Exclusive: Alexandre Aja talks Mirrors and Piranha 3D

The French splat packer on scares both supernatural and prehistoric.

by | October 10, 2008 | Comments

Alexandre Aja - Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage.com

Alexandre Aja is the French horror prodigy, inducted into Alan Jones’ splat pack, whose first film High Tension (Switchblade Romance in the UK) led to the high profile Hollywood remake of The Hills Have Eyes and now to Mirrors, a new take on a Korean original.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as a beleaguered ex-Cop who takes a nightwatchman job in an abandoned department store with a murky past. The silver-backed glass of the title is concealing a dark secret.

We caught up with Aja for his only UK interview to learn more about the movie as well as his latest project, a 3D remake of Joe Dante‘s classic Piranha.

I saw the movie recently at Frightfest.

Which cut of the movie did you see? Did you know there’s a cut for the UK which is different from the cut that’s being used in the rest of the world. The movie was rated 18 and they butchered the movie to get it rated under 15. They might have shown you the good one because they only did the cuts very recently. The first cut has been released in the States and the rest of the world. Fox decided to cut it here. I really don’t know why they took that decision.

It’s strange because usually in the UK it’s good. High Tension was released uncut, and The Hills Have Eyes was as well.

Mirrors

This has been around for a while.

Yeah, it was right after The Hills Have Eyes that I received the script from Fox not knowing it was based on the Korean movie. I didn’t really connect with the story or the characters. But in the movie itself something really strong stuck with me after reading the script and that was the idea of using the mirrors not only as an object but as a killing device. I thought it was something that hadn’t been done before but it tapped into this universal fear we all have inside of us. It had been waiting to be tapped.

The idea of an alternate reality behind the mirrors is something we all thought about as kids.

Of course, there is something about looking on this side of the mirror to see if we can look through to the other side.

Did you see the Korean film in the end?

Of course, after we read the script I went to see the movie and the movie itself confirmed everything I thought about the script and the idea that you could control the reflection and to make you do stuff you’re not supposed to do.

Who wrote that English script then?

I don’t remember, but it was basically word-for-word the Korean movie. Scene by scene. We completely rewrote it, and that was the deal with Fox. Let us, Greg Levasseur and I, take the script and write a completely new one with it. I wanted to keep the idea that we have mirrors everywhere around us and I wanted to not only have them in the department store but to have them all around. I wanted to find a way to get out of the department store and bring the threat into the world. And, of course, I realised I could take it beyond just the mirrors and into every reflecting surface like the water.

Mirrors

What was it about Keifer that made him the right choice?

When I was writing the script I realised the fact that making this movie would be more expensive than The Hills Have Eyes and I knew I would need a strong leading actor – a big star. I started thinking about all the classic movie-star men and Keifer was one of the first men that came to my mind because I was thinking about who could play that ex-cop character who’d lost everything, turned to alcohol and was really trying to put his life back together by taking a job as a night watchman. I was thinking of Keifer in Flatliners. I was twelve or fourteen when I saw Flatliners and it was such an amzing movie. It was really scary and his character was so cool and romantic, and dark at the same time. It was exactly the character we were thinking so for me Keifer was an obvious choice. People know him as Jack Bauer, who’s quite a different character.

Yeah, my goal was to bring the other Keifer back. To bring the Keifer we used to see in The Vanishing, Flatliners, The Lost Boys. Not the Keifer who became Jack Bauer. But at the same time it was interesting because Keifer is not an actor who makes it a composition. He’s an actor with a personality of his own and every character he plays is a side of himself. When you spend time with him, as I did, you realise that he is the guy from Flatliners, he is Jack Bauer, he’s all of them.

Were you surprised by what he brought to the material?

We met and felt a connection immediately and we made a deal almost on the spot which was that he was in charge of making that character believable and deep and making something scary and suspenseful. Together we’d make the best movie we possibly could.

You spoke about not wanting to get pigeonholed as a horror director, but you’ve stayed in the genre ever since High Tension. Why?

I love the genre. As an audience member I love to be scared. The only thing as a filmmaker I don’t want to do is to repeat myself and so far I have the feeling that High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes and P2 are all completely different movies. Maybe I will reach a point where I’ve felt that I’ve explored all the subgenres within horror and from that point I will maybe look for something else, or some other kind of movie.

Mirrors

Right now I’m really attracted by stories and a lot of the stories that I’m interested in right now are dealing with a genre element.

Does it ever affect you, surrounding yourself with horrific images all the time?

For the first time on this film I started to scare myself with what I was writing. I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in the supernatural, really, in movies. While writing we did so much research in the history and legends and it started to make an affect.

What’s the status on Piranha 3D?

We’re preparing to shoot in Spring. The thing is it’s such a difficult movie, not only because of the technicality of it and the CGI fish, but also because it all happens in a lake. We were supposed to start shooting now, but the longer to leave it the colder the water gets. The movie takes place during Spring Break and, of course, the studio wanted it ready for the summer, but if you’ve got 1000 people who need to get murdered in the water, you have to wait for the right temperature for the water, for the weather, for everything.

Mirrors

Most of the film takes place outside on location in the lake. It’s all there, it’s so simple. An earthquake releases prehistoric piranhas during Spring Break. All these drunk American kids being torn to shreds by crazy fish. You can’t make something more different than Mirrors than this movie and I’m really excited about it because it’s such a thrill ride. It’s super-gore, super-action, it’s going to be really amazing. I’m so excited about that project.

Do you embrace these challenges? Desert, then mirrors, now underwater with CGI fish in 3D…

I have a feeling that may be true because when I did High Tension we had only $2m, shot everything by night and it was a nightmare. I had a feeling it would be the most difficult movie I ever made. And then we made The Hills Have Eyes in the middle of the summer in the desert and after that I thought no-one could do anything more difficult. Then we spent 6 weeks in an underground parking garage for P2 and Mirrors was just something no-one can imagine because of all the technicalities. This is way more difficult and way more challenging than all the other movies put together. Maybe I’m looking forward to that – at the very least it’ll keep me from falling asleep!

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