Fantastic Fest 2014: Joe Lynch Guns for Everly

Director of Salma Hayek action flick talks sealed-room rules

"Karma's a son of a bitch." Director Joe Lynch lets the oppressed fight back when he puts the gun in Salma Hayek's hands as Everly

Joe Lynch learned an important lesson at this year's Fantastic Fest. Never tell a Texan that samurais are better than cowboys. "I went, oh, this is a great debate in the wrong place. It's a little difficult to debate against cowboys in the lovely state of Texas."

On Saturday night, Lynch (Holliston, Knights of Badassdom) fought friend and editor Josh Ethier in the Fantastic Debates, where a resolution is settled, 50% at the lectern (point, counterpoint) and 50% in the boxing ring (punch, counterpunch_. How'd it go, Joe? "The verbal went really well, but they quantify all of it, the verbal and the fight. I got my ass handed to me.

Lynch is no stranger to being in a fight you can't escape. In his new film, Everly, Salma Hayek fights off hordes of Japanese gangsters from the confines of a single apartment.

This isn't just the regular run-of-the-mill action movie. It has the honor of being a Black List script: One of that annual stack of the best unfilmed films, as chosen by industry professionals. Previous black-listers include former Fantastic Fest titles like Looper and Reynold Reynolds' Buried, cult favorites like In Bruges and Juno, massive hits such as The Social Network and The Wolf of Wall Street, and the upcoming The Imitation Game, screening at this year's Austin Film Festival

The Black List isn't just about quality of script. There's also something that keeps it on the shelves: Quirky writing, unconventional subject matter, or a conceit that ties the filmmakers' hands. In the case of Everly, it's that the whole film takes place in one apartment. Sure, there have been sealed-bottle films galore, enough to get the whole world drunk and start a glass recycling factory. But when Lynch took over Everly, he wanted to stay absolutely pure to the concept. If it could not be seen in or from inside the apartment, it did not exist.

Austin Chronicle: Taking on a black list script is basically a double-dog dare to yourself. So knowing that they're so hit and miss, whether they can really work can be a bit of a gun to your own head.

Joe Lynch: We were never seeking out that, 'We've got to make a Black List script'. It was just, 'oh, that's cool,' and it immediately got sold. In doing the research and looking at some of the other films that were produced on the Black List, you're right, everything was very high concept. A Jim Henson biopic where he's talking to the Muppets? That sounds cool on paper. Would anyone actually see it? I don't know if it got on the Black List for the gimmick. I would love to talk to the guy that did it, but you never know. Thankfully, it happened, and it got the movie to the right people to make it, but I had to follow my heart. I know these movies well enough, and know what I like, and when I groan. Not at the ludicrousness of it but, 'I've seen that death a million times', or, 'this action scene is shot and cut the same way over and over'. It was not to try to be better. It was to try to be different. We've all seen siege movies before, but to be in a siege movie where you are trapped with the main character, the whole time?

AC: And you really stick with the conceit, where a lot of films don't. Snake Eyes, those last 10 minutes, where they leave the casino for the first time.

JL: When they go out on that sidewalk and it's a big-ball whoop-de-doo: I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark; I don't need another big ball in cinema. It was tough, though, because it would have been so easy, because when you're making a movie you have to balance the creative with the realities of production. Once you hit lunchtime and they go (taps wrist watch) 'gotta make your day,' 30 set-ups end up being five. That's the way the cookie crumbles. There were so many times that I could have cheated, just to make a day, just to find an easier way to elicit a response or to capture an emotion. My DP, Steve Gainer, who did Punisher: War Zone

AC: Such an underrated film.

JL: Thank you! He's a fantastic DP, we got along so well and he's such a fantastic collaborator. Well, he got the rules. Because the rules were, again, you could not leave the room. So if I'm looking down the hallway, it would have to be that the cameraperson, the camera character – we just called it camera – just this nebulous thing that floats around and captures everything. well, when we were looking outside, the Serbian crew were setting out the camera well into the middle. I'd be like, 'no, no, no, no, no; there's got to be one tripod leg standing in the room.' They were, 'that does not mean anything,' but I'd say, 'I'm sorry, that's the rule.'

Or the elevator scene. Salma goes, 'OK, so you're going to get my close-up when I do this?' How? 'What do you mean, how?' Well, you do remember the rules? 'Oh, the fucking rules!' But she respected them, and she respected the fact that she could have, if she wanted to, forced me to do it. She could have gone to the producers, and the producers could have come to me and said, 'Hey, you've gotta do it.'

AC: Hey, Holliston.

JL: Hey, sitcom guy, mister Knights of Badassdom. But everybody just got it.

AC: You've taken a lot of flack for the repeated line, 'that's a lot of dead whores.'

JL: It's funny how people have really become sensitive to that line. But if that's the biggest concern I have, I guess it's OK. But it's the juxtaposition of it having that line in a movie where women are portrayed in a slightly stereotypical way. We did that deliberately, so you can switch things up and go, well, yeah, they're girls who are working in what is essentially a love hotel, and now you have these people who are desperate to get out, and this is their escape route. And how many action movies like John Wick (which I saw and loved, but I couldn't tell you for the life of me who any of the people that he shot in the face were)? Maybe some of the second-tier henchmen dudes at the end, where he got into an engaged fight, but the guys who swarm his house and he killed them all – who the hell were those dudes? At the very least, I know I have some shred of flavor or characterization for these people before they come in. That's what I love about that situation: Take what's normally these peripheral characters, and give them a little life.

AC: Plus everyone who says that line dies or meets a horrible fate.

JL: So Karma's a son of a bitch.

Everly screens again Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2:45pm.

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Fantastic Fest 2014, Everly, Joe Lynch, Salam Hayek, Black List

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