November 20 sees the release of Girl, actor/director Chad Faust’s feature-length directorial debut. Girl stars Bella Thorne and Mickey Rourke alongside Faust, and follows Thorne’s character as she returns to her hometown, seeking revenge against the father she hasn’t seen in years. Upon her arrival, she discovers he’s been murdered, which leads to a change of plans. While she interacts with the locals, seeking to discover answers, she finds more than she’s looking for or ever imagined regarding her family legacy. Wicked Horror recently caught up with Chad Faust to discuss the film and its origins. Read on for the full exchange.
WICKED HORROR: To begin, I’d like to congratulate you on your directorial debut. The film officially launches on November 20, and it has received some solid reviews already. I had the chance to catch an early viewing and I enjoyed it as well. From what I understand, your acting career spans close to 20 years at this point. And I noticed that you’ve done some writing and directing in that time as well, but this is the first feature length film that you’ve written and directed. How did it feel to make that leap?
CHAD FAUST: Thanks! You know, it was always my intention. When I was around fifteen to twenty, I was making these angsty films like teenagers make. I only went to acting school to learn to how to work with actors, so it was always my intention [to direct]. I just got caught up in having a career as an actor for about fifteen years, and then realized I wanted to make my way back to where I’d started. So, it always felt quite natural, but I wanted to just be more involved with the stories I was telling and have more say in what I was going to be talking about as a storyteller.
WICKED HORROR: As a lover of both books and film, I’m always interested in the origin of a story. Where did your inspiration for Girl come from?
CHAD FAUST: It spawned out of a couple moments of my life when my brain did one of those one-eighty turns, when you realize the story you’ve been living your life on isn’t true. So often, especially in today’s world, I think that the power of a narrative—whether it’s questioned or not questioned— can run our lives. I wanted to talk about a very personal moment for this young woman, when she realizes that all of the emotion, action, and passion that she has committed toward this one familial legend isn’t based in accuracy. That moment when her brain just turns, and realizes “Oh my God, how did I not see what’s right in front of me this whole time?”. I think that’s a humbling moment, and it’s the moment we have more compassion for other people, because we realize that we’re not seeing everything all the time. I’ve had several of those moments in my life, and they say as an actor, once you lose your own accent you can find any other accent. I think that’s true with philosophies, you know, once we shake our inherited philosophies we can see all of them much more clearly and maybe make a better decision for our lives.
WICKED HORROR: While you still have an active acting role in this film, you also carried the weight of the writing and directing. How did this compare to your previous experience when you just played the role of an actor on set?
CHAD FAUST: I think just to act now would be like going on vacation, you know? Oh my gosh—I can remember stressing out over an acting role, and now it would be like going to a resort in Mexico. I would love to do this again, just to recognize that. But I’ve been so wrapped up in this film that I haven’t been able to do that. For me, it’s the perfect world in that I get to direct from inside the scene and be in the fabric of it as an actor, but at the same time be zoomed out seeing the whole thing. For me, it’s completely natural and it allows me to do what I think is some of my best work in both capacities, hopefully. For some people, it would be less natural to them. I have some actor and director friends who say they would never do what I did, but I think it just depends on how you’re made.
WICKED HORROR: Were there any unexpected challenges that came along with directing versus acting?
CHAD FAUST: I think one of them, especially with low-budget films, is you’re constantly rubbing up against the friction of budgetary restraints. I think that could easily break some people early on, and you just kind of give in to grand compromise. I think that would be a very easy trap to fall into. I heard somebody say early on: you become a better artist when you rub against the friction of commerce, and you have to allow that to happen. I just embraced it and said, “Okay, this is going to challenge me to come up with better ideas than when I’ve been able to do whatever I want”. You actually see that a lot, you know— I think that’s why a lot of filmmakers’ first films have something special about them, because they are up against such limitation, and once they are given the golden key, their films can fall apart, because there’s just no resistance. Obviously on a physical level we know we need resistance to truly be strong, so I think it’s similar.
WICKED HORROR: Girl is a gritty revenge thriller that I think will resonate with fans of different genres. I think that we’ve seen a rise in the number of films and books featuring strong female leads in recent years. As a horror fan viewing the film, I couldn’t help but think of the idea of the “final girl”, and it also struck a chord with my love of coming of age stories. Do you have any favorite films or stories that fit into the coming of age sub-genre?
CHAD FAUST: Yeah for sure. One of my favorites is Ordinary People from 1980. It’s not in the horror genre at all, but I think it’s a beautiful story of Timothy Hutton and Donald Sutherland overcoming tragedy and maturing out of it. I’ll be honest, the horror genre actually has not been something I’ve played in much. I’m a big fan of movies like The Shining, where it’s not so much the monster outside but it’s the monster within that we’re afraid of. That’s always what resonated with me more, was just the idea that darkness isn’t something out there coming to get us—it’s actually likely to be in our own hearts. That’s kind of what I found here in this story, is that in the beginning, it seems like there are these monstrous people all around her, but by the end there’s this revelation that what’s inside of her isn’t necessarily any better. For me, that’s the kind of story that we all need to look at, especially in today’s political climate—from all perspectives. It’s so easy to point fingers at everybody else, but what’s our role in this debacle?
WICKED HORROR: For me as a viewer, Girl is not only a story about revenge, but it also speaks to breaking the cycle—of changing our course no matter where we came from or the challenges we’ve faced. It felt like a tale of redemption for the character of Girl. What do you hope that film viewers take away from this story? Was there a particular message that you wanted to convey with fans?
CHAD FAUST: I appreciate that question. You know, people have called it a revenge thriller, and I understand where that comes from, but for me it’s an anti-revenge thriller. I think there’s this idea in our culture that if you hurt the people who hurt you, somehow your pain will be justified. I think we all know that ultimately, that isn’t true. There’s this line in the film, “The only revenge is living a good life”, and I think it’s even greater than that. Really, the only revenge is being the first to forgive, the first to love—we have to actually transcend revenge, because an eye-for-an-eye just leaves the whole world blinded and doesn’t get us anywhere. I was really trying to set it up in a way that people would go, “Oh yeah—a great revenge movie!” and then end up really questioning their concept of revenge.
WICKED HORROR: The film features Bella Thorne in a more emotional and dark, gritty role than I’ve seen her in before. Her name is well known in Hollywood and among horror fans for some of her previous roles. And then you have Mickey Rourke who is a veteran actor and a great fit for his role. What was it like working with both of them as an actor and also in the role of director?
CHAD FAUST: Part of my reasoning for wanting to cast the two of them was just the combination that I found so unique, and just the interesting marketing package. It also really helped me to understand the movie I was making, because they’re both so authentically themselves. I wanted it to be less of putting on characters and creating a world and more of an unveiling of the authenticity of who these people were and the world they live in. Working with Bella was such a treat, in that she’s so well-prepared. She’s just one of these kind of word-for-word actors and understands the rhythm, and I so appreciate that. A lot of our work was done in advance, which was so helpful, because we shot this movie in fourteen days, which is crazy. There wasn’t time for a lot of adjustment. Mickey came in—and I think he was there for only two and a half days—and we shot everything we could with him. We had very different scenes written for him, but he kind of comes in with his own ideas, and ultimately the film benefitted, because he dropped an authority on that role that I couldn’t have brought out of him on my own. It was more about surrendering to this greater wheel of power that was coming through him, so I think because of that, his character is more terrifying than had I forced my own agenda.
Girl releases in theaters on November 20 and VOD November 24.