Ahead of it’s release this Friday, Shannon had the chance to speak with director Paul Solet about his latest film, the crime thriller BULLET HEAD. During their chat, they talked about everything from the inspiration for the film, working with some of the top actors in Hollywood, and is undeniable love for dogs.
Nightmarish Conjurngs: Hi Paul, thank you so much for speaking with me today. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your newest film, BULLET HEAD?
Paul Solet: On the surface, BULLET HEAD is a character driven, elevated crime thriller, with a lot of action. If you look under the hood, however, you will find a lot more stuff going on. On a more thematic level it’s a movie about the similarities between career criminals and a fighting dog and about conditioning and whether it’s ever too late to overcome your conditioning. It’s very much a love letter to animals.
Nightmarish Conjurings: How did the story come to be and did anything inspire you to want to write it?
PS: I’ve always been a huge animal lover since I was a little boy. I would ask dogs where they parked their cars because I would read Richard Scarry books with my parents and assume animals talked as well. I really, really care about dogs, in particular, so that was a very natural and organic thing to spring forth from. I’m really appalled by animal abuse and I find it to be one of the most repugnant, horrible things that we encounter because these animals can’t advocate for themselves necessarily. I think to turn animals against each other is really a damning thing which is one of the themes that this movie explores without getting into actual animal on animal violence; it’s one of the background ideas that’s in the movie. In terms of the crime element, a lot of the elements of those characters came from people from my own past who I grew up with and had made some decisions that took them to tough places. So those two things kind of merged together in a way that just felt right.
Nightmarish Conjurings: BULLET HEAD stars an all-star cast that includes Adrian Brody, John Malkovich, Rory Culkin and Antonio Banderas. When it came to casting did you already know you wanted these actors for their respective roles?
PS: You definitely know you want these actors for these roles, everyone wants these actors for these roles (laughs). They are the type of actors that if you want them for the roles you need to have a lot of contingency plans because it doesn’t always work out. All of them were really supportive of the script from the beginning and they worked extremely hard on this movie. They really were partners and they were as committed as you would hope in your wildest dreams and they really cared about this project. John (Malkovich) was attached to the film for two years and Adrian (Brody) has become a real partner to me throughout the making of this movie, same with Antonio (Banderas). As for Rory Culkin, his performance is really pretty incredible. He was really able to stand with those men which must have been a lot of pressure as a 28 year old actor working with three of his heroes.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Not only did you get to work with such legendary actors, but you also worked with some canine actors. What was that experience like, especially when it was indicated the amount of violence these dogs faced?
PS: I was very careful to not actually show any violence being done to animals. I think that’s very much not what this movie is, it is not an exploitation film, I don’t find cruelty to animals titillating, so that’s not there, that’s not what the story is. The nature of working with animals from a production standpoint takes a lot of time. The main challenge that we had was the limited prep time and it really is to the credit of the team of trainers who have been in the business for thirty years and have worked with every animal conceivable.
We did have a team of dogs to represent the main dog in the movie, whose name is DeNiro. The main face and principle hero dog is a dog named Han Solo who lives in Hungary and is owned by a wonderful man who also supplied one of the more athletic dogs in that team. In addition to them there is a dog named Curly who would do more of the charging, jumping, and teeth baring. I have just enough training myself to now understand just how much of an incredible thing it is that these guys do everyday. The cast really appreciated that and every one of those men is a serious animal lover. Antonio has millions of dogs, Adrian is a huge dog lover, and John and Rory are crazy for dogs. It was all we could do to not let the actors socialize with the dogs all the time because it would mess up the themes of the film. Adrian had a real bond with Han Solo, I mean he really did and they worked very closely together considering that Adrian does all his own stunts.
It was very important to me that everything was done safely and humanely. To the point where we really are taking the same care with our cast and our crew as we are with our animal cast. In fact, the animals are listed as cast in the credits.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but not least, are there any upcoming projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
PS: I can’t talk about all of the projects I’m working on but I can tell you about one which is a very unusual documentary hybrid called TRED that’s being produced by Glen Zipper and Sean Stewart, that we are shooting now. It’s about a crazy thing that happened in a beautiful small mountain town called Granby Colorado where a zoning dispute led a muffler mechanic to go on a destructive rampage with a tank that he had made and did about 10 million dollars in property damage to his neighbors.
BULLET HEAD arrives in theaters and On Demand December 8th. Also, Paul Solet and BULLET HEAD are working with two charities to help raise awareness for animal rescues and rehabilitation. For more information, and to find out how you can donate, please visit www.nybullycrew.org and www.marleymutts.org/pawsitive-change-prison-program.