DANIEL ISN’T REAL, arguably one of the most colorful (in more ways than one) horror films to descend its way onto 2019, will finally be available to watch in select theaters and VOD this Friday after months of warranted festival buzz. DANIEL ISN’T REAL is a SpectreVision film (Mandy, Color Out of Space) and tells the narrative of a young man named Luke (Miles Robbins) who brings back his troublesome imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) from his childhood to help him cope after various traumatic experiences. Recently, we (along with our friends in What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie podcast) had the chance to speak with director Adam Egypt Mortimer and his cowriter Brian DeLeeuw, whose book ‘In This Way I Was Saved’ was the basis for the film. We had a blast listening to the pair analyze their film, hint at a possible sequel, and discuss their favorite horror films. Join us for Part 2 of this SPOILER-filled conversation.
Nightmarish Conjurings: The film is just as much about toxic masculinity as it is about mental illness and trauma. Could this story have worked with a female protagonist?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Yeah, we’ve talked about wanting to do a sequel where Daniel would take the form of a woman and takes over a woman. I’d love to see what that would be…
Brian DeLeeuw: If he’s done this for thousands of years, it’s happened: he’s definitely done both of those things [meaning he has taken over both] genders.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: He’s not necessarily a “he.” “He” is an entity that we’re calling Daniel.
Brian DeLeeuw: “He” has attached himself to both men and women. But I think this particular story would be very different, but in a certain cosmic sense of it, you could definitely do it.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Yeah, the character could exist that way. And we haven’t thought about it, because we haven’t written the story. But it would be really interesting to see what that would mean –
Brian DeLeeuw: And what insecurities “he” would play on. It would be a whole different strategy for him.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: I would love to do that.
WYFSM: Going off that, I definitely felt that masculinity aspect – growing up and feeling seen, feeling those things. But, I did feel like people from the post-screening Q&A kind of glossed over Cassie [played by Sasha Lane] a bit. I felt a lot of familiarity between her and Daniel – like when he showed up, she knew exactly what she was looking at, and so I wonder how that might play into that idea.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Well, I think she is the most emotionally-involved character in the movie. Everybody else is really struggling, and Daniel is kind of insane, and the mother has problems, and Luke has problems. And I think Cassie is way more in touch with herself and who she is. Even then, Sophie [played by Hannah Marks], who is the other girl, has created a little bit more of a performance. I think Cassie’s thing is absolute authenticity to who she is and what’s she trying to say. And that gives her a strength that nobody else in the movie has.
WYFSM: And she’s an artist, and I was struck when Daniel told Luke, “You can’t create art. You can’t take your photos without me.” And it seems like maybe Cassie’s found some sort of balance.
Brian DeLeeuw: Yeah, I mean, she’s got that kind of wildness…She’s breaking bottles. She’s breaking into when they go trespassing and all that, but she’s always connecting with people and has empathy for people. So it’s sort of like the excitement that Daniel brings, but without the malevolence.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Yeah, those are the two qualities – empathy and authenticity – and Daniel lacks both of those.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What is the ultimate goal that you want people to walk away from this feeling like or thinking about? What do you hope lingers with the audience?
Brian DeLeeuw: I guess deep unease? I don’t know.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Every time we show the movie, someone will say, “I had an experience just like this, and I’ve never seen it portrayed as authentically as in this movie.” And that’s always the most meaningful comment. I think that’s amazing. Some people watch this movie and they’re like, “It becomes supernatural, so what are you really saying?” But I think people who really had an experience like this understand that when you’re making a movie [about] it, progressing it into something that feels supernatural is what it actually feels like. It feels like something bigger and more incomprehensible than a diagnosis. And it feels like something that is mythological. So, I think communicating that the feeling of these kinds of emotions can be bigger than we imagine is an important aspect to take away.
WYFSM: What’s your favorite scary movie?
Brian DeLeeuw: It’s The Shining for me.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Mine is Martyrs. When I saw that movie, it totally blew my mind, and I felt like it was so meaningful –
Brian DeLeeuw: He made me watch that movie.
WYFSM: Made you? He gave you the gift.
Brian DeLeeuw: (laughs) No, it’s amazing. It’s great. It’s like an experience.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: I warn people – I don’t tell everybody to watch it. Certain people watch it and sometimes I’ll be like, “Watch the first half.” But the third time I saw it, I realized it’s a really empathetic, beautiful movie. It’s a love story but in the language of the most horrific horror.
Brian DeLeeuw: I’m glad you said that as I watched it, otherwise… (laughs).
DANIEL ISN’T REAL will be released in theaters, On Digital, and On-Demand on December 6. For more, check out our spoiler-free review of the film here. To pre-order the film on iTunes, click here.* To read Part 1 of our interview with Adam Egypt Mortimer and Brian DeLeeuw, click here.