Sundance 2013: We Are What We Are – Q&A with Director Jim Mickle and Stars Wyatt Russell and Bill Sage

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Sundance is in full swing, and recently we attended a screening of Jim Mickle’s remake of We Are What We Are (review here). Read on for a transcript from the festivities!

Ambyr Childers (Gangster Squad, Playback) stars in the rural psychological thriller We Are What We Are alongside Julia Garner, Bill Sage, and Wyatt Russell.

We Are What We Are, picked up by eOne Entertainment this year in Berlin, is directed by Stake Land‘s Jim Mickle and is based on the 2010 Mexican film and Cannes Film Festival entry Somo Lo Que Hay. Andrew D. Corkin and Nicholas Shumaker produce.

Mickle moved Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau’s picture about a family of cannibals from its original setting of Mexico City to a poor part of the Catskills region in New York state.

Q: What the fuck was that all about? (laughter)

Jim Mickle: His question was what the fuck was that all about… any others? (laughter)

Q: What was your favorite scene?

Bill Sage: I think the one with Michael Parks.

JM: Yeah, Michael Parks. Did anyone see Red State? (Cheers)

Wyatt Russell: I dunno. For me I’m younger. I didn’t know who Michael Parks was until I looked him up. So when you get to something with someone like that it’s pretty cool.

Q: What inspired you to do this type of film?

JM: I made a film before this film called Stake Land. Quite a different film, small but epic for our scope and I finished that and that film ran the film festival circuit with the original. This is besed on a Mexican film, however it is very, very different from that film but it has the basic concept. I really liked the concept and it seemed like a fun thing to try and do at the time. The original film is the opposite. It is the father that dies then the story focuses on 2 brothers who are left to decide who will become the man of the household.

Q: The girl that played Iris looks a lot like Reese Witherspoon. Is that why you cast her?

JM: She DOES look like Reese Witherspoon, but that is not why I cast her. She is in Gangster Squad which is in theaters. She also played Elizabeth Dodd in The Master. I saw an audition tape she had done that just blew me away. It was different because it was sent to me as a tape and you just watch it and she does this really simple scene but she just did so much with it that I was glued to the scene. Then I had a conversation with her and she had a really interesting back story that fit this character really well. I’ll leave it at that.

Q: How did you prepare for the scenes where you had to act out eating people?

BS: I just ate folks. (laughter) I really did nothing. It’s a really heightened scene. Just make it seem like you are eating breakfast. Like something simple.

Q: What were you really eating?

BS: I think it was chicken and some cut oats in there. The kid that played Rory just kept eating it and eating it. If he was here he would act out how to throw it up.

Q: Doesn’t your character know that anyone who has sex in a horror movie is destined to be killed?

WR: Absolutely. But not while he’s having sex! (laughter) That is what attracted me to the script.

Q: Were there any reactions by the audience that caught you by surprise at all?

JM: No, we premiered last night at the Library in Park City and it was a cool premiere. Part of it was our nerves but it seemed a little tense and a little restrained. But I think all of your reactions were perfect. It was a pleasure to watch it with you guys.

Q: Were there any parts of the movie that were a little too intense for you while you were filming this?

JM: No. (laughter) I loved the way you guys responded to the humor.

WR: No I think that is why we tried to have fun during the shooting, to make sure not to take things too seriously. We had so much fun shooting it was really a pleasure.

Q: I noticed the dog you had was very well behaved. Where did you find the dog?

JM: That dog is my dog. Yeah, he’s very well trained even though his name is Zombie.

Q: This is concerning the children acting. We are a long way from Shirley Temple and Wizard of Oz, and Sweeney Todd is soon to be a classic movie. Do you worry about children’s psychological effects from this type of film?

JM: Interesting question. Well, the girl playing Iris is actually 24 and she has a kid of her own. Julia that plays Rose is like everyone’s little sister. I think she got it even if she didn’t quite grasp it. We just kinda pushed her forward. And Jack that played Rory knew about as much as his character knew. Both of his parents are actors and they knew what he was capable of understanding. But he probably won’t see the movie for a long time. He was definitely a sharp kid.

Q: How long did it take to shoot?

JM: We shot for 26 days.

Q: The scene at the end – was that from the original story?

JM: No that was not part of the original story. The original story was 2 brothers and there’s a mom that is a little wacky, but she doesn’t play into the story much. There is a sister character that pushes a little competition between the two. But most of it is the boys trying to hunt somebody down and bring them back. It becomes a little spastic, but it’s a really decent movie, but it’s nothing like this.

Moderator: We have time for one more…

Q: What was the point of the flashback scenes vs. using voiceover?

JM: Nick Damici plays Sheriff Meeks and he just kinda started adding those scenes in and I liked them. I liked the idea of them opening the movie up because it was such a contained movie and to be able to spread that out a little bit. To have some back story I felt that was kind of important. We wanted to liken it back to the Donner party sort of. It got us over that “leap of faith.”

JM: Thank you everybody so much!

weare - Sundance 2013: We Are What We Are - Q&A with Director Jim Mickle and Stars Wyatt Russell and Bill Sage

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Written by Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.


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