Q&A: Jack Perez And Ryan Levin, Two Guys Who KILL PEOPLE

An archive interview from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · July 3, 2019, 8:15 PM EDT
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Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on July 3, 2012, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

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Some Guy Who Kills People is a lot less average than its title makes it sound. It’s a sharp and left-of-center horror/comedy focusing on Ken (Kevin Corrigan), an average-seeming guy with a troubled past that includes physical abuse by a gang of bullies—who begin bloodily dying in the present. Fango spoke to the two guys responsible for the comic bloodshed, director Jack Perez (pictured left) and writer/producer Ryan Levin.

Perez’s past credits range from Wild Things 2 to the telemovie Monster Island to (pseudonymously) the viral-trailer sensation Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, while Levin worked his way up from production assistant to writer on Scrubs and has numerous other TV credits. They recall their creative partnership on Some Guy Who Kills People (which is reviewed here) as one in which they were very much in sync…

Ryan, you expanded the script for Some Guy Who Kills People from your short film The Fifth, also about an average-guy serial killer. Was that process easy?

RYAN LEVIN: Nope. Initially, I tried to hang onto as much from the short as I could, and it took a while to get it through my thick head that that wasn’t going to work. What worked in the short worked in that format, but the feature needed to be a different beast entirely. So, with much reluctance, I killed all the babies I so dearly loved—tossed the jokes, jettisoned the supporting characters, etc., and all I was left with was an everyday guy who kills people. Then I had to ask lots of questions: Is killing his job, or does he have a regular job? Does he have a family or any friends? If so, do they know about his killing? What do they think of it? The list goes on. I wrote so many versions of this script, it’s actually kind of embarrassing. I see the feature and the short as two completely different pieces; the only overlap is that they’re both dark comedies with a serial-killer protagonist named Ken.

You originally had John Landis attached to direct. How did that come about?

LEVIN: I sent the script to his agent, hoping that attaching a name director would help raise the money. His agent called the next day and said John wanted to meet. We spent about four hours talking—though we only spent about 20 minutes discussing the script—and by the end, he said he was interested in directing the piece. From there, we got a company that said they could get us a few million to make the film. John and I worked on the script over the course of a couple of sessions, and he helped improve some key parts. Then, just when the company asked for signed confirmation that John would direct, Burke & Hare, a film John had been attached to long before I came along, finally got its green light. Landis politely bowed out of our smaller film, and went to direct Burke & Hare. When we lost Landis, we lost the financing, and went ahead and made the film on a much smaller budget. John wasn’t around for production, but during post, we sent him a rough cut and he gave us great notes.

What led you to get Jack Perez on board?

LEVIN: Once I secured the financing, I began interviewing directors, and met some great ones who probably would have done a very nice job. But when Jack showed up for the interview, he did something extremely smart: He kissed my ass. He told me how much he loved the script and how he’d been waiting for something like this to come along. While that stuff is always nice to hear, it only means something if it’s genuine, and Jack was genuine in his passion for the screenplay. He had read it several times in only one or two days, and had already started making tiny little storyboards in the margins because, as he told me, the script was just giving him all these visuals he needed to get down somewhere. We spoke about the tone of the film, and on nearly every point, he and I were on the same page. I had spent so long with this script, and to sit down with a complete stranger and have him get it was such a relief, and a blessing.

Jack, what was it about the script that so appealed to you?

JACK PEREZ: Everything. It was about a social outcast, a loser, someone carrying around a lot of bitterness. I love characters like that. I understand them. And the overall tone—a perfect blend of thriller, comedy and drama, which is very rare and something I’m attracted to. It was like finding gold. Best of all, the characters and their world were undeniably real to me. Insane and eccentric, but very, very real.

Did you do any work on the screenplay?

PEREZ: I thought it was pitch-perfect, so all I did was try to make it work with the locations and tight schedule. That, and design some of the murder setpieces. I suggested we enhance them, make them a little more operatic. The drive-in decapitation sequence with the twitching severed hand was a result of that. I had always wanted to set a killing in a drive-in, and also do a beheading. The David Warner decapitation in the original The Omen has been burned into my memory since childhood. I showed Ryan some concept art illustrating the beheading and the hand gag, and he dug it.

How were the actors cast?

PEREZ: Quickly. When I read the script, I just saw Kevin Corrigan as Ken. You never get who you want, but in this case I’d known Kevin for many years and we’d always wanted to do something together, so this was our chance. Fortunately, he responded to the material, especially the father-daughter relationship, as he has a little girl himself. We also had a terrific casting director, Lisa Essary, who brought in Barry Bostwick [as an investigating sheriff], Karen Black [as Ken’s mom] and Lucy Davis [as Ken’s love interest]—I couldn’t believe our luck! I’m a huge fan of all of them, and totally geeked out.

More worrisome was finding the right Amy, Ken’s 11-year-old daughter. Child actors, incorrectly trained, can be incredibly affected and annoying. But when Ryan and I tested Ariel Gade, we knew we had struck gold.

LEVIN: If we had put the wrong person in that role, it would have destroyed the entire film, and that is not an exaggeration. She was the linchpin, so finding the right actress was probably more important than casting the lead. Ariel was the first girl to audition, so I had nobody to whom I could compare her, but I knew she was good. Fifty or 60 girls later, Ariel stood out as the one to beat. And yet I was still petrified about that role—not because of anything having to do with Ariel, but simply because so much was riding on an 11-year old actress. Then, as great as she was in her auditions, she became something even more wondrous when we started shooting. It was like she was going half-speed during the auditions to save herself for production, where she just turned it on and blew everyone away. I still shake my head at how good she is, and how fortunate we were.

Ryan, how much creative input did you have on set, and how much did you let Jack do his thing?

LEVIN: Ultimately, I had final say. Fortunately, I never had to play that card, because during preproduction, Jack and I discussed what we wanted from each scene. Of course, you can’t possibly prepare for everything that will happen in production—which is great because otherwise, production would be really fucking boring—but if we hit a spot where I wasn’t seeing what I wanted, I simply spoke to Jack and he’d get a take or two of what I wanted. Then, in post, we had choices. It shocks me to this day how smoothly it went, and continues to go, between Jack and me, considering it was a collision of two stubborn people who met for the first time six weeks before production.

What do you have in the works right now?

LEVIN: I’m working on the latest draft of a big, rompy horror/comedy, while outlining two other scripts. My experience with Some Guy has been incredible, and while I fear it will never be this much fun again, I still can’t wait to make another film.