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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

“A Megan Fox Nobody Has Ever Seen Before”: Nick Principe and Tom DeNucci Preview Action/Slasher ‘Johnny and Clyde’ [Interview]

With the recent releases of Freaky, Candyman and Malignant, as well as the upcoming debuts of Halloween Kills and Scream, the slasher subgenre appears to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence as of late.

Next year, another such contender will be vying for horror fans’ hearts with its genre-bending story, wildly violent and practically executed setpieces, and a nightmarish villain gunning (stabbing?) for icon status. Add to all of this the presence of Megan Fox, returning to scary cinema after her starring turn in 2009’s cult classic Jennifer’s Body, and you have Johnny and Clyde, a forthcoming thriller which melds the crime, heist and splatter subgenres into a decidedly wilder ride than that experienced by the real-life outlaws whose names inspired this upcoming film’s title (although, to be clear, Johnny and Clyde does not in any way concern the exploits of Bonnie Parker or Clyde Barrow).

As noted by Deadline in their exclusive announcement, Johnny and Clyde “follows the two eponymous serial killers who are madly in love and on an endless crime spree. They have their sights set on robbing a prosperous casino run by crime boss Alana and her head of security.”

Joining us to chat Johnny and Clyde are co-writer/star Nick Principe (Laid to Rest, Chromeskull) and co-writer/director Tom DeNucci (Vault), who will walk us through the film’s origins, its surprising visual inspiration, and how a supernatural slasher figures into this tale of psycho killers and bank robbers.

Tom DeNucci and Nick Principe – Photo by David Apuzzo (

Bloody Disgusting: Nick, I’ll start with you. What is Johnny and Clyde? Can you tell us a bit about its plot and characters?

Nick Principe: Basically, it’s about two psychopaths that are utterly in love. They’ve gone on a kind of Natural Born Killers cross-country crime spree, and they’re kind of finding themselves out of money and out of places to go. They end up back at their home town, trying to make a couple of robberies until they get wind of a very, very big score. The lead character Johnny calls on some of his childhood foster care friends, who are very grown up at this point and are equally entertaining psychopaths. They form a heist crew to take down this secretive cash room that’s run by Megan Fox’s character, where they are met with some supernatural surprises…

BD: How exactly did the project come about?

Tom DeNucci: This is something that we’ve been working with Verdi Productions. They’ve been looking to get something edgy, a horror movie for their slate of films that they’re putting out in the next year. It almost started like a commissioned piece where we knew Verdi Productions was looking for something dark and edgy. Nick and I had some characters, and had been kicking around some ideas that we’d been having for a while, and we just kind of said, “You know what? This would be a pretty good fit … those characters were pretty cool. I bet we could kind of expound upon them a little bit and write something that Verdi Productions is looking for.” And it ended up working.

It was one of those things where, you know…usually scripts have multiple drafts. Sometimes you hear stories of years and years of rewrites and turnaround. When we wrote the script, you probably think we were joking, but we finished it in May. Here we are in September, and we just finished a portion of principal photography. Our heads are still spinning from it.

BD: It sounds as though the film is a bit of a genre bender, not unlike From Dusk Till Dawn.

Principe: You’re spot on with From Dusk Till Dawn. That’s almost kind of how we pitched the movie, in the sense that it starts off as a crime/heist picture, but once they get trapped in the cash room it’s definitely balls-to-the-wall slasher/horror. Instead of vampires, it’s just one big, spooky supernatural slasher.

BD: Visually, stylistically, what approach are you going for with this film? Do you have any inspirations that you’re drawing from in designing the film’s look and guiding its tone?

DeNucci: This is going to sound really funny, but right before I really dove into pre-production, I watched a really great documentary on Walt Disney. Just how Disney prepped for everything that he did, from building miniatures and really going into a theme. Sticking a theme, whether it’s a color theme, a color palette, and just thematically sticking into something and going with it really, really full tilt.

Megan’s character is very dark. I don’t want to give away too much, but visually we wanted her to almost be like a Disney princess, but a messed up, very dark, twisted version of that. Her look is just incredible … this kind of almost evil princess character. I went into a weird kind of Disney path. A lot of that vintage Disney stuff was kind of dark, you know?

Jennifer's Body

Megan Fox in ‘Jennifer’s Body’

Can we talk a bit about your cast? Have the leads been cast yet?

DeNucci: We do have some announcements that we can talk about. The leads, Johnny and Clyde, we can’t currently announce. But we’re really excited to be working with people like Robert LaSardo, who’s a journeymen. He’s an incredible actor, we’re excited to have him. Nick had mentioned this crazy foster family, and Robert LaSardo is certainly going to be a big part of that family. We’re excited to work with Sean Ringgold again, who we worked with on the movie Vault. We’re excited to bring him back in the fold to sort of play this a rugged mercenary who doesn’t play by the rules, just kind of does his thing.

