Perhaps the biggest homegrown hit of Empire Big Screen over the weekend was Ben Wheatley's "Kill List," a low-budget hitman/horror flick from the director of the excellent, terminally underseen crime film "Down Terrace." More than perhaps any other British film that had footage shown, the clips had people talking for much of the weekend, and director Ben Wheatley hit the event on Saturday, along with stars Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring, to get the buzz going. If you've read our review from SXSW, you'll know that it's a film worth getting very excited about (it even made one member of The Playlist team physically ill -- in a good way), and it crystallizes Wheatley as a real talent to watch.
We caught up with Wheatley at the event, and he gave us a little glimpse into his future, revealing that the prolific director has three projects lined up to go in the future. We asked the director if he'd had any offers from Hollywood yet, and he told us "Not really, no. I'm busy. We've got two three films we're doing at the moment, we're doing a film with Nick Frost next year, "I, Macrobane," and we're in prep at the moment, we start shooting in six weeks with a film called "Sightseers" with Big Talk, and then we're doing an American sci-fi film, but produced from the U.K, so, maybe in a few years people might sit up. But as long as we've got enough money to keep making stuff there's no reason to necessarily go out there."
To fill in some blanks, "Sightseers" is a dark comedy about a pair of psychotic caravaners, based on a short film, that's set up at Film4 and Big Talk, the latter being the production company behind "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Attack the Block," and indeed Edgar Wright will serve as executive-producer on the project. It's written by and will star Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, two familar faces from the U.K. comedy scene.
Lowe is probably best known for playing Timothy Dalton's henchwoman in "Hot Fuzz," and for being part of the cast of cult comedy show "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" alongside "Submarine" director Richard Ayoade, but she's been making excellent, deeply weird short films for years on the side. Oram is less well-known internationally, but we've seen him live a few times and he's a mad genius -- for a taste of the sort of thing he gets up to, just sit back and hit YouTube. We're excited to see what they've come up with, and having Wheatley at the helm can only be a good thing.
As for the Nick Frost-starrer "I, Macrobane," Wheatley told us that "Spaced" veteran Michael Smiley, who's in both "Down Terrace" and "Kill List," will play a character called George Clooney, and that "Kill List" co-stars Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring both have parts as well. Additionally he told Bloody Disgusting a little about the film earlier in the year, saying "It’s about two guys who, when they were kids, burned their school down. They’ve been sent to separate detention centers never to be seen together again, and then they meet up in their late thirties and go on a rampage. It’s a knock-about comedy."
As for the bigger-budget sci-fi flick, that's still under wraps, and it sounds like it won't be getting underway until 2013 at the earliest. Still, it's good to see Wheatley so busy, and we asked the director what the secret of being so prolific was, seeing as many promising directors can find it difficult to follow-up their debut, he told us, "Writing scripts. It's not complicated. You just gotta write them. And then people look at them and they option them and they make them... I'm being facetious, but after 'Down Terrace,' we knew we could just go off and make something if we want to... Because there's quite a lot of us involved, and we're using the same set of actors, it feels like a push forward, and there's that kind of energy moving forward, and people get excited."
He added, "The thing I fear the most is being in that situation of taking five or six years between each movie. Directing's a muscle, and you have to exercise it. John Ford did a hundred movies, and it's no coincidence that his films are really good. If you're only knocking out seven or eight in your career, you know...and it's also really good fun, and it's my job. I'm not going to be sitting around taking meetings when I could be directing."
He didn't rule out ever taking bigger, studio stuff in the future, however: "The control you get on big-budget is very different from a little film you pay for yourself...But then a big-budget brings a broader canvas. What's that cliche, 'one for them, one for you'? I think it'll be more like that moving forward." For those of you yet to be exposed to Wheatley's work, "Kill List" hits U.K. cinemas on September 2nd, while IFC Midnight will be giving it a U.S. release at some point in the near future.