Paul Schrader talks controversial 'Canyons'
Paul Schrader is no stranger to controversial movies, having scripted “Taxi Driver” and “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and directed the erotic horror flick “Cat People,” among others.
But “The Canyons” is in a class by itself. Written by Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) and directed by Schrader, the mostly Kickstarter-funded movie stars Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen.
The movie is notorious and it’s not even in theaters or on demand until Friday: It was the talk of the town after a New York Times Magazine piece revealed Lohan-fueled on-set chaos.
If you can’t wait, you could try scoring a ticket to the premiere at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) Monday night, followed by a discussion with Schrader.
amNewYork spoke with Schrader about the flick, which depicts a demented love triangle between a movie producer (Deen), his girlfriend (Lohan) and an actor (Nolan Gerard Funk).
This was an unusual production ...
Part of the attraction of this project ... was just to see if it was possible to do such a thing. Nothing about this film was done in a way I’ve done before: The way it was conceived and financed and cast and made, promoted. ... It was designed as cinema for the post-theatrical era.
So how was the experience of actually shooting the film different?
It was kind of an unknown land. We were exploring. That was a lot of fun. You could take a lot of chances. I don’t think if this were done conventionally they would have ever let me cast James or Lindsay.
You’ve compared Lindsay to Marilyn Monroe. What makes her a compelling screen presence?
If that were a science there would be a lot of rich scientists in Hollywood. But it isn’t. Why do you watch somebody and not somebody else? There are a lot of guys out there that look like Tom Cruise, but Tom Cruise is the one we watch. Why? I don’t know. That’s part of the ineffable appeal of screen images.
Do you think she has a professional future?
I’m in touch with her. We texted again yesterday [July 25]. Everything I hear is very, very positive at this moment. … She’s in a very good place and you know she has a real shot. She’s going have to do it. It’s a very complicated subject.
How did you react to the Times story? Is there such a thing as bad press?
If you don’t have the goods, of course, momentum can be created that just wipes you out. As soon as the Times piece came out we had a meeting and said, ‘Let’s sell the film right now,’ because a narrative was being created [that] we’re a disaster. And we need someone to show that we’re not a disaster. And so we sold it to IFC two days later and started to work to create the perception that we weren’t a disaster. People who aren’t familiar with film can’t really distinguish between a troubled production and a troubled film.
So troubled shoots can sometimes make better films?
It can work that way. My first film “Blue Collar” was just a nightmare, but if it hadn’t been a nightmare I don’t think that energy would have come on screen. On the other hand, “Affliction” was a pleasure. It really depends on the performers. On “Affliction,” [Nick] Nolte was completely sober. He was playing a drunk. If he had been a drunk playing a drunk I don’t think it would have been better. It would have been worse.