`Prince Avalanche’ is the story of two highway road workers–Alvin (starring Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch)–who spend the summer of 1988 working together in rural Texas. The film, which comes out this month, is a remake of the Hafsteinn Gunnar’s 2011 film `Á annan veg’ (‘Either Way’), which stars similar protagonists working on Icelandic mountain roads.
A remake wasn’t immediately on writer/director David Gordon Green’s mind. In fact, he worked his way backwards: Before anything else, he came up with the title `Prince Avalanche.’ Then, after shooting a Chrysler commercial with a small crew–featuring Clint Eastwood–he began searching for a project he could shoot run-and-gun. The drummer from Explosions in the Sky–who would eventually write the film score–suggested a location, the burnt-down state park of Bastrop, in Texas. Finally, in conversation with another friend, an art director, David explained he had all these things in place–title, small crew, location–but that he needed an idea. And that’s when it all fell into place with the art director’s suggestion that he simply remake a recently released Icelandic film called `Either Way.’
In anticipation of the film’s release, we met up with Hafsteinn and made a Skype call to David in Austin to talk about adapting and directing the film, remakes and growing up.
Óskar: David, could you tell us how the project came about?
David: Well, Hafsteinn and I didn’t know each other until the movie was done, which is weird. What I was looking to do was a character piece about a place, and the place is kind of a third character in the movie. I thought it would be a fun experiment, something I’d never done before.
Óskar: So, Hafsteinn, could you tell us about `Either Way’ and how it translated into a remake.
Hafsteinn: Well, I think it translated really well. The story is really universal. It could take place anywhere in the world.
When I first learned of the idea to remake it, I thought it was a joke. But then I was just really excited to see what David would do with it. I was familiar with his work and I’m actually really happy with the outcome.
David: I was scared of meeting you.
Hafsteinn: Yeah? [laughs]
David: Because I was afraid you would just hate it.
David: I do remember one of our executive producers who was communicating between the two parties saying, “They want to know if you want to make it uh, a commercial movie or a little strange art house film,” and I said, “Neither. I just want to start making something that feels like its own distinctive universe and not have the expectations of what it would be.”
And I thought that that was an interesting question because I think in my career there’s two extremes. There’s either the broad, commercial comedies or uh, or º you know, very small intimate dramatic works, and I think one of the beauties of this project is it landed in a place that had an appreciation for both of the worlds that I’ve worked in, but didn’t feel necessarily aligned with any of them.
Hafsteinn: When I did `Either Way,’ I showed it to one of my friends, and he said, “Yeah, that’s great. It’s like, you know, `Dumb and Dumber’ meets [director] Abbas Kiarostami .”
Hafsteinn: And I thought that was a big compliment.
David: That’s a great compliment. Perfect. Do you consider your film a comedy?
Hafsteinn: Um, not really, you know, I just consider the story, which is funny and sad, at the same time.
David: People get confused, I think, with `Prince Avalanche,’ and they ask me like what it’s supposed to be. I was really inspired by your movie, because movies are all too frequently defined by a genre and it’s nice when you can kind of exist in your own weird little world.
Óskar: These two guys are working in a road crew and they’re painting lines on the streets, and they’re sort of constantly stepping over social lines with each other. Was that anything that you thought about when you wrote the film originally, Hafsteinn?
Hafsteinn: Not really, no. [laughs] Did you?
David: No, but you know, one of the beauties of both films, I think, is people read into them, and the mere simplicity of the fabric gives people’s minds a chance to look into symbolism and metaphor and interpret it in different ways as opposed to if you’re watching the sequel to `Thor,’ which I’m sure is great, but probably doesn’t give you a lot of room to breathe intellectually. Not that it’s not intelligent, but you know what I mean?
A lot of movies are so aggressive, with plot and story and cutting, and effects and music and noise. You can sometimes be overburdened with that and have a great experience, but not really let your interpretations thrive. So I love people talking about the movie. Two guys that are in the middle of the road and don’t know which side to get on, and you know, people are reading into them constantly.
Óskar: Have you guys learned anything new about male-relationships while making these films?
Hafsteinn: I don’t know if I learned anything new, but it’s a big homage to masculinity and vulnerability, and allowing yourself to be emotional, as a man.
David: I had the experience writing it, which was very… I was sitting exactly where I’m sitting right now, and I had two computers up. One was playing your movie [Either Way], and I would start it and stop. And on the other, I was transcribing it.
David: I found myself writing about both of these characters from my own perspective. I found that they both resonated with me. It was a time when I was a new father. I©d had twin boys that are now, you know, running around being crazy, but they were new on the scene then. And I started to relate to the life that I’ve had. I love to rage and stay out all night, there’s that side of me, and then there’s the other side of me that wants to disappear into the woods, and I really found myself personalising them both.
Óskar: Hafsteinn, was it an out-of-body experience seeing the remake to your film?
Hafsteinn: Was it an out-of-body experience? No, I had read the script, and then I went to see the film. I didn’t really know what to expect, so it was definitely a weird experience, but a good experience, you know? It was kind of like seeing an ex-girlfriend with a new boyfriend or something like that, you know?
Hafsteinn:[laughs] But then when I saw it again in Berlin, at the International Film Festival, I knew what I was coming to, and then I really, really enjoyed it a lot, you know? But it was definitely a good experience. It was just, yeah, I guess it was weird a little bit, yeah.
David: [laughs] I think we should write movies for each other. Like you should write one, and I’ll do it in Iceland. I’ll write for you, and you can do it down here.