Armen Garo is a really talented character actor. He’s been in Martin Scorsese films, he was in The Sopranos. He’s got this really like steely look. Nick and I were talking, he’s like Tom Atkins in this movie. He’s a throwback to the rugged masculinity and that toxic masculinity in a main character.

Principe: So a lot of qualities that Tom had from, say, Night of the Creeps. The guy that’s got nothing to lose but to achieve his set goals, and he’s willing to die along the way to make those happen.

BD: Nick, did I hear this right? You’re pulling double duty on this film?

Principe: Behind the camera, I co-wrote it with Tommy. As far as in front of the camera, I have been stunt coordinating some amazing fight sequences. I can say, hands down out of everything I’ve ever done, I’ve never had as much prep for some of the fight scenes that I’ve had with this. Multiple attackers, multiple situations, everything from firefights to taser batons to just street fights. So I’m really blessed and lucky to have that. We’ve got a bunch of up and coming wrestlers performing stunts, as well.

Then in front of the camera, I’ll be playing one of those foster family members, a character named Butcher. Won’t go too much further than that! And as I did mention that there is a slasher … I don’t think we’re ready to show that guy just yet, but I will be playing the slasher as well, because I obviously didn’t feel comfortable giving it to anyone else. You can call me “Slash”! A lot of slashes after the titles. Writer/stunt coordinator/actor/slasher.

BD: The slasher subgenre seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence at the moment. How will Johnny and Clyde fit into the current landscape occupied by movies like Freaky, Candyman, and next year’s Scream?

Principe: I really wouldn’t want to just pigeonhole the movie as a slasher, because it’s really just so much more than that. It’s more than just a slasher, that’s just a subgenre that’s a part of it.

DeNucci: It’s not a slasher movie, but it does rely on some elements of that. You know, there are really great practical effects done by a guy by the name of Doug Sakmann. We went for reality and practicality versus CGI as much as possible. So those are the things that it shares with the slasher genre. But there are some crime drama elements in there, and it does have kind of a unique approach. But to answer your question … you know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Everything that was once hot will always come back eventually, for the most part, with any form of entertainment.

Everything’s cyclical, and I think people are ready to live on that nostalgia. People that are my age now and Nick’s age, we were children of the late 80s/early 90s … you get to a certain point in your life when you feel good to relive those experiences, and I think that genre went away for a little while. Now it’s coming back because people are hitting that certain age where what was cool twenty years ago is kind of hip again.

I think that’s one of the more exciting things about making movies, how it does always change and how sometimes you have an opportunity to go back and relive an era that you grew up in.

Principe: I think since we’re a product of the 90s, one way or another that’s just going to come out in our style, because those are just the movies you grew up on. Whether we like it or not, it’s just inspired from that time period, and I guess we’re just lucky to have so many genre-based films from that time.

I really can’t stress enough, this is truly for lovers of that genre. But at the same time, I really think it’s just open to anybody who enjoys a good thrill ride, you know?

BD: From the sounds of it, the scale of this film will be considerable. Are there any plans in plans for it to potentially go theatrical?

Principe: Well, I think everybody would love to see it go theatrical.

DeNucci: The movie has got a deal in place with Lionsgate. VMI will be doing the worldwide release. So this is going to be seen by a lot of people, whether it’s a day-and-date release or whether it’s VOD. We can’t speak on that just yet, but with Lionsgate getting behind it, we’re really excited about how wide it could go.

I just watched some footage and I’m really happy with everything that we have so far. I love the look. I don’t want to make like a sports reference, but it’s like you’re prepping for a team that you’re going to play. We prepped really, really hard, and all of the philosophies that we put into our preparation are paying off in the actual picture.

An action figure storyboard used by the production

For example, I told you how Disney inspired me. We spent weeks with little G.I. Joes. Well, we created these miniatures out of almost every set that we wanted to do with G.I. Joes. My storyboards are very in-depth. I don’t draw the pictures, I actually use action figures so that I can light them and build a little set. And again, that’s all going back to that Disney preparation.

For me, as an artist, it’s definitely the movie that I’ve taken the most seriously, and I’ve taken most of my movies very, very fucking seriously. I felt as though it was a big opportunity, especially coming off of the pandemic. We’re hungry to not just make a movie, but to make something really special, because we’ve all been stuck in our houses for almost two years and dying to get out there and make a film. So we’re coming out of the gate really hot on this one.

Another storyboard, with Psylocke standing in for Megan Fox’s Alana

BD: You mentioned the pandemic. What kind of impact has COVID had on the production? Each of you have obviously worked on projects prior to the pandemic. Do you find it more difficult to make a feature in this environment, or not?

