Exclusive: Co-writer/Director Boris Rodriguez on Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal and More
This past weekend, co-writer/director Boris Rodriguez's Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal arrived in limited theaters courtesy of Doppleganger Releasing.
The offbeat horror comedy follows a former up-and-coming painter named Lars (Thure Lindhardt) who finds himself back at the easel after relocating to teach at a remote, snowbound art school where he befriends a mute flesh-eater by the name of Eddie (Dylan Scott Smith) whose nocturnal feasts of flesh reignites the artist's faltering career.
Dread Central recently chatted with Rodriguez about his unusual cannibal story as well as his next project which happens to feature scientifically-mutated killer monkeys that go on a rampage against a group of teenagers at a summer camp (for real). Check out our exclusive interview with Rodriguez below and make sure to check out Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal now that's in theaters and on VOD platforms everywhere.
Dread Central: First of all- I really enjoyed the film; you created a comedy that was definitely unusual and a lot of fun. Where did you guys come up with the unusual idea for the story and can you discuss the collaborative process on the script between you and the other writers?
Boris Rodriguez: Although you need a pretty twisted mind to come up with something like this, it was my co-writer’s Jon Rannell’s idea. And originally, it wasn’t a sleepwalking cannibal and a painter but a retarded werewolf and a novelist, and it was happening on the outer banks of North Carolina. It was originally just a whacky off the hook premise, but I really wanted to give it some depth and explore the darker side of the creative process.
Jon and I kept hammering out the idea until it was decided we were going to shoot in Canada, so the sand dunes of the outer banks turned into the snowy landscapes of Canada. The novelist became a painter because painting is a more colorful and kinetic than sitting at a desk, writing.
Lastly, we found that werewolves, like vampires and zombies, come with strict pre-set rules, werewolves appear during a full moon and can only be killed by a silver bullet; vampires are even more complicated with countless contradicting versions. But a Sleepwalking Cannibal, that’s unchartered territory. We were free to make up the rules as we went along. After Jon wrote the first treatment and draft I kept working on the re-writes and that’s when Alex Epstein came on board as story editor with all his experience and helped me whip the final versions into shape.
Dread Central: A lot of the humor in the film is really subtle but plays really well with the material; was it difficult to get that to balance out against the horror elements of the story at all?
Boris Rodriguez: It was very difficult actually. It’s my first feature, so I was naïve and didn’t really know how demanding it would be to continuously try and strike the balance between horror and dead pan comedy. Luckily the cast and crew were very experienced and instrumental in making sure we achieved that balance- especially Thure, our DP Philippe Kress and our associate producer Miriam Noregaard, they really helped me a lot.
And thank God they did, because I really like that kind of dark humor, where the comedic moments aren’t telegraphed or set up, but happen organically within the absurdity of the moment, and it’s up to you whether or not you’re twisted enough to think it’s funny. That’s the best kind of laughter, when part of you knows you probably shouldn’t be laughing.
Dread Central: I thought you gave the cast a really interesting story and characters to play around with, particularly Thure and Dylan. Can you talk about casting the film and how you approached the role of Eddie with Dylan since it's a compelling role but not one that allowed him to rely on his voice at all?
Boris Rodriguez: I knew I needed a star from the beginning, someone who could carry a film and do both comedy and drama equally well. We don’t really have a star system in Canada, our stars tend to migrate south of the border and are hard to bring back for a lower-budget film. So we turned to Europe. I didn’t care about the main character’s accent, as long as they could carry the movie and be both intense and funny all at once.
So when Chris Hasting in London showed me Thure Lindhardt, I knew he was our guy. After a dinner in LA involving a lot of wine, we decided to work together to make this crazy cannibal picture. The rest of the casting happened in Canada with Jeni Lewis and Sara Kay. We all thought casting Eddie was going to be a monumental undertaking; finding a physically imposing individual who can also convey subtle emotions with facial expressions alone, I mean, where do you find that? We were getting ready to see hundreds of people when the second person to walk into the audition was Dylan. I didn’t tell him then, but I knew he was our sleepwalking cannibal; talk about a stroke of luck!
And Dylan was a dream to work with; you can’t tell from watching the film, but Dylan is one really chatty dude. When we weren’t rolling, you could not shut him up (laughs). He was making up for the lack of dialogue I think. But he was also a really dedicated actor, asking me all kinds of questions about the character, about Eddie’s childhood, about the nature of his trauma, about all his backstory. It’s this kind of dedication that gives Eddie the depth and vulnerability that make you fall in love with him despite the fact that he’s eating people.
Dread Central: What's coming up next for you? I'm hoping you stick around the horror genre for a while since we don't really see sleepwalking cannibals all that often.
Boris Rodriguez: I am definitely doing another horror film, especially in the dark comedy vein. Horror fans are the most generous, supportive and enthusiastic moviegoers out there and for that reason alone I want to tackle another horror-comedy. I’m working with a writer on a killer chimp movie; it's about laboratory surviving chimpanzees who brutalize and murder unsuspecting teenagers at a summer camp. It’s hilarious going to be hilarious (laughs)!
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