When I first heard that filmmaker Brian Taylor (the Crank films, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) was teaming up with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair for a brand new pitch black comedy called Mom and Dad, in which parents are desperately trying to kill their offspring, I was immediately all in (and thankfully, it did not disappoint—but more on that later this week).
Daily Dead recently caught up with Taylor, and he discussed making Mom and Dad and handling the more controversial aspects of the film’s story, using dark humor to confront the conflicting nature of parental responsibilities, and re-teaming with Cage. Taylor also briefly chatted about his new series Happy!, which currently airs on Syfy on Wednesday nights (and is absolutely worth your time).
Look for Mom and Dad in theaters and on digital platforms this Friday, January 19th, courtesy of Momentum Pictures.
Congrats on the film, Brian. I've been a big fan of your work for years now, and I just had a blast with this. This may sound weird, but it reminded me of this quote from Christine, where Arnie [Cunningham] talks about the fact that–
Brian Taylor: I know exactly the quote you mean. It reminded me of that quote, too.
This is why you're good people—I didn’t even have to finish that quote and you knew exactly what I meant [laughs]. But Mom and Dad just really goes for it, that notion of parents spending their entire lives just basically trying to kill their kids. Can you talk about what inspired the story and taking it in the route of making it into this very dark, pitch black comedy?
Brian Taylor: Yeah, well, I'm a parent. What more do I need to say? [Laughs] But I do think it's just one of the great ironies of life, that you have kids, and on a certain level, it seems like, "Well, that's what I was put here to do." And so there's this fulfilling feeling that I've done what I was supposed to do. But then at the same time, you have the realization that everything else about you has become completely irrelevant—all the dreams are over, the person that you thought you were is gone, all the important things you wanted to do probably aren’t going to happen now, and all that stuff is just irrelevant. The only thing that matters now is for you to feed house and otherwise care for the new and improved version of yourself that you’ve just created.
So it's like one of the lessons in the movie, with the teacher talking about the iPhones and how they’re made to be replaced, because that's kind of like the way our whole biology works. We're all creatures that are born to be obsolete in favor of the new version. And there's something about that that's just like, “Man, that's just not fair.” So when I’m dealing with things like that that are really dark, my first instinct is always to find the humor and to explore whether or not there is a way to turn that horrific thing into something fun.
You’ve worked with Nicolas in the past before, so I’m guessing that helped, but was there something about this role in particular where you were like, "Yeah, I definitely want to bring him on board this project"? And was he totally into the concept of the film?
Brian Taylor: Yeah, when I sent it over to Nic, he read it immediately and responded so strongly to it. The whole subtext of it was loud and clear to him. He loved it. And he brought a lot of himself to the role, too. He really invested a lot in it. And Selma, too. Both of those actors, I think, were just completely on board, and it shows.
For me, it's hard to imagine anybody else doing this script other than those two, because both of them bring this quality where you can dress them up like mainstream suburban American parents, but underneath, you just know they're punk rock. You just know there's something down there simmering below the surface. So yeah, I really got lucky getting those two involved with this.
You also have Lance Henriksen in Mom and Dad, playing a really fun role. Had you always known he’d be involved with the project?
Brian Taylor: Yeah, Lance is great, and he added a whole different level of fun to the Grandpa Mel role, especially because actors of that era are guys who are just legends to somebody like me. I knew whoever was going to end up being Grandpa Mel—I didn't have Lance in mind particularly when I wrote it—but I knew whoever was going to play that role, it was going to be so fun.
With Lance, it was like, "Oh man, this is who is going to be Grandpa Mel? It's going to be great." So really, it was just one of those things where when Lance shows up on set, and your inner geek is just like, "Oh my God, it's Bishop!” [Laughs].
What I love about the work that you have done in the past, is that it's unapologetic filmmaking. Especially with the Crank films. And to some, the material for Mom and Dad could be seen as being controversial, and I was wondering if that was a concern for you at all going into the project.
Brian Taylor: Yeah. I don't even think you could get Crank made today, because of the climate, and maybe that's okay. Maybe a movie like Crank is an okay sacrifice to make in order for things to get better. But I know that in this movie, the story is incredibly dark. And it actually made the movie really difficult to get made, because people were scared of it.
But also, whenever you’re doing a movie, it can be really hard to tell where the line is, so that’s something I knew from the very beginning. Because there is a line. And if we cross this line, then the audience will hate us, and then we lose them. It's okay for the audience to hate you a little bit, or at least be really angry with you, but it’s just as long as you can find a way to make up with them later [laughs]. A lot of this movie just teased the line, where we would get up to the line, but then we never would cross it. That line always felt like a moving target for me.
One thing I will say is that there definitely is a version of this movie that's unwatchable, that would probably be X-rated. For me, I get that version, and I do think there are certain people who would think that version was hilarious, but that's not the movie I wanted to make. I wanted to make something that was more about riding the wild bull and you’re trying to contain it. Where it had a lot of dark material, but it still was a fun time, too.
Before we go, I just wanted to say that I've also been really enjoying Happy! this season. I'm only a couple episodes in, but it's been great, and Christopher Meloni is fantastic. How has the experience for you been working in television? Because I'm guessing this feels like a completely different medium in some ways.
Brian Taylor: It is. It's been really hard. It’s been a completely different experience, especially because I'm running the show as well. I'm doing so many things on that show. I don't think I've ever worked as hard at anything as I have been on this show. But it's a lot of fun. It's pretty strange to just have this feeling where it feels like you have a new movie coming out every week. It's been great, and just wait until episode seven [laughs].