Published on October 7th, 2014 | by gareth0
Jospeh O`Brien Talks Devils Mile
In August release Devil’s Mile, a gang of psychotic convicts take a dangerous and ill-advised detour after brutally kidnapping two young girls. As the captors speed away, events quickly turn out to be much more dangerous and gruesome than they had planned for. While driving down a long and dark stretch of deserted highway, the car becomes surrounded by mysterious sinister spirits, forcing the captors and young girls to work together in hopes of surviving the deadly evil force. To guide us through the devilish journey, we spoke to helmer Joseph O’Brien.
You co-wrote the script. How and when did the idea come up?
I wrote the script solo, actually, although I worked closely with my producing partner, Mark Opausky, in developing it.
The initial genesis of the story was a road trip I took in 1997, driving from Toronto to Los Angeles. It went horribly awry almost immediately and I and my traveling companions (including my friend Brad Abraham, with whom I later wrote the New Zealand cannibal cult comedy Fresh Meat) were plagued by bad luck the whole way. We were chased by tornadoes, barely avoided flooded-out bridges, and our vehicle kept breaking down in increasingly desolate stretches of the American Southwest. In the end, I wound up driving non-stop through the Arizona desert in the middle of the night, having not slept in a day or so. The whole time I was phasing in and out of this waking dream state, terrified that if we broke down again we were going to die and our bones would be picked clean by coyotes or worse. So a lot of Devil’s Mile arose from my own personal hallucinatory road horror experience.
Though the concept is unique, I imagine it was still tough to get financing for a film that didn’t feature any A-list stars?
That’s all down to my co-producers, Mark Opausky and Motek Sherman, who secured financing for the project based on the script and on a short VFX demo reel I put together to show off what we could accomplish on a tight budget. They showed an enormous amount of confidence in the project and in me from the get go, for which I’m very grateful.
You’ve directed TV but film is new for you. Was it that much different than directing TV?
It’s funny, the TV pilot I directed, Second Jen, happened after Devil’s Mile, but the movie took longer to finish in post-production, so the pilot was out in the world first. It actually came about because Amanda Joy Lim and Samantha Wan, who play Kanako and Suki in Mile, put together the project as a vehicle for themselves – Amanda wrote it, Sam produced and they both starred in it. We used a lot of the same crew who had shot Devil’s Mile, so it some ways it was an extension of that experience. It was a comedy, though, so it was a lot less gruelling in terms of subject matter, and we had all really meshed well as a group because of our shared experience on the movie. It was a much smoother ride, certainly for me.
There have been many road-set thrillers, everything from The Hitcher to Joyride. What makes this one different?
I’ve loved road horror movies since I first saw Duel on TV as a child. There’s something compelling about the sense of isolation on those long, desolate stretches. But most of those movies take place in a quote-unquote real world and tend to deal with antagonists who – though they sometimes take on almost mythical stature in movies like The Hitcher – are at least nominally prosaic. But when you drive long stretches of lonely highway at night, it isn’t hard to imagine that you’ve dropped off the face of the world and into another dimension. With Devil’s Mile I wanted to explore those otherworldly qualities and take the road horror movie into a more overtly supernatural place.
We know him as a screenwriter, not many would be appear that David Hayter is an actor. How did he get involved in an in-front-of-the-camera capacity?
David actually started out as an actor – he was the star of Steve Wang’s awesome superheroes vs. monsters mash-up Guyver: Dark Hero, and of course he’s known all over the world as the voice of Solid Snake in Metal Gear. And although he found enormous success as a writer of some great blockbuster movies, in his heart he’s still an actor. And although he usually plays good guys, I thought he would make a terrific villain. So we sent him the script and he responded very strongly to the character of Toby. He brought a lot to the character – on the page Toby was a little more thuggish and brutal, but David gave him a lot of a nuance and dark humour that really elevated both his character and the movie as a whole.
Did Hayter help out at all on the script? Did he punch and polish it?
No. He was and continues to be very supportive of me and my writing, but David came to the movie strictly as an actor. He was happy to stay in front of the camera on this one.
Is there room here for a sequel?
We set out to make this one movie as best we could, but the fact is that the Devil’s Mile is an infinite highway that reaches through space and time. It can appear anywhere, anytime, to transport anyone to the heart of their worst nightmare. So if this one does well enough … I’m sure it has many more stories to tell.