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‘The Nines’ Writer-Director John August Is Cool With Your Not Understanding His Movie

John AugustPhoto: Getty Images

As a successful screenwriter, John August earns top dollar scripting easy-to-follow blockbusters like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Charlie's Angels movies. But it's okay, the 37-year-old August told us, if people don't understand his directorial debut, The Nines, a labyrinthine dream fantasy starring Ryan Reynolds as a similar character in three interweaving stories: "A friend of mine who is a video-game designer said, 'John, it's like you took your head and smashed it against a wall and this movie is the brain splatter that's left.' I agreed with him. The movie is my brain splatter on the screen."

To fund the film, August hit up some wealthier friends and colleagues, instead of a movie studio, which gave him total creative freedom. But comparisons to another "director's vision," Darren Aronofsky's much-maligned time-travel fantasy The Fountain, make August laugh. "All the stories I read about the failure of The Fountain had to do with how much money it cost versus how much money it made," he said. "My movie did not cost much because everyone worked for nothing, and I think with independent films, the question should never be, 'Oh my God, what if we don't make money?'"

Newmarket Films releases The Nines in New York and Los Angeles today, and right now, they're probably thinking, Oh my God, what if we don't make money? —Steve Ramos