Exclusive: Interview with Jules Carrozza

Frequent readers of The JLR should be no strangers to Jules Carrozza, the artist formerly known as Kojiro Abe. Love him or hate him, he’s here and he’s in your backyard, the middle of the street, and wherever the hell else he wants to be making movies for fun, accolades, and maybe -just maybe- a little bit of friendship along the way. With a new film on the horizon, we sat down with Jules and had a real heart-to-heart about his upcoming projects, his hobbies and yes, his love life.

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Caution: Man At Work
The Joseph Luster Report: Now that the world has been assaulted with the Myspace page, it would seem you’re ready to bare some info about your next project, Alice in Wonderland. Can you tell us a bit about the production plans?

Jules Carrozza: Well, we’re aiming to start shooting in April. The film will be shot in Boston, Kingston and Duxbury. This will be the first big collaboration between the awesome Ryan Murphy and I. We’re assembling a great cast of both Murphy and Carrozza regulars. [name redacted], Ryan’s girlfriend and star of his most recent projects, such as The New Elevator, will be playing Alice. The film will be like if Little Red Riding Hood and No Place Like Home were to have an illegitimate child.

It will be a mix of psychedelic like Ryan’s best work, as well as sleazy and grindhouse like my work.

JLR: Just to be clear, you know that American McGee already made a video game that was a twisted version of Carroll’s original tale, right? What differentiates your take on the story from just another “weird” outing?

JC: There are many differences. It bears more in common with the anime Miyuki-chan in Wonderland than it does to American McGee’s Alice. Alice will be a depressed college girl whose boyfriend abandoned her. The White Rabbit will be a girl in a Playboy Bunny getup (a tip of the hat to Miyuki-chan) played by Dream House‘s Kate Noyes. The Mad Hatter will be a schizophrenic wack-job with perverted sexual fantasies played by The Wolf himself, David Luce. The Cheshire Cat will be a feline version of Jack White of The White Stripes, a character Ryan has been playing (and has sort of become an alter-ego of his) since his film The Union Forever.

The Queen of Hearts will be a vicious Japanese noblewoman named Lady Asano who, rather than chop her retainers’ heads off, makes them commit harakiri. The climax will be a sword fight between Alice and Lady Asano and will lead into a scene where Alice confronts Lewis Carroll himself, who is a raging pedophile with pictures of Dakota Fanning on his wall ala The Wolf. I don’t think American McGee’s Alice was anything like that and Tim Burton’s upcoming version will be nothing like it either. If it is, I’m suing him.

JLR: Do you think you’ll keep running with these types of “Fractured Fairy Tale” stories in the future, or volley back and forth to other genres?

JC: Alice in Wonderland will be my last, though Dave (Luce) keeps trying to convince me to make a version of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” which I am considering. I was inspired by Ryan’s No Place Like Home to make this. Also, Dream House wasn’t nearly as popular or acclaimed as Little Red Riding Hood so I’m doing another fantasy/fairy tale film since people like it when I do that. But after this, no more. I’m going on to Lucky Lotto, a remake of a horror film T.F. Mous made while working for the Shaw Brothers. I am also considering remaking Manos: Hands of Fate but actually making it good and scary.

Jules’ Cheshire Cat design for Alice
JLR: From where does your initial fascination with fairy tales stem? What nuggets of wisdom do you find personally in these centuries-old yarns that have entertained countless children around the world? You can see their influence all over your work from way back in The Boy Who Cried Wolf days.

JC: Fairy tales are just very easy to work with. They are all cautionary tales and morality plays and a highly fascinating part of Western culture and history. They have been told and retold so many times that you can very easily put your own spin on them.

JLR: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since then (then being your early days)? How have things changed for you since the spiritual (rather than literal) death of “Kojiro Abe”?

JC: I am a much better filmmaker. I felt like the Kojiro Abe persona was holding me back from being a genuinely good filmmaker. Still, I think The Big Toe showed a lot of promise and Agony and the Ecstasy of the Puppets was a good predecessor to the perversion present in Little Red Riding Hood and Dream House and that will be present in Alice in Wonderland. Things have changed a lot though. I have way more friends, many of whom are female and yes, the quality of my filmmaking has changed a lot. I’ve learned to shoot and edit much better.

The vicious Lady Asano, Alice’s chief antagonist
JLR: Speaking of creativity, your artwork is unique, to say the least. Do you have any artistic influences outside of the film world?

JC: I am a huge fan of Vincent Van Gogh, but most of my influence when I draw is from anime and tokusatsu. I also admire Yoshitaka Amano’s stuff a lot and think Tim Burton’s artwork is better than most of the films he makes. I would describe my artwork as looking like Japanese Tim Burton art on crack and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

JLR: I think it’s fair to say that you’re notorious for extensive cult film references. You’ve mentioned one or two, but can you hint at any others you have planned for Alice, or are you going to go a different route this time? Do you ever feel as if these limit your creative vision at all?

JC: I love paying homage to the films I love. I don’t think it’s stealing, I just think it’s like being thankful to people like Leone, Fukasaku, Bava, Argento, the Shaw Brothers crew and company for their huge amount of influence and all the enjoyment their films have given me.

While Alice won’t be as reference-filled as Little Red Riding Hood or Dream House were, it will still have some references. I am considering opening the film up with Alice dancing and lip syncing to Diana Ross like Uma Thurman did with Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, though I might cut that out or just use (it) in the director’s cut. There will be a scene with Alice on a swing eating an apple like Cunegonda in Mondo Candido while Riz Ortolani music from that film plays. The whole scene where the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon fuck will be a direct homage to the porno set scene in Body Double, a film I’ve recently fallen in love with. The whole ending sword fight scene will be a mix of a Sergio Leone film and the bridge scene ending to the Shaw Brothers film The New One Armed Swordsman. And then, of course, there will be the whole Miyuki-chan in Wonderland scene and several references to Neon Genesis Evangelion.

