Richard Kelly chats about The Box

RT caught up with the Donnie Darko director to ask about his new sci-fi thriller

by | October 29, 2009 | Comments

Richard Kelly’s no stranger to the mysterious whims of fate. His first feature, Donnie Darko, flopped upon initial release, only to live on as one of the decade’s most beloved cult movies. But his much-anticipated follow up, the difficult-if-memorable Southland Tales, vanished without a trace. This week Kelly will be hoping to change his fortunes with his third film, The Box, a sci-fi thriller based on a short story from Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson. We spoke with him recently to ask about it.


RT: What interested you in The Box?

RK: This was a short story that I optioned about six years ago, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn it into a film for several years now. In 2006, it finally all clicked for me. I figured out how to crack the story. The timing was right, and I felt like I wanted to make this my third film. I felt I wanted to go back and make a film in Virginia, where I grew up. [I wanted] to take my parents and my family and the elements of their lives and merge it with Richard Matheson’s short story, to flesh out Arthur and Norma in a very personal way, and to do an old-fashioned suspense film. It’s kind of an old-fashioned film in the sense that there’s not one swear word in it, there’s very little violence ultimately. It’s a very suspenseful film that I hope we’ve made, in the tradition of the kinds of films that my parents grew up with. I guess it would be Alfred Hitchcock who’s someone that I think of. My parents introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock films.

RT: And like Hitchcock’s work, The Box has a moral quandary buried within a thriller.

RK: Yeah, it has this tantalizing concept of this button that could cause the death of another human being. And receiving a million dollars for it — that’s a question that you could propose to anyone. I think it’s interesting to think about how many people would go through with it (laughs), and to think about why they would go through with it. Arthur’s a scientist, and he looks at this button unit, and there’s no technology in it. It’s a piece of wood. When he opens it up, the button doesn’t do anything. And so, in his mind, push it! There’s no way this could cause the death of another human being. Push it a hundred times. Who cares? It’s just superstition. But then, when you get into the idea of, is there something greater at work? Is there some sort of magic or a higher power at work? That’s when Arthur’s made to believe, OK, this is real. And Mr. Stewart has some sort of greater ability.

RT: Are we speaking in religious terms here?

RK: I think we’re talking about science and religion, and ultimately, some sort of supernatural entity that is kind of controlling all of this that Mr. Stewart has access to. That’s part of the investigation into the mystery.

RT: Do feel like your fans will see this as a “Richard Kelly film?”

RK: I hope so. I’ve taken something that was six pages long, that was Richard Matheson’s creation, and I’ve been very reverential to it. But I’ve definitely brought a lot [to it]. It’s the most personal film I’ve ever made. At the same time, it’s also my first studio film, and [it’s] more mainstream than the previous two films. It feels very much like something that people would expect from me, I guess (laughs). Specifically with Donnie Darko; I think it feels tonally similar to Donnie Darko in a lot of ways.

RT: I appreciate the fact that Donnie Darko doesn’t spell out its meaning. Is that something you strive for in all of your films?

RK: I always like that there’s a degree of ambiguity, and that there’s a lot for people to digest and think about. I hope to always make films that people can watch more than once and continue to see new things, because for me, those are the films that continue to age well. At the same time, it’s also about giving people enough answers so that they don’t feel alienated of confused. It’s about finding that balance in the middle.

RT: I found Southland Tales fascinating. Does that movie still stay with you?

RK: I’m so proud of that film. What I really want to do is to be able to go back and do a longer director’s cut of it at some point. There are still some unfinished visual effects that I’d like to do. And then the whole graphic novel prequel, that will always stay with me, and I hope that one day I’ll get to revisit all of that.

RT: What’s the optimal length you’re thinking of?

RK: I’d love to put an additional 10 or 15 minutes back into the film. Then, I’d love to do the whole prequel saga as an animated motion-capture film at some point. If the actors aren’t all in wheelchairs by that point (laughs).

