“I wanted to make a film that stood alone…” - hmv.com talks to Monsters: Dark Continent director Tom Green
2010’s low-budget action thriller Monsters changed everything for director Gareth Edwards. Shot for under $500,000 with a skeleton crew and a tiny cast, it went on to make almost five million dollars at the box office and landed Edwards the ultimate follow-up gig, directing the reboot of Godzilla.
With Edwards now away tackling the biggest monster of them all, Tom Green, best known for his work directing episodes of Misfits and Blackout, was offered the chance to make a follow-up and came up with Monsters: Dark Continent.
Not a direct sequel to Monsters, but very much in the same universe, Dark Continent is set 10 years on after the events of the first film and the Infected Zones have now spread worldwide. To help contain the situation four closely knit friends from Detroit are dispatched to the Middle East, but they end up battling far more than they bargained for...
As the movie hits DVD shelves (it’s available to order on the right-hand side of the page), we sat down with Green to find out all about making the movie…
How did you first get involved in the project?
“The producers of the first film got in touch and they told me that they had a bit of money - a small amount, about the same as Gareth had - they wanted a film taking the same principles and to go off and do another one. Not really a sequel, but one in the same style and with the same ethos. I think they’d seen my work on Misfits, I was a big fan of the first film, I loved the purity of the filmmaking."
You must have been very excited...
"It was an unusual situation, British movies take ages to get developed and you have to get financing from so many people, whereas this time the money, though a small amount, was there and I got offered the chance to write a script and make the movie. It was a really exciting way to do it. I wanted to make a film that stood alone, it’s not a sequel in terms of the characters or the story, but a sequel in terms of the movie’s ethos. I think that’s what the prefix of ‘Monsters’ stands for really, ambitious filmmaking in that genre. My only guideline was that it had to have some monsters in it…”
Why not do a straight sequel?
“They’re meant to compliment each other, it’s the same jumping off point, but they are different films. It’s a lo-fi franchise about supporting young filmmakers and what you can achieve when you put a lot of imagination into something. I think it’s been a bit misrepresented as a sequel, it’s not, it’s a totally different story with totally different characters, I think I actually went out of my way not to make a sequel.”
Did you speak to Gareth before you took on the movie?
“Not at all really. We had a beer and a bit of a chat, he was quite consumed himself with another big monster movie so he didn’t have time to do too much, but he was very generous he was happy for the film to be taken on and brought to life in a different way. He had no creative involvement, but I sent it to him when he finished and he was very kind about it. I think he’s very proud of the legacy.”
Was it nerve-wracking stepping into his shoes? It’s done so much for his career...
“We’re very different filmmakers, but if the same thing happens to my career after this film as what happened to Gareth obviously I’d be delighted. Him going on to a movie the size of Godzilla created a big story around the film, but when it was made it was a tiny film, a little cult movie.”
You filmed mostly in Jordan didn’t you? What was that like?
“The Jordanian people opened their doors to us and were fantastic, it wouldn’t have been possible to make the film like we did in any other country. Incredible landscapes and these huge military bases, we shot 20 miles away from the Iraqi border and it was just fascinating to shoot there. We shot it all on one handheld camera, hardly any gear, just hopping in and out of a mini bus.”
How did you cope with the heat and conditions?
“They have these huge sandstorms and we weren’t the least bit equipped for that. We got hit by one towards the end of our time there. Everyone was climbing into the bus to avoid it, but in the end we all got back out and actually shot a scene right in the middle of one. We couldn’t afford to stop shooting, we only had four and a half weeks to do it. There was a really amazing spirit to the production and it gives the film a real soul.”
How did you go about putting the cast together?
“We had sessions in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, but we ended up casting a lot of Brits. I’ve always thought Johnny Harris (Snow White and the Huntsman, Welcome To The Punch) was amazing and I couldn’t believe he’d never been a lead before, so it was perfect for him. Some really exciting young actors too, like Jesse Nagy and Kyle Souller, as well as Joe Dempsie (Skins, Game Of Thrones).”
What did you want to get across with the film?
“It’s not a massive shoot-em-up or a big sci-fi monster movie, it’s more about human psychology than anything else, it’s shot documentary style, so it’s a really uncynical film. It’s far more about the humans than the monsters. I think it’s got a really interesting and meandering quality. If you’re looking for a genre film, you won’t be disappointed, but there’s a lot more going on.”
Monsters: Dark Continent is out now.