Toronto After Dark 2016: Natasha Lyonne and Danny Perez on “ANTIBIRTH”Movies/TV,News Amy Seidman
ANTIBIRTH is the narcotic drenched, immaculate conception horror comedy that took Toronto After Dark Film Festival by storm. The highly-anticipated screening also brought in ANTIBIRTH star Natasha Lyonne and visionary director Danny Perez to Toronto to speak on the film. The duo sat down with FANGORIA to talk about the film, the trials and tribulations of getting a film as bizarre as ANTIBIRTH made, and the joys of fake pregnancy…
FANGORIA: Natasha, you starred in and produced ANTIBIRTH. Can you talk about how you got involved in this film?
NATASHA LYONNE: Well, it all just came from Danny’s brain. That’s where it started.
DANNY PEREZ: Yeah, we cracked the egg! Everything starts in this brain.
LYONNE: Danny said he wanted to write a movie for me, and then he actually did. It was so good that my immediate response was, “Let’s go get this thing made.” That was really how it came about. As soon as I read it, I immediately got on board with a full blown obsession with Danny. The two of us were just running around town trying to get this thing made for 5 years.
FANG: While it’s a $3.5 million film, I am sure there were obstacles that came into play when you were trying to get this off the ground…
PEREZ: Was it really? I guess there is a lot of overhead…
LYONNE: Yeah, I mean that’s what is listed but actually there was a lot of mismanagement in the financing process of getting a movie this weird made. There were basically a lot of shady dealings that were taking place that meant that those numbers were as a result of loans and interest.
PEREZ: I literally think 2 of the companies on the poster are going to jail or are in litigation right now.
LYONNE: Yeah, I feel like the movie was definitely closer to $1 or $1.5 million, if that.
PEREZ: I wish we had had $3 million. That would have been great!
LYONNE: A good way of putting it is, “Let’s just say that money never made it to set or post.”
PEREZ: But that in and of itself is a testament to what it takes to get a movie like ANTIBIRTH made. And not to toot my own horn like, “Oh, I’m such a maverick that nobody wants to finance me,” but it’s more about the fact that there are genre elements to the movie and there are some points against it. For example, there are practical effects and a female lead.
LYONNE: 3 female leads!
FANG: It’s a very female heavy film.
LYONNE: Yes and that’s the thing: nobody wanted to make this movie. So the way we sort of ended up getting it made was in the backward and old fashioned kind of way. Ultimately, that is the truth. It was a slip in through the backside sort of thing- which is the name of one of Danny’s memoirs- but seriously, we had to do whatever necessary to do it and put ourselves in some sticky situations. We decided that it was worth it to us to do it this way so we could get the goddamn thing made. That is just the truth of what happened. But like Danny was saying, it’s a tough sell. 3 female leads…
PEREZ: As well as creature effects, drugs, unsympathetic characters …
LYONNE: Everyone is an anti-hero. My character Lou more than any of them is at least somewhat of a hero, Lorna (Meg Tilly) is an anti-hero, and Sadie (Chloe Sevigny)is a bit of a bad guy. Thank God, though, that Chloe gets so much to do and she is not afraid of being seen in an unsympathetic character’s light.
FANG: Even down to the terrain, the locations are very unsympathetic. That being said, the aesthetic is just unbelievable. Danny, you have a very unique, colorful and incredible aesthetic that I just was really drawn to.
PEREZ: Aw, thank you!
FANG: It reminded me of the 1990’s club kids in New York, and pop art mixed with the look of the TV show SHAMELESS and the nitty gritty of the urban landscape of America. What other inspirations do you draw your visuals from?
PEREZ: Yeah, totally, you aren’t wrong. I wanted it to have a poppy, psychedelic and colorful feel. Generally in a horror movie things are very grimy and dingy and takes itself very seriously. I didn’t want this to have that kind of atmosphere. I think I looked at a lot of mid to late ‘80s TV and going through random clips on Youtube. I really like that schizophrenic approach, pulling all these different stimuli and putting them all against each other and then you get this like, weird third meaning. So for example, the scene where they are all in front of the TV and taking bong hits and coming across a barrage of images for lack of a better word, that kind of reference of the ‘90s club culture is not far off at all. You know, with the over-the-top makeup, it’s playful yet borderline sexual costumery. Yeah, I really like that stuff.
FANG: It’s a surface level assault of color and, of course, it has the dark undertones of the epidemic levels of drug use.
PEREZ: Yeah totally!
LYONNE: I know at one point Danny asked us to check out this movie OXYANA, a 2013 documentary about the Oxycontin epidemic in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. And it was really helpful for me, Chloe, and Mark Webber (who plays Gabriel) to watch and get a sense of it and the terrain that Danny had visualized. Not only to see in our pals, because, between the 3 of us we know a lot of degenerates that are our friends, but also to see the darker, others levels of bleakness and just how real that is in the climate of America. I am sure you have seen but it is a very real state of affairs for people to feel like, well they are not self-destructive in a fun or suicidal way but in a hopeless way of “What’s the point of functioning anyway?”. They feel there is nothing for them.
FANG: Well the man that created the drug says to your character Lou, “Well what do you have to live for anyways? All you do is drink and get fucked up!”
LYONNE: And that’s exactly it. Its free will. Free will is the only fucking thing Lou has.
FANG: When it comes to the design of the creature without giving too much away, to me it was reminiscent of the Universal Monsters era and the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. What role did you play Danny in bringing this to life?
PEREZ: I worked a lot with David Scott of Forms and Dynamics: Special Effects Makeup and Animatronics here in Toronto, who did the creature effects. We would ping pong ideas in regards to textures, patterns, and expressions I wanted to see, as well as color palette. They did amazing work and were able to take these little ideas I had and take them to the next level. I think it comes from a love of those designs and those creatures and ultimately being able to work with someone who can so nicely execute; it was really fun.
FANG: Natasha, how was it for you working with the prosthetics?
LYONNE: I think it’s kinda funny; I mean, I like being pregnant. I mean, I would never want to do it in real life but it’s fun as a woman not worrying what you look like in a way because you have this giant stomach sticking out of you and it totally changes your body language. For example, try having good posture! You can’t. You are just fully letting it all hang out in a way that, for Lou, works so well. It was fun, like in the weird dance scene where I am dancing with Chloe and she is dancing kind of sexy and I’m very silly; it was fun because I had that fake belly which made me very freed up in a weird way. So much of my character is the physicality, and the foot and the limp and the discovery of, “Hey let’s use a fucking baseball bat as a cane!”
FANG: Natasha, where did you pull your inspirations for your character from?
LYONNE: Mostly Sam Kinison, Ratso Rizzo [from MIDNIGHT COWBOY] and Denzel Washington in TRAINING DAY.
FANG: Interestingly, all men!
LYONNE: Oh yeah, I mean, for the most part, I sort of feel like that about most things I do. Hopefully, in a few years, people will be able to draw on women for a fully realized experience as well.
ANTIBIRTH is now on VOD from IFC Midnight.