DeNucci: Well, you know what it is, you have to take the proper precautions. Our team is like our family, and we want to keep everybody in our family safe. But undoubtedly, you’ve got to test your crew every three days. You know, those are all SAG bylaws, and you have to have certain protocols on set, so obviously those things cost money. And obviously every dollar that you’re spending on COVID – it’s all necessary dollars to spend to protect your team – but that’s money that you’re not putting into your film. That’s money that doesn’t go on the screen. So it’s always a challenge, because now there are dollars that are diverted into protecting everyone from COVID, rather than just “Okay, everybody! Let’s get together and make our film.”

Obviously, it makes everything slower. Your day is twelve hours, and then you pretty much gotta shut it down or go into overtime. Well, when every three days you have to test a hundred people after lunch, that’s going to put your whole day on pause for an hour or so. It’s just like one extra little hurdle in a day filled with hurdles. But again, it’s a small price to pay to be back on the field, so to speak.

Principe: You schedule a day for say four members of background, and they’re all tested and they’re set to go. Then you get on set, and it’s like “You know, we could probably use a couple more guys…” Then it just goes through a situation of, “Well, have they been tested?” So we had to do three day tests, whereas normally you’d be like, “Alright, yeah. Call in two more guys.” You can’t do that anymore. You have to make sure they’re either fully vaccinated, or they’d been tested in the last few days.

So there are definitely hurdles, but no roadblocks. Just speed bumps.

BD: When will the marketing for the film start to hit? Can we expect a teaser trailer or poster anytime soon?

DeNucci: This is kind of exciting to me. What’s funny about making a film, when you’re directing the movie, there’s so much going on that you only know what you know, and that’s what’s in front of you on set. You don’t always see what’s happening behind the scenes and what your producers are maneuvering. We finished the other day, it was like seven o’clock in the morning. We’re all winding down, having a beverage or two, and one of my producers, Chad Verdi, comes up to me with his phone, and he’s like “Check this out.” He shows me a two minute clip of footage cut together, a little teaser.

It’s like seeing your child for the first time. It was really, really exciting to see that. I had no idea they were even cutting it together. So I know that Lionsgate is getting a trailer really quickly. They’re gonna probably want to put together a teaser and start getting things going sooner than later. So please don’t hold me to this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a teaser this winter.

As far as when the movie’s out, it’ll be out in 2022.

BD: Nick, when do we get to see you in costume as the slasher?

Principe: Well, like I said, there’s one character that’s unmasked, and let’s say there’s one character that is masked. I will say that this slasher definitely comes from the bowels of my nightmares. It’s something that I would have liked to have done a long time ago, but the times weren’t right. And this situation came up, I pitched for this slasher, and it came through a million percent. So hey, lucky for me, you’ll get to see me unmasked and masked, and possibly in the same room together at some point.

Nick Principe as Chromeskull

This really is a slasher fan’s wet dream. Between me, our wardrobe person, and the makeup effects guy, Doug Sakmann, everybody is horror nerds. Everybody put their two cents in to really give a standout slasher. It’s the right mix of tradition and old school affection meets new school extremities.

I really can’t wait for you to see this character, and see him in action. He’s just a Grim Reaper. He just can’t be stopped. Guns, knives, whatever. It doesn’t even slow him down. We’re doing wire work, we have huge, huge kills, all of which are going to be practical. We got so much freedom on this to do what we really, really wanted, and I really think it’s going to show.

We’re truly making a slasher horror dream come true for me. I really like to think if that dream can come true, then it’s just going to make horror fans – specifically slasher fans – extra excited. It’s just a balls-to-the-wall action/horror.

BD: Has there been any sort of mandate on the rating? Are you shooting for an R, unrated, or perhaps both?

Principe: Well, I’m not the biggest fan of when they release a movie, and then a few months later release the “Uncut” version or whatever. I’ll just say, we went really fucking hard with the script. I mean, really fucking hard. People being ripped apart, like you fucking name it. It’s going to be a hard R for sure.

BD: Before we go, what final thoughts do each of you want to leave readers with concerning Johnny and Clyde?

Principe: I wish we could show you everything we have on our table right now, but it’s just not the right timing. But I wanted to come to [Bloody Disgusting] and just kind of lay the seed, to hear it straight from our mouths instead of just a press release about these things. But just stay tuned.

DeNucci: I think that any fan of … you know, forget about the horror genre, just any person who likes a movie that’s going to take you on a high-octane ride from start to finish, this is the movie for them.

I think horror fans can look forward to a Megan Fox that nobody has ever seen before. I’m not gonna say anything, but there’s something very different about her characteristically, in her appearance, that she’s never attempted to put out there before. A very bold performance by Megan, just something that she really, really leaned into. She bought into this philosophy, all this preparation that we’ve been doing, she really bought into it. It was a pleasure to work with Megan, and we can’t wait to showcase this character that she brought to the table.

Special Thanks to Nick Principe and Tom DeNucci for their time and insights.


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