I think this is my favorite role that Steven Yeun has done since “The Walking Dead.” He seems real calm and then he is on a mission. What was it like working with Steven? Did you just let Steven go for it or did you do a lot of work with him and cast? What was it like for you directing this incredible cast?
Joe- It is a mix of both with Steven and I. I mean I can safely say that my collaboration with Steven was absolutely one of the best that I’ve ever had working with another actor. He both got the ideas that I was going for and then challenged me at the same time every day at the same not being antagonistic at all but he would say why this? Why that? Does this fit the tone and what tone are we going for here? How big or how small. That was something we discussed every day even before we shot he would ask me these questions and I don’t think every director would be as supportive of that. A lot of times they’re like just stand there on your mark and say your lines and let’s move on. Because of the respect I have for Steven inherently, because I did, I loved him on “The Walking Dead” and I thought he was just a fantastic actor before we even worked together that I had a respect for him and I knew what he what doing. He took himself very seriously in a good way.
He was very light hearted and hilarious but he took the job seriously. He knew that he had a job to do and it wasn’t just a gig but it was something that he felt really strongly about and he was really passionate about as well. But by doing that and having that respect he showed me the same amount of respect by just going here’s what I am going for and does that gel with what you are trying to go with today and we fed off of each other. The three of us between myself, Steven and Samara we we’re very much the emotional brain trust of the film from an acting stand point and a story telling stand point. They are essentially telling the story and we are just there to support it with cameras and sound. Because really without those two the movie would suck. The movie would not be a movie, it would be nothing.
That’s because every moment we got a chance we would dig into every beat of what these two has to deal with. Those two actors can both very serious and very dark and we’ve seen them play very serious and very dark in certain movies but we’ve also, maybe not as much seen at least Sam and even Steven we haven’t really seen them play really funny or really crazy, a little more hyped reality or bigger emotions. I think they appreciated that they could do that all in one movie. Because you’re right a lot of times you know when you see Steven when he was on “The Walking Dead” at least in the beginning he was the comedic foil.
He was the comic relief but very quickly the more and more that show got involved play time and the jokes were kind of out the door. But before time Steven was the funny heart of that show. I have always been a fan of his and it was just like one of those things where we got the green light and that Sunday was the episode where he fake died and I just remember everyone be so affected by that and for me I was just looking for kind of what I like to call the “Dreyfuss Effect.” Richard Dreyfuss to me when I was growing up was the ultimate every man and there’s not too many actors who convey that same sense of humanity and confidence and just those traits that want to make you watch this person but you don’t put them on a pedestal. They are not a superhero yet they’re not a schmuck.
They are right in the middle like most of us. To me that was Richard Deyfuss back in the day. Like for example with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” any other actor in that role it wouldn’t have worked because if you look at it on paper he leaves his family to be an obsessive-compulsive alien tracker. If it was done by someone else I don’t think movie would have worked or we wouldn’t had the kind of empathy that Spielberg was trying to go for. Here, on paper. Derek and Melanie do awful things like, someone brought up a really good point at one of the film festivals, they said it would be really interesting to see this movie through another employees eyes and see that those two walking around could be considered Columbine shooters. They are running around, shooting up the place and killing people and causing havoc. I’m just hiding in my desk and those two are fucking crazy. So that was a very good point but because it is Steven and because its Samara and hopefully I’ve done my job right you have at least a little bit of sympathy and relatability and then you meet up with Sam and you are kind of oh her too! You kind of see where she is coming from. She is losing her house and she is doing this for her family but at the same time she can hold her own. If anything she is stronger than Steven in many respects which I love. Without those two having the kind of palpable likability that they do the house of cards would have fallen very quickly.
They both kicked ass! Samara is awesome. Samara kicks ass!
Joe- She is awesome. Have you seen “The Babysitter” yet?
I started watching it! She is doing a great job!
Joe- Yeah and she’s got two movies coming out this weekend. She is in “Mayhem” but she is also in that new Martin McDonagh movie, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and you wouldn’t recognize her. You would not that is her if I didn’t point it out if you haven’t seen it yet. She is in a ton stuff now and I think she is on the press of stardom, I can already tell.
I agree! Okay, is there any chance there will be a sequel to “Mayhem” or are you working on another project?
Joe- I’m currently working on another project but there has been a lot of talk about a sequel because it is very much like “The Purge” and we could do it anywhere. It could be more of an anthology where we don’t have to directly connect the characters of “Mayhem” with another story about Derek and Mel even though I hate to say it but I love them so much I would have to try to find a way to add them in. The thing that I love about the overall concept about this movie is it’s another one of those films that allows you to pause with a question what would you do in that situation? One of my favorite movies is Jonathan Mostow’s “Breakdown” with Kurt Russell and the thing that I love about that movie that I can’t forget, that I never can forget is how anyone can watch that movie and say to themselves well what would you do?
What if your car broke down and this trucker came along and said hey man your wife can get in my truck and we’re going to the next gas station and then all hell breaks loose. The whole time he’s got Kurt Russell playing the lead but its Kurt Russell in a pink polo. You couldn’t be as far removed from Jack Burton, Snake Plissken or MacReady as he possibly could but yet it’s Kurt Russell and he’s likable and you want to follow him to the end but you can also project yourself in him. With this virus and because of the nature of it and it affects everybody very differently I want to know what happens. There is this kind of running joke throughout the movie where very much like in “Escape from New York” when they kept asking Snake Plissken oh I heard you died in Cleveland and it was all this story sort of like what happened in Cleveland? That is just of became lore for the fans.
