Robert Kurtzman and David Greathouse Interview
No fooling, Gavin Schmitt got in contact with director Robert Kurtzman and
David Greathouse on April 1 to discuss their newest project, "Deadly Impact",
a serial killer thriller coming to DVD April 20, 2010 from MGM Home Entertainment.
Gavin has seen the screener and can tell you right now: this is a killer that
easily falls in the "evil genius" category of Jigsaw or John Doe ("Seven").
The brief discussion covers the new film, but also gets into where a
director's vision comes from, how to write a realistic script about serial
bombing. and, you guessed it, David Hasselhoff rears his ugly Teutonic head once
GS: Robert, although you have directed before (including the noteworthy "Wishmaster"),
you are known primarily as a special effects wizard. When switching between
these roles, do you see it as putting on distinctly different hats or as two
different jobs that are complements of each other?
RLK: Depending on the type of project, it's two different jobs that
complement each other. The fact that I have a background in FX helps me interact
with the various departments more efficiently. I've worked side by side with all
the departments with my FX work and understand the time and manpower it takes to
achieve certain things, so I'm able to work with those departments and find
economical ways to do things without delaying our schedule or causing extra
burden on the budget. On this film I did not have any heavy creature FX but we
did have prosthetics, CGI and pyrotechnics and a very short 24 day shooting
schedule, so I had to plan shots carefully and work around certain issues to
make the days and still get what was scripted on the screen.
GS: Correct me if I'm wrong, but as a director, MGM is the largest company
you've had to work with yet. Does this affect the kind of control you have over
a film? (i.e., does MGM or any other company "crack down" on a director's
RLK: It is my first real studio project. I had a great relationship working
through the process with everyone at MGM. Ultimately, the studio controls the
film and as director you want to preserve your vision as much as possible and
there is always give and take but we all want to make the best film we can. "Wishmaster",
although an independent film, still had a mini studio (Artisan/Live) behind it
and the process was very similar.
GS: Why is the film called "Deadly Impact"? This calls to mind such films as
"Deep Impact", which is obviously very different.
RLK: The original script which Alex Vesha wrote was called "Anglemaker"; then
it was changed to the working title of "To Live and Die" and finally "Deadly
Impact". Title changes have a lot to do with marketing and how the studio wants
to position a film, but to me it's called "Deadly Impact"
because every decision our hero Tom Armstrong makes as a law officer while
hunting down a master criminal / assassin has a "deadly impact" on his life.
DG: Kaplow, the killer, definitely has a "deadly impact" on Tom's life as
GS: Was it hard to create a distinct mastermind killer?
First of all, it comes down to the script, and Alex Vesha really did a great job
fleshing out the characters. But ultimately, the actors bring that little extra
mojo and we were lucky enough to have the talented Joe Pantoliano [known for
everything from "The Goonies" to "The Matrix" to "The Sopranos"] in the role of
the Lion. He brought his own quirks and nuances to the character that really
made Kaplow special: sinister with a sense of humor. His character really likes
to play the game and fuck with people and Joe really ran with that. If you were
to meet Kaplow at a ball game he'd seem like an average guy, probably come off
like your neighbor next door but in reality he's an entirely different person,
cold and calculated and really doesn't care about anyone but himself, which
makes him really scary as a villain.
DG: Vesha did a great job. The actors brought their own slant to what was
written and Robert helped mesh the two together to make complete characters.
GS: Kelly Armstrong, the bound wife and hostage victim, is played by Michelle
Greathouse. did Dave offer his family as a sacrifice?
RLK: Michelle Greathouse is a very talented actress and it was pivotal to
find someone who could make the emotional connection with Sean Patrick Flanery
(Tom Armstrong) to set up his character and his emotional state of mind for the
rest of the film.
DG: I merely made it possible for her to audition. I told Robert to hire the
best person for the job and Michelle came in and rocked the audition. Even the
studio signed off on the selection. She is great in the role and got it on her
GS: Dave, thank you for "Saint John of Las Vegas".
DG: You're welcome. Thanks for watching and I'm glad you enjoyed it.
GS: Was the FBI or police consulted on making bombs?
DG - Vesha did a lot of research in the beginning and we had a swat officer
from Albuquerque serve as a consultant. The APD has one of the best bomb squads
in the country. Those guys know their stuff.
GS: Who came up with the Lion urination scene? (I won't be more specific to
keep it from being ruined)
RLK: Alex Vesha the screenwriter came up with that. He always wanted Kaplow
to be a sick bastard.
GS: You've repeatedly praised Alex Vesha. What was the process by which
Vesha's script came to be put in your possession? Did you know him prior?
Did the studio connect you all?
DG: Vesha's manager, Bob Sobahani, and I have been friends for a long time.
Bob introduced me to Alex shortly after they began working together and Alex and
I got along very well so when he finished the script they sent it to me, I loved
it and told them I wanted to produce it and we all agreed to work together.
GS: How should the visuals drive a story (this one or any one)? I ask because
I noticed the use of angled shots and many clearly handheld scenes, presumably
intentional for creating an atmosphere, which would change the mood regardless
of what actors said or did.
RLK: We did a lot of hand held but also quite a bit of steady-cam as well.
We had a very short 24 day shooting schedule and I really wanted to keep the
energy level up so we primarily shot the action handheld; we were really running
I tend to use slightly off kilter shots (angled) at certain moments in the
film when it comes to the villain, "The Lion" (Joe Pantoliano), as his character
is a bit off center.
GS: Do either of you have any dirt you can share on David Hasselhoff?
RLK: No, but I wish I did.
DG: That guy is a really fast swimmer.
GS: Finally, what projects are coming up on the horizon that fans should be
keeping an eye on?
Creature Corps Team is currently busy creating FX for the upcoming Bollywood
superhero film "RA. One" starring India's superstar Shahrukh Khan, as well as
the horror projects "Jinn" from director Ajmal Ahmad and "Sucker"
with director Michael Mansasseri ("Babysitter Wanted"). We also have the release
of Ed ("Midnight Syndicate") Douglas's "The Dead Matter" coming out this summer
[with Tom Savini and Andrew Divoff] which [Kurtzman's special effects company]
Precinct 13 produced, and we just launched a new line of merchandise for the
Halloween Haunt industry which is keeping us very busy.
DG: I'm doing "The Peak" for Film Department which starts this summer. Based
on an original idea that Neal Marshall Stevens ("Head of the Family", "Thirteen
Ghosts") and I came up with, the script is currently being polished by Chat
Taylor. We begin prepping the film early summer for a early fall start. All I
can say about the story is it's a nail biting high mountain rescue. I also have
four other films, three thrillers and a comedy with MGM.
Most recently, I produced "Isolation" directed by Stephen Kay ("Get Carter"),
starring David Harbour ("Brokeback Mountain") and Eva Amurri ("Saved!"). It is a
great suspense thriller that we shot using the new Canon 7D camera. We were the
first feature film to shoot and entire film on these cameras and it turned out
to be a great experience.
GS: Thank you both, gentlemen. It has been an honor to talk with you. and I
greatly encourage people to check out "Deadly Impact", as well as the other
upcoming flicks mentioned. Robert, you are a legend of the horror and thriller
genre, and we all look forward to each of your projects. And Dave, it was a
pleasure to meet you - keep producing quality pictures!