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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

‘They/Them’ Director John Logan on Slashers, Kevin Bacon, and Putting Characters First [Interview]

They/Them, pronounced “They-slash-Them,” is a slasher horror film set at an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp executive produced, written, and directed by John Logan (“Penny Dreadful”).

The slasher will debut on Peacock on Friday, August 5.

Ahead of the release, Bloody Disgusting chatted with Logan about the film’s emphasis on characters, the research that went into the setting, and the filmmaker’s love of slashers.

Logan’s “Penny Dreadful” puts its characters first, creating gothic horror and drama from them. When asked if this is his main entry point into creating a narrative, Logan answered, “Exactly, right. Also, with characters, because if you start with the story, you end up writing stick figures to satisfy your plot. But if you start with characters, the characters can give you the plot. They can suggest what the conflicts are supposed to be.

“I always start with characters. For this movie, I started with the seven campers. I just started with those characters I fell in love with and thought, how can I challenge them and put them in different situations?

They/Them also challenges the notion of a slasher as it puts psychological horror at the forefront. Logan explains how he took his love of the subgenre and used it to create a subversion that doubles as a love letter to slasher cinema.

Logan states, “It was certainly a combination of a celebration of the slasher movie because I am unapologetic in my affection for slasher movies. Nothing makes me happier, so I love that genre. But also a chance to subvert it in a loving way. So yeah, as you know, we have a camp in the woods, we have a mass killer, we have various murder weapons being used, so all those wonderful things from slasher movies, we’re able to use them for the purpose of the angels, if you will, which is to celebrate these queer kids.”

Logan also details how the character-driven focus and specificity of his protagonists led to a lengthy casting process. “It was long and difficult because I knew those seven campers were the movie. They were the beating heart of the movie. I wanted queer actors who were comfortable and confident about their identity because it’s a movie about the horror of trying to take people’s identities away. We only looked at LGBTQ+ actors for those roles, which took a while because they’re very bespoke. I wanted actors who could educate me as well.

“Because I’m not trans, I’m not non-binary, I needed to know. I’m also 60. I’m also not 20. I needed actors I could work with who would help me, and that’s what we found. The great lightning strike moment was Theo Germaine because the movie opens with Jordan’s face and ends with Jordan’s face. They are the beating heart of the movie, the Hamlet of this play. I met Theo; they were just so engaging, involved in the process, and willing to be open with me about their experience. We could help create Jordan together. I’m very pleased and proud of all those actors.”

THEY/THEM — Pictured: — (Photo by: Josh Stringer/Blumhouse)

While Logan may have had a considerable undertaking in casting his campers, finding the right actor to play camp owner, Owen Whistler, was far easier than expected. Not only was Kevin Bacon the only choice for the role, but his experience set the tone during production.

It’s one of those rare cases where I wrote with an actor in mind, which normally I don’t. I started writing, and Kevin just came into my head. I’ve known Kevin for years. We’ve always wanted to work together. But I kept writing; I kept saying, ‘Oh my God, this is Kevin Bacon.’ Because, as you know, he can be so charming one moment and then turn and be so icy and villainous at the next moment. Very few actors can do that with total authenticity on both sides of that equation. I wrote it, and I called Jason Blum and said, ‘It’s got to be Kevin Bacon. I’ve got to talk to Kevin about this.’ He loved that idea. Thankfully, Kevin was flattered. Kevin is just the ultimate professional, too. 

“The first thing we shot in the entire movie was his opening speech. The first time any of those actors saw him was walking through the stairs as Owen Whistler giving a five-page speech. It was a lesson in professionalism and told everyone, ‘You need to up your game to match this man.'”

Logan may have created a fictional horror movie, but he researched heavily and drew from authentic, harrowing experiences. 

THEY/THEM — Pictured: — (Photo by: Josh Stringer/Blumhouse)

The filmmaker explained, “I had met some people who’ve gone through conversion therapy, and they were very generous with their stories. What they told me was harrowing because it’s this witch’s brew combination of physical torment. Things like sleep deprivation, forced marches, food deprivation, and even more insidious psychological assault, where their very identity is being questioned and assaulted day, after day, after day. Those stories really stayed with me. So, in the movie, you see a good combination of both those things. Carrie Preston‘s character has this very long scene in the movie, this psychological trying to take Theo Germaine’s character apart, just with words. The sort of psychological gamesmanship that exists in these so-called conversion therapy camps.

“Then there’s the physical brutality, which, ours is a horror movie, so we extrapolate certain elements of that, but it’s also based on reality. I had some researchers put together a huge research document on conversion camp therapy, and it’s terrifying. And it’s terrifying, as we sit and speak, that it’s legal in half the United States. At a moment where queer people’s basic liberties and human dignity are being threatened and challenged, I think it’s very important we get a chance to tell stories like this. That’s why I’m eternally thankful to Peacock and Blumhouse for giving us a chance to tell a story that presents queer people as heroic.”

The post ‘They/Them’ Director John Logan on Slashers, Kevin Bacon, and Putting Characters First [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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