Talking With… James Wan

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    Saw director James Wan speaks out about his new comedy short, Doggie Heaven, premiering today on Xbox LIVE.

    What’s scarier than a horror movie director making another gore-filled bloodfest?  How about a horror director making a-gasp!-short comedy?  That’s the premise behind the new “Horror Meets Comedy” series that started recently on the Xbox LIVE Independent Video Channel.  Over the next month, Xbox LIVE subscribers can download short comedy films from such experienced horror helmers as James Gunn (Slither), David Slade (30 Days of Night) and James Wan, the co-creator of the insanely popular Saw franchise.  Wan’s short, Doggie Heaven, premieres today on Xbox Live and he took some time to speak with us about the film, the continued success of the Saw movies and why he wants to be the next John Hughes.

    GIANT: So when you got the call to make a comedy short, did you feel like telling them-“Thanks for the offer, but you’ve got the wrong guy?”
    Wan: [Laughs]  No, my writing partner Leigh Whannell and I are big fans of all kinds of movies.  We got our break through the horror scene, which is a genre we love, but we’ve always wanted to write a funny script.  So when this came along, we realized it would be a good way to show people we can do something outside of the horror genre that’s funny, but still cutting-edge.  And even though Doggie Heaven has some gruesome bits in it, it’s very cute.  I really wanted to go for an adorable tone, but push it over the edge at the same time.

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    GIANT: And really, horror movies are just one step away from comedy anyway, right?
    Wan: Oh yeah, they’re basically sibling genres.  Both of them are about titillating the audience, whether its exploiting their inner fears through horror or their [hang-ups] through comedy.  It’s all about setting up a set-piece and paying it off with a punchline or a good scare.  That’s why I always say that horror filmmakers can actually go on to do good comedies as well.  The perfect mix is what Wes Craven did with the Scream movies.  And, you know, people always expect filmmakers who deal in a dark and scary world to be dark and scary people.  It’s completely the opposite.  Horror people are the ultimate nerds and the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  I always say that if you want to meet really miserable and depressed people, go talk to a comedian!

    GIANT: This series seems tailor-made to the horror genre, since horror buffs follow their favorite directors anywhere.

    Wan: The horror movie audience is very loyal.  They’re always looking for good product and it doesn’t matter if its at the theaters, on DVD or downloadable.  I think that’s why Safran Digital Group and Xbox came after filmmakers like us.  It’s not like they’re going to go to Merchant Ivory.  We’re exactly the kind of filmmakers that make the kinds of films their target audience wants to see.  And the platform is interesting because in the future, this is where it’s going to go.

    GIANT: Do you ever see yourself making a feature-length comedy?

    Wan: I definitely would.  Romantic comedies are actually my favorite kinds of movies; I grew up with all those John Hughes films, so I would love to make a teen comedy like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’m not a guy who wants to make scary movies for the rest of my life, so if I can actually break out there and get a feature comedy that would be a big step to not be limiting myself.

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    GIANT: Can you believe that the Saw franchise is still going strong four years after the first movie?
    Wan: I can’t believe that Saw V opened as well as it did.  It’s amazing to think that Saw started as one of these low-budget movies.  But it caught the public’s imagination and we’ve found a way to keep it going.  The fanbase is so rabid and obsessed with the mythology.  It’s always cool when you don’t plan for something to happen and it works out in a positive way.

    GIANT: Even though you’re no longer directly involved with the franchise, do you keep track of where its going?
    The way I see it, it’s like I directed the pilot episode of a TV series.  I set the look and the tone and the characters and the story and then other writers, directors and producers came along and continued it.  And then I’ll pop in every now and then and make sure it’s not too screwed up, that they don’t take the franchise in a too-crazy direction, which tends to happen with horror movies.  Like, if they start proposing sending Jigsaw into outer space, I would speak up.

    GIANT: What’s your next feature?
    I’m in the process of deciding what I want to do for my next project.  I definitely want to try something different.  I’m a big fan of thrillers, so I’ll come back to those.  I also love comic-book films as well and anime.  I’d love to make a Ninja Scroll movie for example.  I feel like that’s the next wave of filmmaking for today’s audience.  I actually get confused with the director of the new Dragonball live-action movie.  People will say to me, “James, you’re making Dragonball, right?”  And I’ll say, “No, that’s James Wong, the X-Files Guy.  You’ve got the wrong Asian director-I’m the one from Australia.” [Laughs]

    For more “Talking With…”, see below:

    Eamonn Walker

    Malcolm D. Lee

    Spike Lee

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