For his directorial debut Nick Tomnay has done something remarkable: He manages to breathe new life into the dark comedy thriller subgenre of cinema with his efforts in the upcoming film The Perfect Host, which stars David Hyde Pierce as Warwick Wilson, the demented sociopath who loves nothing more in life but to host the perfect dinner party.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to speak with Tomnay to discuss the project, how his original short film evolved into a feature almost ten years later and why he loves exploring the extreme side of human nature.
For those who may need to be brought up-to-speed, The Perfect Host (review here) centers around John (Clayne Crawford), a criminal on the run after a bank robbery who finagles his way into the home of the seemingly hospitable Warwick (David Hyde Pierce) while trying to evade the police who are hot on his trail. However, just when you think John has the upper hand in the situation, the tables get turned in a truly unexpected way, and soon a fiendish game of cat and mouse is afoot as both men try to survive against each other.
Tomnay explained where the initial concept for The Perfect Host came from and how the project took on a life of its own once he started putting the initial script together back in 2001.
“The idea for The Perfect Host came from a true anecdote I had heard once from a friend who ran into an escaped criminal from Australia that was in a similar situation to John (the career criminal played by Crawford) in the film,” said Tomnay. “That story was a good starting off point for me, and then I started working on the script soon after hearing it. There was an evolution that happened before the feature film version that’s coming out soon. I did the script for The Host (Tomnay’s original short film) the first time around, and then when it was time to do the feature, everything kept evolving even more from there, and just when I thought I had nailed down the story, something else would come to me, and it would change again. That’s why there is so much time between the short and the feature- I wanted to make sure I got everything right.”
When it came time to put The Perfect Host together, Tomnay explained how casting the two leads would be the key to the success of the film. “When you have a movie like this, where most of it takes place in one location, you have to make sure you get the right people for the roles or the story will just fall apart. I think part of what makes our casting of both David and Clayne so interesting is that when you look at these two guys separately, you would never imagine putting them both alone in a room and make almost an entire movie about them. But then when you get them together, there is this undeniable chemistry between them, and how they play off of each other is so engaging.”
“I created the roles of John and Warwick to represent the two sides of America — you know, the red part and the blue part — and I wanted to explore what would happen if you got those two sides one-on-one alone in a room and see how they’d react when put in some very extreme circumstances,” added Tomnay.
The writer/director discussed how frenetic his production schedule was on The Perfect Host and how the preparation time he had with his leads beforehand was integral to pulling off their ambitious shooting schedule.
“Both Clayne and David were incredibly committed to their roles,” explained Tomnay. “We only had 17 days to shoot the entire movie so there wasn’t a lot of time for mistakes. I was very lucky that both actors always showed up prepared, and I don’t think either one of them ever had an ‘off’ scene the entire shoot. We planned everything very extensively, too- for four days the three of us locked ourselves inside a rehearsal space just to really get the chemistry cooking between the two leads. I found that being prepared really helped make the shoot go a lot smoother than I was expecting.”
Being a storyteller, Tomnay talked about what kinds of stories speak to him as a moviegoer and why he enjoys taking people’s perceptions and completely twisting them over and over again in his movies. “I like to dabble in the extreme side of storytelling because I think that’s what speaks to me as a movie watcher. Those are the kinds of movies I like to watch, and that’s what I tried to do with the story in The Perfect Host- to give you a look into the world of someone as extreme as Warwick and hopefully shed light on what makes him tick. My intention was by the end of the movie that you realize the hero has become the villain and the villain has become the hero. You think John’s a bad guy and that Warwick is this very open and generous man, but I take those perceptions and turn them on their ear by the time the third act begins, and then you’re not quite sure who you’re rooting for by the end.”
Now with The Perfect Host set to hit limited theaters this Friday, July 1st (the movie is already available on VOD), we asked Tomnay if he has any future plans for Warwick and if he’s given any thought to a sequel.
“I’ve been living with Warwick for about ten years now so I’m ready to move forward,” explained Tomnay. “It’s been an incredibly long process up to this point, but I will say that being able to write a character like Warwick and see him come to life like this is pure joy. But I have a lot more ideas for other movies I’d like to make so I can’t see myself making a sequel to The Perfect Host.”
“What I am working on right now is a thriller that is far more conventional than this movie was, but it’s also a lot more visceral, too. I can’t say much more because it’s still in the developmental process, but I am excited to see what happens with it,” added Tomnay.
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