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Director Vincenzo Natali discusses filmmaking career and 'Splice'

By Chris Osterndorf
On June 15, 2010

The DePaulia's Chris Osterndorf sits down with "Splice" director Vincenzo Natali.The DePaulia: What filmmakers have influenced your work?

Vincenzo Natali: I think, amazingly, that there's a little bit of Steven Spielberg in this. There's James Whale, of the old Frankenstein films. There's even maybe a little Francois Truffaut. A whole bunch of things. Hopefully all the influences add up to something. but at the end of the day I think if anything distinguishes "Splice" from other creature films and in some ways transcends the genre is the fact that this is a very personal story, parallel to the creature story. Because on some level this is a family drama. You know, bringing up a child, albeit a very unusual one.

The DePaulia: There seems to be a wave of more intelligent sci-fi coming out, but another term I've heard used to describe this film is "creature feature." With people like Guillermo del Toro out there, who produced this film, do you see a more intelligent version of the "creature feature" coming back as well?

Natali: I think what's becoming abundantly clear to me is that the kinds of movies that we're watching know have a lot to do with what we can put on the screen. Ten years ago, it would have been very hard for me to make "Splice," technically. I probably could've done it, but it probably wouldn't have looked as good, and I certainly couldn't have done it for as low a cost as I did. So I think the flow in technology, and the way it's evolved is actually opening doors, and so we can create creatures now, in 2010 that we certainly couldn't have twenty years ago, maybe ten years ago. So I think that invites the possibility of telling stories that were, untellable, if that's a word [laughs] or that were impossible to render on film in the past, and then I think you also kind of have to account for what's drawing people into movie theaters, and I think that films are increasingly fighting for the audiences attention, they're fighting the internet, they're competing with television. and they're competing with home viewing systems, so they're required to give you eye candy, and I think that creatures are an excellent and exciting, and enticing form of eye candy. So, sorry, that's a very longwinded way of saying I think that's probably why you'll see more creature features [laughs]. And hopefully they'll be smart.

The DePaulia: Can you elaborate a little bit on some of the other films you've made, "Cube," "Cypher," "Nothing," the Terry Gilliam documentary, "Getting Gilliam," and your segment in "Paris, je t'aime"? You've been very busy.

Natali: Not as busy as I would like [laughs] but thank you for saying that. You know, it's just hard to get movies made these days, and unfortunately I've been the victim over the years of very poor distribution. None of my films ever really got a proper theatrical release in the United States, except now "Splice." With each successive film fewer and fewer people saw my movies, so it was a very, it was kind of a distressing trajectory [laughs]. But really, my movies feel like my children, and I really think that they're worthy. I made a film called "Cypher," and it's a little bit Phillip K. Dick like, and then another movie called "Nothing," which is a very odd, I guess you'd call it a comedy. But they haven't been seen by that many people.

The DePaulia: I wanted to ask about [actor] Dave Hewlett for a minute, because he's been in all your movies.

Natali: That bastard [laughs].

The DePaulia: Obviously you guys have known each other and been close for a while, but you worked with him on the story for "Nothing." Do you think you may collaborate again in that sense?

Natali: Yeah, I think it's entirely possible, I'd love to. You know "Nothing" was such a massive commercial success, so I'm sure people are dying to have us work together again [laughs]. but you know, David's a lifelong friend, and he's a great person, so I'll always work with him, assuming he lets me.

The DePaulia: I've been curious where you stand in terms of what this film has to say. The film purposely brings up a lot of ethical questions about technology, and I think you get a pretty good sense of where your opinions lie with that. But this movie also brings up the issue of playing God, and as you've said yourself, we're going to see so many developments even within the next ten years. Could you elaborate a little more on how you feel about that?

Natali: Yeah, well, I think it's just such a fascinating subject, and in no way am I opposed to genetic engineering, and medical research, I'm strongly in favor of it. But I'm also keenly aware of all the things that could go wrong. But I know for a fact, we're going to do it. We are doing it, and humans have changes their environments. once we have the technology I'm sure we're going to start changing ourselves. So, really with "Splice" I think the assumption is we've already stolen fire from the gods. The Promethean myth is no longer applicable. It's too late to discuss whether we should be stealing from the Gods, that's already happened. The question is what do you do with the fire now that you have it, and I think that's what makes all of this so fascinating. I think what I find most disturbing about some of the developments in genetic research is the way life forms, and even parts of the human genome are being patented by large corporations. I find something inherently wrong about that. That commoditization of life is very disturbing.

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