Arriving in select theaters and on VOD today is Flux Gourmet, the latest from writer/director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, In Fabric), courtesy of IFC Midnight. For Flux Gourmet, the world of artistic culinary endeavors clash with the real-world issues of gastrointestinal distress in an often hilarious fashion, resulting in a singular cinematic experience that could only be described as pure Strickland magic.

During the recent press day for Flux Gourmet, Daily Dead spoke with Peter about his latest film project and his approach to the story and the issues these characters are dealing with during their journey through the culinary world. Strickland also discussed the challenges he faced during production, reteaming with frequent collaborators like Fatma Mohamed and Gwendoline Christie, and why his next project may end up being a rom-com.

So great to speak with you today, Peter. I love the way that you explore the texture of life in the films that you make and I think the way that you do it here is really interesting and intriguing and of course, in a way that I've never seen depicted before. I would love to hear a little bit about what inspired the story of Flux Gourmet in particular. 

Well, I suppose to my knowledge, I just wasn't aware of films dealing with stomach issues. If they were, it was always done as comedy or done as a gross-out. So I think that was very important to me that just as we're seeing these allergies and autoimmune issues more and more, but somehow cinema hasn't really caught up with that, and there's so much ignorance out there but I'm not trying to turn this into some 90-minute lesson about how to behave around these things. I think a lot of it just came out of frustration. I was talking to a friend of mine who has a son who has a peanut allergy and they're on a plane where this man was eating peanuts next to them and she explained why she got uncomfortable and he just completely ignored her and he just didn't get it.

So I guess this film is for those people to open up a bit, open something beyond the fart jokes. Of course, farts are funny, but it's all about context. I would never say you can't laugh at these things, but when it's someone who's clearly in extreme discomfort and it's taking over his life, I think there was space to explore that and tell a story there. I think it was just interesting, again, to take something which is just human nature to find these things funny. Are we able to pull it off? Are we able to make an audience after the first few laughs, which is just inevitable, can we carry an audience through this and get them to stop laughing and just somehow be with that character? If we can achieve that, I thought that would be quite something.

I definitely agree. And I love how there's this juxtaposition in terms of the journey that Stones is on versus these three culinary performers, which is something, again, I've never really seen explored or depicted, especially the way that you've done it here. It's almost this meet-up of this high art world with very grounded real-world concerns. I think that juxtaposition is really fascinating, especially the way that you explore here where it is funny, but it's also in a lot of ways extremely relatable, even if you're not somebody who deals with the same issues that Makis' characters deals with in the film.

I mean, many people can relate to hiding bodily things. I think the social aspect of that, to hide what is going on inside your body, I think that's something which you can put into a film without being vulgar about it. I think so much of it is about the tone of it really, how you deal with it. But I think you put it really well when you said there's this clash between high art and something much more every day and subject matter, but most people would find they would dismiss it as not relevant or not interesting somehow. But they are linked together because Fatma's character, she's a bit short of ideas and she sees material in his character, she's using him for her own ends. So I was interested in the idea of artists using other people's pain and misery, there's a whole wealth of that out there in the world.

I was curious because, in some ways, this felt self-reflexive or self-reflective even. Was this project maybe your way of examining your place in the world of art and the things that you've done so far, and the things that you want to keep doing as somebody who's creatively inclined and on this pursuit of creativity?

Well, I think it is inescapable that there are parts of me in there because I've been in that kind of band, I've made films. I've been at those tables having those conversations with financiers so that, whether I say it's true or not it's just out there that I've done these things. I think the important thing is, regardless of whether I'm being self-reflexive or not, is to be more like a referee and not take my side only, to take the other band member's side. Take the side of the patron, Gwendoline Christie's character, who can turn the artist into someone who can be very unlikable. She's quite a piece of work - she's deceitful, she's manipulative, she's egotistical. So there's something quite exciting about writing that character who could be mistaken for me.

You mentioned Gwendoline, who is amazing, and I know that you worked with her in the past, and you've also worked with Fatma as well. When you were writing this, did you have them in mind or did it just work out that they were going to be the perfect people to become these characters?

If I remember rightly, I'd say Jan Stevens was written for Gwendoline Christie, yeah. And I think the same for Elle's character that was going to be written for Fatma Mohamed. Not all the characters, I think, but some. We had some people dropping out as well because of the pandemic. At one point Fatma pulled out, because we had four false starts. We pulled the plug very near to shooting four times because of all these lockdowns and so on and insurance issues. So it was a revolving door that I think Gwendoline was out of it at one point, we had to get someone else, and then that didn't work out. But Gwendoline came back. Fatma came out of it at one point, we got someone else, but then Fatma came back. But initially, those parts were written for Fatma and Gwendoline.

When you're getting to collaborate with people that you've worked with in the past and you've built a rapport with, does that make, I don't want to say make your job easier, but does it make that production go that much more smoothly for you then, because you have a backhand with them as performers?

I do love that. I don't always feel at ease with people. So I think when you know someone and get on well with them... I'm into comfort zones, I love comfort zones. And if I have a comfort zone with an actor, I'm going to stick with it. So I love Fatma. She's so easy and she really pushes herself. She really goes out there and I feel we went as far as we wanted to go this time. I think I want to go the other direction if we do something again. But yeah, I think definitely without question, I've known Fatma for so many years now and there is a shorthand. We don't need to talk much. When you do these kinds of films, there is not much time to talk, and for this, we only had a 14-day shoot with the actors. There isn't much time to talk, so you just need to get on with it. And Fatma's very good at that, she just gets on with it.

I can't even believe that this was in 14 days, especially because of the different setups and things like that, and the intimacy of how you guys shot. That's really impressive. I know we're already starting to wind down on time, but I wanted to ask in terms of the new talent that you were able to collaborate with here - Asa [Butterfield], Ariane [Labed], and Makis [Papadimitriou]. How was it ​working with them and bringing them into the fold?

Well, I think in a weird way, I think we have to thank the pandemic for that because Fatma was forced into quarantine with Makis. He's not part of the band, but they lived together for, I don't know how long it was with Corona, I think 10 days - I can't remember how long it was. And then we all lived together. We all had to form a bubble and we lived in the house where we shot the film. So our evenings were spent together. Makis was playing guitar and Asa was playing bass. We'd all sit there drinking. We had one day off a week, we'd go to the beach together, have a barbecue together, and play croquet on the lawn together. So I think it's the nature of that time we spent together that gave this feeling that they'd been together a while in the film.

I want to ask because I'm a really big believer that whenever somebody who's creative, obviously you put a piece of yourself into that work. But I also feel like you take a piece of it with you once you're done. And I'm curious, what is the biggest takeaway from your experiences working on Flux Gourmet? Whether it's something that affected you personally or professionally, or maybe it's a combination of both.

Well, I could talk about something physical, an object, which is not really answering your question, but I took away the mangrove diamondback terrapin, which was made for the film. It was made out of resin. We didn't obviously want to use a real one, but I have that terrapin here. But in terms of experience, well, I didn't find it to be very easy if I'm being honest, which was due to the nature of the pandemic. So I think for all filmmakers, it was a very tough time. The 14 days were very demanding, so it was stressful. So I actually took away the fact that I'm going to be very, very cautious about what kind of film I do next and when I do it, because this was hardcore. Every day, you're making decisions knowing that you're not going to make the day, or you're going to drop something and you know you can't spill it over into the next day. So you're just making all these decisions and gambling each day.

So yeah, I guess what I took away was an extreme caution that maybe I didn't have so much before this film. ​​So I might end up making a very safe film next time, like a nice rom-com who knows, who knows (laughs).

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.