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When we spoke with actor David Hyde Pierce yesterday (see
he sung the praises of writer/director Nick Tomnay. Expanding upon his previous
short film, the Australian filmmaker marks his feature debut with THE PERFECT
HOST, which opens this Friday in select cities from Magnolia and is currently
available on demand.
FANGORIA: For the uninitiated, describe THE PERFECT HOST?
NICK TOMNAY: It’s about a criminal named John [Clayne
Crawford] who has just robbed a bank, and he thinks he has done a great job
until he discovers he’s all over the media, and he hides out in an affluent
man’s house. But the affluent man [Pierce] turns out to be more dangerous than
FANG: What inspired you?
TOMNAY: It’s loosely based on a story by a friend, who had a
run-in with a criminal. And it was a really interesting anecdote and situation.
That was the jumping off point, and then I just channeled some of the feelings
I had at the time, when I was living alone for the first time. It began as a
short film [THE HOST], and it did quite well and got some attention up here and
that was the impetus. The impetus then was to develop that into a feature.
Because when the short would finish, people would say, “And now what? What
happens now? You should keep going!” And I thought about that, and as far as
developing the idea further, that’s how it became a feature film.
FANG: How far along in the story does the short take you?
TOMNAY: Well, it’s quite different. We pretty much have the
sex scene and then Warren throws John out with the trash and flosses his teeth.
And this is a scene in the short, which is in the feature where he’s flossing
his teeth in the mirror while we’re cutting to John waking up in the trash. And
then John just kind of stares into the morning and realizes he did what he set
out to do. In the short, he just wants to hide out for the evening, and he did
do that, but he’s put through the washing cycle and dryer and spat out.
FANG: What went into the creation of this great screen
“psychopath,” Warwick Wilson?
TOMNAY: Warwick unfortunately lives inside me somewhere.
He’s one of those characters that once I found his tone, he was speaking quite
clearly to me. I just sort of channeled this guy. The thing about Warwick is
that he’s really polite and violent at the same time. He’s completely
unaffected by everything. So it’s that combination. And he’s completely
enjoying himself; he has a lot of joy in him, so it’s a dissonant sort of glee
in this character, which makes him unique.
FANG: Did you have any specific actors or characters in mind
while writing it?
TOMNAY: The short was performed by another actor, Graeme
Rhodes. And he did a great job. He had different interpretations of Warwick,
but the performances that David and Graeme gave are not that dissimilar because
the character’s specific.
FANG: This wasn’t an easy film to get financed. What were
TOMNAY: Various factors. I was a first-time feature
filmmaker, sort of unproved. So that’s always difficult to convince people that
you can do this, and it’s worth doing. We had set up the film in two different
places, and for various reasons, it just fell apart. Filmmaking is really hard.
It’s really difficult, particularly when you haven’t made one. It just takes
FANG: Did the script’s development always boast all those
twists and turns and last minute reversals?
TOMNAY: Yeah. The film has various phases in the plot. The
notion Warwick is into fabrication was always there. Everything about him,
everything, is to do with his own sort of pleasure.
FANG: Did you always intend to play up the black comedy over
what could have been something more violent and horrific?
TOMNAY: That was always there from the beginning; it was in
the short, it was in the first draft. It’s something I was actually interested
in. One of the reasons why it fell apart with a production company earlier was
they wanted to take all that stuff out, and make it more of a frivolous FREDDY
VS. JASON movie, BONNIE AND CLYDE VS. HANNIBAL LECTER or something. There’s no
irony in that, no humor. And they said, “I don’t think we need that stuff.”
That stuff was really important to me. That was always there.
FANG: Did shooting in LA bring anything to the story over
filming in Australia?
TOMNAY: Sure, it became American and there’s a certain kind
of sensibility. When people saw the short film, some commented that it didn’t
really seem like an Australian film necessarily, it just felt like a tale. And
there’s something about the tale that doesn’t render itself into one culture or
another, it’s a situation that these characters find themselves in. But I
wanted to play up some of the LA aspects, because I knew we were shooting
there. I was certainly looking to someone like [British artist] David Hockney,
visually. But I wanted to add this Gothic element underneath, with some Hockney
FANG: Did you shoot everything on locations?
TOMNAY: Yeah, that was all on location. One of the things
about shooting in downtown LA is they have [standing] sets that we could just
go into, like the cop station and the girlfriend’s apartment. That was
definitely one of the benefits of shooting in Los Angeles.
FANG: What about Warwick’s house?
TOMNAY: That was actually a house that was up for sale, so
we were able to go in it, camera ready. We had to lose some of the days off our
schedule to get that house, because financially, it cost more than we were
hoping for. But once we saw the house, I agreed and changed the schedule.
FANG: Was the three-week shoot particularly grueling?
TOMNAY: Yeah, it was really intense. By the end, I was
exhausted. It was 17 days, and we were shooting six days a week, and there was
no time for error. We couldn’t be redoing anything; we just had to keep
rolling. That opening sequence was basically shot in camera edits. We just went
from A to B and shot in camera, and when it came together, I pretty much just
lopped off the head and tails.
FANG: How did you pitch the script to David Hyde Pierce?
TOMNAY: I didn’t really pitch it to him. He read the script
and he saw the short. While we were having the meeting, I was talking about
what I wanted to do with the film, my intentions, and he talked about how he
felt about things. We just we got together and had a conversation, and at that
meeting, we discovered we could talk to each other about it and we could
communicate well. He was into it. It was actually one of the simpler parts of
making this movie; he read the script, saw the short, was interested in doing
it and agreed to do it.
FANG: Did David bring anything to the character that wasn’t
TOMNAY: Well, the walk is his. In rehearsal he said, “Hey,
I’ve been thinking about a walk, what do you think about this?” And it was
great. A lot of people have asked me, “Is that how he really walks?” And it’s
not, he just developed it for Warwick. He brought a lot to Warwick and the walk
was his trademark.
FANG: Clayne Crawford was also especially good in the film.
What was the camaraderie like between the two actors?
TOMNAY: When we tested Clayne, David was very combative and
there was a weird energy in the room. But that actually ended up being a good
thing because that’s what the characters are going through. In all, there was a
lot of intensity and joy and enthusiasm from the three of us, and it made for a
very positive shooting experience.
FANG: The trailer, which gives away a whole lot, has been a
bone of contention on the web.
TOMNAY: I’d rather not comment on that.
FANG: What do you think about Magnolia’s strategy of
releasing the film to theaters a month after its video-on-demand debut?
TOMNAY: That’s good because some people become aware of it
and then maybe they’ll see the film or talk about it before the theatrical
comes out. Either way, it’s positive for the feature itself.
FANG: What are your future plans?
TOMNAY: I got a new script I’m working on, that’s coming
along. It’s a thriller.
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