Tag Cloud

Dark Horse Comics Disney streaming service DGA Super Bowl Family Hallmark Christmas movies quibi GoT FX on Hulu Fall TV historical drama Sneak Peek sports space Song of Ice and Fire 24 frames asian-american Lifetime Christmas movies BAFTA Acorn TV reviews A24 San Diego Comic-Con Pirates Spring TV President The CW Star Wars 2018 Avengers E3 game show theme song ghosts comic Trivia biography richard e. Grant TCA Television Critics Association Film die hard Turner indie Rock BBC New York Comic Con cancelled TV shows television Universal Certified Fresh MCU blockbuster LGBT SDCC 72 Emmy Awards Reality Competition cars ABC Family Anna Paquin Premiere Dates Turner Classic Movies NBC parents dark Extras YouTube Sony Pictures BET Awards screen actors guild directors hollywood Food Network spain Bravo Walt Disney Pictures OWN social media hist blaxploitation hispanic supernatural Discovery Channel doctor who Classic Film science fiction Travel Channel singing competition Television Academy comics vampires Baby Yoda adaptation medical drama ABC Valentine's Day anthology BBC America Pop TV Ghostbusters mutant USA Network Winners unscripted game of thrones binge Character Guide laika E! Podcast children's TV Mudbound Spike Amazon Prime DC Comics Endgame TruTV VOD Hulu The Arrangement political drama Action superhero renewed TV shows joker emmy awards Election screenings travel stoner Women's History Month franchise Holidays true crime stop motion fast and furious Video Games golden globes Thanksgiving 71st Emmy Awards Interview DC Universe Holiday natural history HBO Max Disney Musical Film Festival series VH1 Watching Series disaster The Walking Dead OneApp Rocky El Rey MSNBC justice league classics X-Men criterion TV Funimation Winter TV Superheroes dramedy Awards 007 Shondaland concert Mindy Kaling Mystery Teen spinoff Year in Review Pride Month 2020 National Geographic CNN Netflix Christmas movies Freeform Trophy Talk Black History Month finale USA Apple police drama LGBTQ Starz mission: impossible Peacock 21st Century Fox Netflix Horror Polls and Games romance MTV harry potter child's play festivals First Look Musicals CBS Marvel Amazon Tumblr YouTube Red Adult Swim Country 20th Century Fox 2019 Mary Tyler Moore Tubi APB video on demand Academy Awards DirecTV Paramount Network anime TIFF satire TV renewals zero dark thirty christmas movies Grammys Brie Larson nbcuniversal boxoffice Showtime comedies Reality stand-up comedy free movies dc HBO book Box Office mockumentary GIFs Sundance Now Emmy Nominations zombies Comedy Central Comedy green book Pet Sematary Martial Arts crossover dogs rotten movies we love breaking bad witnail Animation Opinion CW Seed all-time Sundance TV cops teaser 2017 news FX Lucasfilm spy thriller Tomatazos Awards Tour ITV Rocketman WGN Writers Guild of America Disney Channel Binge Guide TCM documentaries serial killer movie PlayStation Paramount cartoon Schedule AMC video DC streaming service adventure 45 Emmys Comics on TV Crunchyroll Hallmark aliens Music NYCC Western toy story Kids & Family Elton John TCA 2017 diversity psycho See It Skip It Superheroe Photos cancelled TV series chucky award winner Comic Book cats PaleyFest rotten Lionsgate Toys Christmas TCA Awards HBO Go TBS miniseries First Reviews werewolf politics Cannes spider-man transformers Epix scary movies name the review obituary VICE spanish language elevated horror talk show south america Quiz zombie Mary poppins latino cooking Amazon Studios cults revenge Fox News documentary cancelled television Pop crime thriller composers romantic comedy TLC SXSW Summer Mary Poppins Returns batman Vudu universal monsters discovery Lifetime canceled TV shows TCA Winter 2020 GLAAD cinemax Nat Geo BBC One psychological thriller Countdown Warner Bros. Hear Us Out based on movie robots Captain marvel TV Land halloween crime Best and Worst critics IFC Films YouTube Premium FOX History Red Carpet Masterpiece 2015 Amazon Prime Video CBS All Access BET Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Esquire war CMT 4/20 IFC sitcom period drama Creative Arts Emmys Arrowverse American Society of Cinematographers reboot Apple TV Plus RT21 streaming Cosplay dragons YA slashers sequel Marathons ESPN comiccon RT History sag awards Ovation Black Mirror Britbox Star Trek FXX Cartoon Network animated The Witch Sundance dceu Marvel Television Nominations ratings Rom-Com crime drama thriller Disney Plus a nightmare on elm street jamie lee curtis Pixar kids technology Columbia Pictures WarnerMedia The Purge Calendar casting Drama versus Crackle facebook independent Set visit best Oscars Syfy Spectrum Originals indiana jones Tarantino Apple TV+ strong female leads what to watch docudrama canceled Heroines A&E Nickelodeon worst Shudder films Biopics Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sci-Fi Disney+ Disney Plus Marvel Studios Chernobyl Trailer movies PBS Logo Fantasy Stephen King foreign 2016 cancelled tv talk nature twilight Infographic TNT SundanceTV Ellie Kemper