Michael Davis - Director of Monster Man
What was so awesome about interviewing Michael Davis, director of Monster Man, Eight Days a Week, 100 Girls, and 100 Women (aside from his off-kilter sense of humor) is that he’s a man who truly appreciates the DVD format. Read on to find out why.
DVDTalk: So, all of your main male characters have women trouble—in Monster Man, 100 Girls, 100 Women...These guys are never the Hollywood hunk type, but more the underdog, and always somewhat of the "romantic" type. Any reason for this?
Michael Davis: These guys are extensions of myself...I am working my high school angst out on film...I hardly had any dates in high school and always felt like I was a loser...I always think under dogs make great heroes...we all feel put upon in one way...so an underdog immediately gives the audience an affection for the hero. Audience identification with the hero is the greatest way to get an audience to get into your story... In 100 Girls—the guy bemoans how he dropped 200 dollars on prom night and didn't get a kiss goodnight. That happened to me. In Monster Man, the hero has a dorky velcro fetish...that's me a little bit. I had a dorky velcro wallet...I sometimes see the less than perfect, funny things about myself and put them in my films. The films will have more truth to them if the oddities I put in spring from real life.
DVDTalk: Where do you come up with some of this stuff? Like the Chinese finger puzzle and the booger battle in 100 Women, the purple nurple fight in 100 Girls, and just about every scene involving the road kill in Monster Man. Do you ever think you're going too far with it or that you're going to have to answer for it? Did you ever have to take anything out of a script?
MD: I had titty twister battles with my brother as a kid...I thought the ultimate titty twister battle would be a fun way for a wienie to fight a muscle bound guy...This idea springs from my life.
I know lots of guys have shot boogers out of their nostrils...I like taking ideas to their absurd pinnacle...I think it creates humor that is memorable...I love John Woo films and to have a John Woo booger fight seemed like fun...If I had more money, I would have made the shoot out more extended.
DVDTalk: Well, I'm glad budget issues led to the road kill scene, because it gets a huge response from anyone I introduce the movie to—it was the first scene I described to a friend after seeing the film.
MD: You should see the reaction in a packed theater.
DVDTalk: So what do the most important people in your life think of all the gross out humor in your movies? Does it come as a surprise to them?
DVDTalk: Speaking of Eight Days A Week, I've noticed complaints on message boards that it's the only film in the trilogy that continues with 100 Girls and 100 Women that ISN'T on DVD. Fans are in an uproar. Can you shed some light on a possible DVD release?
MD: Wow...I haven't checked that board lately....Warners released the film before DVD was a big deal...I've asked Warner Bros if they could put it out on DVD...and they say it is a break even endeavor—so they don't want to do it...In about four years, the North American rights revert back to me...My friends at Lions Gate are willing to put it out on DVD. It's nice to know people want it on DVD. Wow. Cool.
DVDTalk: Are you ever concerned you're going to be "typecast" as the over-the-top goofball director/writer, or would you be happy with that title? Is that what you're going for? Because, although your movies are filled with crazy antics, there's always a rather genuine story about interpersonal relationships involved, so you don't seem to be a one track mind kinda guy.
MD: People describe my films as smarter versions of American Pie. I try to make my performances feel like the characters are real even if the action is outrageous...It's not like they're in an old Zucker Bros. movie. I get a little worried about being typecast...but as I said before...it is hard to get any movie made...I feel you need to put yourself on the map somehow...I feel like I might be able to do that by "going for it." By being not so tame. So many movies are BORING because they have the same tired ideas...If I am going to be stuck making low budget films, then I want to make an impact, and have fun. The only way to do this is by pushing the envelope...This business is so much about politics...I don't know if I am going to get hired on a big Hollywood movie...but if I do, it will probably be because I write my way into the opportunity...so it doesn't matter what I do now, if they want my script they want my script and I will be attached to direct. Jonathan Demme made girls in prison movies before he got his shot. You got to make something to have any chance...
For years, I have beat myself up for not becoming a huge super successful studio director...but now. I embrace the freedom of being the kind of filmmaker I am. I have a small cult following, and I really appreciate their support. The fans truly keep me going. I'd rather be a cult director and making movies with my stamp on it than making Beethoven 5 or some junk like that. There is more unity to my work than most directors out there. I get to write and direct my own stuff. What could be better than that???
DVDTalk: What do you consider your first big break in this business-writing or directing--and how'd you land the job?
