SIFF Interview – William Friedkin/Emile Hirsch – Killer Joe

Spencer participates in a roundtable interview with director William Friedkin and actor Emile Hirsch from the crime thriller Killer Joe at SIFF 2012.

If you enjoy this interview, you might want to look back on our roundtable discussion of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer.

This segment is also available on Stitcher and iTunes. The audio version can be downloaded directly from here.

This roundtable interview featured myself, Tyler Foster from DVD Talk and Tim Hall from the Seattle PI. The transcription is courtesy of Tyler.

William Friedkin: The number of punches landed…he was constantly the aggressor, the last six rounds were boring beyond belief…We left before the decision! This was a slam dunk! There should be a federal investigation.

Timothy Hall, Seattle P-I: So, what do you think happened?

WF: I think it’s a set-up for a rematch.

Spencer Fornaciari, The MacGuffin: Didn’t they already start advertising? They have a day picked out?

WF: Yeah, November!

TH: They’ve got a date already for a rematch.

WF: November! And that’s not easy to do. You gotta book some arena, usually the MGM Grand, and now they’ve got a date in November…

Look, nobody’s around to fight Pacquiao. There’s not gonna be a — after this fight, which was so lame, no one would want to pay-per-view to see the next slaughter. He slaughtered this guy!

SF: That was just it, I was saying before, what does this do to a potential Mayweather fight? This seems like it would take a lot of steam out of it.

WF: There’s not gonna be a…

TH: There’s not gonna be a Mayweather fight. Because Bob Arum hates Mayweather.

WF: Well, Mayweather’s in the can. He’s not gonna be available for awhile. And I don’t know why they don’t wanna fight. I know Bob Arum very well, the promoter, and he keeps telling me Pacquiao’s desperate to…it’d be the biggest gate ever!

TH: I think it would be! Gosh, that’s terrible.

Anyone want to start?

WF: Go ahead.

Tyler Foster, DVDTalk: I was wondering what your process is with Tracy [Letts]. Does he change anything about his plays for the screen?

WF: Well, yeah. We changed everything about Killer Joe. I mean, the play is set in one place. The film…the play doesn’t have a chase scene. You don’t see any other characters, there’s no other locations, and when you do that, you have to reconcieve the whole piece. And so, yes he does. He re-thinks it as a screenplay.

TF: If you have the freedom to change what you want, to tweak it for the screen…what is it that made Killer Joe and Bug stand out as as movies to you? What made you think, “this will be a movie,” vs. one of his other plays?

WF: I share his worldview in both of those pieces. We both see the world as kind of absurd, and we see human behavior as often frightening and perplexing, but we still think of it as absurd, and not something seriously. The think about Killer Joe is, if you take it too seriously, it will really disturb you, but if you see it as a dark comedy, it’s more easily grasped. This is true of Harold Pinter’s work, and Samuel Beckett, and some of the great writers of our time.

TF: Have you considered working on something just for a movie, not one of his plays?

WF: We’ve talked about that, yes. I hope we will. Have to see the script, but we’re on the same page, in terms of our worldview.

SF: Building upon that, you talk about it being so different from the play, because it’s not all set in one place, and it’s a much broader environment, but one thing we were talking about after the screening is how the last scene felt so theatrical in nature, in one confined room, people rotating within that room. Is that something you thought about changing to make it more grandiose or cinematic?

WF: That’s not a place you want to go. Because some of the greatest films ever made were plays, and no critic or essayist at the time wrote about the fact that they were plays, like Casablanca was originally a play. It’s generally considered one of the first or second best American films ever made, on every critic’s poll… It was a play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s, and most of Casablanca — most of it — is set in Rick’s Cafe American. The film A Few Good Men, which I think is a great film, was a play.Cabaret was a play. So many films that have won the Academy Award were not only plays, they weremusical plays, like Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. Many of the greatest films ever made were based — films are based on a number of things. They’re based on newspaper articles, novels, some of them are original, they come from many sources, and a piece of material attracts me because what it is, not what it was.

I don’t remember ever seeing in the old days, and I’ve read a lot of film reviews from the ’40s or ’50s, anyone speaking about the fact that Casablanca was a play, or A Few Good Men. In fact, it was an unsuccessful play. Someone at the Warner Bros. story departments saw the play script in New York and sent it to Hollywood, and they started to develop it, they had a whole bunch of writers, and came up with this incredible movie.


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Spencer was born and raised in New Mexico. He grew up with the many great films of the 1980’s before having his world rocked after seeing The Usual Suspects. He moved to Washington State to go to the University of Washington, and currently any free time he currently has is split between working on film projects and watching films.

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