Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on January 27, 2015, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
When Salma Hayek violently confronts an onslaught of varied attackers in the brutal thriller Everly, she’s acting in a number of great screen traditions. Director Joe Lynch discusses the movie’s genre-classic influences in this FANGORIA chat.
Everly stars Hayek in the title role of a woman trying to escape her enslavement to a mob boss, and takes place entirely in a large apartment where she faces down everyone from suited gunmen to a kinky Sadist (who brings his own Masochist with him). The initial logline on the film was “Die Hard in a room,” and the description certainly fits, especially given that the action takes place at Christmastime. However, as Lynch sees it, “The film is a bouillabaisse of all the movies I loved as a kid, and even into today—everything from Assault on Precinct 13 to The Raid. The movie is kind of about movies, in terms of the influences.
“Certainly,” he continues, “Die Hard was one that pushed my buttons and gave me a cineboner, because who doesn’t love Die Hard, and it’s always nice to reference a film that everybody talks about at least a few times a year, or at least during Christmas. It’s one person being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it has the Christmas music and a Christmas theme to it.
“But aside from that, another inspiration is obviously Takashi Miike—specifically Gozu and Ichi the Killer,” the latter of which is particularly apparent in the aforementioned Sadist character. “You know, you can say, ‘I was influenced by Takashi Miike,’ but was that 13 Assassins? Was that Dead or Alive? You don’t know with him. He’s all over the place tonally, but those two movies [Gozu and Ichi], and the no-holds-barred Yakuza movies he made, at least back in the day, were definitely influences.
“What’s funny is that watching Everly now,” Lynch continues, “I was also clearly inspired by Luc Besson back in the day, especially in terms of composition and the European approach of how they deal with violence or even themes of gender. Léon: The Professional had a huge impact on me as a kid, and Everly, in a way, is like the last 10 minutes of Léon stretched out over an hour and a half. That last section of Léon is the most insane thing I can remember seeing for years, and I was like, how can I harness that kind of insanity, and the unpredictability that anything could be coming next from behind that door, and shockingly, Jean Reno knows how to deal with it: ‘You know what? I’m going to propel myself upside down to deal with the bazooka that’s flying through.’ That bombastic dynamism of action—I definitely took some cues from Besson.”
Lynch, who developed Everly’s story with his college friend Yale Hannon—whose resulting screenplay wound up on the Black List—goes on to cite siege movies ranging from Assault on Precinct 13 and Rio Bravo to Night of the Living Dead as further templates for Everly, then reveals another, more specific predecessor: “The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. What I love about the Coen Brothers is their attention to detail—which, on a surface level, might seem very rococo, just the kinds of grand flourishes that directors throw in because they like the shot. But there’s that scene where John Getz is trying to get rid of Dan Hedaya’s body, or the cleaning of the blood in the bar. There are all these shots of blood seeping down his shirt, and even as a little kid, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a story point, because every time blood hits the floor, it’s now something that character has to deal with.’
“I really love how little details like that can become story elements,” he continues. “That’s why in Everly, when we cut back to the blood trickling down the mirror, that’s a passage-of-time device but also something that shows Everly is fallible, and that she has to bleed to redeem herself, in a sense. Those little details that Coen Brothers movies hinge on, especially Blood Simple, were very impactful for me when I was making Everly.”
However, there was one facet of the Coens’ career-launching blood noir that only inspired him on an unconscious level. “I had not actually seen Blood Simple for maybe five or six years when I got to the point where I was making Everly,” he notes. “When I was designing the apartment, I was working with this amazing production designer named Ondrzej Nekvasil—“
At this point, Fango interjects how cool it is that Lynch got the man who visualized the eye-filling multiple environments of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer to design his movie. “Yeah, that was great! It was funny, too; we hired him not based on Snowpiercer, but for his other work. Then when we were on set and prepping, he was like, ‘Yeah, I have this little movie called Snowpiercer,’ and I was like, ‘Wait a second—you did Snowpiercer?!’ When you see it, it is such an art director’s tour de force; his work is such a part of the story in that one, it’s amazing. Knowing that he was going to apply that attention to detail on Everly was very exciting.
“So when we were designing the room, we were coming up with the looks for the windows, and for the floors and walls and so forth; there was a reason for everything, there was a point to everything. I had always loved half-moon windows; there’s something about that image I think is just great. Because the windows are kind of the gateway—the eyes, if you will—into Everly’s story, I wanted to make sure they felt like they were leering in at her.
“Then, the night before we started filming, I decided, ‘I’ve got to cleanse my palate, and try not to stress.’ I always try to put on a movie I can get excited about watching, just to calm my nerves and let the tension out. So I decided to watch Blood Simple, and if you remember the end of that movie, the famous siege on Frances McDormand’s apartment, the same exact window and brick wall are in there! My heart went into my stomach, and I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ I had no intention of mine being similar—none whatsoever. But the next day, when I mentioned that to my DP, Steve Gainer, he just said, ‘That’s the cinema that’s coursing through your veins. It’s like subliminal filmmaking; a reason you love that movie is now transferring into this one. Whether you’re tipping your hat to the Coen Brothers or not, it’s there, you know?’ So Blood Simple, inadvertently, was a huge influence on Everly.”