'Donnie Darko' at 20: "We had been scared it was going to go within the straight-to-DVD wastebasket"
- Movie Interviews
- March 21, 2023
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It was a struggle to get Donnie Darko made, a scrap to get it launched and an almighty brawl to get anybody to really see it, however within the 20 years since 2001 Donnie Darko has turn into some of the revered and beloved impartial movies of all time.
Chatting with NME from a picturesque North Carolina waterfront, Donnie Darko‘s author/director Richard Kelly is disarmingly sincere in regards to the magnificence, horror and surprise of his hallucinatory time journey saga. Soundtracked by the likes of Pleasure Division, Duran Duran and Echo & The Bunnymen, the movie’s depiction of angsty teenagers, apocalyptic visions and prophetic scenes of terror tapped into the milieu of a world that was about to be irreversibly modified by 9/11.
In contrast to most Hollywood varieties, Kelly doesn’t conceal away from the tribulations of getting Donnie Darko out into the world. “Sundance Movie Pageant was a tough trip,” he recollects in regards to the 2001 occasion. “No-one needed to purchase it, no-one needed to distribute it. The financier didn’t perceive the film, and we had been scared it was going to go within the straight-to-DVD wastebasket. We obtained into cinemas by the pores and skin of our enamel.”
A giant motive why Donnie Darko did finally creep into cinemas was due to Christopher Nolan, whose film Memento was screened on the similar yr’s Sundance to crucial acclaim. “Aaron Ryder [an executive at Newmarket Films, which produced both Memento and Donnie Darko] strategically introduced Chris to a screening so after it completed he may flip round to the remainder of the executives and go, ‘Buy this movie’,” Kelly remembers.
By that time Memento had already been a monetary success for the studio, and Nolan’s enthusiasm persuaded them to offer Donnie Darko a full theatrical launch. On having Nolan’s backing, Kelly says: “It’s an enormous, necessary present each time you may have the help of your fellow filmmakers. I’d at all times do this for others if I may.”
One other necessary determine in getting Donnie Darko on the large display screen was Drew Barrymore, who has a supporting function within the film. Sandwiched between blockbuster appearances within the Charlie’s Angels films, Barrymore leveraged her A-list fame to assist get a singular movie made after first changing into concerned within the undertaking in early 2000.
At that time, Kelly had completed procuring the script round Hollywood, however discovered that, whereas there was huge curiosity in his screenplay, no-one was keen to let him direct. “[Barrymore] was important to the financing ingredient,” he says now. “Her star energy helped elevate the $4.5 million funds.”
The movie additionally stars the late Patrick Swayze as native motivational speaker Jim Cunningham. “Patrick Swayze was such a candy, form and beneficiant actor,” Kelly says. “The infomercials that you just see within the movie, we shot these at Patrick’s home – a giant, stunning ranch out in Calabasas. His spouse introduced out his actual Nineteen Eighties wardrobe and was like, ‘Patrick, let me put you on this shirt’. The sweetest individuals, it was an honour to work with him.”
Considered one of Donnie Darko’s most well-known and surprising scenes is the sequence that includes a jet airplane engine crashing by the roof of a home. Remarkably, the scene took inspiration from some very actual occasions. “After I was a child, there was somebody in my hometown the place a big piece of ice fell off the wing of a airplane and destroyed this home,” Kelly says. “I simply thought: ‘What a terrifying, disturbing factor to occur.’”
Unlucky timing meant the scene was overshadowed by the horror of 9/11, and US film audiences in October 2001 simply didn’t need to be confronted with Lynchian horror – particularly Lynchian horror that concerned falling airplanes.
Fortunately for Donnie Darko and Kelly, the UK and Europe weren’t as burdened by the shadow of 9/11 when the movie was lastly launched over right here within the autumn of 2002 – over 20 months on from its Sundance premiere. “The UK began to get its palms on the US DVD [of Donnie Darko], phrase began to unfold and a cult fanbase began brewing earlier than the theatrical launch,” Kelly recollects. “After I flew to London, I used to be blown away by the passion and help for the movie.”
He’s genuinely grateful to the UK for accepting his debut after it was shunned at residence: “It was successful within the UK and it was so gratifying. To have that resurgence within the UK was such an emotional second. An necessary milestone, for certain.”
Quite a bit has occurred within the 20 years since: Donnie Darko went from oddball curio to cult basic, and Kelly went from wunderkind to outcast. Admittedly burdened by the success of his debut characteristic, his ambitiously warped follow-up Southland Tales crashed and burned earlier than 2009’s The Field starring Cameron Diaz got here and went. Kelly’s twisted visions went unloved by the mainstream, and he hasn’t launched a movie in 12 years.
However Kelly stays optimistic for the longer term, and has even teased an extension of the Donnie Darko universe. “Hopefully we’ll have one thing to point out individuals quickly that can actually blow everyone’s minds,” he tells NME. “I hope to broaden this universe.”