Interview with “Sisters” director Douglas Buck, Part 1

We sat down over a couple of drinks at a Montreal cafe and chatted at length with director Douglas Buck just before he screened his remake of the Brian De Palma cult classic "Sisters" at the Nouveau Cinema Film Festival.

Maha: Do you find a project changes a lot from when you write it 'til you actually start filming it? Do you rewrite a lot of stuff?

Douglas: Umm, you're always at a place of rewriting, but never rewriting the structure. I pretty always stay with the structure and everything sorta falls off the structure. Or develops off the structure. So the themes may change, but the structure of the tale and the arc of the characters will remain fairly consistent. The dialogue changes up until the moment you shoot it and even slight character actions will change. But generally, I find, the motivations stay fairly consistent. Unless you have a big problem, which I haven't yet, or you find the motivation isn't working.

Carey: So you don't have any dirt to tell us about Stephen Rae coming to the set drunk or Chloë Sevigny giving you a hard time?

Douglas: Oh, definitely not!

Carey: Were they fun to work with?

Douglas: Yes, they were fun to work with. Stephen demands a certain level of reality in everything he does and sometimes what happens is things don't make as much sense as you thought they did and he'll tell you. But I always appreciate that, but he's equally committed to finding the reality of the scene. It makes the scene better doing it that way. He'll always do what needs to be done to get the film in the can.

Carey: How did you get those two? Did you do an open casting call?

Douglas: Chloë Sevigny and Stephen Rea would have never shown up at an open casting call. What happened with Chloë is that we sent her the script and she initially…well, her agent, initially passed. But we approached the agent and asked how about you meet with the director at least? So we met at one of her favourite cafés in downtown Manhattan, which turned out to be one of my favourite cafés in Manhattan. So we met for an hour and we talked and I guess over that period I convinced her or she began to believe in the project a little more. And I gave her a copy of my other short films and she saw them and she was convinced. That's how she did it. And with Stephen Rae it was an offer. I think Chloë was attached already and Dallas Roberts was attached so Stephen I believe felt he could have fun with the part. It's kinda a small part and it's fun and he could really just do it for a couple of weeks.

Carey: And I think the other female lead I read you had some problems with. There were several other actresses attached to the role?

Douglas: Oh yeah, model Asia Argento was the first. I think she's the one in the big billboard ad for Gap jeans on St. Denis. There's this big image up there.

Carey: So do you shake your fists at it every time you go by?

Douglas: No, I don't. In a lot of ways…what happened actually she was attached for about 3 years and she dropped out about a month before we went into production. It ended up working out ok because number one the salary or what they had offered her I'm not sure we would have been able to pay her that amount with the budget we had. But I was thrilled to have her. The reason she dropped out was she got a chance to do a film with Catherine Breillat. I love Catherine Breillat's films and our producers did not have her signed. We had her for 3 years and they never had her signed, so she was able to walk away. Ya know, she sent me a nice email, so we're still friends.

Carey: I think you had several problems getting "Sisters" filmed. Producer-wise. Weather-wise. You were going to film here in Montreal but it was January and January here well…

Douglas: Yeah, to finish up with the actresses…I met up with Gaspar Noé, a friend of mine, who's done a couple of films like "Irréversible" and others and he knew another French actress/model, Anna Mouglalis, and she's a really accomplished actor. We were talking on the phone like a month before we were ready to go into production and she was really into the character. And about 5 days before production I got a phone call at about 6 in the morning saying she was going to have to drop out for personal reasons. So the whole film could have fallen apart, ya know. Based upon financing. If we did not have an actress the financing could have dropped out very easily. Then we managed to get Lou and I didn't even meet her before she showed up a couple of days before shooting. I had to go with what producers were telling me and she worked out really well in the Angelique character. We were going to shoot it in Montreal and it was supposed to be shot in September and then it got pushed to January and I had to convince the producers that we don't want to shoot this movie in Montreal in January because we were going to be freezing. Unless we wanted to make this a winter movie, ya know. Finally that was understood and we were gonna move to New Orleans and then a week later Katrina happened, so it was a lot of work. But then eventually we found Vancouver and it worked out for us.

Carey: Filming in Canada is that how you got Smoking Man (William B. Davis) from the X-Files?

Douglas: Yes, actually David Cronenberg was supposed to play the part. He actually agreed to it as well then about a week before production he suddenly said he had been doing so much press for "A History of Violence" that he was burnt out. He told me that the thought of getting on a plane and spending another 5 hours in the air makes me want to vomit right now so I can't do it.

Carey: William B. Davis would be a cool guy for you to use all through your films. He has the perfect face for your types of films. Creepy.

Douglas: In my earlier films "Family Portrait" we almost used William B. Davis. Just by coincidence we ended up getting him for this. He seems to be coming up often.

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