Donnie Darko Director's Cut Rerelease, Book, Frank the Bunny doll
Donnie Darko book, figurine, special edition re-release announced at San Diego screening.
Richard Kelly, writer-director of Donnie Darko, attended a special screening in San Diego where he announced an upcoming book and Todd McFarlane figurine based on the 2001 cult classic, as well as a potential theatrical re-release in March of 2004.
The Q&A session, following a 4:00 showing on Sunday the 19th at Madstone Theaters onFrazee Road, was arranged by the San Diego Film Critics Society, who awarded Kelly Best Screenplay in 2002 while he was in Europe. The casual crowd filled three-fourths of the theater, an excellent turnout for an otherwise poorly advertised event. As much as 1/4 of the audience had never seen the film.
Immediately following the credits, Kelly, in jeans and grey T-shirt, made his way to the stool in front - he had intended to present the film, but his car had broken down and he had to borrow another. Following a brief introduction he immediately began taking audience questions.
* When asked how he marketed the unusual script, Kelly thanked his producing partner Scott McKittrick, who had shopped it to an assistant at a major agency, which led to him being signed with Creative Artists (CAA). Initially only the screenwriter, Kelly got his chance to direct when Jason Schwartzman of Rushmore fame showed interest and became attached to the project. He passed it to Drew Barrymore, who approached Kelly's agent at ShoWest and met with him on the set of Charlie's Angels. He offered her a part; she offered to produce.
* Kelly compared Darko's cul-de-sac ending to "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the Twilight Zone episode based on the Ambrose Bierce short story about a man about to be hanged who, in his final moments, imagines himself surviving and escaping.
* He sites Steven King, Philip K. Dick, Camus, Kafka, Graham Greene, and Dostoevsky as literary influences. He admitted not having read any of them since high school English and not knowing which way to pronounce Camus.
* Heís a big fan of Kill Bill and Quentin Tarantino, who he met at the premier. Also a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman. Apparently, when Kaufman turned in his draft of Adaptation, everyone in Hollywood wanted to kill him. Kelly tells another story about a screening of Being John Malcovitch: a producer who passed on it walked out claiming she'd dodged a bullet, and, later, at the Oscars, talked about how it was one of her favorite films of the year.
* The concept of the screenplay began with the jet engine. It was inspired by the urban legend of the block of frozen urine that falls from a plane and strikes a man dead - an idea, Kelly pointed out, that was also used in an episode of Six Feet Under.
* When asked about his struggles filming Donnie Darko and whether he expects his struggles to get worse, Kelly clarified that filmmaking is always a struggle. "There's always 20 bozos who'll screw it up," he complained. "They're not in it for the art at all; to them it's just a business." He discussed his next film, Knowing, which has been caught in legal entanglements; principal photography won't begin until early next year, due in part to the film's $15 million budget. (Darko, which was made for more that a third less, failed to earn back production costs.)
* On the scripts he is writing for other directors in the meantime, Kelly claimed he considers it work-for-hire, though he emphasized the importance of owning and protecting one's material until it is set to go into production. "They can cast Carrot Top," he warned. "You're fucked."
* When asked if he intended the faculty in Darko to be so blatantly incompetent, Kelly reiterated that the characters are supposed to be archetypes, but, yes, Kitty and the principal are "clearly nitwits," while the teachers played by Barrymore and Noah Wyle are the liberal progressive types he admired growing up in Virginia. If Darko has any message, he concedes it would be that public schools and suburban life in general can be so pointlessly damaging that it's no wonder kids are shooting up their schools.
* Most of the throwaway details in the film were written in the script - right down to the "God Is Awesome!" T-Shirt. Kelly admitted admiration for directors like Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam who emphasize details, and pointed out that technicians appreciate it when you're real specific.
* Patrick Swayze is the nicest man in the world. The infomercial was shot on his ranch; his wife showed them his recording studio and brought out his "80's clothes." Swayze was very enthusiastic about the project: ìHe wanted to take a blowtorch to his image."
* Kelly got to USC on an art scholarship, and changed his major almost immediately. He got into the film department on the strength of his writing samples, and intended to continue as a screenwriter until his peers told him he was most defiantly a director. His dad was a scientist at NASA, and his whole family has a background in architecture and engineering, and after all, ìa director is an architect.î
* The Donnie Darko book - not a novel, more like a production book, like the Matrix coffee table book - is already available inLondonand contains the screenplay, including unproduced scenes. It will be available in theUSshortly.
* When asked, he defended Cherita, the plump Chinese girl, by comparing her to the Mike Yanagita character inFargo. All he does it hit on Marge and lie about his marriage - the studio should have cut the scene, Kelly claims. But when Marge discovers that he lied, it makes her wonder if sheís easily lied to - prompting her to question Jerry Lundegaard a second time. Yanagita was secretly crucial. Kelly failed to explain why putting on Cheritaís earmuffs was an important stage in the development of Donnieís character, but claimed it was anyhow.
As he got up to leave, the SDFCS representative reminded him of his special announcement: he is in negotiations with Newmarket Film Group to re-release Donnie Darko next March, including more pop music removed since it was shown at Sundance, and, more importantly - it will be a Directorís Cut. He claimed it may include stuff not available on the DVD. He did not specify how wide it will be distributed.
The SDFCS rep also reminded him to tell us that McFarlane Toys is working on a Frank the Bunny doll.
Kelly, though appearing tired, was willing to sign DVD covers and chatted with fans as they left the theater.
Madstone will continue showing Donnie Darko until the 23rd.