I called writer-director Marcos Efron on December 14, 2010 to talk his latest film, “And Soon the Darkness”. He was happy to talk about the project, and share some of the juicy background of the film with everyone…
Discussed are Argentina’s beauty and history, how great Amber Heard is, the unknown acting greatness that is Cesar Vianco, and just how much Anchor Bay spoils its talent and fans with their DVD productions.
GS: Let’s start from the beginning. How did this project come your way?
ME: I got involved a couple of years after Karen Lauder and the other producers had optioned the remake rights from StudioCanal, so they had it for a couple of years. They were then looking for a writer and director to come on board and give it his or her own take. It found its way to my agent and turned into a job.
GS: There are changes made from the 1970 version, and some scenes are very much the same — what was chosen and what was of necessity?
ME: I talked with the producers, and we all agreed from the get-go that while the original was really effective for its time with the atmosphere and all, the film may not stand up over time to today’s more savvy audience. We tried to make it more contemporary, added more characters, more twists and turns. But at the same time, we didn’t want to rely on gimmicks, like gratuitous gore or anything like that. We tried to stay as close to the original as possible, but also make something that today’s audiences would recognize and like.
There were definitely things from the original that we kept. One being the lack of subtitles. It is still effective today, and keeps the audience firmly planted in the character’s shoes.
GS: Your father was raised in Argentina, the film is set in Argentina… coincidence?
ME: Believe it or not, the setting of Argentina had been chosen before I even got involved with the project. It’s purely coincidence. Yeah, my father was born and raised there. I was actually born in Buenas Aires, also. We left when I was 6 months old. But it was coincidental, and I was jazzed that I was able to go back to a country that I didn’t really know that well, but had a connection to.
GS: The historical background of disappearances in Argentina is referred to as the “dirty war” What was the dirty war?
ME: The dirty war was roughly 1976 to 1983, and it was happening all over the world, mostly in South America. Political dissidents and intellectuals were disappeared by the government — 30,000 people were kidnapped and disappeared in Argentina. It’s still a sore subject in Argentina and not really brought up in polite conversation. There had been elements in the script that had been more pointed to the history of the country. But I felt we either had to go all the way there and really explain it, not just hint at it, or not really at all. And we weren’t trying to make a political statement, so we chose to go the more indirect route.
GS: What can you say about shooting on location, the advantages and disadvantages?
ME: The obvious advantages, especially with a place as beautiful as northwestern Argentina, is you can point the camera pretty much anywhere, turn it on, and you have great cinematography. There are textures that you can’t really replicate. You would have to have a hell of a lot of money to replicate that. The disadvantage is being far from Buenas Aires, or any big city, and if something went wrong technically there is a bit of a headache. Weather issues to deal with… but I have to give a lot of credit to the Argentinian crew that worked on the film. They had the experience from working in commercials and such, and that tempered any problems from being on location. I thought it turned out really nice.
GS: Amber Heard is pretty much the next big thing… can you share a story about her?
ME: A story I can share about Amber? Well, it’s kind of a story the entire cast and crew got in on. If you’re looking for anything salacious, I can’t share anything like that. There was an instance when we were in northern Argentina, and it was around Easter. They had their version of, basically, Carnivale in a tiny little town called Movich (sp?) and everyone just went out, had a few too many drinks. There were thousands of people, and everyone gets flour and foam spray you buy for a peso a can, and everyone was pelting each other with flour and foam. We were getting pelted by four year olds who had better aim than we did! It was probably one of the most memorable times during the shoot, and we were about three-quarters of the way into production. We were tired, we were sick of everybody by that point. But it was a fun Saturday night, just a bunch of gringos pelting each other. And Amber was a willing participant. It was fun.
GS: In many scenes, Cesar Vianco just steals the show…
ME: He’s amazing, isn’t he?
GS: Yeah. Why do we not see him in movies all the time?
ME: That is a good question. I think he is fantastic. You’re the first person to ask about Cesar, you may be the only one to get this tidbit of information. This is the first movie he has ever done in English. He spoke English, of course, but speaking English and acting in English are two completely different things. He’s amazing, he’s intense, he’s a lot of fun to be around. He went full-tilt into the role, and I would love to see him in other movies. I would love to use him again. Wouldn’t he be great as a James Bond villain?
GS: As both the writer and director, were there shots you scripted that just weren’t possible in practice?
ME: Oh yeah. There are so many little details and things you want to do… light hitting things a certain way, for example. Then you get to the day and you have only an hour and ten minutes. Then everything goes out the window. You never get what you want. If you get 60 to 70 percent of what you want, you’re in good shape. That’s just the reality.
GS: I have heard other directors say that Anchor Bay really pulls out all the stops when making a DVD. Would you say your experience was similar?
ME: Yeah! I haven’t seen the physical DVD yet, but they have a lot of special features, the video diary, the commentary with myself and Gaby, the DP. I love special features in movies. It’s one of the things that got me into making movies. So I hope people find it helpful.
GS: Any other projects you want to mention before we go?
ME: Nothing I can name right now. By the beginning of the year, I’ll have some traction on some projects, but nothing I can name just yet.
GS: That’s understandable. Thank you, Marcos.
ME: Thanks, Gavin.