Just back from shooting Piranha 3DD in Wilmington, North Carolina (the flick opens nationwide via Dimension this coming November 23), director John Gulager, who’s currently knee-deep in post-production, took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us regarding the shoot as well what fans can expect of his sequel to the 2010 Alexandre Aja-helmed Piranha 3D. Read on!
Following twenty-five days of wet and wild production with director of photography Alexandre Lehmann, the filmmaker (who directed from a script by long-time collaborators Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) said of his first foray into the world of 3D, “It does take longer to shoot (in that format), although the company still wants you to shoot it in the same amount of time (you would film a traditional movie), and there’s no running off and just getting shots because there is a train (of equipment) which follows you around. Everything 3D is pretty big and pretty heavy, and it’s all on a crane, bipod or slider, although we did have smaller underwater hand-held 3D rigs.”
Gulager, whose previous horror works include the decidedly punk rock in tone Feast films (which he approached with an effective run-and-gun aesthetic), expounded self-deprecatingly of the challenges he faced on the 3D production, “I did the least amount of work of anyone on set! Everyone was working so freaking hard that I just sort of walked around and went, ‘Action! Cut!’”
Dread questioned Gulager of the tone he intends for Piranha 3DD, given his and the screenwriters’ subversive sensibilities which are invariably the hallmark of his Feast franchise, to which he replied, “I think here we are making more of a pop movie than more of a completely insane monster film. We are kind of making a big drive-in movie. It’s different than Feast. I think it’s good to appeal to people other than those that are just into the horror genre. I don’t mean that as a cop-out. I just think that’s what it should be, this particular film, like the first one was – which was a pretty straight film. It was basically the story of a working mother, her kid, a pornographer and man-eating fish,” he laughed. “I was happy they went there with all of the gore and the blood. In this case the piranhas have already happened, and now it’s a year later so as far as that goes, it’s not a total surprise. There is a bit of a mystery element to the film, though. What we intended to do was to make a fun movie.”
As a fan of film and of the theater-going experience, Gulager hails from a place decidedly pre-internet, and thusly remained coy when queried on the horrific surprises Piranha 3DD is slated to deliver as well as some of the flick’s inspired stunt casting, some of which has already found its way online (actors Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Sheer, Katrina Bowden, Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Chris Zylka, David Koechner, Meagan Tandy, Paul James Jordan, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Hector Jimenez, Adrian Martinez and Clu Gulager make up the cast of Piranha 3DD with appearances by “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff and veteran actor turned reality star Gary Busey).
“In this kind of movie there’s a lot of stuff you shouldn’t really know before you see it,” Gulager mused of Piranha 3DD, “and I think it would be more fun for people if they didn’t actually know who was in the film (prior to seeing it) and things just happen, like someone opens a door and the audience has that ‘Oh my gosh!’ moment, but in these days of IMDB? For quite a while the names reported online and in periodicals as being in the film were incorrect. What was funny, though, was that some of them actually were (eventually) cast.”
In regard to the film’s effects as they pertained to the underwater sequences, “There’s a lot more practical stuff in this movie than the first,” allowed Gulager of the flick’s titular creatures and carnage, which were handled by Gary Tunnicliffe (the FX maven who paired with Gulager on the Feast films). “There’s a lot of underwater stuff, and Gary is a scuba diver (in actuality). A lot of the camera people and effects people (on the shoot) were, too, and that was kind of surprising to me, which was good. Although I didn’t do that, I just ran around in a bathing suit and got bit to shit by North Carolina bugs.”
Commenting on the challenges inherent to directing a cast and crew who were often submerged, “It was hard,” stated the director. “We had an underwater speaker that would allow me to talk to them a little bit, but it was tough. We had quite a few scuba safety guys in the water because everyone had varying degrees of ability to swim and to hold their breath, so some takes took a long time because they were dangerous to shoot. I grew up in California so I can swim pretty well, and I guess I took that for granted. Other people come from other parts of the country, where they may not have had a swimming pool in their backyards and aren’t as comfortable in the water, so that changed things also in shooting. But in the end they all look like they swam like dolphins!”
With film editors Devin C. Lussier and Martin Bernfeld currently working on an assembly cut of Piranha 3DD (a film produced by Mark Canton, Marc Toberoff and Joel Soisson, with executive producer Chako van Leeuwen and co-producers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg), Gulager said, “They are very good and very intuitive. They edited Drive Angry and My Bloody Valentine 3D so they are familiar with the format.”
As for whether or not Piranha actor Gary Busey (whose wild exploits on the reality series “Celebrity Rehab” and “Celebrity Apprentice” have become the stuff of legend, or at least gossip-blog fodder) exuded any similar tendencies during the production of Piranha 3DD, you’ll unfortunately have to wait, although this writer guarantees an interesting article in the near future as well as more exclusives from Piranha 3DD.
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