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Exclusive Interview: Boris Rodriguez, Writer-Director of "Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal"

Posted August 8, 2013 03:52 PM by Jeffrey Kauffman

Doppelganger ReleasingEddie, the Sleepwalking Cannibal is the darkly humorous account of a painter with a creative block who suddenly finds himself inspired by the murderous adventures of a mute giant he's agreed to take care of in a small Canadian village. The film stars Thure Lindhardt and has received glowing reviews at several film festivals and screenings. Eddie's writer- director Boris Rodriguez sat down with Blu-ray.com's Jeffrey Kauffman for this exclusive interview.

Hi, Boris! It's great to be talking with you. I know you have a fairly common surname, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you if you are related to Robert Rodriguez?

No, no blood ties, but I of course love his work and wouldn't mind being compared to him.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?

Well, I'm from Montreal, but my mom is Mexican and my Dad is Cuban so I've lived all over.

Wow! So you've been to Cuba?

Oh, yes, I've been to Cuba quite a bit. My parents wanted me to experience my cultural roots, and so they sent me to Cuba quite a bit when I was a teen. It was at the height of the Cold War, so it was pretty interesting.

Have you seen Chico & Rita?

No, I haven't even heard of it.

Oh, wow, you have to see it. It's a fantastic animated film that was nominated for an Oscar a couple of years ago that traces the life of a Cuban musician from the post-World War II era up through the present day. It deals with that whole Afro-Cuban movement that exploded that Dizzy Gillespie was involved in. The music is fantastic and the animation style is incredible.

That sounds really cool, like something I should watch with my father.

What's your background in film? Did you go to film school?

Yes, I went to the Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal, and then to the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, which is also known as the Norman Jewison Film School.

Did you start making films right away?

Well, I did some shorts, but I like to say I got "lost" in the world of television for a while.

What did you do?

I had a kind of crazy little niche where I would direct historical reenactments for documentaries.

Like what's on The History Channel?

Yes, but this was in Canada, so nothing for History, but for lots of other Canadian stations. And I also worked on some educational CD-ROMs, but I always wanted to move into feature film directing. I kind of considered this my "day job", and so when the chance to do Eddie came along, I jumped at it.

Tell us where the idea for Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal came from?

It was first pitched to me several years ago by my co-writer Jonathan Rannells. It was quite different then. It was about a novelist, not a painter, and it took place in North Carolina rather than Canada. It was actually about a retarded werewolf at the time.

Excuse me—did you say retarded werewolf?

Yes, a mentally challenged werewolf. But there were some problems with that concept. If he were a writer and a werewolf, he could only write a chapter every full moon, which left huge gaps in the timeline. So that had some issues. Ultimately Jon Rannells moved to Los Angeles and I stayed in Canada, but we finally figured out that it would be more colorful with an artist and a sleepwalking cannibal. With cannibals, you don't have any prescribed rules. With vampires or werewolves, there are already rules you have to follow.

So did you write the screenplay?

No, Jon and I collaborated, though I was the last writer on the last draft.


Was it easy to find funding since you were a first time feature director?

Well, that's kind of a long and involved story. A lot of people we approached wanted me to do it on a low, low budget, but I just didn't want to shoot it for really cheap. I knew something like Eddie would depend almost completely on the caliber of the performances, and so I needed to be able to attract major talent to the project. It was aesthetically unpleasing to me in any case to try to make the film too cheaply, but I just knew I needed to be able to have top flight acting talent involved.

So what happened?

Well the problem is that a lot of major Canadian talent tends to migrate south to the U.S. and doesn't want to come back north for low budget fare, so I decided to turn to Europe. And a Danish casting agent got me in touch with Thure Lindhardt. We met in L.A., went out for dinner and got drunk and he told me he wanted to do the film. With Thure on board, there was a whole new level of interest, including from Danish investors as well as German distributors. And so ultimately we were able to raise a fairly nice budget for a first feature.

Had you seen Keep the Lights On when you cast Thure?

No, because that film debuted at almost the same time as Eddie did. But when I did finally see it, I kept thinking, "That is not my painter". It's just a testament to what a fine actor Thure is, he's able to do these totally different roles and be completely convincing in all of them.

How long was the shoot?

20 days.

Where did you shoot the film?

In and around Ottawa.

That begs the question—there are a bunch of nighttime scenes where Eddie is running through the snow covered woods in nothing but his underwear. Did you really shoot those scenes at night outside?

Yes, that's part of the "fun" of doing a low budget film. We did things we really probably shouldn't have done, but Dylan [Dylan Scott Smith, who plays Eddie] totally committed to the role and did it, despite the fact that with wind chill we were probably looking at something close to -40 degrees. The cool thing is that to keep warm Dylan would exercise right before takes, and so you see steam emanating off of his body in the film, which is a really cool effect.

Eddie was shot digitally, right?

Right—with an Alexa.

Was this an aesthetic decision, or made for budgetary reasons?

Well, I would have preferred to have shot on film had it been financially feasible, and I even considered doing this on 16mm. But without trying to sound like an advertisement for Alexa, this is the first digital system that I've really liked. It was made by film people for film people, and it overcomes a lot of the limitations we've previously seen in digitally shot features, including a much broader light spectrum.

One of the interesting things about the film is that it deals with an artist overcoming "writer's block", but you never show the works of art he finally is able to create. That was obviously an intentional decision, right?

Absolutely. We wanted to leave that to the viewer's imagination. There's another issue, too—as wonderful an actor as Thure is, he's a frickin' awful painter. (Laughs)

Is Eddie autobiographical at all?

Only in the sense that Jon and I discussed how some artists need to suffer the most to create their best work—that's the only sense in which it's really autobiographical.

What are you working on now?

Well, I'm not sure what will be greenlit next, but I have a dark comedy about a kidnapping in process.

That funny, because my review of Eddie, the Sleepwalking Cannibal specifically mentioned the Coen Brothers and that great kidnapping scene in Fargo . Will we see anything like that?

(Laughing) No, not exactly, though I really appreciate the comparison to the Coens. Some others compared the camera work in Eddie to Kubrick, so I loved that, too. But, no this is going to be a kind of combo film noir and western with a kidnapping involved. This will be much more of my personal vision and trying to tweak these genres in my own personal way.

I can't wait to see it! Thanks for your time, Boris.

Thanks!


Source: Blu-ray.com | Permalink | United States [Country settings]

News comments (2 comments)


wllm995
  Aug 08, 2013
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Thanks for the interview! Always nice to hear from a beginning film maker.

Top contributor
Spitfrnd
  Aug 09, 2013
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I wish him well, god knows the industry needs new blood but not necessarily with such a bizzare orientation. I how he finds his way with more interesting material.


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