“I can’t tell you anything. We should talk on Good Friday. I think it would be better if we talked on Good Friday,” Piranha 3DD director John Gulager teased us tonight on the phone as we chatted with him regarding the status of the flick, which is set to go before cameras this Monday, April 25.
As it turned out, however, Gulager (who previously helmed the gonzo and gory Feast trilogy) was simply playing coy, and he indeed did speak with us regarding the flick, which is set for a November 23, 2011 release via Dimension Films and was penned by Feast, Saw IV-VII and The Collection scribes Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (with a polish by Joel Soisson).
“I don’t know what to say,” Gulager laughed. “I can tell you that I told Joe Dante I was directing the sequel, and you know, he directed the first Piranha (in 1978), and he said, ’Good luck.’”
Of pre-production, which is currently being carried out in Wilmington, North Carolina, “It’s pretty wild and pretty insane,” the filmmaker offered. “We are just worrying about weather and stuff like that because it was pretty cold up until just a week ago, and we are dealing with lakes and water. We have more night scenes than in the original (referring to 2010’s Alexandre Aja-directed redux). The first one was so ‘daytime’ so we put more night stuff in this one, but it’s been cold so I’m kind of hoping it’s going to warm up. We just had some tornadoes just south of us, and there have been some wild lightning storms…”, he paused, then chuckled, “but we should really be doing this interview on Good Friday!”
“Okay, so this is funny,” Gulager offered as the conversation continued. “So the director of photography, Alex (Andre) Lehmann, who shot Feast with me and stuff like that, we took this small 3D camera to the hotel pool where we are staying to do tests, and we weren’t really supposed to do this, but I put a mouthful of red food dye in my mouth to see what it would do in the pool. It wasn’t actually the FX mixture for blood because Gary (Tunnicliffe, who’s providing the practical FX for Piranha 3DD) isn’t here until Friday, and he’s bringing all the blood and stuff then. So we went underwater, and Alex shot me releasing the food dye out of my mouth, and when we got out of the pool, it kind of made this big purple area in the water. Like some pools have this chlorine that when you pee in the pool it turns purple around you, and it totally looked like that, and all of these guests were looking at us like we just peed in the pool!”
Further watery hijinks ensued.
“Alex’s fiancée, who is an actress, was visiting,” continued Gulager, “so we also shot her in a bikini, and the hotel guests thought we were weird because I’m yelling directions at her from across the pool like, ‘OK, now do a bunny-hop! Now jump! Now jump up and down! Now jump into the pool!’ Some father kind of got up and went out the gate to complain to management so we took off. So that’s what we did today. Right now, though, I’m just here on my own, the lonely man, except with a bunch of naked women soon to be running all over the place being eaten by fish.”
Dread asked Gulager what precipitated the production’s relocation to Wilmington, NC, from Shreveport, Louisiana, the latter where initial location scouting took place.
“There’s a certain location that’s part of the story (a water park allegedly called Wilderness Waters!) that we could not find in Louisiana, and a lot of it is also because of what’s going to be in Piranha 3DD,” Gulager explained. “At first people are like, ‘Oh, it’ll be fun if you shoot here!’, but at some point they need to read the script and then they see what is going to be shot, and you know it may be a little raunchy or rough or gory, and then they aren’t really down for that, and you know, I’m kind of banned from a certain town in Louisiana, and I don’t think I’m really welcome back there” (this in reference to rankled denizens of Shreveport and its environs following the director’s filming of the brazen nudity in Feast 2 and 3).
“So we did find a location here in Wilmington, and we are shooting in real 3D,” continued Gulager. “I have to say that I’m not against conversions, but we are shooting in real 3D, and I’m pretty excited! We are doing a big camera test tomorrow with all of the big cameras, and we’ll see where we go from there. It’s funny because a lot of people that I’ve talked to sort of learn on the job so I guess that’s what we are going to do because neither Alex or I have shot a 3D film before so we are just going for it.”
As for the underwater filming required of Piranha 3DD, Gulager said, “It’s maybe not that different than shooting The Creature from the Black Lagoon because we actually are doing a lot of physical stuff. Obviously there are places where we are going to use digital effects, and I thought the fish in the first movie were pretty cool, but we are doing a lot of practical effects (in this one). It’s all a mystery that will unravel before us, like any film really. It’s a matter of finding the things that work and finding solutions.”
When questioned as to the shooting schedule, Gulager remained coy on the amount of days allotted for Piranha 3DD principal photography.
“People make so many judgments,” he stated, in this case a tangential. “My pet peeve recently is that people report on additional footage like it’s a bad thing. It’s totally a good thing! During editing you always find stuff that you’d like to have. You read articles, though, and they are like, ‘Uh-oh, they need to shoot additional footage,’ like something’s gone wrong with the production. I mean, if anyone can get additional shooting days, god bless ‘em.”
Case in point, the additional shooting days Dimension granted Gulager during the first Feast film, which were carried out in Aqua Dulce, California, months after production wrapped.
“If we hadn’t shot that, we would have been up shit’s creek,” mused Gulager. “First off, there would have been no explosion so we were able to shoot that (during additional photography), and we shot the little monster with Diane (Goldner) and a lot of good stuff. Never call them re-shoots though. Call it ‘additional photography’ because re-shoots infer that you did something wrong.”
As for whether Gulager’s veteran actor father and genre favorite Clu Gulager, who appeared in his son’s Feast trilogy, will have a turn in Piranha 3DD, “I don’t know,” laughed the director. “Ask me on Good Friday!”
I will, John. Count on it.
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