David Dubos [Interview]

Welcome to Day 25 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 5 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Today we have what may be one of the most intriguing interview we have ever done, at least to me on a personal level. David Dubos is a writer and filmmaker who has done some incredible work in and outside of the world of horror. He is a part of one of my favorite franchises, which would be the Leprechaun franchise. But, what has intrigued me the most was learning that he is currently working on a biopic of John Kennedy Toole, which I am so damn stoked for, and hoping that it comes sooner than later! And learning that he is a NOLA based artist makes that fact even better because Toole was from there, and it is frankly the greatest city in the United States. I firmly believe that. Fight me on it as you will, but you will be wrong.

We are so damn excited to share these amazing answers from a truly talented individual here today. Dubos is a hard working and obviously talented human being that has given the world of film so damn much to be excited about, and we are so happy that he was able to take some time from his busy schedule to share a few words with us here. So, please enjoy some beautiful words from the great David Dubos!

What inspired you to get into the world of film and television? Was it an early aspiration to do so, or did you just decide to try it out one day?

When I was very young, my father let me have this old black & white TV with a coat hanger for an antenna.  The only channel that came in clear was a local PBS station.  I’m not sure who the programmer was but he (or she) was definitely a classic film buff because every night they ran a series of classic black & white films, everything from Citizen Kane and Hitchcock to Billy Wilder and film noir to silents from Chaplin and Keaton. It was my accidental film school.  So I got hooked early on. Then like so many filmmakers from my generation, I saw Jaws and was fascinated by the film on many levels. I bought The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb and read it dozens of times. (I later met Carl Gottlieb in person and he’s a great guy!).  My parents bought me a Super 8 camera soon thereafter and I started making little movies.  I was also fortunate that in New Orleans (where I grew up) there was a repertory cinema called The Prytania Theater.  They changed films 4x a week and they would mix in recent foreign films into their classic film showings.  This was before VHS so you might say The Prytania was my Blockbuster Video.  That’s how I got bit by the movie bug.

In 1995 you joined in one of my favorite horror film franchises by penning the script for the frightening, yet also hilarious, film Leprechaun 3. I am always curious to know what it is like to jump into an established franchise? How were you able to put the DuBos personal touch to the third installment of the franchise?

That’s an interesting story.  I had been writing spec scripts and had sold one and optioned a couple of others. One of the scripts that got optioned was by a company called Blue Rider Pictures who made Witchboard and Night of the Demons, both successful films for them.  One of the partners was Jeff Geoffray (also from New Orleans).  He called and told me that Blue Rider had been assigned Leprechaun 3 to produce and would I be interested in throwing my writer’s hat in the ring for it.  I was competing against 6 other writers. Jeff told me to write a short treatment and all he said to me was “Leprechaun in Las Vegas”. That was it.  Well, the timing was fortuitous.  I had just returned from a two-month assignment in Vegas writing a spec script about a Cirque du Soleil performer and the time I spent there gave me a pretty good idea of what Vegas was about, not just the place but the people behind the scenes, the players who really ran it.

Mind you, I had not seen either of the first two Leprechaun films.  So Jeff arranged for me to get VHS copies of them. I think I watched about 30 minutes of the first one and 10 minutes of the second one. To me, they weren’t scary, they were just silly.

So I decided to think outside the box.  Instead of trying to write a horror film, I wrote it as a dark comedy, a Grimm’s fairy tale with a satirical edge about the world of gambling.  The idea of a Leprechaun in Vegas, this disgusting creature, greed personified, and he fits right in.  He’s such a perfect fit, no one gives him a seond glance.

I turned in the treatment and then, surprise, I got the job.  I wrote the script very quickly because the production was being fast tracked and they needed pages.  I was cranking them out every day.  I put in a lot of humor and decided that the characters who ended up as the Leprechaun’s victims would die by their own greedy and selfish desires. Hence the woman who wants to be beautiful via plastic surgery dies from her vanity; the magician that wants to be famous via the best trick/illusion ends up being sawed in half; the pit boss is sex-obsessed and he dies from that, etc.  One of my other little “DuBos touches” ended up in the film and again it was something I saw in Vegas. An elderly woman in a wheelchair hooked up to oxygen is putting endless coins in a machine.  Needless to say, I never gambled after my experience in Vegas.

