Richard Kelly talks reissuing Donnie Darko and his plans for a “much bigger and more ambitious” sequel
Explaining the plot of 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko is a difficult thing to pull off, but here goes.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie, a troubled teenager who is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, possibly to do with the coming apocalypse.
Starring alongside Gyllenhaal are Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wylie and Patrick Swayze while the movie is propelled along by a much-loved soundtrack full of dark 1980’s pop.
First released in 2001 it struggled to find an audience and was almost put straight to DVD, but eventually, word of mouth and critical praise earned it a new audience, many of whom now regard it as one of their favourites movies of all time.
The movie has just been reissued with a host of extra features and a brand new restoration (you can find more details here) and we spoke to writer/director Richard Kelly about why he went back to clean it up and his plans for a potential sequel...
You’ve just re-released Donnie Darko with a lavish reissue package and a brand new restoration, how pleased are you with the final result?
“I’ve wanted to do a proper restoration for a long time and so when I finally got financing for that, it happened to be the 15th anniversary of the movie and we had a new distribution deal in place. So it was good timing to go back and restore the film to its original promise, the whole experience has been a real thrill.”
Technology has improved a huge amount in the last 15 years, it must have been gratifying to put that to use on Donnie Darko?
“It was. The film was shot with anamorphic lenses and the information to do more with the film is there. All these new digital tools helped to restore the image. I don’t feel it was ever properly transferred or given the attention it needed when it first got released.”
How was it going back to that time in your life? Did it bring back some good memories?
“I found it pretty therapeutic and a really positive experience. Making this movie was very stressful, it was a really emotional experience, very grueling and frightening, I had to fight a lot of battles and there was no immediate reward. When the film came out it wasn’t deemed a success and it took a long time to enjoy any kind of status. Looking back in hindsight now is a lot more fun than it felt at the time. The team we’ve got promoting the film now really understand the movie and it didn’t really feel like that was the case at the time.”
Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone are big stars now, but they were unknowns back in 2002, it must be nice to sit back and see what the movie did for their careers...
“I’m so proud of both of them and so happy to see what they’ve gone on to become. Seth Rogen too. When you work with someone so early in their career you have a really great personal connection, especially me as a writer/director. You might only work together for a few weeks, but it’s there on film and it’s an incredibly intimate process. I’ll always root for them.”
So outside of the re-issue, what else you up to at the moment?
“I’ve been working on a lot of different projects. The trouble is they’re all very ambitious and expensive so they take a lot of time to get in place. We’re being very careful to set things up properly, but I’m planning to make up for lost time and make several movies back to back. It’s nice to be able to bring people back to where we started, but I plan to be back behind a camera in 2017.”
Finally, is there any temptation for you to go back to the world of Donnie Darko and do more? Or is a standalone movie?
“I think there’s something much bigger and more ambitious to do in that universe. It’s big and expensive and I think there’s time to get to that. I want to make sure we’ve got the budget to do it justice and not to compromise anything. Another story in this world needs resources and we need to have that in place. I need to get my next film out of the gate and then we can go back and look at it.”