MD: I hope I don't sound arrogant...but I felt like I made my own break...everything I've done of late has come from making Eight Days A Week I used my own money and my friends' money to make the movie...It was a big risk...every movie I've made since has happened because I put my life savings on the line.
DVDTalk: Inspirations. What are your favorite teen/college age sexploitation movies? And what horror movies would you say gave you the itch to make a movie like Monster Man? MD: Favorite teen movies--Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Year My Voice Broke (Australian), Flirting (Australian). Horror--Duel, Jeepers Creepers, Joyride.
DVDTalk: What would be your dream job as a director/writer?
MD: My friend Don Murphy (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) is trying to set up my script Shoot 'Em Up... it is a balls-out, John Woo's wet dream of an action flick. Don is doing a great job getting interest at a studio and getting to actors. Cross your fingers...This would be a dream come true.
DVDTalk: If you could adapt one book into a movie, which one, why, and who would you cast in it?
MD: Wow, never thought about it...I am finishing up my first novel. It's a cross between my teen movies and John Irving. It covers 20 years...so casting would be difficult. Jake Gyllenhaal would be great. It would actually be best as an HBO mini series...Next to that, how about the Kama Sutra starring myself...
DVDTalk: That's a very Michael Davis answer of you. So, who would be the female lead in this adaptation of the Kama Sutra? Or maybe it's better for your marriage if you don't answer that one.
MD: Charlize Theron...I've devised my compliment to Charlize Theron if I ever meet her… She's not only the most beautiful woman in the world...she is the most beautiful woman in the history of the world since the dawn of time...and she can act...she can be anything...the sexy innocent...or the bad bad girl....and everything in between. I can’t wait to see her in Aeon Flux....
DVDTalk: Do you always read reviews of your stuff? To clarify for readers, this interview is happening because you wrote me after reading my review of Monster Man. Do you ever want to tell off those who criticize your movies-or have you?
DVDTalk: Yeah, I've learned that it's not always a pleasure reviewing movies either. I've gotten hate e-mail attacking my opinion! Audiences don't seem to have much faith in reviews--someone posted on a message board that they read my review of Monster Man and wanted to know from others if it could possibly be as good as I claimed! Anyway, how do you think direct to DVD filmmaking compares to the straight to video craze of the 80s?
MD: DVD filmmaking is similar to the straight to video craze except in the 80's, because there was so little product on video and you could get so much for it, people would take a risk and put the film out theatrically too. Now, the payout for a DVD is so defined...that the film is conceived from start to finish as a straight to DVD. There's less chance today that someone will go to the theaters with it.
MD: Yeah...and you can tweak the color and raise volume. And Netflix rocks!!!!
DVDTalk: So, what can we expect from you next?
MD: I am writing and I hope to direct a horror film called Brew. It's about a brewery that takes blood to brew a malt that gives ever lasting life...I am rewriting an earlier script to Michael Davis-o-rize it.
It's gonna be very cool.
DVDTalk: Trick Question. If you could be asked ONE question in an interview, what would that question be, and how would you respond to it?
MD: “Is there a project that you would have loved to have made but never got a chance to make?”
I can't go into the specifics, but I wrote the first screenplay about Alfred Kinsey, the world's first sex researcher. It got some attention around town, but I never could get it going. I never had the clout. The script won some awards in contests... As you know, there is a very fine film about Kinsey out in the theaters now. My heart is broken.
I must say though, having researched Kinsey as he brought sex out into the open...it has opened up my writing. My work is sexually frank at times...sometimes as you say...outrageous...I feel writing a script about Kinsey has influenced my writing tremendously...This is a benefit I can take away from writing about Kinsey. My experience writing about Kinsey has helped give me a voice. It has helped me look into myself at my own foibles, my own sexual antics, and I have put them into my films...And in some ways, this might be better. Instead of writing someone else's true life story, I have the imagination to write my own stories (that have a sexual honesty).
DVDTalk: Good old Kinsey--with the dangerously conservative direction our country is taking, it seems we could use a new Kinsey to shake things up a bit and remind us of how fun sexuality can be if we'd just relax and enjoy it. I'd nominate Michael Davis to fill that position, but I wouldn't want that job to take you away from making more films. Thanks for the interview, and thanks for the movies, and I'm looking forward to the next one's release. Keep me informed!
MD: I'll be Kinsey-esque in my flicks...but thanks.
-Daniel W. Kelly