Recently, I got a chance to talk with writer-director David Guy Levy, who’s second feature film (after A LOVE AFFAIR OF SORTS), WOULD YOU RATHER, recently came out on VOD [my review can be found here].
The film stars a cavalcade of interesting actors, including Brittany Snow, Eddie Steeples, John Heard, Jonny Coyne, Jeffrey Combs, Enver Gjokaj, and Sasha Grey. The premise is simple: a bunch of varied personalities, all in dire straits for myriad reasons, play a twisted game of “Would You Rather?” that decides their fate.
Levy is also a successful producer, with TERRI and AUGUST on the resume. Check out our interview below, and before/after/during, be sure to see the movie at SundanceNOW!
Famous Monsters: What inspired you to tackle a career in film, and particularly as a writer-director?
David Guy Levy: Back to the Future. Once I had seen that movie it was pretty clear to me that telling stories, particularly in this medium, was what I was going to be doing. Even if I went broke trying. Just glad I haven’t gone broke. Yet.
Famous Monsters: Something tells me you’ve played some interesting games of Would You Rather? at various parties in your life. What are some of your favorites that you or friends have posited? Have you ever played a version of the game where you actually had to act on them, like in this film (presumably without whips and knives)?
David Guy Levy: I’d want to say yes, because that would be a fun answer. However no, I have not. I had played Truth or Dare as a kid, but only the kind where we’d have to run in the street naked or do other sophomoric things.
The game in this movie is about people finding themselves in a situation no one should ever have to find themselves in. That’s what I think makes this game so scary. Once we had the structure for the film down, we just asked ourselves, what would he want never want to be asked to do?
Famous Monsters: In many ways, WOULD YOU RATHER is a very post-SAW and HOSTEL film. Did you intend WOULD YOU RATHER as a commentary on the torture porn subgenre in horror? What was your intent as a filmmaker and what incited the idea?
David Guy Levy: I usually find it odd that it’s described as “torture porn.” I understand there isn’t another way people are used to defining movies of this ilk, however I don’t find “torture-porn” the ideal way to define this movie.
I don’t see the torture in this film as “pornographic” because we honestly don’t show that much of it. If anything, it’s “Puritan-Torture”.
Famous Monsters: WOULD YOU RATHER succeeds due to its great and eclectic cast of character actors and their genuine reactions to the twisted game of “would you rather?” really sells it to the audience. Did you surprise them with the choices and challenges? Did they play “safe” games of Would You Rather for practice? How much was improvised?
David Guy Levy: Everything was performed as scripted. We only had 18 days to shoot this, and we had to plan every shot out in order to keep things interesting in a movie that takes place almost entirely around a dinner table. So we didn’t have much wiggle room and we needed actors who could color within the lines. That said, we all worked together to make each scene come to life and blocking was always an interactive experience, with the cast often showing me ways of making things simpler on the day. We got to shoot in sequence, too, so as the game progressed, everyone was able to bring the past with them into future scenes.
Famous Monsters: How would you describe your film to not just horror fans, but just movie fans in general who may have never heard of WOULD YOU RATHER?
David Guy Levy: There’s a definite Agatha Christie And Then There Were None feel to the film. It’s a psychological thriller with elements of “12 Angry Men”, “Clue”, and “Eyes Wide Shut”.
Famous Monsters: What’s next for you? Any horror projects in the pipeline?
David Guy Levy: More movies! I am really into suspense and mystery right now, so potentially something in that realm.