There is a big story in the movie with something that happened in Des Moines, Iowa where the boss even goes like, De Moines, Oh Fuck! Its one of those things when we hear about a gun shooting that town becomes synonymous with that kind of violent act. That’s all I had to say, that is all I needed to say for at least the characters to go oh shit and you see the look of severity on their faces and you go oh my God man something really bad happened in Des Moines so I would love to explore other stories with this. I think you could drop that virus into almost any situation. I would love to drop it in a video store!
Epic, truly epic!
Joe- Like somebody gets affected in a Blockbuster video from back in the day! What would happened then? What would happen in a restaurant? The amount of cutlery that would be used there. Even just in a bigger sense. What would happen to a small town or a bigger community? What happens if this thing gets really out of control! There is definitely ample opportunity to go back to it but it would have to be the right thing. There has definitely been discussions.
This is a good movie and a lot of the movies are the same but “Mayhem” is actually something that could happen and the story with the characters and what they go through. It is fascinating!
Joe- Another thing that was brought up recently at the New York festival and this almost pertains to your previous question too is someone had asked me in a Q&A what did I think about the recent shootings and I was like well, which one? There seems to be so many of them unfortunately and they we’re like well what if there was a discovery that it was a virus? It was a fascinating point where it could reflect on current society and see is the placebo effect because of the virus in a way or are these horrible acts happening for a reason that we don’t even know? Kind of like the virus at first before it got pointed out. There are so many violent acts that happen in this world and there are so many people. Look at the shooting yesterday in Texas and the president is already blaming mental illness. If there was a chance would he be like oh maybe it was just the virus? But does that mean everybody gets off because of that? Because they were temporarily insane you know.
There’s a lot of very sensitive issues and because of the tone I wanted to make this more of a roller-coaster ride than a morality lesson. That is kind of how I get away with some of the stuff I get away with without it being too nihilistic of mean-spirited. That’s where I go I just wanted to see something different. I am fully aware that some people go oh, this looks just like a “28 Days Later” or any zombie movie. A lot of these pandemic/viral movies in most cases when the outbreak occurs they are following one or two or a few people that aren’t infected and then of course the second or the third act one or more of them gets infected but most times one stays alive until the very end or right before. What I loved about this is everybody is (SPOILERS)
Another thing with this film is that even the trailer is excellent. The way you shot the film is excellent. I grew up watching horror films. My mom is an amazing artist and she never said to me, oh you cannot watch this or that and she looked at things like art. We also had a lot of horrible stuff happen to us in life and with this movie you see this horrible stuff happen but you can relate to this movie. These people want to fight, survive, kick and scream and live. You also never do the same thing and that makes it interesting! It makes you want to watch “Mayhem!” Also the first thing I noticed in the trailer is Samara putting on the sunglass all smooth and calm and Steven pulls out a screwdriver and it is slow-motion awesomeness.
Joe- Awe, Thank you! The screwdriver! That’s another thing that is attributed to our kind of fuck it, kind of attitude. Steve Gainer and I worked together both on “Everly” and “Mayhem.” With “Everly” – how do we make the camera a character to where we could kind of break free from the walls? We didn’t want the audience to feel like they were watching the same thing over and over again since we were in one room. But also make the camera us. In this one because I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go with it. Steve also knowing our very strict time-line, our very small budget we used this new camera devices called the Ronin’s which they are smaller steady cams. We used them for the entire production and we never had a tri-pod once. It lent the movie this very interesting floaty kind of dream like feel to a lot of shots. We had a steady cam guy on-set every day and that shot that you’re talking about. It is a super low angle shot that’s moving. That was created on the day and I was like I need a hero shot for them. What do we have and Steve was like we have the Ronin and we can put it on a skateboard and we can kind of pull it back. I saw how powerful they looked. I was like I’ve got to capture that! I was able to do things that I would have never in a billion years come up with on paper weeks ago or days ago so thank you for pointing that out about the shots cause we are really proud of it!
What do you want to say to the fans and to the audiences that are going to watch “Mayhem” because it is amazing and you will want to watch it over and over!?
Joe- Oh thank you so much! I appreciate that Janel! If you see the movie, please watch it legally if you possibly can. I know there are a lot of choices and not a lot of money out there for people to enjoy movies anymore but trust me your dollars are totally going to supporting indie-cinema and indie-filmmakers. I think a lot of people will see a lot of themselves in this movie. To kind of bring it back to a story from one of my favorite people of all-time who I now consider a close friend Bobcat Goldthwait.
I love Bobcat Goldthwait!!!
Joe- Yes, I’m dropping a name! He had the world by balls in the late eighties but he wasn’t happy! He wanted to direct movies instead of act in them. He essentially had to torpedo his career deliberately so he could reinvent himself as filmmaker and that is done surely out of the confidence that one would have and also kind of the balls that one would have to be able to say that I’m stuck in this situation and I am not happy and I need to find my happiness. That is the whole point of the final monologue of the film is to paint your own path to success whether it’s in work or with other people. To me success is happiness. Steven finds that in a way without giving too much away.
I have been in that situation before where I could have easily been better off if I would have taken either the safer route or the route that might not have made me happy but it would have made me more financially stable or stable in any other form. Here I wasn’t happy in my job and here was an avenue for me to express that and now the movie is out and people have enjoyed it around the world. We won a ton of audience awards and clearly people want to see this type of story.
It was an absolute honor to speak with you Joe. You are brilliant and amazing and “Mayhem” is epic so thank you so much! I love your films.
Joe- Awe thank you Janel. I really appreciate it! Thank you for supporting me and thank you for supporting the movie. We apparently don’t have Marvel marketing money so any chance I get to talk to people or get the word out so you are doing the lords work so thank you!
Thank you Joe!!!!!