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An Interview with Franck Khalfoun

Franck: "I was hated immediately!"

Franck Khalfoun
Interview conducted by John Townsend
10 March 2013

Serial scalper Frank Zito is back. Reimagining any classic 80's slasher film may seem like an uphill struggle. Most audiences have already decided what it'll be like before the opening credits have even rolled. But with the expert hand of Franck Khalfoun helming the upcoming remake of 'Maniac' starring Elijah Wood hopefully we're in for something a little more special as we join Franck and Frank in the modern day retelling of one individual's murderous tendancies and his ever descending spiral further and futher into madness.

Hi, how are you?
Iíve very well, thank you, how are you? Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

So Maniac is your new film. Please tell us about it and how it came about.
I had an old copy of the original film on VHS and I knew it quite well and so when I was approached by Alexandre Aja and Thomas Langmann, who had acquired the rights the venture began. It was then about how we could relate this old movie which had such a core audience to a newer fan base. That was how our trip began.

With the original being so popular among that audience were you worried at all about remaking it?
I was terrified! (laughs) Iíd seen how people have reacted to other remakes and having seen some myself have never really been sold on them. I think that the error they make is to simply make the narrative without really understanding the characters. People love the Lawrence Of Arabia (s) as much as the real horror like Hostel and they just want films that are good and if you try and take advantage of that and sell them crap it just isnít going to work. I knew that if we really worked hard to do something interesting with the material that they would appreciate what this film is and not necessarily compare it to the original. It is its own entity. I mean, when word went out we were remaking Maniac, and then add that youíve got Elijah Wood in the lead role it became a free for all on the internet (laughs). I was hated immediately!

Franck: "The violence serves a purpose".

Well, having said that then, what was it that you saw in Elijah Wood that convinced you he was the right actor for the role, to deliver this intense performance?
Well first of all heís an incredible actor so youíre always going to get that intensity but he has that innocence weíre all so familiar with and that made it interesting to take him to this dark place. I mean with him being a good looking guy and appealing it justified why so many women would be attracted to him. I find it difficult to swallow sometimes when you have these monsters who arenít like that as it makes the women dumb and the movie doesnít function. To me Elijah has that intensity as well as this boyish charm which benefited the film. Heís a real genre fan as well and loves this stuff!

In this version youíve given Frank much more back story showing his relationship with his mother and giving some reasons as to why he became what he did. Was that something you particularly wanted to focus on?
I just felt that, as we see the film through Frankís eyes, it was important to get a glimpse into the life he had led and how this brought him to where he is. Itís also that when you see him as an abused little boy you get some empathy with him and so when he is violent it gives you an eerie feeling. Also because the film is from the point of view it is I felt it was important that you could see the characterís thoughts and through dreams, and the out of body experiences serial killers talk about, we did this.

Franck: "To me Elijah has that intensity as well as this boyish charm which benefited the film".

I did read one review that intimated the film, and by intimation yourself, didnít accept any ownership for the violence and almost justified or glorified what Frank was doing. Personally I felt that in seeing the abhorrent violence through Frankís eyes the audience is given the impression that these are acts only a truly disturbed individual could carry it out. What are your thoughts in this.
Oh it absolutely doesnít glorify it. Itís exploitative though in that we take advantage of the emotions you feel, the fear and horror that hits you in your gut. The violence serves a purpose, in living through Frankís eyes you see how deplorable it is and itís a feeling that youíre stuck and even though you might want to stop it you canít, and maybe he wants to stop it too. You have that emotion through the violence that you donít want it to go on but itís maybe forced upon you.

Because the longest section of the film without violence is when he meets Anna.
He wants to stop. Youíre experiencing this with him in the audience. Thereís something profoundly visceral and itís very important that you continue to experience something new throughout which I think works.

Given the subjective viewpoint then was it difficult getting such strong performances from all the supporting cast when at the end of the day they are doing most of their acting direct to the camera?
Firstly Elijah was there everyday behind the scenes whether he was on camera or not. This then became real collaboration between him, the cameraman and myself which was a first for me but it enabled us to guide the camera as Frank would act. Every move of the camera was that of the character. I think this was maybe one of the reasons I was on board as coming from a theatre background I am big on character development. What I mean is that Elijahís character had to live through the other characters and how they reacted to him. Secondly the real challenge was about creating the fear through one point of view, one angle, and this meant that the character had to carry the film through. This is a film that really creeps on you without using the trickery of jumps and the like.

So having now made a remake do you think itís becoming increasingly difficult to get original ideas made, even though many of these remakes are of poor quality?
I think that unfortunately people donít care. When they do a remake theyíre maybe not particularly big fans of the movie but theyíve acquired a brand and are gonna make a lot of money. Which doesnít work, it doesnít have the substance required to attract the audience. Marketing is such a big part of it that you can make a schlock and still make money. Weíre not reinventing anything but youíve got to dig deep and make something compelling whether original or not.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Check out our 'Maniac' review here.


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