosen a profession that’s very difficult, which is being an actor. He can only end up on really shit shows like Gilmore Girls, which he was on for seven years – (James laughs) I’m kidding. Sort of. No, I’m kidding. He’s very untalented, so how else is he going to get work if I don’t put him in things that I do? That’s really the story of Sean being in Humanzee. The extra special thing about putting Sean in all of these things is I put him in Tromeo and Juliet where I made him shave his head with three little pony tails and crushed his head on a fire hydrant. On set his nose was broken and I made him continue acting for the rest of the day while his nose was broken because we didn’t get all of our shots yet. A Troma movie is much more important than my brother’s health. He played Alien Orphan in The Specials where he had to shave his head bald again and get covered in green paint everyday. He was miserable. In Humanzee he has to wear this damn makeup and he’s in agony. He’s in agony the whole time and that’s like an extra special benefit of creating Humanzee is to have my brother in pain because he is not a good person. Seeing him in agony is wonderful for me and I hope we create another twenty, thirty years of Humanzee episodes just so I can see my brother in pain that much more.

NFC: Could you talk a little about Pets?

JG: Pets is a movie that I’m doing with New Regency and Fox. I’m attached to write and direct. Ben Stiller is producing. It’s about a guy who gets abducted by aliens. He wakes up and he’s in a large glass cage on another planet and he realizes he’s in an exotic pet store. He’s bought by a little girl and taken home and put in her basically human habitrail where he becomes her pet. He meets other humans – who are like domesticated humans – who’ve been on this planet for… their grandparents and their grandparents before them were pets of these aliens. They have a much different way of looking at life. That’s the story basically. It’s a lot like Schindler’s List.

NFC: But with women in bikinis?

JG: No. There’s no women in bikinis in Pets.

NFC: And The Belcoo Experiment?

JG: The Belcoo Experiment is on hold right now. I like that script a whole lot. I set it up at Rogue Pictures. It’s just not the movie I feel like making right now. I’m focusing more on Humanzees. I think I owe the world something in terms of being socially aware. I think it’s been terrible what’s been happening with the environment and all the death in all these different parts of the world and the genocidal regimes. What better way to help the world than by creating a sitcom called Humanzee for XBOX– room breaks into laughter

NFC: You heard it here first. Humanitarian James Gunn.

JG: I couldn’t get through it. I totally balked. I was really close.

NFC: You tend to go towards the horror comedy. Do you think there’s a connection there because getting people to gasp in one direction or gasp in another –?

JG: What do you think is funny?

NFC: I think that’s debatable. I think what you think funny is and what you think scary is is totally debatable.

JG: Yeah. For me, I love being in an audience with people who are reacting. I have a real hard time if I’m in a movie that I made or anything that I’ve made and people aren’t reacting. If they’re just sitting there. I can’t imagine writing a drama because a lot of times people just sit there. But creating a horror movie or creating a comedy people are jumping or people are laughing or people are screaming. Being able to provoke that type of physical reaction – I’m a needy guy – so being able to provoke that type of physical reaction makes me feel as if I am worth something because I walk around day-to-day thinking I’ve got major problems. If I’m able to provoke a reaction from people then I feel like life is… if not worth living at least in that moment I forget about the hell of my life.

NFC: Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

JG: Finish what you start. Start something and finish it. Don’t worry about the quality of what the thing is going to be, just get it done. Then when you’re done with that, get the next thing done. People who do that, who are self-starters, who create a project, finish it, and then create something else and finish it, they get somewhere. You may not get to go where you think you’re going to go, but you get to go somewhere. I think that’s really it. People make things much, much more difficult than they need to be. The people who are successful in this business – many of whom are completely talentless – but they’re successful because they do it and that’s the most important thing. People are always writing me saying “how do I get an agent, how do I do this, how do I do that?” just keep fucking writing. I didn’t know how to do that stuff and I didn’t do a lot from Manchester, Missouri I didn’t know how to do anything I didn’t know anybody in the business. I think it’s just a matter of “just keep going” and also being open to whatever your calling is. I started doing music and then I was a novelist and somehow, I’d always loved movies, I always made movies, I’ve always done different things, but really getting into filmmaking and filmed entertainment was something that sort of happened. Being open for those opportunities for something really wonderful… maybe you’re focused on something else but there may be an opportunity there that’s really neat and, to not let those things go by, I think is important. That was all true. That was the first true stuff I said this whole time.

NFC: Nice. Who do you hate right now?

JG: Perry King? No, that’s getting boring; I’ve gone off on Perry King too much. Who do I hate? Wow, I didn’t expect that question. I do hate my brother Matt quite a bit. He’s worse than my brother Sean. Yeah…. I hate my brother Matt.

Latest News