The movie went on to become the biggest selling Direct-To-VHS of that year.  It was supposed to be the last one in the franchise but it made so much money they made 3 more (or 4?).   I also heard it was Warwick Davis’ favorite one of the franchise so that was nice to hear.

I am intrigued by a film you have in the works, Bayou Tales, not only because it sounds wonderful, but it also features our friend Neil Brown Jr. New Orleans is, in my opinion, the greatest American city, but is also can be scary as hell! So, I am excited to know what we can expect to see in Bayou Tales with your amazing talent behind the proverbial wheel. So can you tell us anything about the film?

Bayou Tales is an anthology film, 3 stories, that take place in and around New Orleans.  They’re all different from each other in terms of content and style.  (The trailer is available to see at bayoutalesfilm.com). It’s more in the tradition of the British anthology films of the 1970’s (House that Dripped Blood, Asylum) than Tales from the Crypt.  What I found when I watched those old Brit horror films was the level of talent they had in them.  I mean, Ralph Richardson is in one of them!  Are you kidding me?  So I thought, why not make one of these anthologies, set it here, mix in a lot of Southern Gothic atmosphere, and get really good actors to be in them.  So we have Lin Shaye (who I’m sure you and your readers are well aware of), Roger Bart, a Tony-winning Broadway actor and Neil Brown Jr who you mentioned.  Neil’s segment is interesting.  We ended up reshooting quite a bit of it because I realized halfway through filming that Neil was really talented and I wanted him to be the focus of the story, so I rewrote the script and elevated Neil’s role.  We have one more story to film still.  We’re hoping to finish that this year.  But I have a lot on my plate now so we’ll see.  It’s turning out really well and I’m taking my time with it because I want it to be really good.

While the world of horror is not the only one you work in, you have done some great work in the genre.  And it is our Month of Horror Showcase after all, so I am inclined to ask you how you enjoy working in the world of horror or thrillers? What sets it apart from other genres?

I like all genres as long as the film is good.  But I think most horror films these days rely way too much on gore and that, for me, is a cheap way to make a horror film.  I think most of the great horror films are more psychological. They stay with you, they disturb you, upset you, but they don’t try and disgust you.  The thing about making thrillers (and I’m working on one right now as we speak) is that you get that audience reaction that can be quite visceral.  They jump, they get anxious, nervous, scared, but for all the right reasons. You’re making them uncomfortable, intentionally so.  Hitchcock understood this better than anybody.  He’s my favorite filmmaker because I return to his films more often than any other Director.    William Friedkin once said people go to the movies for only 3 reasons: To Laugh, to Cry, or to Be Scared.  Because films are by their essence an emotional experience.  Horror films and Thrillers aim for a very primal response from the viewers.  And if you pull it off, it can be quite rewarding.

What is your favorite scary movie?

I can’t name just one so I’ll just start riffing on my favorites.  Jaws scared me when I first saw it.  That goes back to the last question. It strikes at a primal fear of almost every human on the planet. What exactly is in that vast ocean?  The answer is that there are monsters that can kill you in the most horrific way.  I’m not a big fan of “monster movies” per se, though I admired the first Alien film even if at the end, it’s a guy in a suit.  Same thing with Predator. Those films don’t scare me because I know they aren’t real.  But Jaws is very real.  So is Psycho.  And, come to think of it, Deliverance.  That’s an intensely frightening film.  Midnight Express.  Silence of the Lambs.  The Stepfather (the original, not the remake) was terrific.  Donald E. Westlake wrote the script for that one.  Doesn’t get better than him.  What’s another classic one?  Freaks is very shocking still.  Eyes Without a Face.  Diabolique.  The Other, which is kind of forgotten, is still very disturbing after all this time.  And The Changeling with George C. Scott, the ultimate haunted house movie.

One recent film that I thought was brilliantly done was Martyrs, a French film.  It went off in so many interesting directions.  Of course, I have to cite The Exorcist.  It’s an amazing film on many levels but even Friedkin doesn’t call it a horror film which is interesting.  There’s also this little-known Belgian film called Baxter about a pit bull that talks (narrates) his story.  Have you seen that one? It’s wickedly funny and very distubing.  Jacques Audiard (who’s a great filmmaker by the way) wrote the script for that one.

