While at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival last week, Daily Dead had the opportunity to catch up with writer/director Richard Bates Jr. (Excision, Trash Fire) as well as co-stars Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The X-Files) and Amanda Crew (Final Destination 3, Silicon Valley) to talk about their darkly comedic battle for the ages, Tone-Deaf (you can read my review HERE). The film follows millennial Olive (Crew) as she sets out for a quick vacation away from it all, renting a house from the prickly homeowner Harvey (Patrick), who decides he’s over tolerating younger generations and unleashes his rage on his unsuspecting tenant.
During our interview, the trio discussed bringing the film to SXSW as part of their Midnighter series, the inspiration behind the story of Tone-Deaf, digging into these wildly different characters, and more.
So, how do you feel now that Tone-Deaf is out in the world finally?
Richard Bates Jr.: I was so happy with how it went. Because we're dealing with all of these heavy and current issues, so we tried to make it as fun and just really create that heightened reality, so there's a sense of escapism and everything. I tried to pull out all these little tricks from the old midnight movies. I was thinking like The Tingler, and I was watching the Joe Dante movies. I was like, "How do we make this interactive in a generation where everyone's fighting to be this thing?" And so we decided to break the fourth wall and bring the audience in. And people were really responding to it. They were like, "What the f--k?"
So, Ricky, we've talked before, and I've always loved your style of storytelling and the way that you confront relationships and things like that. Can you talk about what inspired this story in particular? I think it’s interesting that in regards to the generational conflict, you show us that both generations have a lot of work to do.
Richard Bates Jr.: Yes, well, that was the idea, right? If you're gonna try to make a point about anything, everyone's gotta be a hypocrite, right? We're all full of shit, and then you can start looking at something. But if you go super one-sided, then you're preaching to the choir and losing everyone else. It's garbage, if you're trying to do something that only points the finger in one direction. So, the idea that we were gonna go hard on everyone, but at the end of the day, it's about your intentions. Is someone trying, maybe failing, but trying to be the best person they can be for the world or for themselves? And at the end of the day, what differentiated between these two characters is that Olive is in the process of growing and figuring out who she is and Harvey, he's not growing. He's done with that. So, pitting them against each other was so fascinating. And some of it comes from the John Waters school of comedy, too, where if you want to say something, then you have to go hard on everyone.
Can you guys talk about digging into your respective characters and finding your own ways of fleshing them out?
Robert Patrick: Well, Harvey is this guy who is completely counterintuitive to the way the culture's been developed lately. In his world, you work for the same company for 25, 35 years. You raise your family. You had allegiance to that company you worked for. That's not there anymore. It's all disposable. I don't know if that's representative of the American people, though. I think that's people that live here that are figuring a way to game the system to their advantage, because the system just doesn’t work anymore, and I think that's less a comment on our country than it is a comment on the individuals that are running corporations. And I'm not even vilifying corporations per se, but it's the greed that motivates these people that we should be vilifying.
Amanda Crew: With Olive, I think we talked about this earlier, but my biggest thing with her was I just wanted to not have my judgment on her on paper of how self-righteous she is, and how she thinks everyone's against her or whatever. It's just in her mind, and she's entitled to that, and she believes she's right. And so I wanted to not have judgment on her when I was playing her. Otherwise, I didn't feel like I would be able to fully give life to her. It's like when you're playing a killer. You can't have judgment on the fact that you're killing, because it’s your job to become the character, even if you don’t agree with them or condone what they’re doing. So it was tough with Olive, because I wanted her to be relatable, knowing that she’s also got some issues she needs to work on, too.
In case you missed it, check here to catch up on all of our live coverage of the SXSW 2019 Film Festival, including more interviews, reviews, and breaking news from Austin!