Exclusive: Director Jonathan Levine Talks All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has had more ups and downs than a pair of whore’s drawers over the years, wrestling with distribution and the financial crisis, all the while building a loyal following of fans that had actually seen the film.
Most of those fans were in the UK, where the film was released back in 2008, but now it is finally widely available, sitting proudly alongside films like Trick r’ Treat, Cabin in the Woods and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer that also took years to find the light of day. Director Jonathan Levine talked with Dread Central for a few minutes the other day about the excruciatingly long road the film has gone down.
DC: Like me, I think you were a huge fan of the Elm Street franchise growing up. I used to cut the blades off my Mom’s kitchen knives and turn them into the glove.
JL: Oh no! You turned them into Freddy hands? That’s crazy, man.
DC: Yeah, I wasn’t that popular with the parents in the neighborhood.
JL: (laughs) Yeah, I just had the straight-up glove - the plastic Halloween glove.
DC: What do you think it was about Freddy that attracted you more than Michael or Jason. Is Elm Street what got you into horror in the first place?
JL: I really liked Michael Myers, too. Jason, I don’t know, I saw all those movies but I never really got that into it. I think Freddy … it’s probably the same reason that people don’t like Freddy today that I kind of liked. I saw Dream Warriors first and I really liked the sort of wise-cracking. I think they pushed it a little too far in the end, but I like that he was funny and they were kind of mixing comedy and horror. I think that’s why he’s so maligned today. Obviously, the original one is the scariest and probably the coolest one. Then, later I discovered the original couple but I really got into the wise-cracking Freddy. I think I just get into the first thing that I see. Like, my favorite Halloween is Halloween 4. A lot of people would say I’m insane for saying that and I haven’t re-watched them in a long time but I was always really into the first version of that character that I saw. I also thought it was really cool, the notion that he could get into people’s dreams and the way he killed people in their dreams. I don’t know, I’m really a huge fan of his.
DC: Well, if it makes you feel better, my favorite is Halloween 4, also.
JL: It is, right? Halloween 4 is fucking awesome.
DC: The kids in the Elm Street films, especially Dream Warriors should be the model for creating likable, real characters with real problems that they have to overcome.
JL: Totally. And very flawed people you feel for. You empathize with those characters quite a bit.
DC: Yeah, so I feel like maybe you took a little bit of that with you with some of the characters in Mandy Lane and Mandy Lane, herself. But her only real problem is that she grew into her looks and is awkwardly hot and desired by everyone. Was it difficult to keep her character relatable? I know you auditioned a lot of actors before finding Amber [Heard] so it seems like you were looking for something specific.
JL: Yeah, I don’t if it was difficult to keep her relatable. I think that, actually, I empathized quite a bit with where she was at. I empathized a lot more with the Emmet character played by Michael Welch. I would feel bad for someone who was never really socially integrated into their group and, all of a sudden, got very attractive and didn’t know what to do with that and then was sort of like this prey for all these predators. She went from being not noticed at all to being noticed in a way that made her uncomfortable. I can understand how that might be difficult to handle. I guess it is hard to feel bad for somebody as pretty as Amber, but part of why I thought she was so great was that she did have that vulnerability flickering underneath. And also, you could see the potential for aggression and she was intelligent enough to know that this this was not the way things should be. We auditioned a ton of girls and part of the auditioning process was, in the script, this girl has a legendary beauty. We’re in L.A. so plenty of people are aesthetically appealing. But there was a certain type of beauty and a certain type of innate intelligence that Amber brought to it that is not something you find every day. Certainly, not something you would find in somebody her age. The wisdom she projects, I thought was pretty remarkable.
DC: The film itself has a very commercial look to it and an appeal. It’s deceiving because it almost looks a little bit like a Platinum Dunes film in some sequences but the characters are much more dynamic, which keeps it from being cliche. Once the characters are fleshed out in a strong way, is it easier to find the actors that are right for the part instead of just a model that belongs on a catalogue cover?
JL: That was one of our casting goals, to find people that brought something a little unexpected to the roles. In high school, everyone is playing a role and everyone is an archetype but people are actually people. So, the guy who we cast as Jake who’s kind of the jocky guy has a good sense of humor and is funny and smart. And Whitney [Able], who I thought did such a beautiful job playing Chloe. There’s such a sophistication to that portrayal and so much shading that was in the script that I think it really jumped off the page. To me, it was about what Jacob [Forman] was able to do with taking these archetypes and turning them just a little on their head.
DC: A lot of people have seen the movie before and, admittedly, I saw a bootleg of the film years ago before I was even a critic - and I don’t say that lightly. I think a lot of fans saw it that way. Do you think that that helped the film in the long run to get the reputation and the buzz it has now? It kind of reminds me of seeing old VHS bootlegs and sometimes even the directors themselves would copy and send out those to get more people to see the film.
JL: Right, yeah, I think that’s certainly cool. For me, that sort of reminds me of how I used to watch horror films. And I certainly would never suggest people pirate a movie but I do think the fact that it was not seen in a way that was sort of a legitimate way for a long time, it kind of does add to the subversion which is inherent in all horror movies. I remember watching bootlegs of Faces of Death or whatever. I think that you’re making a movie that is subversive and there’s something sort of transgressive, hopefully, about watching the movie in general. So, I think that’s cool. I’m just glad that people can see it legitimately now and hopefully someone has taken down all those YouTube links.
DC: I wasn’t even aware it was up there, but I will say that I’ve seen the movie three times and two of them have been legitimate.
JL: Nice, dude. Hey, you know, I’m not the police. I’m not busting anyone. For me, this was always a movie that I hope people watch in college on like a Saturday night when they come home drunk at three in the morning and they take a bong hit and they fall asleep. That was always how I picture people watching this movie because that’s how I used to watch movies my freshman and sophomore year of college and I had such a great time watching movies like that. Obviously, Gravity you probably want to see in IMAX, and this one you probably want to see with a bong hit and a little buzz on.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is now available On Demand.
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