Considered to be one of the grossest movies of 2017, Curt had the chance to speak with director Peter Vack about his much talked about film, ASSHOLES, and what brought on the idea to make a film such as this.
Nightmarish Conjurings: ASSHOLES is one hell of a wild ride and holds the honor of being the grossest film I've ever seen. I've got to ask, what brought on the idea?
Peter Vack: I am still trying to figure out the best/most appropriate way to answer the question since I don't feel as though I can trace the idea to a single origin. I started writing the script as an exercise from a place of self hatred, wrote the first act, and then abandoned the project for years until I picked it back up again in another state of frustration when I was having trouble getting a "bigger" and slightly more "conventional" film made. Sometimes, in life and in writing, I become obsessed, to the point of mania, with an inappropriate joke. This script is very much in line with that part of my personality. Also, I grew up around a lot of fear of addiction so in a way this movie is like my mother's worst nightmare of what would/could happen to her kids if they liked smoked weed once or were secretly depraved perverts. It's her worst nightmare about impulse control rendered as conventional comedy. Those last two sentences are the most honest I have ever been about this movie.
NC: This is one of my favorite movies of the year, honestly. It's so unlike anything I've ever seen that I was every bit as happy while watching as I was repulsed. There's no doubt, though, that it will divide audiences. As the filmmaker, did it ever cross your mind that you were making a movie that would likely receive an equal amount of love and hate?
PV: Yes, I was worried about how people would feel about my directing my sister Betsey in the graphic scenes. But, I wasn't prepared for the reaction to the film, no. This may sound like a line, or like I am being flippant, but I didn't know the movie would be seen as this much of a provocation. I thought I was making a comedy that was also a love story. I didn't and still don't think that it is a "gross" movie. I think it is a movie about being vulnerable. We all become diseased and covered in shit, regressed idiots, especially and unfortunately, in our most intimate relationships. This is one of the main dilemmas in my life and I believe it is something that many struggle with.
NC: If my sweet grandmother were still alive and I had to briefly explain ASSHOLES to her without a trace of vulgarity, what would you suggest for me to say?
PV: I would tell your grandmother that ASSHOLES is a love story that she should never ever watch. I am lucky in a way that, at the time of this film's release, all of my grandparents are no longer with us. Seeing this film would have disturbed them in ways I can't even imagine and I am glad they didn't have to live their final years dealing with what could have been very uncomfortable feelings about me.
NC: I cant imagine working with family members on a film like this, but you worked with your sister, but you worked with your sister AND your parents. Is that right? Was that a bizarre scenario to be in, or did everyone have fun being part of the project?
PV: Working with my family was a dream. We are very close, yes, and we had so much fun making this movie. My parents love to act and even though they were at first deeply unsettled by the subject matter, once I described to them how I was going to treat the material and that the desired effect was comedic, they were on board. I did find it hard to direct Betsey in the graphic scenes but I developed a technique where if I squint my eyes while looking at the director's monitor, all of the more incriminating details are blurry, but I can still get the general sense of what is going on. That being said, it was still hard to watch her do certain activities that I would have rather never watched her do. But, also Betsey and I are lucky that we have managed to find a sibling relationship that doesn't include a lot of that usual squeamishness around talking about sex or adult life. Oh well, we do suffer a little for our art.
NC: The scariest thing I've seen in my life was the face of the demon in THE EXORCIST. What was it like to work with veteran actress Eileen Dietz on such a crazy film?
PV: Eileen is the sweetest person and such a pro. I am so lucky she is in the film. She is the best and most famous Demon in the world. No one could have nailed the archetype the way that she did.
NC: I can't wait to see what comes next in your career. Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to plug?
PV: I just finished the first draft of a novel that may never see the light of day. If it does, I will let you know. All my future film projects are too embryonic to talk about. But don't worry I will be subjecting the world to more of my bullshit soon.
ASSHOLES is in select theaters in New York City and will arrive in theaters in LA October 13th and on Cable + Digital VOD on October 24th.