The road to bringing The Hunt to big screens has been a bumpy one. Scheduled to be released in September 2019, the film was delayed after a series of high-profile gun violence incidents, exacerbated by President Trump tweeting in late Summer that the horror film that involves the murder of right-wing internet trolls was “made in order to inflame and cause chaos”.
Shifted to an early March release and marketed overtly using the controversy as a selling feature, the film received lukewarm reviews from many, while this writer enjoyed it as a throwback, schlocky bit of exploitation fun that takes the travails of internet discourse to its most appalling limit.
As Covid-19 shifted all of our lives this spring, the film was soon pulled from theatres for the second time. Universal has arranged for the film to stream on VOD, essentially abandoning the theatrical run in favor of allowing audiences to engage from the comfort of their homes during the cloistering due to the pandemic. Strange days, indeed.
Director Craig Zobel is no stranger to controversy – his 2012 film Compliance generated plenty of discussion – yet he’s spent the last decade doing some remarkable work on both big screen the fantastic, much-overlooked Z for Zachariah and small The Leftovers, American Gods, Westworld, One Dollar. In this exclusive interview, /Film spoke to director Craig Zobel about this journey, including how the film was made, how he personally reacted to the changing fortunes of the project, and how he has witness the narrative surrounding the film echo many of the themes his film reflects.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision
When did the project first come to you?
After we did The Leftovers it was clear that Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse and I were working well together. The experience was a good one for me and I didn’t feel like some “for hire” director but felt like part of the team. We all thought that a feature would be fun after a bunch of TV, and they had been talking about conspiracy theories a bunch. The Leftovers was a show about belief and what happens when belief is shaken. It was natural kind of think to be thinking about in terms of cults and stuff like that, so conspiracy theories became a minor obsession. When all of that Pizzagate stuff was going on and the beginnings of QAnon was starting to happen Nick and Damon were all over that stuff. In that same time period I moved down South, and I was in a scenario where all of a sudden I wasn’t in New York City where I’d been for the last 16 years. I was in Athens, Georgia, a little town outside of Atlanta – a college town, so diverse opinions – but a small town at the same time where it was very easy to go to the gas station and meet someone who had a totally different belief system than...
Snowpiercer. A History of Violence. Oldboy. Road to Perdition. There are any number of top-notch comic book movies that don’t revolve around costumed superheroes. One of the best of these is Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, a film that pushed the genre forward fifteen years ago with trailblazing black-and-white visuals ripped straight from the comics.
On April 1, 2005, Sin City ushered theatergoers into a world unlike anything they had ever seen before on the big screen. Lurid yet literate, with voiceovers like thought bubbles, the film was something new and remarkable: neo-noir with a heap of violence and the look of a live-action motion comic. With cinemas now closed and most people’s travel plans on pause due to the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s as good a time as any for pulp-lovers who are stuck at home to take a trip back to Sin City.The Illustrator Is Always Right
The vast majority of comic book movies have followed a model of loose adaptation, transplanting characters and stories from the print medium without a slavish devotion to the source material. Most of the ones you saw coming out of Hollywood in the first half of the 2000s were so loosely adapted as to be unrecognizable. Heroes like Daredevil, who Miller helped define in “Born Again,” The Man Without Fear, and other tales, were marooned in wishy-washy flicks where they and their classic villains only bore a passing resemblance to their comic book counterparts.
Into this climate, came Robert Rodriguez, who had already built his reputation as a maverick “one-man film crew:” writing, producing, directing, as well as serving as cinematographer, production designer, camera operator, editor, composer, and VFX supervisor on many of his own films. With all these titles registered to his name, you might think Rodriguez would want to plant more me-flags all over the credits of Sin City. However, he is also a filmmaker who has shown himself to be rather atypical when it comes to sharing credit.
Some of his most entertaining movies, in fact, have come when the one-man film crew was paired with other innovative storytellers, who could supplement his technical prowess with a dash of their own creative energy. After bursting onto the ‘90s film scene with El Mariachi and Desperado, Rodriguez soon linked up with such in-demand screenwriters as Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Williamson to collaborate on guilty pleasures like From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty. More recently, Rodriguez teamed with uber-producer and screenwriter James Cameron for the cyberpunk manga adaptation, Alita: Battle Angel.
For Sin City, Rodriguez quit the Director’s Guild of America so that Frank Miller could receive a co-director credit with him. He also let his old pal...