Anything that’s reality based is frightening to me. I’m working on a thriller now that fits into that idea.  It’s a very real type of situation that can happen to anyone if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What are you plans for the upcoming Halloween? Any kind of traditions you try to uphold each year?

Last year, I was in Los Angeles and went with my friend Robin Matthews, an Oscar-winning makeup artist (for Dallas Buyer’s Club) to see The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Believe it or not, she hadn’t seen it. So I went with her and her Mom (they’re from NOLA as well).  This year, a couple of friends who own a local indie cinema here are showing the 40th Anniversary screening of Halloween.  So I’ll probably go see that.  Maybe go to a party or two depending on my schedule. Of course, if I’m in the middle of filming, I won’t have time to do anything fun.

Beyond the world of horror, I understand you are working with our new friend Oley Sassone on a biopic about John Kennedy Toole entitled Butterfly in the Typewriter. I had no idea about this project until Oley mentioned it, and I can not tell you how damn excited I am to see this! For those who may not be aware of Toole or A Confederacy of Dunces and the story behind the book being published, can you tell us a bit about it? And what made you decide to jump in a share this story with the world?

First of all, A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the great modern literary classics.  I can’t tell you how many people all over the world love that book and admire Toole.  Toole himself is a bit of an icon, he embodies the meaning of undiscovered talent.  I’m sure many writers, not just novelists, and other artists look up to him as a symbol of the neglected genius and certainly, many of those same artists and writers have probably projected themselves onto Toole.

To me the story behind the writing of his great book is the ultimate David and Goliath story in the arts.  How about this for a pitch? An elderly lady, destitute and living with her brother, finds her dead son’s unpublished manuscript, one that he toiled on for years, put his heart and soul into it, only to see it get soundly rejected by a famous literary editor and publishing house.  Already suffering from schizophrenia, he descends into madness and commits suicide at a young age (32).  Years later, his mother, after discovering the novel, gets it into the hands of a famous writer who champions it to publication and then it wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  I mean, you couldn’t script a more bittersweet ending to that story than that.

I read Cory MacLauchlin’s book (and found it quite by luck or accident or fate, but that’s another story) and immediately I saw it as a film.  I wrote the script and we assembled a cast of talented actors.  Elijah Wood’s company is co-producing the film with me.  We are in the last stages of financing so we’re hoping to get it into production beginning early next year.

What else does the future hold for you? Anything else you would like to plug to our readers?

As I said before, I have another script I’m trying to make, a psychological thriller that a friend originally wrote and I’ve now rewritten.  We’ll see.  It’s very Hitchcockian but also has Southern Gothic elements to it.

I’ve also written a limited series about New Orleans featuring a bevy of characters who intersect with each other in different ways.  It’s got humor, heart, drama, tragedy, a virtual gumbo pot of emotions.  It’s much like Altman’s Short Cuts but set in New Orleans. It also has a supernatural undertone to it. I’m very proud of it.  I believe it contains some of my best writing.

I’m also finishing a documentary on the late singer/songwriter Bobby Charles who hailed from Abbeville, Louisiana, right in the heart of cajun country.  Bobby had a really interesting career. He started out in the mid-1950’s as a very young (16 years old!) singer during the early years of rock ‘n roll.  He was the first white singer to sign with Chess Records.  They had primarily black singers and musicians, and Bobby was signed to that label because Leonard Chess thought he was a mid-30’s black soul singer when in reality he was a skinny 16-year-old cajun.  He toured with many famous black musicians and thus, became a target of bigots.  He went on to write many songs for the likes of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young and many others. He was part of The Last Waltz, the Band’s final concert that Scorsese made into a great concert film.  Interestingly, Bobby’s on the soundtrack but he’s the only one on there that’s not in the film.  There’s a mystery surrounding that. After that concert, he became a recluse and never performed in public again though he continued to put out records with the assistance of his longtime friend, Dr. John, another NOLA musical icon.  He’s a fascinating story.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I definitely smile when the Saints win, when I see a great film, and when a beautiful woman smiles at me.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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