David Gordon Green rose to prominence as a kind of folk poet of southern regional cinema, creating unconventional but compassionate portraits of young folk in rural cultures in the films George Washington, All the Real Girls and Undertow. With Pineapple Express, a stoner buddy comedy with James Franco and Seth Rogen, he began a three-year sojourn in Hollywood comedies that produced Your Highness and The Sitter and the HBO comedy series Eastbound and Down with Danny McBride.
Prince Avalanche, a modest, warm-hearted tale of two guys on a rural road crew on winding forest roads in 1988 Central Texas, gets Green back to the basics. The film has the quality of an American short story, easy-going, laconic, seeped in rural atmosphere, analog technology, and a slower way of life than the movies rushing through the multiplexes. So it’s somewhat surprising to discover that it’s actually a remake of an Icelandic film called Either Way, completely recast by the southwestern setting and the sensibilities of Green and his two stars, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch.
I talked with Green in May 2013 at the Seattle International Film Festival, the afternoon before he debuted the film for Seattle audiences. After a few years of Hollywood comedies with big advertising budgets, he was back in the indie world where word of mouth builds interest. It’s a world in which he’s right at home. “Man, I could do that all day,” he remarked as we shifted from chatting about some of the recent films he’s seen to talk about Prince Avalanche. “I’m better at talking about other people’s movies.” He was being modest. Prince Avalanche was clearly a labor of love and that love came out in our interview.
Keyframe: How did you first see the film Either Way and what about it made you think that you wanted to remake it as an American film?
David Gordon Green: I wanted to remake it before I saw it. Someone who hadn’t seen it was telling me about the idea of it and I said, ‘I want to remake that.’ So I watched it for the first time thinking about how I would remake it. So I’ve never seen it honestly. I’ve only seen it under the guise of what I would do to it so it’s not really fair to those guys. I love their movie, I think it’s amazing and it’s beautifully shot. Have you seen it?
Keyframe: I’ve seen your film but I have not seen Either Way.
Green: You should see Either Way, it’s masterfully done, very beautiful, almost all done in master shots, very little coverage in the movie. It’s really a warm-hearted, charming movie, very much the inspiration for where we went with Prince Avalanche. I think Avalanche is a little bit more absurdist an a little bit more emotional, but this movie really struck me for the simplicity and beauty of it and kind of a Waiting for Godot quality, the lost existence of man and men struggling with identity and masculinity. I really loved the architecture of that film and felt a lot of opportunity to bring my own relationships and my own ideas, my own internal dialogue, my own internal conflicts, relationships with women, relationships with myself, relationships with nature and incorporate that all into the framework of Either Way.