Writer/Director talks The Wicker Tree and third film
I knew that The Wicker Tree, the renamed Cowboys for Christ, was filming in Scotland just outside of Edinburgh, but I hadn't managed to come across it. Perhaps now I might having read a lengthy interview with Robin Hardy, director of The Wicker Man and writer/director of The Wicker Tree.
In the interview he talks about the first film's problems in getting to the screen, the struggle to find the full print, and the new film Cowboys for Christ, as well as hearing from some of the stars behind the film.
It's a lengthy and interesting piece, and we discover just how much trouble the first film was in, stuck between a company wanting to bury it for the US$300,000 tax benefits and Robin Hardy trying to get the funding to get it released. He won, but even then Christopher Lee was never paid and the film finally made GB£5,000 in all. Hopefully the recent Director's Cut with the restored missing seven minutes will change that.
”It was a complete failure. There was nothing enchanting. No fun. They just didn't get it. There was that pointless transfer of male to female; the music is Muzak, elevator music; and Cage makes a complete fool of himself. Christopher Lee told me that, after the film tanked, Cage happened to meet him in Hungary and he told Lee that they had no idea what went wrong. Frankly, I think [writer] Tony Shaffer cursed them, like the remake of Sleuth, which was an awful, dreadful film.”
Talking of the sequel he has some interesting connections to make about The Wicker Tree:
”[German filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl disguised the horror of the Third Reich in Triumph of the Will (1934), which was commissioned by Hitler to document the Nuremberg Party rally. And we're doing the same kind of thing again in this new film...
...In this film, I want to show how sympathetic characters can unwittingly be drawn into a seemingly friendly, hospitable community in which something frightful is going on underneath the surface. That's what happened in Germany, of course. They'd all read 'Mein Kampf,' yet no one acknowledged what was really going on. Like Hitler, Sir Lachlan Morrison is a dictator with charm and charisma. In this case, there's religious elitism as well as social elitism.”
The story sees two young members of the Cowboys for Christ church head into the Scottish lowlands to try and bring Christ to the heathens. They are welcomed into a small village with open arms and join in with their local customs, realising all too late what they have become part of as the Pagan rituals begin about them.
Couple that with the outline from Hardy above and this could be a strong sequel to the first film, although it is sequel only in spirit, something I totally understand now that we see the plot begin to open up.
Bad news for The Wicker Tree though, Christopher Lee was planned to be playing a major part but it was actually a fall on a film set in Mexico which left him with severe back problems that caused him to pull out of the film. Still, he will have a very significant appearance in the film.
Robin Hardy talks about his writing style, and in the process reveals a little of the intended fates of the two innocents, perhaps a little too much. This might be considered a spoiler.
”I like to slowly build dread and suspicion. It isn't until the end of the second act that you're certain that something awful is happening. You fear it - but you don't know what 'it' is. It's not like whodunit but what the 'dunit' is going to be. The final act is, as Shakespeare would say, 'Horror on horror's head,' because 'The Laddie is like a sacrament – the body – the blood.' As for Beth, another fate awaits her.”
Hollywood may not like that writing style but cinema fans do, or they should do if they like decent cinema, otherwise they stick to Transformers.
Finally, in the superb piece over at ShockTillYouDrop, Hardy talks about the reported sequel and reveals that he really is serious about the Icelandic story to close the trilogy.
”I've got several more projects I'm working on, including a third part of the pagan trilogy, 'The Twilight of the Gods,' set in Iceland, reaching back to Wagner's Ring Cycle. The Scandinavians had no written language when they landed in Iceland but they had a great oral tradition, great sagas, and that's what inspires this, as the country of Iceland becomes a giant theme park under the aegis of a studio like Disney or Universal...
...It's not difficult for a conglomerate to take over a land of 300,000 people. Problem is: the Nordic gods don't like the trivialization of their traditions and people start disappearing...The news is suppressed, of course, and all is denied, just like with the Iraq War, and the studio basically doesn't care. But Icelanders, even the best educated, believe in fairies, and that fantasy is an extra dimension.”
Sounds interesting, but it needs the backing and the funding to get Hardy to push forward with it, and I hope The Wicker Tree lives up to the expectations placed on it by The Wicker Man and Hardy himself.
We shall wait and see, and if it does work out then perhaps we will see the third in that trilogy.