For his directorial debut, Sean Brosnan has produced a dark, twisted tale centred around a wildly dysfunctional relationship between a father and son. Starring Gary Stretch as malevolent patriarch Ivan and Joe Andersen as the mute Asher, My Father Die is a genre-crossing, bloody story of revenge. Sean took some time out to sit down with us to discuss his inspiration for the film, almost casting Mickey Rourke and tells us what it’s really like being a director.
Starburst: What was it about the idea and story of My Father Die that made you think this could be your debut feature as director?
Sean Brosnan: A lot of people were saying that your first feature should always be one you’ve given a great deal of thought to, but I find that if I think too much about it, I might never get started. I literally just thought I wanted to write something that would get in people’s faces, and I’d been watching a lot of Gaspar Noé’s films, and Chun-wook Park’s revenge trilogy. Just a lot of messed up, brutal movies, and I kind of just wanted to do something like that. There’s a play I’ve always loved called The Playboy Of The Western World by J. M. Synge, an Irish play, which I loosely used for the three-act structure. There’s a father-son dynamic but I adapted it. I thought about where I could set it in America and really just bastardised it and twisted it around, probably really upsetting a dead author. I’m really proud of My Father Die, and its doing well, so now there’s a pressure to follow it up with something similar. Just really have to follow your gut.
You have an extreme love/hate relationship at the centre of film. Was that drawn from the play?
The play is more of a dark comedy. With My Father Die, Ivan is so, so bad that he almost wants his son to kill him to prove he’s his son. I really had a lot of fun with Ivan, and I love Gary Stretch (who plays the character).
Gary has said that he believes there is a little Ivan in all of us, which is a scary thought, but that playing the character was freeing as an actor; getting into the mindset of someone written to excess.
To be honest, writing Asher was more of a challenge as he doesn’t speak. With Ivan, I knew that everyone he interacts with he’s going to rape, maim or kill, you know – he’s just a savage. There was stuff we filmed that became too camp as Gary and I were having too much fun with Ivan. In one scene, where he’s banging this hooker, instead of a woman we were going to have a transgender person and we talked about casting Mickey Rourke to do it, but sadly it fell through. I just thought it would be so funny as it would be the ugliest transgender person ever. Gary is so good at playing the antagonist and he has such an interesting, weather-beaten face.
You mentioned Asher there, and Joe Anderson is hugely impressive in the role. Was it a challenge to direct someone playing a mute character?
At the time Joe was filming the television show Hannibal and the first time I actually met him was when he showed up on set. I knew his body of work, though, and in the conversations we’d had by phone he was really passionate about the script. With directing, I tend to work differently with every actor anyway. I started trying to explain what I wanted from Joe and he said “Just tell me what you fucking want.” And that was it! I told him, and he got it. Everyone’s different, it’s like herding cats in a way.
You worked on genre films as an actor, and My Father Die spans several. Is that where you’re drawn when looking at projects or writing?
It’s kind of just how it worked out. With My Father Die, it’s going down well with horror fans but I never really sort it as a horror film. There’s elements in there, sure. Someone wrote once that it was an exploitation movie so I guess it’s a weird, sub-genre of that.
It’s a very stylised film visually and we wondered if that was in the writing from the beginning or something you came to in production?
Using black and white was always going to be the case, and the painting breaks were experimentation and maybe they worked, maybe they didn’t. That was during the editing process. I always liked Rubens Saturn Devouring His Son, but in short, everything that was on screen was in the script. I know it wasn’t a slight metaphor and I wasn’t trying to be subtle! (laughs)
Do you see your career being primarily behind the camera now?
Yeah, I think so. I’m attached to some television projects for later this year but I can’t really talk about them yet. I’m definitely more comfortable. With acting you do your scenes and go home. With writing and directing it’s just more of a head fuck. It keeps me busy and out of trouble.
My Father Die is out on Digital Download Now and on VOD and DVD from April 3rd.