Gathering in Fantasia’s secret basement lair, I had the opportunity to talk with the director, a few writers, and most of the stars of recently premiered crime drama, Lowlife. Because this was such a large group, I indicate the director, Ryan Prows, with an “RP”, and others as “->”. My apologies to the non-Ryans who participated in the interview: your involvement was just as valuable as his.
366: Hello everybody — thank you all for gathering here today! I wasn’t originally slated to come and interview you fine people, but I had a gap in my schedule after I chatted with the director of Kodoku Meatball Machine…
RP: Aw, shit. Was it good?
366: …Well, it certainly does what it does. [Laughter]. Whether it’s good, I suppose that depends what you’re looking for. So if you’re looking for a funny variant of Tetsuo: The Iron Man, then maybe it’s your kind of thing. [Laughter]. So, in the interim I was able to whip these questions together kind of quickly, so hopefully this will work out all right. Now, you mentioned after the screening one of the things that influenced you was Wild at Heart.
RP: Bobby Peru! Actually, we were just talking about it. Teddy’s character is totally, like, his cousin or something.
366: Definitely one of the great scumbags of… uh…
RP: “Scumbag Cinema”?
366: I wanted to ask you—you’re probably asked a lot, “Do you feel you’re like ‘this director’ or ‘that director'”—but what filmmaker would you like to be compared to?
RP: Like I said yesterday, Cassavetes meets. So hopefully there’s some kind of sensitivity with the character work, so people care about the actors, like there’s an actors piece, but there’s also RoboCop shooting between the legs…
366: So there’s a little bit of splatter-gore-sci/fi-hardcore-Western.
RP: There we go. Nailed it!
RP: Now with Verhoeven, it’s like the same thing. He’s so smart and does his thing, perhaps the best satirist in cinema history. Cassavetes, same thing. He made these important movies, but they’re all wild as fuck. He left his own stamp on each thing. So those are the film-makers that excite me, and I think the goal of trying to make this movie was so—I remember talking about this, when we were flying out here—from the beginning of the process to now, it was… absurd. We were sitting here a few minutes ago being interviewed and Mil Mascaras walked in to be interviewed—and we thought, “What world are we fucking living in?” We’re talking about Lowlife and this luchador comes in being interviewed next to us.
366: Yes, it seems you’ve come a nice long way there, and speaking of that…
RP: My mom’s proud.
366: …She should be. Was she able to make it?
RP: She was supposed to, but her dog bit the “doggy-day-care” person, so my mom graciously stayed behind to take care of [the dog]. It crushed her soul; she’s the biggest fan of all of us, so supportive…
-> Who was it who said, I don’t know what was going on with the movie, I just started following your mom [on Facebook]?
-> She’d write up the day beforehand, so I knew what you guys were doing the whole time.
366; Well, I guess not quite a stalker if she’s your mother, so it’s okay. But you were talking about the beginning: how long did the writing process take and what was the seed idea?
RP: We were at a friend’s house in Laguna Beach and I was like, “Yo, I got an idea, can we talk about this shit?” And from there we were just spinning out ideas. The initial thought was that we were going to do an anthology film: a crime anthology film, in pieces. However the the fuck we had to do it, we just had to make it. But then as we developed the script, we knew we had to make something more cohesive.
366: Yes, something cohesive. But it does have, with the different titles throughout the movie, some sort of vestige of an “anthology film,” and I think that worked out very nicely.
-> The idea was really to make a movie about people on the margins, people you see all over in LA.
RP: Or all over in the world.
-> Yeah, the world, but in LA, they’re very abundant. But you’d see these guys, you’d probably want to cross the street to avoid them. But when you think about it: What’s that person’s story? And can we humanize this person we’ve pre-judged…
RP: And delving into what, well, this is America, and people don’t want to talk about this side of America, or represent this side of America, as something that is really happening.
366: Now, on a lighter note, the “fish taco” restaurant, is that an actual establishment?
RP: It is, just the top, not the bottom…
366: Were they happy that you put your basement in there for their PR, [laughter] or…
-> I don’t know if they know.
-> It was a working restaurant. “[garbled] Burgers”, what … 6th and Olympic?
-> We ate there a lot.
RP: They don’t have any organ harvesting…
-> …they also don’t serve tacos.
-> …or coffee. [Laughter].
366: The fellow “Monstruo,” is that based on a real wrestler legend?
RP: Yes and no. It was more based on those types of movies, like Luchador vs. the Wolfman, or the Alien, or whatever. And it’s like, “Who’s that guy?”, or “Who’s that guy’s son?” in real life.
-> In real-life, they wouldn’t ever take their masks off.
-> They had “eating” masks.
-> And they had to fly in private jets because they wouldn’t take their masks off at airport security.
RP: And it’s a very beautiful tradition, but the human side of it is absurd. A fucking guy walking around in a suit and a mask…
-> Treated like “the Hulk”.
RP: …Well, it is “the Hulk.” It’s all these multiple facets where you have to wonder, Is this a joke? Isn’t this a joke? We were talking about earlier, when Ricardo came in to audition, he auditioned with the monologue in the beginning section, and we were all taken aback when he came in, like, this is this dude’s life story.
