It has been almost forty years now since writer/director Robin Hardy first mystified audiences with his uber-eccentric cult classic The Wicker Man, and now the UK filmmaker is back with his companion tale, the darkly comedic The Wicker Tree.
Starring newcomers Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett as well Graham McTavish and Christopher Lee, The Wicker Tree is centered around two young missionaries who travel to a small village in Scotland where they hope to spread the gospel of Jesus; unaware of any sinister plans, the pair get caught in the middle of a ritual which will force them both to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in the end.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Hardy about his follow-up efforts on The Wicker Tree as well as why this latest film isn’t really a sequel and why his third film in the Wicker trilogy may end up being the most epic story of them all.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Hardy below, and make sure to check out The Wicker Tree once it hits DVD and Blu-ray shelves everywhere tomorrow, April 24th, courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Dread Central: It’s been quite some time since the original The Wicker Man was released; how long had you known that you wanted to make a follow-up to that film?
Robin Hardy: Well, this isn’t really a sequel; more of a companion piece I believe. Do you see this as a sequel?
Dread Central: I saw it as an exploration of this world but not really as a sequel at all, especially because of the tonal differences.
Robin Hardy: Definitely; I would say it’s sort of like my homage to the genre that we created in The Wicker Man. As a storyteller, I wanted to have another go to see if it still worked and if it would work for audiences in the same way it did for the first one. In that sense, The Wicker Tree is a sort of spiritual brother to The Wicker Man but not a sequel.
To be quite honest, I think of The Wicker Tree more like a black comedy and not like a horror film; I keep on encouraging the distributors to say that so that fans will understand what they’re in for. It’s better when fans are prepared, and I think it is important that people know what they are getting into in advance.
Dread Central: Well, I’d like to believe that anyone who had seen the original Wicker Man movie would be prepared for the unexpected going into this one.
Robin Hardy: You know, one of my favorite quotes from Christopher Lee about the original book is where he says something like, “It’s erotic, comic, romantic and horrific enough to strain the bowels…” and I think that sums that up perfectly. I don’t have quite the same kind of quote for this story, but it’s just as unique I believe.
Dread Central: Speaking of Christopher Lee, how great was it reuniting with your The Wicker Man star? I understand he was supposed to have a larger role but couldn’t because of health concerns.
Robin Hardy: Yes. He was originally going to play the role of Morrison that Graham (McTavish) now plays, but he had an accident in Mexico while working on a film and was too badly injured to do the role. But I wanted him in the film, and he wanted to be in the film so I wrote that little piece for him to play, and thankfully he was able to do it. It was lovely working with him again.
Dread Central: Back when you were writing the book, had you always planned on making it into a movie?
Robin Hardy: “Cowboys for Christ?” I’m trying to remember when I wrote the book; maybe I wrote the book about six or seven years ago, and yes, I suppose I had always had a film in mind when I wrote it, but I didn’t really have a plan or anything.
Dread Central: It had been some time since you had helmed a feature between The Wicker Man and The Wicker Tree; any difficulties in making the transition back behind the camera after some time away?
Robin Hardy: Well, I’ve done quite a lot of television in the States in the interim so I was always working; I did various sorts of biographies for PBS programs and things like that so it wasn’t all that unfamiliar to me. I felt perfectly comfortable from minute one on The Wicker Tree, the only problem being that I had never used one of these huge digital cameras before.
They’re quite daunting at first glance and are considerably more difficult to work with than film cameras; they do present all sorts of problems of their own, too. Of course the results are very good and the things that you can do with the material are very good so that’s why we use them and eventually they do make your life easier. So what was it like to come back to this world? It was certainly familiar but also new because of some intriguing new technical problems which I hadn’t faced before.
Dread Central: With The Wicker Tree coming out this week, what’s coming up for you? Any plans on returning to this world again for a third Wicker movie?
Robin Hardy: Actually, yes to both of those. There’s a third movie I want to make called The Wrath of the Gods. It was set in Iceland but I’ve re-set it in Shetland. See, Shetland is full of Scandinavian people, not Scots, because it was ruled by Denmark for something like five centuries, and because of that the gods there are not Celtic, they’re Nordic which makes for an interesting world.
The film is about the gods getting their comeuppance, which is a fitting third film, I must say. (laughs) But it’s similar to what happened in Wagner’s Ring Cycle- do you know what that is?
Dread Central: I know it has something to do with opera, but that’s really it.
Robin Hardy: Yes, it’s an opera that is akin to Greek tragedies, and my story is based on the same set of stories as these operas. It’s going to be a grander scale to work on, but if we can do it right, the production value will be marvelous, and it will be a fitting finale for these stories.
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