Self destruction is a feeling a majority of us have been familiar with, but what if that destruction expanded to say, your home, your appliances, and essentially your life?
That’s exactly the premise of Demolition! A beautiful man, Jake Gyllenhaal, destroying a beautiful house, piece by piece.
Okay, okay, let’s not fawn over Jake here. (Even though it was extremely difficult, especially when he walks by you and bids you hello, in a simple T-shirt, laid back jeans and those piercing blue eyes. Swoon. It’s safe to say that, this Hot Zoner was speechless.)
But, alas, Gyllenhaal plays that stereotypical corporate Wall Street guy, Davis, who’s working for his father-in-law, Phil. Phil is played by Academy Award winner, Chris Cooper. Phil is the type of father, who seems to love two things, his daughter and his luxurious lifestyle.
Everything can’t be so goddamn lovely, so within the first half hour of the movie Davis’ wife is killed in a devastating car accident. And, Davis’ world becomes topsy turvy. The trigger to this disarray would probably be in the hospital, when Davis is trying to snack on some Peanut Butter M&M’s and they get stuck in the machine. So, Davis decides to write the vending machine company about his unpleasant experience, and ends up letting out his life story. Eventually, this one letter turns into a series of letters to the vending machine’s customer service representative, Karen Moreno, played by Naomi Watts. Davis and Karen create a strange but seemingly beneficial bond, which later included Karen’s son, Chris Moreno, played by Judah Lewis. Chris and Davis had a giant impact on each other’s identities. But, let’s hear what director, Jean-Marc Vallee had to say about his experience.
AG: What made you want to jump on this project? What was personal about it for you?
JMV: The script. What the script represents, and what the script is. When I read it, it started in 2011. They sent me the script and I was flabbergasted by it. I wanted to direct it, badly. I called him back, and said I am the f***ing director. It’s the kind of material that the director’s dreaming of, it’s so original and so unique. It’s very very rare to read something like this, with this quality, humor, intelligence, and attention to detail. I laughed out loud and at the end I cried like a kid. I was crying because it was simply beautiful. I wanted to embrace that and honor Brian’s vision and courage. This script has a rock spirit. I grew up with rock’ n’ roll, and it give me wings and it made me dream. It made me want to do something in life. This script was something I really wanted to embrace. Here I am, talking about it.
AG: How did that emotion transcend in the way you directed the script to Jake, Naomi and the rest of the actors?
JMV: I didn’t have to do a lot. They reacted the same way. They got it. Sometimes, when I talked to them I would get emotional myself.
AG: What was the most fun moment you had while directing?
JMV: The demolition of the house was a special one. Breaking the s***t out of stuff. Doing it for an hour, finding the shot and finding some loud music. It was like a rock concert, like band members breaking their instruments.
AG: Did you feel like you had to take the script apart to make something beautiful?
JMV: Not necessarily take it apart, but I got to put up a fight. This film is rock’ n’ roll and it’s not an easy one. People are scared of things that are different. We had to put up a fight.
AG: Would you define the film as a comedy or a tragedy, if not either of those, what do you think is the genre?
JMV: I say its a drama with a lot of humor. It’s nice to allow yourself to laugh at something serious and dramatic.
Next, we caught up with the screenwriter of the film, Bryan Sipe!
AG: We have heard your relationship with Davis’ character, how he got you out of this writers block, but how did you create characters like Phil and Chris?
BS: I’m very interested about stories about fathers and sons. Brothers. I’m drawn to those kind of relationships. So, the father in law character was so appealing for me to explore. Chris, the way that character was introduced. When, I thought of Karen, I didn’t know she had a son, until I met her, and it just turned out she was a single mom. Then, I was introduced to her son, and I got to know him a little bit. I tend to gravitate towards complex characters.
AG: What do you think the the relationship between Chris and Davis represents?
BS: I wouldn’t say father son, but it’s interesting Davis is essentially regressing and becoming more childlike. With Chris it goes in the opposite direction, he acts a little bit older than his age. He has this consciousness about the world around him and these questions about the person he is, and the person inside of him. I think they meet on a common ground. I think it’s a complicit relationship.
AG: Why do you think Davis found solace from causing all this chaos?
BS: I don’t think he found solace. I think the idea is that he’s acting out in these ways that are drugs. It’s like a drug. It feels good for a little bit. It starts small. He destroys the refrigerator. There’s something about this, it felt good. But, all of a sudden the drugs aren’t working, he’s taking too much or something. But, it evolves into I’m going to smash the s***t out of things. I think the solace comes from the journey, that he finally gets to rock bottom, where he discovers his wife was pregnant, and rock bottom below that is that it wasn’t yours. It’s almost like this reveal that everything else was this facade, and now it’s all out there in the open, exposing this wound in him.
AG: You made the creative decision to not have a romantic relationship between Davis’ and Karen’s characters, what was the reasoning behind that?
BS: We definitely talked about the other version. I think ultimately, it was a story that we’ve seen before. I think we recognized that it would affect his relationship with the kid, as if he was lying to the kid. I think we would have hated Davis for that.
AG: What advice would you give to screenwriters who feel uninspired for a while?
BS: I would say this, there’s this great quote from this artist Chuck Close, “Inspiration is for amateurs, if you sit around waiting for inspiration, you’re not going to get a whole lot of work done.”
Lastly, we were introduced to new and upcoming actor Judah Lewis!
AG: How did you know acting was the career for you?
JL: I’ve been doing theater since I was four. My parents actually have a theater company, so I’ve been doing that since I was really little, and I enjoyed it, but I never was passionately in love with it. In the past few years, I started to do more film stuff and I just love it!
AG: What about this project made you want to jump on?
JL: The script. Bryan Sipe wrote a masterpiece. I love it because it’s unconventional, and because it doesn’t follow like what a stereotypical story would be. What I love about my character is the truthfulness and the realism.
AG: How was it like working with Jake Gyllenhaal?
JL: Its great! He brings such truth to his characters, and it makes you bring truth to your character.
AG: Chris Moreno is a really troubled and rebellious kid, was it easy to channel and relate to that kind of person?
JL: It was easy for me because it was all there in the script. What I think is interesting about him is that he has so many layers, and I feel like he’s put up all these blocks and walls to kind of protect himself, but inside he’s this really sweet kid. He’s confused and he’s trying to find himself.
AG: Music took a really big part in the movie, do you feel like you kind of relate to some of that rock’ n ‘ roll?
JL: Yeah! Actually, rock is my favorite genre of music. Coming in, Jean-Marc made a playlist for me of six or seven songs, and they were all bands that I never heard of, but they were these really cool rock’ n’ roll bands. By the end of the project, I had actually memorized all the songs, and a few of them made it into the movie. For instance, Mr. Big by Free, which is the scene where I’m drumming and Jake’s dancing, and that scene just happened at the spur of the moment. I drum and I’m a drummer, and it came up, so we said we have to use this garage. So, I started rocking out and Jake started dancing and it became this really special moment that kind of shows the bond between our two characters.
Demolition hits theaters April 8 in select theaters. Check it out, it is SO worth it!