Pulp Fiction co-writer and director Roger Avary talks about directing UnWind and collaborating with his daughter, Gala.
We recently posted that Roger Avary, who co-wrote and won an Oscar alongside Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction, has been signed on to direct the YA adaptation of Neal Shusterman‘s UnWind. A surprising choice, given that he hadn’t directed anything in the past 12 years. However, according to Avary during an interview with Deadline, Constantin co-president Robert Kulzer approached him with the project, stating that they couldn’t use a “YA formula” to make it successful (as they did with the flawed The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.)
“Robert told me, ‘I need you to be dangerous with this’,” explains Avary, “’Make a bold film that asks questions when people leave, but also feels like a total unique experience.’”
“I want Unwind to affect people. A lot of my movies because they’ve been social satire, and frankly because I was a younger filmmaker at the time – a lot of them have been misunderstood, particularly in regards to exactly what that the message was,” says Avary who warns that it’s not the anticipated onscreen violence that’s dangerous in Shusterman’s tomes, “it’s the themes.”
After Avary had read the books, he found it reminded him of one of his favorite novels, The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess, but found UnWind had a “much better engine” and it “wasn’t as bleak.” He obviously decided it was something he could work it. Plus, he had the approval of his daughter, Gala, who is co-writing the screenplay for the film. Gala explains the difference between UnWind and the Lionsgate products:
“When you look at movies like Hunger Games or Divergent, they’re so overly stylized. It’s not a world of our own. I don’t believe those characters. But with Unwind — if we took one step to the left, we could be these characters.”
Roger seems to have found a niche with working with his daughter:
“Working with my daughter has been critically important to making Unwind,” says Avary about getting the pic’s voice down pat. “I want this movie to be a call to action, a manifesto.” He adds, “Kids are smart. They have good bullshit meters. They can tell if you’re speaking down to them,”
In regards to getting a feel for the films aesthetics, it certainly sounds like he’s not trying to make this overly stylized in the way that The Hunger Games or Divergent were, but he likens his approach to acclaimed filmmaker David Cronenberg (eXistenz, Crash, Videodrome), who has a style all his own.
We may also see cinematography on a sort of crossover of past and future landscapes, inspired by artist Simon Stålenhag, which would make sense for this type of story. This means there would be futuristic elements in present day society that give it a more realistic look of how things can look like in a not-too-distant future.
“I’m a student of David Cronenberg’s work, so I started looking at his early movies where he was relying on architecture and volumes of space to represent the inner psyche of his characters.”
As for the cast, he did talk about one particular actor playing against-type for what he’s normally been given, and that’s Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, This is the End), who will be playing the Juvey officer Nelson after the runaway trio:
“Jay is a comedian by nature, but always plays someone who is likable. I wanted to use Jay in an opposite way; he can be scary and has a driven side that I want to exploit.”
It’s taken a long time for Roger Avary to get to this point in his life, and it isn’t without hardship. People may not like the choice of this director due to his time in prison (he pled guilty and was sentenced for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, having killed a passenger and injuring his wife in a collision,) but he knows he’s changed as a filmmaker after that time.
“After being incarcerated, after being released, it’s not any small statement. Everyday I wake up and think how I can make the world a better place. What can I do to honor the loss of life? This movie is a part of that.”
UnWind is set in a dystopian society in which those under 17 years of age, particularly those who don’t follow society’s standards, may be forced to have their bodies – organs, limbs, and all – taken apart, or unwound, to serve a better purpose to other better-behaved, well-adjusted humans. We see the story through the eyes of three teens, all from different backgrounds, who are forced together to try to survive.
To watch the video interview with Roger and Gala, go to Deadline