From the brain wars of Scanners to the martian landscape of Total Recall or dogfighting over the terrain during flight training at Top Gun, it’s fairly well established that we – the moviegoing public – are pretty much willing to follow Michael Ironside anywhere.
Turbo Kid, the BMX-centric post-apocalyptic love letter to Eighties pulp, has us now joining Ironside as the one-eyed, self-proclaimed leader of the Wasteland – Zeus. Sold? Thought so. Enjoying its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival tonight, Turbo Kid looks like a blast, and Ironside is very excited about his latest (soon-to-be iconic?) character.
As an added treat, the film’s teaser trailer just hit the Net as well.
DC: Are you planning on attending the premiere? I believe you were in Park City for The Machinist back in 2004. But how many trips have you made to Sundance over the course of your career?
MI: I think I’ve made two. I actually don’t usually go out for a film unless I care about it, and this one I do. This is a very kind of unique situation, this movie. The directors in this case made the film they wanted to make, which is so cool. They got to do what they wanted to do. They called up, they sent me the script, I read it a couple times, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of interesting.’ So, I called and talked to them on Skype and they told me what they wanted to do.
They wanted to shoot and stay true to the comic book characterization and develop the characters with the idea that they’re like … it’s almost like Shakespeare on acid in a funny way. It’s very larger-than-life, but they wanted to be as realistic as possible at the same time. That intrigued me; I thought that would be interesting to attempt. Can we push the limits of what a characterization is without, you know, making it soap-operatic? I think we accomplished that.
I’ve used the word “charming” to describe the film, even though you’ve got arms being ripped off, blood splurging gratuitously out of the tops of people’s torsos. At one point I disembowel a guy by tying his intestines to the wheel of a bicycle.
DC: I don’t know if I’ve seen that before.
MI: It’s not over-the-top; it’s almost operatic.
DC: So, it’s a very charming, post-apocalyptic comic book tale?
MI: I mean charming in the sense that there’s a certain bloody innocence about this. The violence is not real violence. It really is almost like fireworks. Laurence Leboeuf, who plays Apple in the film, she’s absolutely true to character the whole way through. She has eyes like a husky, almost shockingly white blue, with these black pupils. You have her, and then we have this incredible, charming young man playing the lead with Munro [Chambers]. I had no idea who he was. I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she goes to an all-girls school. She was sitting there with five of her friends, and I said I just got back from doing Turbo Kid… and I said Munro Chambers, and at one point, one of the girls I thought was having an epileptic fit. She started to shake. She got up and walked right into the flat screen TV. They’re all fans of his, he’s on “Degrassi [The Next Generation].”
DC: I’m sure you definitely have some fanboy moments like that yourself. Genre films really seem to be having a renaissance in Canada in recent years with films like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and, of course, Hobo With a Shotgun. Have you seen a real uptick in quality horror projects sent your way? Why do you think those kinds of films are starting to get funding up there?
MI: I don’t think it’s horror films that are getting funding; I think it’s films that can be made with a certain budget that can be done with Canadian tax money and New Zealand tax money – and a little bit of American distribution money that doesn’t have enough involved to be able to tell the director what to do. There’s a certain amount of freedom in storytelling when the film gets made that way. I don’t think it’s just horror films; I think it’s everything, you know? Only two types of films are getting made right now: films that are under three million dollars and over seventy. You have accountants making decisions on the ones over seventy, and you have, hopefully, filmmakers – grass root filmmakers – making the stuff at the bottom, at the financial bottom of the scale. Every penny that was raised for this film is on the screen. If you’re going in expecting Terminator Four or Extreme Prejudice or Star Wars, you’re not going to get that. This is more Repo Man or Buckaroo Banzai. There’s no tongue-in-cheek and no winking at the camera. [RKSS] create a kind of comic book genre film that is not shot like a comic book.
DC: You mentioned New Zealand. On the producing side, you’ve got Ant Timpson and Jason Eisener, a Canadian, involved and Roadkill Superstar behind the camera. Did all that madman, creative energy make for one of the more wild productions of your career? Did all of them come close to equaling one Paul Verhoeven?
MI: Paul Verhoeven is one of the most clinically, surgically controlled sets you’ll ever be on. Most things are boarded, shot, and under his control. If you want to change something, you better get to Paul about 20 weeks before he shoots it, or you’re not gonna get to change it. This was not a wild film; they knew exactly what they wanted, and they cast exactly the way they wanted to cast. We talked about it ahead of time. I gave them versions of what I wanted to do with the character and they told me what they didn’t want to do and I agreed. Creativity is not some wild fucking pool party; it’s not like that. No matter what, you’re still dealing with millions of dollars. You’re still dealing with these people getting their one shot. This is the film they wanted to make since they were teenagers, you know what I mean? I gotta tell you, the joy and energy … it’s not a dry set where you feel like you’re going to the salt mines. I enjoyed myself a lot. I love work. I’m one of those guys that stays on set; I’m not somebody that goes and sits in his dressing room.
DC: Since it was controlled, what was the experience like working with three different directors, and how did they divvy up the directorial duties on set?
MI: I had worked with two before; I did Extraterrestrial with the two guys …
DC: Yes, the Vicious Brothers.
MI: That was kind of cool. That film I really liked a lot. I liked working with them; they were very in sync. It’s always interesting. François Simard, he looked after a lot of the talking with the crew, the physical side of the camera and the crew. And Yoann-Karl, he was much more the liaison, the person that talked with the actors, and I think it had to do with language. He was much more versed in English than François and Anouk. And Anouk, she seemed to be the bridge between the two. She would pull the two together if there was any kind of discussion needed about something. They all kind of agreed; it was very amiable. They’ve all been friends since they were teenagers. It was very cohesive … there was no ego involved. Pretty much everyone was there because they wanted to be there. It was quite a wonderful experience.
DC: You’ve mentioned that there’s a lot of limbs flying in Turbo Kid. Do you actually lose any limbs in the film? There’s been quite a few projects you’ve been on where you’ve been armless, whether it’s Spacehunter or Total Recall or even The Machinist.
MI: Yeah, I’ve spent most of my career losing body parts. Without giving too much away … this stays true to a comic book format; the characters and the performances stay genuine, slightly operatic without the singing thank you very much. The violence is over-the-top and gratuitous. Probably the only thing that would be slightly tongue-in-cheek would be the violence. It’s not realistic to violence.
If it’s an allegorical kind of storyline, I would see it as a young man being left to his own devices without human contact and how he forms a sense of aesthetics. The wasteland could be a physical wasteland or an emotional, spiritual wasteland. That’s probably getting a little too heavy for this format.
Keep your eye out for Turbo Kid if you want to get a little heavier with Michael Ironside …
Turbo Kid is a post-apocalyptic, BMX-powered, blood-splattered love story that follows the epic journey of an orphaned outcast reluctant to be a hero in the wasteland of an alternate future. It was written and directed by RKSS: Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell and stars Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, and Michael Ironside.
Here’s the Turbo Kid schedule at Sundance:
In a post-apocalyptic future The Kid, an orphaned outcast, meets a mysterious girl. They become friends until Zeus, the sadistic leader of the Wasteland, kidnaps her. The Kid must face his fears and journey to rid the Wasteland of evil and save the girl.