Director Richard Kelly on Donnie Darko
THE RED BULLETIN: How hard was it to get the film made?
RICHARD KELLY: The consensus was that it was impossible to produce. It became a mission to prove the narrative could be realised on screen, and that I could direct it. It was a daunting experience, but I felt I had been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Someone had put up $4.5 million to realise this incredibly ambitious story, and everyone soon realised even that wasn’t enough. The timeline leading to the apocalypse in the film – the tangent universe – was 28 days, which was our exact shooting schedule. So we were almost living this apocalyptic narrative while making the film.
What convinced you Jake Gyllenhaal was right for the role?
I met him in Drew Barrymore’s office on Sunset Boulevard and had an instant gut reaction to his presence. He was at the right point, too – you want actors who feel they need the role as much as it needs them. Great actors like Jake act from a very instinctual level and know when the gravity is centred on a role.
Why do you think the film remains so popular?
I think on an emotional level it’s the idea of feeling alienation, or not belonging to a level of expectation that society demands. A lot of that is fundamental to being a teenager, coming of age and realising the world is very disappointing. That feeling is much more mainstream than most popular culture presents.
How has its enduring appeal inspired you in your career?
I feel very honoured that people continue to discuss the film. It makes me want to continue to tell my own original stories and not surrender to the demands of the marketplace; complex stories that challenge audiences and stand the test of time.
Blade Runner (1982)
Hard to believe, but Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece met a muted reception on release, not really being celebrated until 1992 when healthy VHS sales and big TV viewing figures led to a director’s cut. This cemented its legend, inspiring a ‘Final Cut’ and a forthcoming sequel.
Initially delayed by an editing battle between director and studio, Terry Gilliam’s dystopian fantasy proved too left-field for mainstream audiences. Sci-fi aficionados, however, consider the film a classic.
Fight Club (1999)
Brad Pitt’s punchy antics were stifled by moral panic in the US, which led to the twist ending being revealed on a talk show, ruining its opening weekend. Nevertheless, the film is now remembered as a counterculture landmark.