The Tripper Writer / Director David Arquette Interviewed
by Alex Billington
April 23, 2007
The Scream series star and movie geek himself, David Arquette gave us a call just last week to talk about his latest endeavor, The Tripper. The film is both written and directed by David, a first time gig for him, and is an old school slasher flick about a crazed guy who wears a Ronald Reagan mask and goes on a killing spree during a hippie music festival up in a redwood forest.
Is it worth seeing? I saw it in Los Angeles opening weekend and I must say it certainly was. This interview itself is worth reading both as an insight into David's interests and filmmaking process for an independent film, as well as all about The Tripper and its conception. Enjoy the read and catch The Tripper if it's playing near you!
For a list of theaters that The Tripper is playing in, head over to SlashFilm.
Alex (FS.net): We actually saw you at your panel at Comic-Con last year and was wondering if you ever found that tape you lost?
David Arquette: I did find the tape, I actually played it at Comic-Con New York. To about 12 people.
Alex: So what was your inspiration for getting behind the camera and directing for the first time, and were you nervous at all directing?
David: Yea, I was nervous, but I've always wanted to just sort of tell stories and get into different aspects of filmmaking and the entertainment industry. So I came up with this idea a while ago, I was at an outdoor music festival sitting by the river all wasted with my friends under the stars, surrounded by dark, creepy redwood trees and I thought, 'wow it'd be crazy if a killer came out of these woods and started hacking up all these hippies.'
So after that I started putting the pieces together in my head. And Reagan was president, and governor while I was growing up in California and I remember for the first time I saw homeless people everywhere and that was due to cuts in mental health that he did. And I wanted to make a commentary about that somehow, I didn't know how or why or where. Then after that, I saw a Reagan mask at one point and then that's where it all kind of clicked and came together. I was like 'oh, wait a second.' It reminded me of… William Shatner's mask that they used to be Michael Myers, so from there on it all kind of came together and I wrote it. I worked with a guy named Joe Harris. I wrote the first draft and then he came on and I rewrote it and got it a little more structured and we added some political satire and it came together.
Alex: Were there other movies that were inspirations for this or other horror movies that you took to it when you went to go film as well?
David: Well just working on the Scream films and watching Wes Craven do what he does was an amazing experience. I remember seeing Wes and seeing him watch Scream, and just the lighting and the audience's response just made him like a kid in a candy store, giggling as they're laughing and then they jump out of their seats. It was really fun, fun to watch and fun to be a part of. And so I wanted to do that as well. Also though, I mean I love The Shining and the original Halloween, Texas Chain Saw Massacre. All of them, I just remember seeing them in theaters, they were also inspirational in wanting to do it. Also, horror films are supposedly easier to get financed, so that was another idea in making my first film a horror film so you can get it made.
Alex: It seems like you just went out and shot it without a major studio backing you, and obviously it must've been troublesome to get financing to even go do that, was it tough to go make a film that way?
David: Yea it was, essentially we self-financed it, my wife and I. And we have somebody who's helping us distribute it. But yea, studios, they didn't get the film from the start and you know, we're just trying to keep it going. We had offers by some people to do it, but there's always hooks; they can take the film away from you at some point if you go over budget. These little things that kind of made it impossible to do. I don't know, at the end of the day I was just like 'fuck it, I'm going to do it myself.'
Alex: Well it sounds like that was the way to go.
David: Yea, well I mean I'm so grateful we had the luxury to do something like that. But you know, it's still risky, the movie has to do well to really… make it make sense. But just accomplishing stuff, just getting stuff done it's really hard in this business. So to do something with an original voice and not sort of to play the game quite so much is a real luxury.
Alex: You sort of mentioned this before, but a lot of horror films in today's time really reflect the time that they were made in, mostly politically with the undertones of the film. Did you really want to do that with the satirical elements that are in The Tripper? Did you want to connect them with today's politics or did you want to connect them with the politics of when you first thought of this story?
David: No, I definitely wanted it to come out while [George W.] Bush was still in office and while… where our world is right now it seems pretty relevant. There's a little commentary on war, to me war is the ultimate act of violence. And just being a country that's engaged in one right now is pretty intense of a situation. I totally support our troops and the men and women that are fighting for our country and allowing me the freedom to be able make a movie, but I don't believe in this president and their administration and the reason why we're there, I think they lied to us. I wanted to make a correlation with that and Vietnam and politics and the effects of policies on the world around us. But at the end of the day, it's really just a psychedelic slasher movie with the political satire going on. A lot of humor in it and what not, it's not really that deep.
David Arquette on the set of The Tripper.
Alex: I have to say it's obvious why you are releasing it on 4/20, so are you hoping this becomes that special DVD that your buddy pulls out when your hanging out one hazy evening in his dorm or do you hope this becomes the next mainstream horror hit?
David: Obviously you want to get it to as many people as possible, so I'd love for it to be a huge hit, but I also want it to stick around for a long time and have people want to learn more about it and, sort of, laugh it. Ultimately it's having fun with the genre and going back to a style of slasher movie that they're not making a lot of nowadays. I wanted to have fun with it.
Alex: I haven't seen it yet, but I'm really hoping I can show it to friends and be like 'this is the movie you want to watch when you're stoned.'
David: Yea, it's definitely a party movie. It has… just Paul Reubens performance, and my brother Richmond Arquette's performance, and Thomas Jane, and Jaime King. There's just a lot of trippy, crazy, funny stuff that is real because it's kind of stuff I experienced, but they never write about it, they never do films about it, they never talk about it. So I wanted to show a side of the world that you've never really seen in this light in a horror movie.
Alex: As you just mentioned, a lot of the actors aren't really well known, but they're friends of yours. How did you go about finding that perfect cast and were they all really enthusiastic to work on it when you showed them the script?
David: Oh they were really… they were all doing me favors. I pulled in all my favors on this one. I first showed the script to Thomas Jane, he's got a company called Raw Entertainment with Steve Niles, who's a big comic book writer. And they have a first look deal at Lionsgate, and they dug it, they liked it, they got it immediately, Thomas wanted to play the lead cop and help me produce it. So that was a huge thing.
It was a process, after that I went to Paul Reubens, and Lukas Haas, and Balthazar Getty another friend of mine, Brad Hunt, and just got them to get on board. And once that happened, it became so much more of a realistic possibility. And just started filling in the cast and eventually it just didn't stop, just kept doing it.
Alex: Do you see yourself jumping back into another directing role again in the future, whether it's horror or something else?
David: Yea definitely, I'm writing something right now with a friend of mine, and I plan on directing that. It's more of a Braveheart type of world, where there's still violence, but it's a great story and hopefully people will dig it.
Alex: Is it a horror move or?
David: No, more in the tone of a Braveheart.
Alex: Ok, so like sword and sandals kind of epic?
David: Yea, epic battles, yea that sort of film…
Alex: Sounds like it should be a good time!
David: Well we already wrote it- we wrote this swirling axe shot, but actually when 300 came out they did the shot that we wrote. Which was a little discouraging, but then also one thing that can happen is that it always tells you you're on the right track, you know.
Thanks to David Arquette for taking the time to provide us this opportunity to chat with him. Make sure you catch The Tripper in theaters now!
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