Alexandre Aja interview
Director Alexandre Aja, whose previous feature Haute Tension was a top horror hit for 2005, has kindly granted an interview with John Gray on the eve of the release of The Hills Have Eyes, which is poised to rock the box office. Many thanks to Alex for his time and friendly disposition.
Alex! How ya doing?
Good, and you?
Great, good to talk to you! I saw the film last
week. Good job on remaking a classic and actually
doing it right!
So, my first question would be....with all the fan
backlash on remakes, did you have any second thoughts
on actually remaking this film?
Of course! (laughs) I'm a huge fan of the
original and it was a big challenge. You don't
confront yourself with a film like The Hills Have
Eyes....a movie you saw so many times without thinking
like, wow now I'm going to redo this movie? I wanted
to be sure on it because to tell you the truth, if it
was The Last House on the Left or The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre or Straw Dogs or Deliverance, I would have
passed right away. The way it started was Wes saw
Haute Tension and asked us to come up with a new
approach of The Hills Have Eyes and we started
thinking....why do we love The Hills Have Eyes? Why
was this such a great movie for us? And we realized
that most of the reasons were not because of it was so
scary or it was such a traumatizing film. It's because
people love Michael Berryman! It was the look of the
wardrobe, the way they act, and because of all that....we all find some dark humor in it. You see what I
Oh, for sure!
It was for that reason, and so we realized it
was possible to re-invent The Hills Have Eyes today,
in 2006....with a more straight forward and brutal
Now, how hands-on was Wes? Did he give you any
advice or did he just let you go and do your film?
We came back to him with this idea of the
nuclear testing background and everything came in a
very obvious way after that. The look of the people
from the hills, the look of the village at the end,
the mine caves, and so you know he said I did my
movie, now you do yours. I loved High Tension so go.
So we spent a few months writing the first draft which
is basically the movie you saw. After that it was
several months of trading emails about the script
details, and he was so supportive. He really, really
protected me throughout the entire process.
Is it true you wanted Michael Berryman for a role
in the film or is that just a rumor?
We actually wrote the part of 'Cyst' for him.
You know the mutant that is dragging the body behind
him in the village and winds up getting the pick of
the axe to the eyeball?
Oh yeah....that scene would be hard to forget!
We thought, this could be a great cameo for him
in the movie and we talked about it to Wes and he
wasn't very excited with that idea. Also, we realized
that maybe if we wanted to re-invent the film, we
needed not to take the imagery of what was the
original film, which was mainly Michael Berryman. So
that was basically the idea and I think it was a good
idea, but you know... people like us, you and I, we
would love to see that, but I respect Wes and it was
ultimately a production call.
How was the casting process otherwise? Did you
have an easy time with that?
The idea was to make the film as realistic as we
can, so we spent like weeks and weeks and saw the
maximum amount of people to try and find the people
who were the best... ultimately, I am happy with my
choices. I have no regrets with that.
Yeah, the cast was excellent!
Doug Bukowski who is played by Aaron Stanford is
amazing and it was such a big challenge to find
someone like Dustin Hoffman is Straw Dogs. It's not so
easy to find a young person like that and I was really
I know what you mean....he really stood out in the
film. I even mentioned that in my review.
What he is doing in the movie was great and
another is Ted Levine who brought so much to the
character of 'Big Bob.' You know, he could have been
so cliche and what Ted brought was truth, you know,
authenticity....and the same goes for Dan Byrd and
Emilie de Raven. I mean I had so much fun making the
movie with all of them. They were all on the same
page about the characters and the were so excited
considering the extreme conditions because it was
extreme! The shooting was extreme....you know it was
the middle of summer in the desert, and they never
complained. It was truly amazing.
Why did you decide to shoot in Morocco?
First of all we went everywhere... from
California, Mexico, New Mexico where the action is
supposed to take place, and then Namibia, South
Africa, and Morocco. We found out in New Mexico,
there is some amazing locations, amazing light... but
we found that if you go to Morocco....it's the same.
Exactly the same color of the rocks, the same jagged
hills, the same surrounding but even bigger and more
ominous. And, everything was less than one hour from
the city and the sound-stage. In New Mexico it was
like three hours! That means less days of shooting.
Another reason of course is more money on the picture.
So many reasons, but most importantly it was the
You know, going back to the film, it seemed to me
there was a strong political thread in the film. Did
you mean to go there or did you just want to brush
past that and move on?
I mean, that was not my goal....I didn't want to
make a political movie. You know, the original is a
mirror of society back in the day. And to think back
on it, it's impossible not to talk about that in the
movie. You know, the idea of no one is the bad guy,
no one is the victim, everyone is both. At the same
time, our society is creating its own monster.
