David Gordon Green on Prince Avalanche and throwing actors curveballs
UPDATE: Prince Avalanche opens in Dallas on August 16 at the Landmark Magnolia Theatre in Uptown Dallas.
David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche was the headliner for the opening night of the USA Film Festival in Dallas, which wraps up April 28 at Angelika Film Center. The festival honored Green, who grew up in Richardson, with a compilation of his films prior to April 24's screening of Prince Avalanche.
Below is a short review of the film followed by some insight from writer/director Green, who returned to Dallas for the festival.
Prince Avalanche mini-review
Those who don’t follow David Gordon Green’s career closely may be surprised by his latest, Prince Avalanche. The man who helmed such comedies as Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter got his start directing insightful dramas.
Prince Avalanche is a hybrid of the two, following two men (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) tasked with painting lines on a back road in an area recently devastated by wildfires. The film touches on a variety of emotions — humor often being the least of them.
Rudd and Hirsch spend virtually the entire film by themselves, bantering and bickering and not really getting much work done. Green intercuts their scenes with moody atmospheric shots showing the effects fire has had on the area, shots that hit home even more knowing the film was shot in Bastrop County, Texas, which suffered through wildfires in 2011.
The film can be challenging at times, but its rewards vastly outnumber its difficulties.
David Gordon Green interview
The idea behind Prince Avalanche was a serendipitous circumstance, as Green wanted to make a movie about two guys driving around in a forest. A friend suggested he remake a little-known Icelandic movie called Either Way, which mirrored Green's idea in many ways.
That film served as more than just inspiration, as Green says he would sometimes plagiarize subtitles from the original to use in his film, which accounts for the stilted nature of lines like, “It took a great length of time to change the tire.”
“It’s just such an unnecessary way to word that that it makes me laugh,” Green says.
If you're wondering why Green cast Paul Rudd, best known for his comedic roles, that was by design.
“I look at certain actors that I really respect and admire, and I like to be the guy that takes them on a little different journey or a little different trajectory,” Green says. “I have really wanted to do something that had a little bit more dramatic resonance with him. ... Throwing curveballs to the expectation of an actor is one thing I’d really like to be known for when I die.”
Filming on location in Bastrop State Park also proved a stroke of luck.
“This seemed like a place that took advantage of the melancholy backdrop, and used the backdrop to challenge the comedy,” Green says. “Every time you’d find yourself comfortable in a laugh, there’s something that doesn’t allow that to settle in too comfortably. I find that great because it’s challenging the audience in a way a typical comedy doesn’t.”
Green wanted to impart a sort of randomness with the atmospheric shots he sprinkled throughout the film.
“People use the word ‘improvisation’ to specifically talk about music or dialogue, but I think there’s a really fun way to use that with camera and visuals as well,” he says.