Science Fiction Filme) First of all, I would like to thank you for your time doing this Interview. I think you´ve got a huge fan base here in Germany. Especially because of your work for films like “Henry” or “The Borrower” of course.Before you become a director you were stuck into several other jobs. Could you please tell us something what you did and how do you come into filmbusiness. Why have you choose the way of being a director?
John MacNaughton) Rather like a novelist, I did many things to make a living to support myself before I became a director. I worked in factories, steel mills, in an advertising agency, joined a travelling carnival, was a bartender, a carpenter, a silversmith, a boat builder and more. It taught me much about people and the world that I would later apply to film directing. I try to make films about life and not about other films and since childhood I’ve been a storyteller. I feel stories are hugely important to people as they teach us how to understand and relate to the world and our place in it. Filmmaking is my medium in which to tell stories.
SFF) I love movies a lot. One of my very first experiences was “Alien” and “The Thing”. Is there any special event or movie which made you think: “Alright, I want to do the same thing.” Do you have any personal idols in your business?
JMN) I remember seeing a movie titled, Beginning of the End, as a kid. The story was about giant insects, (grasshoppers) attacking the City of Chicago where I lived. At one point the grasshoppers were climbing up a very famous skyscraper and I noticed that one of them had walked off the side of the building and was walking on the sky. At that point I realized that they were normal sized grasshoppers walking on a photograph of the Wrigley Building but the filmmakers had allowed the illusion to be destroyed by not cutting away before it became apparent. I remember saying to myself, “I can do better than that.” I do not think it healthy to have idols but as far as influence I was probably most impressed by Scorsese and he eventually hired me to direct Mad Dog and Glory, which was quite a thrill.
SFF.) Before you´re directing the fabulous “Henry” did you have any special person in mind to play the main character? Why did Michael Rooker get the job and how do you find him?
JMN) We saw many actors before Michael Rooker and couldn’t find the right one until our SFX makeup artist, Jeff Segal, suggested we see Michael whom he knew. When Michael arrived for his audition I knew immediately he was the one.
SFF) If I´m right informed the MPPA creates the NC-17 rating because of “Henry” (besides two other movies). What is your personal opinion about this or rating systems in general?
JMN) Henry, plus, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, were the films that caused the MPAA to invent a new rating, (NC 17), for adult but not pornographic films. The MPAA is just a fact of life for me and it is what it is. I was amused when Henry was re released in a 30th Anniversary edition in 2016 and it was re submitted to the MPAA to see if they would change the rating after so many years. I’m proud to say they still found it shocking enough to refuse the request and it remains unrated.
SFF.) One of my favorite movies is “The Borrower”. Why did you choose this film for directing? Do you like this kind of genre?
JMN) I chose The Borrower because after Henry I got an agent and was being sent a lot of mediocre horror scripts that did not interest me at all. Eventually I read The Borrower and loved the concept of the monster taking over the lives and bodies of numerous humans by ripping their heads off and placing them on its body. It felt to me like a metaphor for what actors do and also a hell of a lot of fun to see for an audience. I’m not interested in doing genre just because I like genre. I look for an original idea, something I haven’t seen before. I chose The Borrower because it was fresh and not a typical genre horror film.
SFF) CGI nowadays could be a curse or a blessing. What do you think about it comparing to “old school”- films back in the days?
JMN) CGI is to me a tool like any other which can allow for an advance in creative storytelling if used effectively but can be a bore if over used or used poorly. As far as how it compares to “old school” films I believe they used the most advanced optical and practical effects available to them at the time to create an illusion and CGI is a digital and more technologically advanced method to do the same thing.
SFF) Do you have a project you always wanted to do or are there something in progress we can enjoy in the future?
JMN) I’m currently working on a “dream project” titled, A Good Man is Hard to Find, adapted from the famous short story by the great American writer Flannery O’Connor. Michael Rooker will play the lead character, The Misfit. It is one of the darkest and funniest stories in American fiction and Michael is the perfect actor for the part, much as he was for Henry.
SFF) I held up with the most important question to the end: Which of your films was the most difficult to realize and why?
JMN) Since I’ve never had children I think my films are like my children to me and as with children I don’t believe you can have a favorite or at least not admit to it if you do. Each is unique unto itself with strengths and flaws just like people.
SFF) Dear Mr. McNaughton. I thank you immensely for taking time doing this interview and wish you all the best for your future movie making.