-> Yeah, he came in his suit [and mask] and did it.
RP: And yeah, we’re like, we’re not laughing. [Laughter]
366: Was this your first feature film? Did you do short work before-hand? Bus tables?
RP: All of the above. A bunch of us from AFI made a short there that won us a Student Academy Award, that was our claim to fame.
->”Narcocorrido”, write that down. [Smiles. Chatter about Spanish pronunciation].
336 [To Jon Oswald, who plays “Randy”]: Are you fluent in Spanish?
JO: I was a professional musician, so that means I worked in kitchens for ten years. So I worked with a lot of Mexicans, and they’re the best.
366: You had your buddies help you out…
JO: Yeah, practicing at work.
366: Oh yes, you sounded—as a late ’90s Eminem Spanish-speaker—you were very brilliant.
-> Fuck yeah.
JO: Thank you.
-> That was dope.
366: Did any movies you watched while writing this give you any ideas?
RP: I was thinking about this more the other day, Wild at Heart, definitely. First time I saw that, I remember it was terrifying, like “Where the fuck is this gonna go?” And I was thinking more about Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, same thing. So this guy’s a piano player, they’re in a bar, and he loves his girlfriend, “I’m gonna hack this corpse’s head off and keep him in the back with flies all over the place…” Those type of movies that are undefinable. That was wild.
366: Anything more contemporary?
RP: Last movie we saw that we talked about all the time was Nightcrawler. That was a great story, about the underworld and that stuff. The character work of that… you know, they don’t make ’em like they used to, which is why were bringing that shit back.
366: I’m hoping that catches on. As a film reviewer, I can concur with that. Did you catch any films at this festival?
RP: Not really.
-> We wanted to see the Los Momies du Guanajuato.
-> We saw the Jailbreak guys, we saw some footage from that.
366: Yeah, that one was good. I don’t generally go for martial arts movies, but this one was an exception. The Cambodian prison setting was great.
RP: Yeah, [the Jailbreak actors] were great. What have you seen that you like?
[For the next five minutes, we chat about movies I’ve written about; Fantasia press liaison Kaila Hier interrupts us to get us back on track with the interview].
366: Now Mitch Davis introduced this movie, were you at all worried about making the hype a bit too high?
RP: It’s not high enough! We have no fear.
-> Whatever he wants to do.
-> He seemed authentic, he was authentically excited about it, and the people we met from the festival were genuinely up into this, so I wasn’t really too worried about the film not living up to it because we thought it was all right.
RP: Mitch can sell the shit out of this movie, and so, we want to steal all his stuff and have him maybe write a book.
366: I’m sure if you told him to, he would.
-> We can have him write our press releases from now on.
-> I think anyone getting excited about it and making amazing comparisons—it’s just a beautiful thing, to get more eyeballs on the movie, so that people can come and take the ride, ’cause that’s what it is.
366: It definitely panned out nicely for your screening. I was looking around in the crowd —there was actually only one person who—I don’t know if she looked troubled, or uncomfortable, or if English wasn’t something she understood well…
RP: Or Spanish.
366: …or Spanish. She was sitting right next to me, and obviously a lot of people stayed after for the chat, or even just stayed through the credits if they couldn’t stay for the chat, but she just made a beeline for exit.
[Laughter] -> Well, there had to somebody.
-> Yeah, someone had to be offended.
-> Someone’s gotta, yeah, I’m actually glad; thank you!
-> Nobody threw up, though. I wanted to see somebody vomit.
366: You’d have to check out Kodoku Meatball Machine if you wanted to see the degree you’d have to go to for that. And even then, no one vomited, but I suspect that crowd knew exactly what they were getting into. Now, I had a small question here, are any of you familiar with the movie The Way of the Gun?
RP: Oh yeah.
366: I thought you might be.
RP: Yeah, I talked to the director, I got a chance to meet him. He saw “Narcocorrido”, our short, and he just gave me the Nod, and I was like, “Okay. We made it.”
366: Yeah, I was also glad to see Ryan Phillippe doing something worthwhile.
RP: Yeah, pulling glass out of his arm. [Laughter].
-> Other than MacGruber?
366: I…couldn’t say. [Laughter]. But I read a review when that came out, the reviewer very much liked the movie, but was interested in seeing how that group of people tied themselves into those knots; in the opening, that group of people start right when the boulder’s beginning to start rolling, so to speak. And I had a similar feeling with Lowlife, I’d say a prequel would be something neat to put out if only because certain characters die tragically, [point to Mark Burnham] especially yours.
-> Is it “tragic”?! [Laughter]
366: And I for one would love to see Teddy starting out, his career before everything went sideways. Or what’s up between Randy, Nessa, and Keith, and of course Randy’s 11-year stint…
-> Think maybe a TV series.
-> Sunday mornings.
-> It could totally live on FX. Like these characters, it’s another side of The Shield. Instead of doing a cop series, could do the Lowlife series.
366: I guess that was my last question.
-> Thank you so much.
Things end with further “thanks” and me spreading the good word of 366, handing out a fistful of business cards. Afterwards, I was invited to lunch with the Lowlife gang and we talk movies another hour.