Australian Writer/director Greg Mclean has become a household name to horror fans over the past couple of years. Mclean slashed his way onto the scene with his 2005 film, “Wolf Creek,” a brutal horrific tale of stranded backpackers meeting a murderous bushman in the Outback. Following suit, Mclean has recently released “Rogue,” a monster movie about a man-eating crocodile. The DVD was recently released stateside and Adam Frazier had a chance to talk with the man behind the croc.
Question: Let’s talk about filming in the Northern Territory. All of the locations were just stunning – there’s immediately this sense of credibility and realism added to the film – and I understand the public before hadn’t seen several areas you shot in?
Mclean: It was a huge challenge, but an absolute must for me, for this to be in the real location – as the Northern Territory is Australia’s Grand Canyon – it’s a beautiful and epic landscape. I’ve wanted to show it off for years and finally got the chance.
Question: How did you get access? Did you need permission from the indigenous peoples? What are the difficulties of filming in such a remote location?
Mclean: Permission was tough — but really worth it in the end. We had the blessing of the Traditional Owners of the land up there, which was great it isn’t generally accessible to the public. In a lot of ways, it’s a special, spiritually and historically significant place for the aboriginal people of the area – so we were careful to respect the fact that we were coming into their home to make our film. We actually got a lot of help in terms of advice and information with regard to being in the area too.
It’s hot as a motherfucker up there, 50Â°C (122Â°F). Killer. And working in that heat just knocks you out. But we survived and it was quite a privilege to be at work and look around and go, “Holy shit, I am in boat with a bunch of great actors and crew in a 3,000-year-old rock gorge!” You pinch yourself sometimes, as you don’t get to do that too many times in life.
Question: What’s it like to shoot a movie about a man-eating crocodile when you’re filming in a location that is, in fact, filled with actual crocodiles?
Mclean: We had some local National Parks guys with big guns in case a real croc leaped out and grabbed one of the cast. They did say, however, that if they had to use those guns, it was going to be too late – cause crocs are so fast you’d be under the water and gone before a shot is be fired. They are lightening fast.
That aside, it was a pleasure in the sense that how often do you get to hang around animals that eat people at work everyday, unless you work politics.
Question: The croc in your film is around 7 meters, and it looks great by the way, but you mention there’s one the aborigines know of that is 7.5 meters in that area – any encounters with this massive beast?
Mclean: Thanks – I took enormous care to make it as realistic as possible. I was going to go and try to film this real monster and put it on the DVD – but ultimately ran out of time. Maybe I’ll do it and put it on a website or a special edition. I’d personally love to see it – reports of the wildlife cinematographer who saw it said he almost shit his pants when he saw this thing in the wild. Truly like coming face to face with a monster. Perhaps “Rogue 2” could be the quest for this beast! A wildlife crew etc. etc…
Question: You mention in the Making Of Rogue documentary that you were inspired by true events in the ’70s where a territorial croc named “Sweetheart” attacked boaters. Was this what made you want to make ‘Rogue’ – talk me through your inspirations of how you went from a straight-forward slasher-type film like “Wolf Creek” to a creature feature/ hero tale like “Rogue.”
Mclean: I wrote this movie many, many years before “Wolf Creek” ever happened. When I first started writing movies, I was playing with the thriller/suspense form – as I love Hitchcock. I was also playing with Joseph Campbell and the underlying concepts of western mythology in storytelling. And from this, was fascinated by St. George and the Dragon as a myth and narrative. So I wondered what it would be like to combine elements of the 50’s monster movie, St. George and the Dragon, suspense, Crocodiles, all in beautiful and dangerous Northern Territory. So this was where the script came from, plus seeing the real rogue story when I was a kid on the news and thinking, even then, “That would be fucking terrifying! Being stalked by a Crocodile at Night!” CUT TO:
Six years later. The film got set up, fell over a number of times. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more desperate to make a movie. So I pulled out a script (that I could make for next to nothing) and re-worked it into what would become “Wolf Creek.” That got made thank Christ or I’d still be sitting around boring my friends with the “Jaws of the Crocodile movie world” speech. I found some success and then I had studios asking, “What do you want to do now?” I pulled out my crocodile screenplay and said, “this”. It’s been with me for so long that I’d actually storyboarded the whole thing in my head many times. I knew every shot so that made the leap from little tiny film to mid-sized production much, much easier – cause I already knew everything back-to-front cause I’d been directing in my mind for seven years.