So yeah, some cult film references, but not as many as Little Red Riding Hood and Dream House. Also, I am starting to feel like constantly paying homage to films might be making my films less original, hence why Alice and Lucky Lotto will feature far fewer, despite both being based on a book and a segment of a film.

JLR: Mentioning the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon scene might actually answer part of this question. It’s been a while since you worked with puppets, but word on the street is they may make a comeback in Alice; a sexy comeback. Can you tell us more?

JC: Ryan and I both are pretty famous (or infamous) for using puppets in our films. Coincidentally, Neil Cicierega is world famous for using puppets in his films, albeit not in as disturbing a way. But yeah, there’s going to be a big scene where Alice is on a beach and sees the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon fucking… the Mock Turtle taking it up the ass from the Gryphon. She tries to talk to them but they are too busy having homosexual sex to say much to her. So she walks off and gets captured by Lady Asano’s samurai. I was considering shooting the scene and then cutting it from the actual film and saving it for the director’s cut, but there seems to be so much demand for this scene that I am strongly reconsidering.

Dave Luce (left) on the Dream House set with Jules
JLR: I noticed that, according to the Myspace page, you’re merely “in talks” with Dave Luce to come on board as The Mad Hatter. As I’m sure you know, myself and my readers fancy Luce as your finest actor, so this is a bit troubling. What kind of issues arise, if any, when DL is attached to a project?

JC: I just haven’t talked to him much since I moved to Boston since he lives in Plymouth and his phone’s shut off. He was originally on board to play the March Hare and Jon Daire (the Lumberjack in Little Red Riding Hood) was going to play the Hatter, but things have changed since then. So I’m in the midst of asking Dave. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll do it. I really like working with Dave. He’s a real method actor. He painted his teeth with nail polish in Little Red Riding Hood and breathed in dust remover in Dream House to make his voice deeper. He’s like Plymouth’s own Robert De Niro.

JLR: Stepping away from Alice for a moment, how did you feel about the reception of your last film Dream House? You mentioned earlier that it wasn’t as well received as Red. Do you have anything to say to the “haters”?

JC: I actually am starting to agree with some of the criticisms. I was under the influence of booze and such when directing a few scenes, plus over half of the film was shot late at night so we were very tired, wanted to get the fucking thing done and it really shows. I like the film, it looks superb visually for something shot on MiniDV, but I don’t love it like I do with Red and I could have directed my actors better and I could have handled some scenes, especially the home invasion scene, better (which was the scene I was drunk when I shot). It’s like build up, build up, build up and then it’s way too fast. Still, Dream House certainly works well in some scenes.

JLR: Do you know what’s next after Alice? Is it definitely Lucky Lotto? I know you have a lot of ideas on your plate, so how do you decide when to do certain projects over others?

JC: I am itching to make Lucky Lotto, I am definitely not ready to make Manos yet or The Witch’s Castle. I need to toil on a couple more short films before I make a feature.

JLR: Do you personally fund all of these projects? A feature is a mighty undertaking.

JC: Manos will cost next to nothing to make, probably $10,000 tops and it will be made with amateur volunteers so it will be funded from my own pocket. The only costly thing I’m going to invest in is an HD camera which I might buy on credit and maybe a lighting kit. The Witch’s Castle will be funded professionally, as I need more money for that one and want better actors. I want it to be like a mix between The Last House on the Left and Heavenly Creatures.

Both a decent camera and lighting kit were things Hal Warren seems to have never bothered with, to add.

Abe & co. at Film Fest ’07
JLR: Surely you saw this coming since this is The JLR. Our readers are dying to know, do you play any TV games?

JC: You mean video games? I am the only person in my generation who doesn’t play them. I think they’re a waste of time and bad computer graphics like the ones found in video games sicken me.

JLR: Were you ever a fan in your childhood?

JC: Okay, I basically lived for Pokémon, but that’s about it. As a depressed teenager, I wished every day that the world in Pokémon was real and not the miserable world I lived in where the school jocks used to punch me in the nose. That’s another reason why I don’t game nowadays.

JLR: Okay, so no games for Jules. Fair enough. But you probably also know that my readers are all nasty gossip hounds. Is there currently any romance in the air for Mr. Carrozza?

JC: I have developed friendships with many girls. Girls are actually hugging me now. Nothing quite romantic yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen very soon. Not to get all new agey, but I’m a firm believer that our thoughts create our surroundings and my constant feelings of being alone and the thought that no girl could ever love me caused by a few bad dates and hookups kept me there. I’m finally making head way on that. I’m concentrating on making films and that will attract the right person to me, as a lot of women like a guy who is intelligent and has passion for what he does.

JLR: Lastly, let’s say you were visiting a hospital, and “Little Timmy” used his Make-A-Wish Foundation wish to get you to give him an inspirational talk about filmmaking, but he also wants it to be brief because he’s about to die. What would you say to “Little Timmy”?

JC: That’s a tough one. I wouldn’t want to say anything about how much I enjoy filmmaking because I think that would probably make him sad since he’s about to die and still a child. If I had time I’d show him a rough cut of my then-newest movie to bring joy to his heart in his last moments, but if I didn’t, I’d just tell him that he’ll be sorely missed, that he’s a brave little boy and that I’ll dedicate my newest film to him.

Special thanks go to Jules for giving us his time!

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