Q&A: “COME OUT AND PLAY” producer Diego Luna
Diego Luna faced a couple of challenges as one of the producers of COME OUT AND PLAY: helping to reinvent the 1976 Spanish cult classic WHO COULD KILL A CHILD? for a modern audience, and dealing with the new movie’s, shall we say, unique writer/director, the film artist known only as Makinov. Luna discusses these issues and more in this exclusive interview.
A popular Mexican actor in films ranging from Alfonso Cuarón’s hit Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIEN to Gus Van Sant’s MILK, Luna is partnered with MAMÁ co-star Gael García Bernal and Pablo Cruz in Canana Films, which backed COME OUT AND PLAY. The movie, currently available on VOD and digital platforms and hitting select theaters this Friday, March 22 from Cinedigm, is based on both Narciso Ibañez Serrador’s WHO COULD KILL A CHILD and its source novel, Juan José Plans’ EL JUEGO DE LOS NIÑOS (THE CHILDREN’S GAME), set on an island where a vacationing couple (played by Vinessa Shaw and Ebon Moss-Bachrach) discover that the local children have turned murderously against adults, plunging them into a struggle for survival.
FANGORIA: Can you talk a bit about your transition from actor to producer?
DIEGO LUNA: It was something that naturally happens in a country like mine, where the film industry is not as defined as it is in the States. Basically, as an actor, you have to generate your own work; you can’t be waiting for the calls to happen, because they might never come. And moviemaking, for so many years in this country, wasn’t really something that involved the audience. Cinema was made for festivals and different little niches that have access to it. And like many others, I see myself as part of the audience, you know? Before being an actor or director or producer or whatever, I was part of the audience, and my responsibility in that sense is to make sure the films I want to see are actually being made.
FANG: Is COME OUT AND PLAY one of the first films Canana has produced for the English-language market?
LUNA: It’s definitely one of the first in which the language the characters speak is English, but I don’t see it that way. We’ve been very strict about that, in our company—the idea to make films that we care about, it doesn’t matter in what language or where they happen. The only reasons a movie has to be made is because there’s a point of view behind it, and a story that needs to be told. That, for me, is enough of a reason to get involved. We didn’t do COME OUT AND PLAY so it could be appeal to the States, we made it because we wanted to explore that genre and tell that story. It’s a haunting idea, in both the original film and the novel. The idea was to make a believable movie, so it’s not that we had the characters speaking in English to make the film work for the market, it was just because that was the way the story needed to be told.
FANG: Have you been a longtime fan of WHO COULD KILL A CHILD?
LUNA: Yeah, yeah. This is a project that Pablo Cruz brought to the company, and an idea he’d had for a long time. It’s an amazing and disturbing story. Pablo, Gael and myself are all parents, we have kids and I still have nightmares just about the idea.
FANG: There has been talk of a remake of WHO COULD KILL A CHILD? for quite some time; Filmax was involved at one point, as was director David Alcalde. Were you and your partners involved with the earlier incarnations?
LUNA: Yeah, we’d been trying to get this project going for a long time. But I’m happy it finally happened this way. When we did this film, we as a company had evolved into a much more solid structure that allowed us to explore something new, because it was the first time we had done a film in this genre. We needed time, I guess.
FANG: Did you go back to the original novel as a source for any changes from the previous film version?
LUNA: No, I have to say that that whole process was taken on by that crazy Makinov, and I wasn’t part of it. I was just part of the notes, once the film was shot. The idea of our company is to put a movie in the hands of a director—the voice of the story. I know the book and I know the [Serrador] film, and I believe we did something very different, which has a lot to do with the way it was made. Apart from all the rules Makinov had, it had to be made on the island using what was around, with the people and the kids there, and it had to make sense. It’s not like we recreated it on a stage; we had to give the story the freedom to actually exist there. I think the film has its own personality.
FANG: How did you get hooked up with Makinov? He seems like a pretty strange individual, based on his video manifesto (see below).
LUNA: [Laughs] It’s one of those things… It was a very exciting idea, the kind that starts to haunt you and you want to be over with it, and then it doesn’t leave. But I have to say that there is a soul in the film behind his point of view that no one else could have brought. I’m pleased with the whole process—though I don’t know if I would do it again!
FANG: Where did Makinov come from in the first place? What’s his background?
LUNA: I have to say that’s something I cannot talk about. That’s part of the rules, that it’s something we would not discuss—it’s his idea of “letting the film talk.”
FANG: Did he have creative freedom when he was shooting the film?
LUNA: Complete! To the point that we were actually not invited. We went there for a few days, but that was it. Basically they went and lived this great experience, they took over the town and the town welcomed them—I think it changed many people there—and then they came back. The movie was shot digitally, so they were editing while they were shooting and we received it very, very quickly. And we didn’t change much, I have to say. We just gave our notes. It was quite exciting for everyone in the company. We approached the film in a way we have never done before, and probably like we will never do again [laughs].
LUNA: Well, the way we do it in our company is that we take a long time to accept a director, but once we make that choice, then they’re in charge. We did give our ideas, then they went out to see who was available and who was interested, and I believe we got a pretty strong cast. Vinessa and Ebon are amazing, and they went on this crazy ride with us, because it wasn’t an easy thing to accept as an actor. Not many movies are made this way, and the fascination they had about discovering this new world was very important.
The thing is, for us the most important part of a film is the point of view. A story can be amazing on the page, but that means nothing until it’s shot. We believe that when you give a director that freedom, then a film has the most important thing, which is a soul. There’s nothing less interesting than a film without a soul, and the soul of this film is Makinov.
FANG: Do you know what went into casting the children to play the young killers?
LUNA: [Laughs] That sounds horrible; I don’t know if I should get my lawyer in… Basically, most of the kids—and everyone else in front of and behind the camera—were local people from the town where we shot. Our crew was not huge. They arrived, and again, one of the ideas was “Let’s allow the story to happen. Let’s find the story in the location.” And everyone there was very helpful, to the point where we have great relationships with everyone there. It left a mark on the lives of many of them.
FANG: Do you think you and your company will go on to do more horror films?
LUNA: Yeah, we probably will. We’re not working on anything like that right now—we’re developing many things, but none of the stuff we’re doing at the moment has anything to do with horror—yet.