Excision is going to divide audience reaction and director Richard Bates knows this. Hell, even his mother feels strongly about the film’s odd, often grotesque, nature. Still, one will not deny that it is certainly this season’s most unique release – a skillfully told portrait of a high school misfit portrayed by AnnaLynne McCord (Nip/Tuck, 90210) in a, “Is that really her?” role.
McCord plays Pauline who has aspirations of a career in medicine and goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother (Traci Lords). While dealing with being an outcast teenager and obsession over curing her sister’s cystic fibrosis, Pauline becomes continually deranged as her fascination of the surgery and the human flesh grows into something abysmal and demonic.
This week, in anticipation of the film’s DVD and Blu-ray release October 16th, we spoke to Bates about how his feature effort differs from the short film Excision is based on, how the story is personal one for him (much to his chagrin) and the lengths McCord went to so she could land the part of Pauline.
Shock Till You Drop: You had a screening last night, right?
Richard Bates: I did. I had my mom come and she’s not fond of the movie at all. I had a poster printed up with just quotes from her on them. ”I’m proud of you, but can you make the next one something I can show my friends.” And then, “Is it artistic…?” ”I guess people your age like this sort of thing.” And then after the movie, I set an autograph table for my mom to sign the posters.
Shock: How does the feature film differ from the short version you directed?
Bates: The short has the exact same beginning and end. When I made the short, everyone was excited I had written a feature version. They couldn’t wait to see what happens after where I ended the short. I said they were going to be disappointed because that was going to be the end of the movie, too. That’s the end of the story, there is no more to tell. It’s about this daughter and mother and that finale is the only time I think I show the two touching.
Shock: Did this whole thing stem from the character of Pauline? Or did you have the scenario, the aforementioned mother-daughter relationship, first?
Bates: I made the short and it has the same loose narrative and dream sequences. It was a lot darker than the feature. The dream sequences were grungier. It started out as a very personal story about growing up in Virginia. All sorts of character eccentricities come from, I guess, me and some people I know. I get cold sores. I have indeed gone down on a girl while she was on her period. It was all too real for me, my friend. The only reason that it’s female-driven is because I originally started writing it for a male, while I was in college. But the best actor I knew was a girl, so I knew the product would benefit from it. I pretty much just wrote her as I would write a guy. I don’t know what to tell you other than I wear too tight pants, I used to be fat so I know what it was like to have breasts, that’s the extent of it.
Shock: Wow, a veteran in “red wings,” well, let’s talk about casting and AnnaLynne McCord…
Bates: She’s fantastic. I didn’t have to do a whole lot of work. I was trying to find the right Pauline. I intended to cast the young lady who starred in the short. But things didn’t work out. By that point, the script had been circulating and AnnaLynne had received the script. I got a call she loved it and wanted to talk about it. I looked her up, because I hadn’t seen 90210. And I said, “Hell no, there’s no way this girl can do this.” They called back and said she wanted to take a meeting. I said, sure and she showed up in character and brought all of these pictures of herself growing up. The movie was close to home for her. She grew up in a trailer park and ran away, she was nothing like the Hollywood starlet I thought she was. I told her she’d have to shave her head at the end of the movie and she took a steak knife off of the table and started to cut off her real hair in front of me. We hit it off and she’s absolutely nuts.
Shock: You had an actress fighting to find a spot in your indie movie which must have felt great.
Bates: I couldn’t get a single person in the world to help me with this movie for four years. The short was successful and I had these meetings set up, and then everyone passed on the script. Pass, pass, pass. I knew it had to be my first movie because it was so personal for me. All of the financing was raised by myself and 30 of my friends from growing up in Virginia and New York. We ended up with just enough money to squeeze a movie out and that was that.
Shock: How much fun did you have with AnnaLynne shooting those wild dream sequences?
Bates: We shot those in a garage. No one has any idea how ghetto this movie is. It was quite a struggle. We couldn’t afford a crew so we hired kids out of film school. No one did this for the money. With the dream sequences, I didn’t cut anything for being hardcore. They basically coincide with the scene that’s coming before or after and what’s going on with the character. There is a progression as Pauline gets more delusional. We had a lot of fun with those. I’m a total blood geek. AnnaLynne was into it and she was blood-stained red at the end of every day. The movie is sort of a love letter to all of the outsider movies I loved growing up, something I discovered that meant something to me. When I was casting everyone else, I was trying to find people from those films or that had the right spirit. So yeah, Traci Lords is the first person I cast after Mr. John Waters and from there people started actually taking my calls to a certain degree.
Shock: Because we have to wrap up, I want to ask, will you reunite with AnnaLynne for another wild flick?
Bates: I can’t tell you if AnnaLynne will be in my next film, which I’m getting going, but I have a small part I’m interested in offering to her. We’ve talked about it. Imagine if the guy who made Excision did his version of Ghostbusters.