Exclusive: Writer/Director Richard Bates, Jr. Talks Excision, His Upcoming Horror Comedy and More
On Tuesday, October 16th, up-and-coming writer/director Richard Bates, Jr.’s cult classic in the making feature film debut Excision (Blu-ray and DVD review) is set to arrive on home video everywhere courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Featuring “90210” star AnnaLynne McCord as awkward and angsty teenager Pauline, Excision also stars cult heroes Traci Lords and John Waters as well as Roger Bart, Ariel Winter, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin and Ray Wise. The film follows Pauline as her obsession with surgery and curing her younger sister, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, grows out of control, with the young starlet delivering one of the most remarkable transformative performances in quite some time.
Last week Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Bates about adapting his provocative short film of the same name for the feature film version. During our interview we heard more from the first-time filmmaker on collaborating with both McCord and Lords as well as of his personal heroes, the iconic John Waters (and his signature mustache) and what’s coming up next for him.
Read on for the highlights from our exclusive interview with writer/director Bates, and look for more with Excision co-star Traci Lords later this week!
Dread Central: So, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this movie so congrats on making something so completely unforgettable; you definitely got under my skin but in a good way on this. Just where on earth did Pauline come from and what was your story process like considering you have two very different worlds juxtaposed against each other throughout the film?
Richard Bates, Jr.: Well, I have a pretty weird family so…(laughs); no, no- just kidding. Actually, I had my mom come out for a screening last night and she’s not particularly fond of this movie, like, at all so I had an Excision poster printed up with a bunch of quotes from her that said funny stuff like “I’m proud of you but can you make the next one something I can show off to my friends?” or my favorite, which was “I guess people your age like this sort of thing.”
So after the movie was done, I set up an autograph table for my mom to sign the posters for the fans and it was pretty great. But yeah, this one isn’t a movie that my mom could sit through. Maybe the next one (laughs).
Dread Central: I never had the opportunity to see the short film, but it was one that a lot of people were talking about because of its festival run. Did you already have the feature film version done when you made that, or was this something that came about because of the success of the short?
Richard Bates, Jr.: I had the feature version done when we made the short, and the short version of Excision has the exact same beginning and end as the feature. When I originally made the short, everyone was excited that I had written a feature version because they wanted to see what was going to happen after where the short ended. Little did they know… right? (laughs).
But for me the heart of Excision is the story between this daughter and her mother, and that finale is the perfect representation of that; it’s hands down my favorite moment of Excision, and what’s really special about it is that it’s the only time I think I show AnnaLynne and Traci touching, which speaks volumes about how that moment has impacted their relationship. It proves that this love between them is real even if they’ve both been nasty with each other the entire time; it was so powerful to me, and the way both of them [McCord and Lords] played it was absolutely perfect.
Dread Central: Let’s talk about both ladies then- I thought they were incredible, and as someone who was once a teenage girl who lived to torture her mom, I related to this movie on so many levels. Well, except for all the blood and surgery stuff (laughs). Can you talk a bit about casting AnnaLynne and Traci and what you thought they brought to their respective roles in Excision.
Richard Bates, Jr.: AnnaLynne was brilliant in this movie; I really didn’t have to do a whole lot of work with her at all. Originally I had intended to cast the actress who starred in the short film but things didn’t work out, and by that point the script had been circulating around. I guess AnnaLynne had received the script and she called me out of the blue to tell me that she loved it, but I had no idea who she was.
When I looked her up and saw that she was on “90210,” I really didn’t know what to think because I never thought that girl could ever play someone like Pauline. But she wanted to take a meeting so I agreed to it; I’m so glad I did because when I met her, I realized she wasn’t this ‘starlet’ like I thought she was; she was so ready for anything and I loved that. She even showed up to that meeting in character as Pauline so I knew she was really serious about this, and one of the things AnnaLynne shared with me was that she absolutely hated her belly button so I wrote that into the character.
With Traci, I met with her a few times before finalizing the script because I added in some personal touches to her character, Phyllis – the things about the terrible relationship with her mother – that were personal to Traci because had dealt with them in her own life. Also, I really wanted her for this role because she’s always been known to play these wild and extreme characters, and I wanted to show that she could do different kinds of roles than maybe the ones she’s offered usually. I think Traci also identified a lot with Phyllis’ restrained demeanor, too, in some ways.
Dread Central: When I spoke to Traci, she mentioned that you were a huge John Waters fan; I’m guessing his role in Excision was pretty huge for you then?
Richard Bates, Jr.: Oh yeah, totally. It was so great; I’m such a huge geek over him so after Traci came aboard, I sent him a letter; and surprisingly, he was really responsive to the script and coming in to do a few scenes. He was really funny; he said to me, “I’ll do it, Richard, but I won’t fly coach and I won’t shave my mustache.” (laughs)
Dread Central: So what’s coming up next for you then?
Richard Bates, Jr.: Well, my next project is this horror comedy hybrid that we should be shooting in Georgia in March. I can’t say much about it, but just imagine the director of Excision was making his own Ghostbusters; it’s going to be pretty crazy. I may even work with AnnaLynne again- I haven’t approached her yet, though, but Matthew Gray Gubler, who is in Excision, will be in this next movie for sure.
Based on a short film of the same name, Excision follows a disturbed and delusional high school student, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), who, with aspirations of a career in medicine, goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother (Traci Lords). While dealing with being an outcast teenager and obsession over curing her sister’s cystic fibrosis, Pauline becomes continually deranged as her fascination with surgery and the human flesh grows into something abysmal and demonic.
Bonus feature on the Excision Blu-ray™ and DVD: audio commentary with writer/director Richard Bates, Jr., and AnnaLynne McCord.
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