Summer Academy

Friends, heists and autobiographies

Conversation with Roger Avary, member of Concorso internazionale’s jury
Conversation with Roger Avary, member of Concorso internazionale’s jury
© Festival del film Locarno

A conversation with Roger Avary

“So there was this guy who kept coming in. He knew everything about every movie, smelled really bad and was really annoying. He wanted to push these weird movies on the customers. I ended up hiring him.” That’s how Roger Avary described meeting Quentin Tarantino in his talk with Olivier Père at the Spazio Cinema in Locarno.

The discussion started with Avary reminiscing about his friendship and collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, which led to him co-writing the Academy Award winning screenplay for Pulp Fiction.

Their collaboration started off as a workplace rivalry over which of the two was the biggest cinephile. When they both realized that they were writing, it became natural to start collaborating, with each of them reading and rewriting the work being made.

When asked about the genesis of his directorial debut Killing Zoe, the director shared a story about an important phone call. As the film Reservoir Dogs was in pre-production, (producer) Lawrence Bender called him and said that he was asking all the writers he knew if any of them had happened to have written a screenplay set in a bank.

The producer had secured a bank which could be filmed in for very little money. “This is your lucky day, Lawrence. I just happen to have a screenplay here that’s set in a bank. So I hung up the phone and quickly wrote a screenplay that took place in a bank.” The screenplay became Avary’s directorial debut Killing Zoe.

The most interesting aspect of the talk was the reveal of the often surprising autobiographical nature of Avary’s work. In the case of Killing Zoe, much of it was based on the coincidental meeting of a childhood friend in Paris.

The tragic suicide of a close friend and subsequent disconnect between perception and reality echoes throughout all of his work, especially in his second feature The Rules of Attraction. His autobiographical tendencies seem to continue in his upcoming work, an adaptation of another Bret Easton Ellis book Lunar Park, whose plot resembles Avary’s experience of moving into a seemingly haunted house; and in a film about Salvador Dali which is headed for production this fall.

“If you are making a biography of someone, you end up making a movie about yourself. Dali himself wrote a false biography, so I just wrote a movie about Dali which is actually about me and my relationship with my wife.” It seems as if now, more than ten years since his last feature we’re finally about to see more from this distinct cinematic voice.

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