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‘Southland Tales’ Is All Richard Kelly’s Fault, Say Film’s Press Notes

Neither of the actors you see here bears any responsibility whatsoever for Southland Tales.Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Yesterday, one of your Vulture editors stepped away from his computer for the first time in months to take in a screening of Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s new film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plus Mandy Moore, Justin Timberlake, and like fourteen former cast members from Saturday Night Live (see our one-sentence review here!). When we arrived at the screening room, located on the third floor of the storied Times Square Planet Hollywood, a helpful publicist handed us a stapled packet of press notes. Though our copy seems to be missing the page that explains what, exactly, the movie is about, it did make for an amusing subway ride back to Vulture HQ, as we counted the number of times the notes tried to remind us that, whatever we thought of the movie, it was important to remember that the whole thing was Richard Kelly’s idea, and the blame for Southland Tales falls squarely on him (and no one else). Some excerpts after the jump!

Southland Tales might be part comedy, part action satire, part thriller, part drama, and even part musical, but it is definitely all one thing: the singular vision of Richard Kelly.”

“‘It’s a Richard Kelly film. I think that’s the best way to describe it,’ explains Seann William Scott, who plays twins Ronald and Roland Taverner in the film.”

“One of the real challenges for Southland Tales’ crew and cast was that many of the scenes and visual concepts imagined by Kelly weren’t necessarily in the script … The editing of the script and Kelly’s desire to re-imagine scenes during the shoot was often a daunting experience for the actors.”

“Dwayne Johnson jokes that he even began to give up on fully comprehending the final product. ‘I’ve been close to this project now and close to Richard for more than a year, and I stopped trying to completely understand everything that’s happening in the movie because there are so many stories that are taking place, all of which wind up being connected. So, I thought the best thing for me to do is to completely understand and have my interpretation of Boxer Santeros — where he comes from, where he wants to go, what he believes in and things like that. Because there are a lot of things that only Richard could tell you.’”

“For a movie that deals with so many current, hot-button issues, it might seem surprising that Kelly has cast the film with actors known primarily for their roles in television and film comedies, and the lighter side of pop culture in general.”

“After premiering a 2 hour and 43-minute work-in-progress version of the film at Cannes in 2006, Southland Tales was received with less than stellar enthusiasm… In total, it took them fourteen months post-Cannes to finish the film, but, according to Kelly: ‘A long time … but, it made the film better.’ The film now runs 19 minutes shorter.”

“The director ultimately believes that what he has made is a movie that moviegoers from everywhere will find accessible: ‘I think this film kind of comes from the left, but it arrives somewhere in the middle, in a way that’s trying to, you know, find comedy in our sort-of big cultural divide right now as a country — in how divided we are, and speculate into sort-of the final shit hitting the fan.’ And that, Kelly says with a smile, is the best way to sum up his vision that just about no one else involved with the film can seem to sum up: ‘It’s about the shit hitting the fan on the Fourth of July weekend.’”

‘Southland Tales’ Is All Richard Kelly’s Fault, Say Film’s Press Notes