Wicked Horror managing editor Tyler Doupe’ had the occasion to speak with genre film auteur Alexandre Aja about his role as a producer on The Other Side of the Door. Aja filled us in on shooting the picture in India, why the film should have been rated PG-13 instead of R, and how his directorial career has influenced the way he approaches film production.
The Other Side of the Door follows a grieving mother who lost her son in a tragic automobile accident. When the mother discovers a place where she can say a final goodbye to her boy before he moves on to the afterlife, she jumps at the chance. She is explicitly warned not to open the titular door but ignores the warnings and, in doing so, unleashes a ration of fresh hell.
The film stars Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), Jeremy Sisto (Hangman), and newcomer Sofia Rosinsky. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Wicked Horror: This is the first time you have worked with a director with whom you did not have an established relationship. What was it about the script that made you want to get involved?
Alexandre Aja: It’s true, you know. This was the first time I was going to produce a movie where I didn’t know the director or anyone from the team first. That’s something that I’m trying to avoid, usually, because I think it’s a pretty strong commitment to produce a movie. It’s an adventure that you’re going to share with someone for a few years and you need that trust and everything. I have to say, I received the script and I started reading it and somehow that story spoke to me in such a strong way because it kind of took me back to other elements of my personal life. Like, years ago, right after The Hills Have Eyes, I was working on a project with Wes Craven: A supernatural movie about a couple dealing with the death of their kids. And we couldn’t make the movie. But I was really into that story for a long time. Years after, we were talking about redoing Pet Sematary. And Pet Sematary had all those elements as well. So, when I got the script from Johannes [Roberts], it was the perfect combination of all the themes and topics and characters that I had in my mind. It was such a smart story. A very strong human drama that no matter who you are, you cannot be insensitive to the idea of who you will save if your car goes over a bridge and fills with water and you have two kids in the back seat and you can only save one. This awful Sophie’s Choice is a very strong starting point. To start the movie with drama where you are with the character, where you feel for them, that is the most important thing to me. Of course, the Indian background was so unique. And it was an opportunity to kind of refresh the haunted house genre by bringing all the different mythologies and imagery to the story that kind of is a classic incarnation of the genre. It made me want to meet the writer-director, Johannes. We met, he came to Paris, we worked together on the script. Very soon I realized we have the same taste and it was a real friendship that started on this movie. Today, we are working together on another project. I am very happy to have broken my rule and worked with someone I didn’t know.
Wicked Horror: It seems that a lot of times, the director and producers on any given project are at odds. They have two very different roles. The director’s vision is usually more artistic and the producers are usually looking at the project from more of a financial perspective. So, I’m curious, as someone who started as a director and segued into production later in your career, has that informed the way you approach production?
Aja: I think definitely I am not the financial producer, per se. The reason why I went into producing other people and not just my movies is because I’m so addicted to movie sets. And to all the different parts of filmmaking that I felt frustrated because–with the writing and finding financing and everything–every time I was making movies it was a year-and-a-half to two years minimum. So, you know, I missed that so much that I thought I should maybe produce so I can be on sets when I’m writing and go back and forth and be involved in other people’s projects. So, I kind of started producing movies and that gave this opportunity of meeting other directors but I’m here to support them. I’m here to support an artistic vision. I’m here to help them make their movie better or help them with the studio or help them with the financier so they can really get their voice heard. And I’m always on their side. Yes, every director I work with as a producer, we have healthy, passionate conflicts, where it’s always about–of course, I’m a director, as well, and I cannot forget that I’m a director, so of course I will have a vision, I will have a way of shooting a scene or whatever. But I’m here to give my opinion and listen to the other opinion. At the end of the day, I respect the fact that the director is the director and that’s his choice and that’s his call. But I like the discussion and I think it’s a very important process. I really believe that director-producers are different from just producers because they have a different relationship with filmmaking, obviously. You need to also understand the different vision. That’s sometimes quite hard for you as a director. But I’m starting to learn that my way is not the only way [laughs]. And maybe it’s not the best one, even. And I love to discover that I was wrong and that the other director has a different vision and the result is better than what I had in mind.
WH: You must be great to work with as a producer. I’m sure that the directors you collaborate with really appreciate your approach to the production process. So, how did the film end up with an R-rating as opposed to a PG-13. I don’t recall any particularly spicy language or extreme violence.
Aja: You are completely right. The movie was supposed to be PG-13. It was made to be a PG-13 movie. In the same way that the movie we did a year before, The Pyramid was supposed to be a PG-13 movie and it ended up being R-rated, as well. It’s something new with the MPAA ratings. I respect them. They have their process and everything but for years, you submitted a movie to the MPAA and you knew that if you have bad language [or intense violence, or nudity] you would get an R. But if you don’t have any of those elements, you get a PG-13. That was very simple. But, now, for the last few years, they’ve introduced the idea of intensity. And they can rate a movie R because of the intensity of the movie. It’s a strange thing because it’s a very subjective judgment, particularly when they come back to you and say, ‘If you want a PG-13, you have to cut down the intensity of the movie.’ If you translate that statement into an artistic position, it”s making a lesser movie. Because, intensity means that you are into the movie and the story and the scene and the suspense. So, if you cut down on that, you’re just hurting the movie. So, that’s how we ended up being R-rated for both of those movies, when I think they should have been PG-13.
WH: Absolutely. It seems like it could have been a PG-13 movie. The same thing happened with The Gallows. It got an R-rating with no language or anything. The MPAA told the directors that it was just too intense. But, as a creator, how do you edit your work to make it less intense? It’s a very strange thing.
Aja: It’s very strange. It’s very weird. I mean, I’ve been talking to a lot of director colleagues of mine and they all share the same point of view. We have to find a way to discuss with the MPAA and talk to them and say that it has become too subjective.
WH: It was announced a while ago that you were involved with a Scanners TV series. Can you give us an update on where that stands?
Aja: It is something I really love. It’s something that I think I think could be an amazing TV show. It basically touches on everything we are dealing with today, the end of privacy and everything else. This is a show that’s really important to me. We’re still developing. We’re still writing. I’m sure it’s going to happen. I just don’t know when, yet.
WH: The Soska Sisters are adapting Cronenberg’s Rabid for a feature film and a small screen series, as well. Hopefully that will spark some interest in the project. I certainly look forward to seeing your take on the property. You have a real knack for the remake.
Aja: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
Featured Image Credit: ShowbizJunkies