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Exclusive: Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer Talk Drive Angry

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If you happened to miss Drive Angry 3D when it hit theaters this past February, now you’ll have an opportunity to right that wrong as the explosive flick is finally hitting DVD and Blu-ray shelves on Tuesday, May 31st.

In anticipation of its home release, Dread Central recently caught up with the two masterminds behind all of Drive Angry 3D’s mayhem – writer Todd Farmer as well as director and co-writer Patrick Lussier – to talk about assembling one of the most entertaining but eclectic casts in recent memory, the state of 3D filmmaking and whether or not they have plans for a Drive Angry sequel.

Farmer, who also previously collaborated with Lussier on the 2009 remake My Bloody Valentine 3D, discussed where the inspiration behind stemmed from and how the story evolved from the beginning. “The basic idea we had when we first started writing Drive Angry was a guy who escaped from prison on a mission. Then we started to toy with the idea that he could escape from hell, which is another kind of prison, even though we never come out and say it in the movie. As we started putting the pieces together, though, we knew we wanted to take the idea just a step further than just Milton escaping from an ordinary prison, and I think that him coming from another realm really worked in Drive Angry.”

Lussier went on to discuss the supernatural elements of Drive Angry (Blu-ray / DVD review here) and how Farmer fleshed out the story so that fans would be getting more than just insane action sequences.

“We knew we wanted to incorporate the car movies from the 70s we have always loved in Drive Angry 3D, but we wanted there to be something more going on, too, so that’s why there’s this supernatural element that can’t be explained by conventional means in the movie as well,” explained Lussier. “Todd and I also recognized that the characters all have an extreme nature to them so we had to make sure we balanced that out well so even though they were all motivated by villainous motives, you still wanted to root for them too.”

“Even though Drive Angry is very much about the action, we still had to have an emotional core at the center of the movie, and that was what Todd really excelled at bringing into the mix. Instead of Hell just being a ‘fire and brimstone’ kind of place, we wanted it to be an emotional experience too. So instead it just being a guy with horns, it’s more about you having to watch everyone you ever loved or cared about going through horrible things that you can’t do anything about. That was the true torment for Milton and that’s why he had to break out,” Lussier added.

Love it or hate it, the one thing everyone can agree on is that Drive Angry 3D was by far the most balls-out widely released film of 2011. Farmer explained that even though the story in the film definitely goes way past the line, the studio behind his and Lussier’s vision never asked the pair to tone down any of the extreme violence in the film. Farmer said, “We weren’t really given any restrictions on the story or what we wanted to do with Drive Angry. We told Millennium Films what we wanted to do, and they said, ‘Go ahead and just don’t go over budget’ so we really got to make the movie we would want to see as fans of genre movies. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone, but I’m okay with that.”

When it came time to start assembling the cast of Drive Angry 3D in late 2009, Lussier explained how producer Michael De Luca was pivotal in securing Nicolas Cage in the lead role of Milton.

“When Todd and I first originally wrote the script, we showed it to Michael De Luca first. He’s worked with Nic before and told us that we had to approach him for this role because it really fit well with the kind of roles he’s passionate about as an actor. And of course both Todd and I were fans of his so we took a chance and sent him the script. He absolutely loved it when he read it and told us it was by far one of the most outrageous things he ever read but he totally dug how outrageous it was. I’ve heard him say he approached the role of Milton as ‘The Terminator Meets Edgar Allan Poe’ and I think that’s very fitting.”

Exclusive Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer Talk Drive Angry

Apparently The Terminator didn’t only hold influence over Cage’s performance in Drive Angry 3D – it also had some influence on Farmer’s approach to writing the role of Piper, the strong but sexy sidekick to Milton throughout the film played by Amber Heard.

“My biggest influence when writing Piper’s character was James Cameron and the strong female roles he’s written over the years in movies like The Terminator or Aliens,” explained Farmer. “I’ve always loved seeing empowered women roles in cinema so I wanted Piper to be that kind of role too. Amber was definitely the key to casting because she had to be able to hold her own against a cast of all very strong men, but her character had to keep the story moving forward too. If she wasn’t able to pull it off, the movie would have sunk. I personally think Amber did an amazing job because she definitely kicked a lot of ass in Drive Angry.”

When it came time to find the right actor for the role of The Accountant, which had to have the right blend of comedic timing with deadpan delivery, Lussier remembered character actor William Fichtner from an audition some ten years ago. “I’ve always been a fan of Fichtner’s. He actually came in and read for me for Dracula 2000 for the role that went to Omar Epps. What’s funny is that when he came in to audition, he actually really wanted to play Dracula, which I think would have been pretty awesome – I mean, Gerard was fantastic in that role, but I always imagine an alternate-reality version of Dracula 2000 with William as Dracula. But in Drive Angry, he just nailed his performance for The Accountant perfectly. It was just how we imagined it when we wrote it, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing that role with the kind of cadence William brought to the table.”

And even if it seemed like all the stars were aligned for Drive Angry 3D to be a successful action flick, anyone who follows box office numbers knows that the movie definitely under-performed. Farmer, who is conscientious that the audacious nature of the movie may have had some influence on moviegoers, discussed how the mishandling of 3D filmmaking by the studios over the last few years is partially responsible for the weak performance by Drive Angry 3D during its theatrical run.

”When Patrick and I first did My Bloody Valentine, there wasn’t a glut of 3D movies like there are these days,” said Farmer. ”In fact, we were the first modern live-action 3D movie, and I still think we did a great job on that movie. We had always written Drive Angry to be made in 3D because we wanted to create something fans had never seen in the 3D format – an insane car movie that offered a lot of the spectacle we love seeing in the 3D format. We were definitely ahead of the curve because after we released MBV, suddenly there was this onslaught of post-converted 3D movies, which I think has ruined the 3D experience for audiences, and I think that’s why a lot of 3D movies are under-performing now.”

”You have to think of movies like rides at an amusement park – you don’t always want to go on roller coasters when you are riding all the different rides so there is no reason for the studios to make everything in 3D. Not every story needs to be told in that format. Plus, I really don’t think that theaters should charge more for 3D presentations because that is also ruining the business. People just don’t want to pay more, and I don’t blame them really,” added Farmer.

Even though both Lussier and Farmer are busy working on various upcoming genre projects including Halloween III and Hellraiser, we asked Farmer if he had given any thought to another Drive Angry movie down the road.

Farmer said, “Milton’s story is definitely not finished, and we definitely do have a sequel for Drive Angry already mapped out. It’s just hard to know if a sequel will ever happen because of how the movie did theatrically. It’s all up to the DVD and Blu-ray release now and what kind of numbers we do, unfortunately. But I know we all had a blast making Drive Angry, and I don’t think any of us would change a thing about what we did with the movie.

Special thanks to both Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier for taking the time to speak with Dread Central.

Exclusive Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer Talk Drive Angry

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