Question: What really makes “Rogue” stand apart from other monster movies is that, this actually isn’t that far-fetched. The “monster” is just an ordinary creature of big, but believable size, much like “Jaws,” – did you go on a lot of river guides and research the creatures before making the film?
Mclean: I like the reality angle in this kind of movie – it what makes the good ones work I think – as good ole Steve King says, “Without belief, there can be no fear”. It’s my horror mantra and why my movies take time to create a truth to the characters and world of the story, even the creature – so we are invested in the truth of the story context. But to answer your question, yes – I researched the shit out of crocodiles, every croc attack in the world, their biology, mind, habits etc. I have sketchbooks full of diagrams, images and research. Plus I did a number or recon trips by myself up there to go on the boat cruises and camp out and get a sense of the place and the creatures.
Question: Being from Australia, did you grow up fearing these creatures?
Mclean: Did I grow up fearing them? Yes. If you don’t fear them you have not been close enough to see how brilliant these creatures are. They truly are masterpieces of evolution and design. I recommend everyone to look closer at them – on DVD, Internet or books. You’ll be amazed once you realize how these living dinosaurs are still on the planet. They are miracles of nature. And I think I show that in the movie – as the croc is not a monster. It’s an animal and animals are territorial. It’s the people that are stupid (as always); it’s just doing what it’s been doing for 65 million years – being a top predator.
Question: What is it about the horror genre that attracts you?
Mclean: I think the emotional intensity when it’s done right, attracts me most. Horror should be a place of experimentation with storytelling form and technique. It’s the place to test out taboos and cross all the lines that the mainstream is terrified of, and hold up our society’s or species’ psychological shadow side and say, “Ta dah! Check out your dark underbelly you’d rather not address, world. Pretty, isn’t it?” When horror is done right, it’s devastating – and it’s always because of the ‘ideas’ you’re putting forward. It’s the ideas behind the monsters that scare us. Not so much the monster itself.
Question: Any thoughts on what your next project will be? Is there any truth to the “Wolf Creek 2” rumors?
Mclean: Not really – I am working on a few screenplays right now, as I am keen as hell to make another movie as soon as possible, because the ROGUE release has been such a long process. I’m ready to rock again – but want to make sure I’m going out there with a screenplay that’s as great as it can be.
As for “Wolf Creek 2,” I don’t know. I’d like to see what else Mick is up to in the outback for sure – just not sure anyone else in the world does. Plus you’ve got to top the first one – and seriously, how much horror can you handle? If I did make “Wolf Creek 2” it would almost have to be unreleasable. Rated XXX. Banned all over the world. Never to be screened in public. That’s kind of intriguing.
Question: Are there dream projects or adaptations you’d like to be involved with?
Mclean: I’ve got about 4 dream projects on the go right now – in various stages on development, all genres too. My problem – like most people – is just focusing on one thing. I get so excited by something I’ll start researching or making notes or watching movies on that subject. There’s so much amazing stuff out there that it’s more about shutting out most stuff – cause getting things made takes a large whack on single mindedness, in my case anyways.
Having said that, just saw “Road Warrior” the other day on the Big Screen – wow – and you know what – they should certainly re-boot the fuck out of that franchise. George Miller should get back to basics – take four cars, the Outback, Max, his cattle dog and shotgun. Throw in some insane muscle guys with attitude problems. You got a great fucking movie right there. People are ripping “Mad Max” off blind left right and centre anyway – he should pop out a MAD MAX 4 in 3D IMAX (gag in there, get it) and show them how to do it OZ style! I’d pay to see that.
Oh, and a remake of “BMX Bandits.” My tagline, “They’re bandits. And they ride BMXs!”