Was there ever a question as to if you were going
to keep this film set in the 70's like they did with
Chainsaw, or was it always set to be an update to
I think if we were asked to make the movie
before September 11th maybe, but after that, you know
society changed so much. With the subtext of the
film, what was going on in '77 is very similar to
today. It's kind of interesting, but we never really
thought about setting it in the 70's.
The film is extremely brutal....did you have any
problems with the MPAA?
OH YEAH!!! (laughs)
I'm surprised what made it on screen actually made
Yes, we submitted the movie four or five times.
I think we were more patient than they were! (laughs
What can we expect to see on the Uncut DVD then?
Several minutes. (HIGHLIGHT FOR MAJOR SPOILERS)
They cut some close-ups of 'Big Bob' burning and his
eyes turning white. A close-up of Lynne being shot in
the head, the muzzle-flash and the direct impact.
Also a shot of the gun being pointed at the baby...
they cut half a minute of the rape scene with Brenda.
At the end they cut one shot of Lizard being shot.
Heís supposed to have been shot three times but they
cut to one of him being shot right in the throat.
Thatís very stupid to me so it will be nice to see
that back on the DVD.(END SPOILERS)
Damn, sounds like we are in for a treat when the
unrated DVD comes out then!
In the DVD, you will be able to see all the
brutal and gory F/X. But I think even with the scenes
missing, it is very intense.
Oh, hell yes it is! And another thing, aside from
the gore....are we going to see anymore character
driven scenes that were cut? I missed several of the
scenes that were in the original like with Pappa Jup's
role being smaller. Why did you decide to go that
route with such a great character?
Well, that was a big question and Wes was also
like trying beef up the character of Jupiter in the
film, but I think that's just a way to watch the movie
as a fan of the original. As we are, but I think when
some people that have never seen the original watch
it, they won't have this feeling of missing Jupiter.
What we found out is if you show too much dialogue with
the mutants, then it's not scary anymore.
Do you think that took away from the original
Like one of my favorite scenes in the original, is
the campfire scene where Pappa Jup is making his
speech and talking shit to the dog while they are
eating it. It was almost like Wes was trying to do
his own version of the dinner scene from The Texas
I'm a huge fan of the family scene in the
original Chainsaw. I mean it's just the best! And if
you can't do better than that.... (pauses)
Then don't even try....
Exactly! My feeling is, if you start having
them talk with each other, you are just losing the
Now, as far as F/X goes, you worked with Giannetto
De Rossi in Haute Tension who is like an F/X GOD, and
now in Hills you worked with KNB. Those are two huge
names. So why did you decide on KNB over Giannetto?
First of all, I thought about Giannetto first,
but he wasn't able to go. He read the script and was
really let down that he could not work on this with
me. He was working on a big project which is the
young Hannibal Lecter film.
You mean Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask?
Yes....and you know I was thinking about
Giannetto not for the mutants, but for the Carter
family. KNB was, like, great....I had been dreaming of
working with them because they are so great. I mean
they have the best workshop and Wes has worked with
them for years. Working with Greg Nicotero and Howard
Berger....these guys, they are just so genius!
I know the film has not even come out yet, but I'm
sure you have heard all the buzz. Is there going to
be a sequel, or is this it for you?
I don't know. It's true they are thinking about
it, but the answer is very simple. If we find an
amazing concept or a great story, why not? If it's
just a bullshit sequel, then no.
It's obvious that an attitude like yours is what
sets you apart and above all this bullshit PG-13 crap
that just keeps coming out and coming out.
Thanks a lot.
So what is next for you? Are you planning on
staying in the genre or branching out?
We are working on a movie that is a supernatural
story called The Waiting and I think there is many
many things to do in the genre, but at the same time I
don't want to do the same movie ten times. There are
many subjects and we are writing several scripts...
like adapting that graphic novel Black Hole which is
an amazing graphic novel.
Cool....well, as you know the fans over at Guts
And Gory just about died when I let them know we were
doing an interview. One fan in particular who posts
on the forum just had to know if you had any plans on
doing another remake, and if so what would you like to
Not really, I was approached to remake a lot of
films....but there is some great project out there. A
good remake is when you love the movie, and you want
to share it with friends and you show it to them and
they don't get what you love so much. Maybe because
it's too dated or whatever, and that right there is
case and point for a remake sometimes. You take a
movie like Deliverance which is just perfect and it
looks like it is taking place today. Those types of
films, I will stay away from.
Okay, final question... top five horror films in
no particular order.
Okay....The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left and The
Alex, I appreciate your time...
John, tell all the fans on the Pit Of Horror and
Guts And Gory to go see this film and that I will be
dropping by this weekend to see their reaction!
Will do....I can promise you, everyone is going to
love it! I personally can't wait for your next film!
Thanks again, John.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES REVIEW --EXCLUSIVE!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES OFFICIAL SITE
DISCUSS ON GUTS AND GORY
EZRA BUZZINGTON INTERVIEW
MICHAEL BAILEY SMITH INTERVIEW
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