Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with writer/director Mike P. Nelson about his latest film, THE DOMESTICS, which blends horror elements and relationship issues during a post-apocalyptic backdrop. During our chat, we discussed everything from how his marriage was the basis of the inspiration for the film to showcasing strong female characters who find their strength in times of turmoil.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Mike, thank you so much for taking time out to speak with me today. For those who may not be familiar with your latest film THE DOMESTICS, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Mike P. Nelson: THE DOMESTICS is really a film about a married couple who are on the run. Basically, the world ended while they were trying to get a divorce and they have stuck together for survival. Over the course of the movie, which is mainly a crazy, brutal, road trip, they begin to realize how much they do still love each other, while violent gangs chase them.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What inspired you to write this story and why use a post-apocalyptic backdrop as the setting?
MPN: It’s interesting because when I started writing the script I wanted to write a movie about how hard marriage is. At the time, I had been married for three years, and I’m still married to the same lady, so I feel very fortunate, but at the time it was three years in and I was realizing that being married can be a challenge. It’s hard work and I knew I had to get something on the page and write about what I was seeing. I didn’t want to write just a drama, I didn’t want to write a Kramer vs. Kramer-esque kind of thing, even though I love that movie, I wanted to do something violent and post-apocalyptic that incorporated a relationship. I wanted to put this couple in this crazy relationship in the middle of all these insane, scary moments in this post-apocalyptic world while they’re also going through their relationship struggles. That’s what literally set the standard for me making the movie and then, later on, I kind of just crafted it from there.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Was it hard to balance the storyline of this struggling relationship with all of the horrors that were unfolding all around them?
MPN: It was actually a lot of fun because, for me, it was taking some of my life experiences over those three years of being married and putting these characters into situations that could showcase this sort of relationship and their struggles. Then it was adding in those scary, violent aspects that actually, strangely, bring them together and show that they need each other. It was like they had this sort of weird distance between them but when the bad guys show up, Mark (Tyler Hoechlin) is protecting Nina (Kate Bosworth) and doing whatever it takes to make sure she’s okay. There’s a moment when they are captured by a group of gamblers where Nina really realizes that she needs to stand up and take charge and fight for her family, for her husband and that she does have this fight in her that she never thought she did throughout the movie. For me, it was always about what balances out or what negates the sort of fighting and the arguing that they did in their relationship struggles with that sort of action or violence and how that propels them to be back in love again.
Nightmarish Conjurings: THE DOMESTICS is filled with great performances from Kate Bosworth and Tyler Hoechlin as well as Lance Reddick and David Dastmalchian, who I am a huge fan of….
MPN: [David Dastmalchian] is destined for greatness. I just want him to have a role that’s all his that he can just kill…
Nightmarish Conjurings: I couldn’t agree more!! What was the casting process like and did you have an idea of who you wanted in certain roles?
MPN: It’s tough because there’s the initial temptation to write for an actor or actress and that’s dangerous because that actor or actress usually doesn’t come through (laughs). I sort of speckled the characters with names in order to keep faces in my mind – like maybe this actress could be that or this person could do this. I had some actresses in my brain such as Alison Brie, Rachel Brosnahan, Emily VanCamp, and obviously, Kate Bosworth, so there were a handful of names that I was playing with while I was writing. I had made a short film, sort of a concept that I did that helped me get the movie, and the actress in that, her name is Jaime Page, I fought really hard for as well. So, there was a range of people in my head that helped me craft the character and get a sense of who I wanted and what kind of flavor that was.
Nightmarish Conjurings: One thing that I really loved about the film was that there was a lot of strong female characters, which you briefly touched up earlier, specifically that of Kate Bosworth’s character, Nina. You get to watch as she grows into her strengths throughout the duration of the film. Was it important for you to highlight strong women as opposed to it all just being men who saved the day?
MPN: Here’s the deal, with me, I’m really interested in telling stories of people growing. I wanted to tell a story where there’s a character like Nina who doesn’t feel like she belongs in this world and then eventually realizes she can belong in this world and she does have that fight in her. It almost resembles a sort of Sarah Connor (The Terminator) approach where Nina is just this ordinary woman who gets thrown into these extreme circumstances and realizes she needs to do something, she needs to fight. I love those kinds of stories where the character makes that realization, where she’s not born with it but realizes that she does have something inside of her that can help her survive, or help her do this. That was super important to me going into this.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but certainly not least, outside of THE DOMESTICS, do you have any additional projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
MPN: Basically I’m just doing some pitching and writing of my own. I’m working on a project right that we are hoping to begin shooting in the next few months but I don’t have the full-on green light to say what it is yet. But I can tell you this, it’s another cool horror project that I think people will be excited about!
THE DOMESTICS is now in select U.S. theaters as well as On Demand.