I’ll be the first to admit that I have daddy issues. This has since been exacerbated after the death of my father and only got worse when I realized that those we love the most are capable of harboring the worst secrets. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about daddy issues and it’s because of the new film COME TO DADDY from acclaimed producer Ant Timpson. If I thought I had issues with my father it is nothing compared to what Norval finds out in this wacky, heartwarming, and violent film starring Elijah Wood in the role of Norval.
Prior to the film’s World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with both Ant and Elijah about this unique film. Both being veterans of the horror genre, with Ant producing such films as The Greasy Strangler, The Field Guide to Evil, and Turbo Kid and Elijah co-founding the production company SpectreVision which focuses mainly on horror films, I was excited to hear what they had to say about their newest collaboration. During our chat, we discussed everything from how the loss of a parent inspired the film, to how they came up with the millennial characteristics of Norval.
Thank you both so much for speaking with me today, I really loved COME TO DADDY! To start things off, could you talk a little bit about your directorial debut and the process from going from producer to director?
Ant Timpson: I started off making films when I was young so it was always something that I wanted to do, I just had a slight hiatus for a few decades (laughs) and ended up living the film dream through other careers. I suddenly got to a point with the death of my father which sort of kicked me in the ass and made me think I should get behind the director’s chair again.
I’m not sure if you know the weird background of the film but I ended up spending a week with my father’s body in the house, as sort of a grieving period. Through that experience, it was very cathartic but also sort of surreal. These questions came up of did I really know him and what was his background because there were people that paid respects to him throughout the week that I never met. They had this whole sort of young history that I really didn’t know because dad was such a stoic, quiet gentleman.
I started ruminating on an idea about father’s and son’s and wrote to [Toby Harvard] the co-writer of The Greasy Strangler because I had been discussing how it would be great to make a project work. I sent a skeleton structure of the idea and asked what he felt about collaborating on this and he was totally into it. He went away and came back really quickly with the guts of the whole thing and then we took off from there.
The transition from producing to directing was pretty fluid, actually. It was just when I got to Day 1 on set that it all became very real (laughs). I thoroughly loved being on the other side of the fence throughout the entire process, especially all the major stages, but really where you sort of come to fall in love with the project is in the theatre, really, when you see it all come together. So yeah, the whole thing has been a dream for me.
Elijah, what was it about this project that got you interested in wanting to be involved?
Elijah Wood: I’ve known Ant for a number of years and we worked together producing The Greasy Strangler. I was already endeared to anything that Ant would want to bring up as far as a project that we could work on together. Then I read the script and fell in love with it because you never know where it is going as it’s constantly subverting your expectations of what is going to happen next. It also was so tightly woven and the things that would be set up at the beginning would pay off later. It was just this taut, really incredible, also emotional, kind of genre exercise that constantly surprised me. It also had me laughing and it shocked me and I loved the character. The character [Norval] that you meet allows for these preconceived ideas as to who he is. Slightly pretentious, a little bit of a douche bag –
Ant Timpson: Slightly? (laughs)
Elijah Wood: (laughs) – and the kind of journey that he goes through where he’s really tested and challenged in ways that most people will never be. I was excited about what we could do with that as well.
Speaking of Norval, he definitely came across as a prototypical millennial with the rose-gold, limited edition cell-phone from Lorde. Was there anything you used as inspiration in bringing him to life? Did you and Ant both come up with the look and attitude of Norval?
Elijah Wood: Totally. A lot of it was a collaboration. The very first email that I got from Ant in regards to the project with the script included a picture of Skrillex and he said, “This is what Norval will look like.” That was kind of the jumping off point in regards to his look and we just kind of built on it. Once I actually got to Vancouver and we were working with our incredible hair and makeup team and our wardrobe department, we kind of just worked together to find some sort of happy medium of a caricature that also you could believe exists in the real world. Finding that balance so when you first see him you’re like holy fuck, he’s kind of alien, he’s clearly a fish out of water, who the fuck is this guy? But it’s not so “other” that it’s difficult to believe that he exists in the real world, so it was about finding that balance. He has this moustache and weird bowl cut and all of those things were all choices that we kind of made together and it was so much fun to figure him out (laughs). Once it all kind of came together right before the camera test we were like, “Holy fuck, there he is – this is Norval.” (laughs).
One of my favorite parts of the film was the location and the house that Norval’s dad lives in, though it seemed kind of remote. What were some of the challenges you faced in bringing this story to life?
Ant Timpson: It looks remote which is the idea that I felt it needed to be, this kind of “end of the earth” vibe, but it was near a town called Tofino. It’s a cool sort of skate beach town on Vancouver Island. It is a little bit of hassle to get there and it’s away from the mainlands, but that kind of really works in your favor when you have a really good team. It’s like summer camp, you’re all in one location and we basically lived there for a month and during pre-production as well. It worked in our favor but obviously, you can’t move on a dime when things shift so we were quite lucky that we didn’t have massive weather problems, which usually plagues places like that. This is a place that we were at in the summer and it was still having fog rolling in. Originally the film was going to be shot in winter so it was going to be really rugged –
Elijah Wood: And gloomy –
Ant Timpson: It was that type of imagery that we were kind of working with. Then it was kind of nice to have the juxtaposition of a very bright and sunny and poppy. It felt like it was too on the nose if you went down that path of everything being completely set up for the audience for the expectations, so it was nice to have this breezy opening that you don’t really know where we are going to go.
Elijah Wood: That house was such a find. More than half of the film was there at that location. It was home base and it was such a joy to work in that environment because it had all of these characteristics that were true to itself that we just used and accentuated for the movie. It was a dream.
Last but not least, if you could tell the audience one thing to get them to go see COME TO DADDY, what would it be?
Ant Timpson: I was going to come up with the type of person that would really love this film and I kept thinking of this image of when you are watching someone in a mall and you see them walk into a glass door and smash into it and you are laughing because it’s funny, but then they step away and their nose is bleeding and you still laugh even though you know you are not supposed to, that’s kind of like what this movie is.
Elijah Wood: Wow, I love that. I don’t know if I have anything to add to that (laughs).
COME TO DADDY had its World Premiere last night at the Tribeca Film Festival but will have additional screenings on Friday, April 26th at 8:45pm, Saturday, April 27th at 9:15pm, and Friday, May 3 at 9:45pm. For more information visit www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/come-to-daddy-2019.