This article first appeared in the METRO section of The Sydney Morning Herald in February 2000
MAKING THE CUT
With his first feature film, Kimble Rendall hopes to snag the very audience his protagonist slices and dices. SACHA MOLITORISZ speaks to the director and his leading victim, Molly Ringwald.
Kimble Rendall is on a crusade to shake up the Australian film industry. With steel in his eyes, madness in his laugh and a bunch of like-minded film-makers on his side, the Sydney director is out to scuttle the pompous and high-minded. “There’s a group of us that have been together for years, bitching about the film industry,” the former musician says. “We’re the alternative – the weird guys. But who are we? I can’t tell you. It’s a secret, sacred group, and we meet in Chinese restaurants – but not only in Chinese restaurants. We’re called the Brotherhood.” Do you have secret handshakes? “Oh yeah, we have the lot. So you’ll never know if there’s a Brother next to you listening. And we’re going to take over the business.”
The one-time guitarist with the Hoodoo Gurus and current director of short films and commercials has just made his first feature film, Cut, and yes, it’s a knife in the throat of an industry that can be staid and predictable. But it’s a rubbery fake knife, because Cut is a comedy/ horror frightfest starring Molly Ringwald, Kylie Minogue and buckets of fake blood. “It’s funny that we’re doing this interview here – everything to do with this film seems to happen in a Chinese restaurant,” Rendall says between mouthfuls. We’re having yum cha, and I can’t help noticing how much the plum sauce resembles blood. “It all started with [writer] Dave Warner and [producer] Martin Fabinyi and myself having a Chinese meal. We were talking about how there hadn’t been many Australian films marketed to a teen audience, and in fact there hadn’t been many horror films at all.
“And I’ve always been a big fan of horror movies. They tap into early childhood fears, the subconscious, the fear of the unknown, the face behind the mask. Everyone’s had that experience when they’re on camp and they tell scary stories around a camp fire, or when your parents have gone out and you’re home alone. Children live in a very chaotic world, and they’re trying to make sense of that. Whether you go to the football and yell and scream, whether you go to see a comedy and laugh or whether you go to a horror film to get scared – it all gives you an hour and a half out of the real world.” For a while there, though, it looked as if we were never going to get to see that hour and a half. “Pre-production was very precarious,” Rendall says, contrasting the fun shoot with the frightening preliminaries. “It stopped and started.”
First hurdle: cash. After Beyond Films teamed up with Mushroom’s Michael Gudinski (Cut is Mushroom Picture’s debut film venture) a German production company, MBP, saved the day. “When I first met Rainer Mockert [of MBP], I was wearing a suit – he thought I worked in a bank. Until he realised I was a complete psycho.” Next, Sydney film-makers Bill and Jennifer Bennett hopped aboard as co-producers. (Ultimately, says Rendall, Cut was shot for about $3.5 million.)
Second hurdle: location. Perhaps not surprisingly for a State with a Premier who knows less about pop culture than about obscure American presidents, NSW shunned the populist film. So the team took the idea to South Australia, where – after a Cabinet debate (“A film about what?”) – the Government proved immediately enthusiastic. (Just don’t mention Snowtown, the grisly news of which broke during filming.) The South Australian Film Corporation even signed up as an investor – presumably after a Chinese meal. Third hurdle: cast. Kylie Minogue was an early starter for a juicy cameo, having previously collaborated with Rendall on a short called Hayride To Hell.
To head the local talent, Rendall chose Jessica Napier, a 20-year-old veteran of Blackrock, Love Serenade and TV’s Wildside. Napier plays Raffy, a headstrong and gifted film student intent on resurrecting a horror flick, Hot-Blooded, left unfinished 14 years earlier. But to attract an international audience to his bizarre blend of Scream, Elm Street and Monty Python, Rendall needed an international name. His attention turned to Molly Ringwald, star of a swag of ’80s teen classics directed by John Hughes. “She was my first choice. I think that period of American cinema – Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, the Brat Pack as a whole – is just great. And what appealed to me is that a lot of Australian teens are going back to those movies now. A lot of 15-year-old girls are really keen on Molly Ringwald, and I think she’s due for a John Travolta-style rekindling. She’s a great actress and I thought she’d be perfect for the part. I required someone who could be both funny and serious. So I had a Chinese meal with her in LA.”
Must have done the trick: Ringwald said yes. The question is: Why? Is she a horror buff? “I wouldn’t say it was my favourite genre,” she says over the phone from New York. “My favourite films are probably boring French period pieces or MGM musicals. But anything that’s done really well I like. I’ve done one horror film before, which was a film by Cindy Sherman, the photographer. But I did Cut because I thought it was making fun of itself, it was deconstructing the horror genre, and because my character was very funny.” She pauses. “And also because it gave me a chance to go work in Australia.” Cut certainly does play with the horror genre. It’s almost like two films: the first half rife with the blurring of reality reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s films; the second with a more relentless horror ethic as the killer starts slicing down one victim after another. Still, it must have been a chunky risk for Ringwald.
“I don’t think so,” she says. Was it a risk for Rendall?”To be honest, I don’t expect to get great reviews, because I don’t know if critics will see it for what it is. Then again,” he says through his best maniacal laugh, “reviewers should be careful of giving one of the Brotherhood a bad review.”