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World, Meet Leatherface (An Interview with Co-Director Julien Maury)

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a quintessential American horror film, one ingrained in the collective memory of three generations of audiences. So at first blush, hiring a pair of young French filmmakers to helm the franchise’s all-important origins story might seem like an odd choice… until you talk to them, then it makes perfect sense: this was a job these two filmmakers were born to do!

“We grew up watching horror movies from the 70s and 80s… it changed me forever,” said Julien Maury, one half of the directing team (with Alexandre Bustillo).  Although JAWS was a personal favorite (“I used to watch it every week”), Maury feels 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the real game-changer:  “It changed the face of cinema… it’s a masterpiece,” he enthuses.  So then getting handed the keys to the franchise must have been exhilarating, right?  “It was a mixture of stress, excitement and joy,” Maury admits.

This was the first Chainsaw to be filmed overseas -in Bulgaria of all places – but the co-director felt it had the look of the Lone Star State, from barnyards and dusty roads to dense woods.  “If you look at the original, it’s very green…” so the lush Bulgarian countryside was a perfect substitute.  As an origins story, most of the action takes place in the 1960s. One immediate challenge was finding vintage American vehicles, so the production team took to the high seas: “We had to boat them over,” recalls Maury with a laugh.   He also explained how the pair navigates directing chores, “We trust each other completely… but our partnership can change depending upon the scene or the day.” One might be working with an actor, while the other is setting up camera moves with the DP, an hour later, their duties could be swapped again.  “We had only 27 days of shooting…” Maury recalls, “… so being a duo is helpful.” Both must be adept at working with talent as they assembled an impressive cast including Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor and a host of young British actors who sound as Texas as a side of ribs sizzling on a mesquite grill.

Working from a wickedly fun script by Seth M. Sherwood, Leatherface has a road trip from hell aspect that the directors loved. “What interested us is the script had an original structure. This was an interesting way to tell a very different story,” the co-director says.  But the franchise still holds some secrets: “For us it was important not to give all the answers, (the film) is moments from his young years.”

About the only somber note here was the untimely passing of the franchise’s architect, legendary genre filmmaker, Tobe Hooper who died on August 26th at age 74.  Like horror fans everywhere, the directors were saddened: “We heard about it (his death) the day after the premiere, “ Maury notes.  “His legacy is so huge we can’t measure it. One movie changed the face of cinema.”  With that kind of passion, it’s no wonder Mssrs. Maury and Bustillo landed the job!

Look for Leatherface exclusively on DIRECTV, September 21, 2017 and in Theaters and On Demand starting October 20, 2017.

About the author
Mark Cerulli
Mark was an award-winning writer/producer for HBO for many years, creating on-air content and interviewing over 100 filmmakers and actors. He has also produced content for Monsters HD, Sundance and Epix. He produced DVD docus on two James Bond films and produced/directed DVD docs on the Halloween series for Anchor Bay. He has had four screenplays optioned, including one by HBO. His website is: www.iluminar.tv
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