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Xavier Gens’ new film THE DIVIDE isn’t for all tastes, and
the director and his cast know it. Even we here at FANGORIA have been, well,
divided in our opinions, as you can see in our posted reviews (here and here).
Read on for exclusive words with Gens and co-star Michael Eklund on THE
DIVIDE’s origins, audience reactions, why Melissa George didn’t star in the
movie and more.
In THE DIVIDE (which opens today in select theaters from
Anchor Bay Films—and which this particular writer found to be occasionally
troubling but a generally gripping tale), eight survivors of a nuclear attack
in Manhattan take shelter in an underground bunker set up by their apartment
building’s super, Mickey (Michael Biehn). As their confinement in the shelter
stretches into days, then weeks and beyond, tensions fester and explode and
some of the people devolve into little more than animals. The cast also
includes Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Iván González, Ashton Holmes, Rosanna
Arquette, Courtney B. Vance and Abbey Thickson; Fango spoke to Gens (pictured
below with Biehn) and Eklund following the movie’s Canadian premiere screening
at last year’s Fantasia film festival in Montreal.
FANGORIA: How did you come up with the storyline for THE
DIVIDE, and were you politically motivated when you developed it?
XAVIER GENS: No, the context for me was much more about
human beings. When I received the first script by Karl Mueller, which was then
called SHELTER, I was like, “OK, it’s kind of a generic slasher movie, and I
was not really into it. But I loved the concept of eight characters stuck
together, so I said to the producer, “Can I rewrite it in a direction where I
can say something more personal?” And he said, “OK, let’s do it. That could be
interesting.” So I got together to rewrite it with Eron Sheean, and after we
cast the film, there was a process of revising stuff with the actors. I really
involved them in the creative process on this movie. When you see Michael
Eklund, for example, that character Bobby is a total creation of his.
FANG: Michael, can you talk about creating your role on set
as the shoot progressed?
MICHAEL EKLUND: This is a kind of film that’s very rare,
where you get the freedom and opportunity to do that as an actor. It’s
something we always want to do: have complete freedom to use your imagination
to create a character. For example, in the script, there was never any
reference to a connection between Bobby and Rosanna Arquette’s character,
Marilyn, except for the fact that there’s some abuse going on. But when I got
on set and started working with her, when we connected in real life, a
relationship started to develop between our characters. Xavier saw that
happening, and saw that Bobby and Marilyn actually fall in love in the film, or
at least found a connection that was happening on set and off set, as
professionals, and he embraced it.
Every day we shot, new things would happen, and we’d
incorporate those ideas into the storylines the next day. The relationships
that developed on screen happened because those relationships were developing
off screen. I’ve always said that there are friendships made on this film that
will exist forever. There was a brotherhood that developed. I know it’s been
talked about a lot that there was a lot of improvising on this movie, and I
don’t see it as improvising. It was being completely in the moment, and letting
the story and the character guide you. So what was happening was real.
FANG: How would you describe the Bobby who ultimately
EKLUND: I think he’s a misunderstood person. The best thing
I can say about Bobby is, he’s the guy you want around at the end of the world,
and he’s also the guy you don’t want around at the end of the world. He’s your
best friend, but he’s also your worst enemy at the same time. He’ll give you
hug one day and then stab you in the back the next. That’s Bobby.
FANG: Xavier, this is probably the most character and
actor-driven film you’ve done; your previous movies, FRONTIER(S) and HITMAN,
were more story- and action-driven. Did you want to do a film that was more
GENS: Yeah. I wanted my first movie to be a character-driven
film, but that one was too expensive, so I did the genre movie, because it was
more commercial and easy to do as a first film. After that, I had those
problems with Fox [on HITMAN], and finally with THE DIVIDE it was like, “OK,
stop. I want to do this.” For me it’s coming back to my first intentions of
making movies—doing a character-driven story. Creating emotion through character
and not only people with guns. There are some guns, but we avoid them for the
FANG: Obviously, it’s a tough film to watch, and very
downbeat. Were you ever concerned about possibly losing the audience, because
the material becomes so dark and disturbing?
EKLUND: Anyone who goes to the movie and is depressed by the
bleakness of it, that’s a reaction that’s important to have. Anyone who does
reject the film, it’s because it creates an emotion in them that they’re not
comfortable with. That’s the point of the film, as well. You’re supposed to be
entertained, and if it makes you feel anything—good or bad—we achieved what we
wanted to do. It’s up to you as a person what you’re willing to accept and take
on. So as long as you feel something, we’ve accomplished our goal. If you don’t
like the film because it’s too depressing, well, that’s life.
FANG: I understand that Melissa George (TRIANGLE, A LONELY
PLACE TO DIE) was originally going to star in the film as Eva, the part that
wound up being played by Lauren German. What happened to her involvement?
GENS: Melissa was cast, and was amazing in prep. I met her
in November 2009, when we were supposed to shoot the film in 2010. She had a
very long process of preparation; I gave her a lot of books to read about the
Holocaust, nuclear bombings. She had a sister who was working in a
drug-addiction hospital, so as Eva is supposed to have a backstory of being an
addict, she worked a lot on that side of the role. She was so involved; she
spent something like two months preparing, but finally we were obliged to push
the shooting forward by one month, and she was scheduled to do A LONELY PLACE
TO DIE right after our movie, so she could not do our movie because she was
engaged on the other one. I’m really sorry about that, because she was amazing.
She’s a great actress.
FANG: How did you wind up casting Lauren German in that
GENS: Lauren was cast something like 10-15 days before the
shoot. I met her in LA, and I was not sure if the film would be restarting, because
we were searching for money. I was very impressed by her energy, and she is so
amazingly beautiful. She has something so pure, when you see her face. She’s
really awesome. And just after that, we found the financing, so we called her
back and said “OK, Lauren, we’re making the film.”
FANG: What happened to the original financing, and how was
that problem resolved?
GENS: The bond company believed we couldn’t make the film as
it was; the schedule was too tight, the film was too bleak and dark and finally
they decided, “OK, we can’t finance it.” The thing is, the set was already
built in Winnipeg, and it was very expensive, so if we stopped the production,
that would have been a big problem for everybody. We got really lucky, because
there was an intern on the production called Nathaniel Rollo, and his parents
said, “OK, we will finance the film.” He was just a guy from Winnipeg, and his
parents put up the money, just because they loved the crew; there was a very
strong bond between us. They saw FRONTIER(S) and decided to help, and they gave
us around $2.5 million, and we were free to make the film we have today.
FANG: Do you have any other films, especially horror
projects, that you’re planning to do next?
GENS: I have one that’s more of a psychological thriller,
about demonic possession. It’s very special; it’s adapted from a French novel
called HOUSE OF LIMBO. It’s in the writing stages, by one of the actors of THE
DIVIDE, actually, Iván González. We hope to shoot it soon, but that depends on
the budget and all that kind of stuff, so we’ll see.
FANG: What’s the storyline of HOUSE OF LIMBO?
GENS: It’s about cops who are investigating a serial
murderer, and they discover that the killer is actually different people who
were possessed by the same demon. It’s like YEAR OF THE DRAGON meets THE
Read more from Gens and Eklund on THE DIVIDE in Fango #310,
on sale now.
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