Chris Duddy has worked in Visual FX, as a producer, cinematographer, and as a director in a wide array of genres. His new film ‘It’s So Easy and Other Lies‘ covers the life of Duff McKagan and is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in some time. I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris about the documentary and some of the horror films he’s been involved in including the upcoming Nosferatu remake.
Terror Time: Hi Chris. Congratulations on It’s So Easy and Other Lies it really impressed me. With you having produced previous documentaries what was it about Duffs story that inspired you to make this your first directorial documentary?
Chris Duddy: I’m so glad you enjoyed it. What influenced me is the inspirational story that is Duff’s life. Duff and I were friends before we embarked on this journey to make this documentary. We’ve been friends for about 5 years and we actually met walking our kids to school. When he wrote his book he asked me to read it and I was really blown away by the back story of where he came from and all the hardships he grew up with and how he made it on his own terms. Initially he said no to me several times and I was just persistent because I thought his story was something that people would respond to and be inspired by.
TT: I loved the fact that you put so much emotional content into the documentary as opposed to doing just another musician documentary. It was really heartbreaking during The Velvet Revolver segment of the documentary knowing that they all were about to relapse.
CD: Yeah when Slash tells the story about how when they finish the first record and their all in the studio and he looks up and sees that bottle of Jack Daniels and he says he knew right then he was going to fall off the wagon and then in succession they all fall off the wagon. That’s why I’m hoping during this Guns and Roses reunion tour nothing like that happens and thank you for saying that it doesn’t feel like a musician documentary. Duff and I agreed that if we’re going to do this let’s go out and make it different. We really fought for it because at the beginning all of the distributors wanted this to be a Guns and Roses documentary but Duff was very adamant that this is not about that. Of course Guns and Roses is a big part of his story but it’s not who he is as a person. As a filmmaker I’ve always wanted to be innovative I always strive to push each project towards the edge and make people think when they see the film. It really was the perfect storm for this movie with Duff’s story being a story that had to be told in a different way like we did. I’m just thrilled that it turned out the way it did.
TT: Another highly anticipated movie that you worked on that’s coming out this year is the Nosferatu remake. As the cinematographer on this film did you study hours of Murnau and Herzog or did you go in cold saying I’m going to bring my own style to the film?
CD: I watched the original. The director of the movie David Lee Fisher and I have done the same thing before about 10 years ago we remade the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and since these movies are so old and are in public domain you can use footage from the originals. So what we’re doing is using the original background and the original set of the film and we are shooting the actors on green screen and compositing them into the original film for the most part it’s that technique we’ve built a few sets of our own and I just wanted to light it and shoot it as dark and with as much creepy atmosphere as we could. Technologically it’s cool because we really are using a lot of the original movie but the challenge is matching perspectives since we don’t have any data on the original footage in regards to tilts or distances or heights so we have to do it by eye onset with the compositing. You can check out our remake of Caligari on YouTube. It’s just really cool that it’s now ten years later and now we’re doing Nosferatu with a lot more advanced technology and this movie is really going to be exciting and we have Doug Jones playing Orlok and the makeup effects are amazing I can’t wait for people to get a load of Doug’s look and performance. He is amazingly good and creepy.
TT: I’m a big fan of the wizard of Gore remake starring Crispin Glover. Did you have any reservations as the cinematographer and as a producer? Were there any reservations remaking a Herschel Gordon Lewis classic?
CD: On Wizard of Gore as the cinematographer I was leaning on the director for guidance on how he wanted it shot. He had the script for a long while before I came on to help produce that movie and as a producer I really responded to the script. I had never seen the original movie until we really started to gear up to make the film. If you’re going to remake a classic film there’s always the danger of it being cheesy or people hating you for doing it. You have to do something with it that will make it your own and make it different. Wizard of Gore as a cinematographer is one of my favorite movies that I’ve done. Coincidentally it was my first high definition movie as a cinematographer and I will never forget being told that high-def is different and you can’t shoot white or shoot smoke just so many things that they said you can’t do with high definition. When we started shooting the movie I said fuck all that and I broke every one of those rules on that film and I think that movie looks amazing. I’m just so bummed that not many people got to see that film. What happened was we sold that movie to the Weinsteins and their Dimension extreme label the guy who bought it Barry Gordon he ended up leaving the company and it went on the shelf and no one paid attention to it after he left. It’s just really unfortunate because that movie is really amazing to watch and Crispin Glover is just so damn creepy in the role. But what’s funny is that Barry Gordon who bought Wizard of Gore is now the head of XLrator Media who is distributing It’s So Easy. We didn’t know that until Duff and I had lunch with a couple of the producers and Barry was wearing a hat and he took his hat off and I hadn’t connected the dots at that point and I look at him and I’m like oh my God Barry you bought Wizard of Gore. It was such a random moment.
TT: You mentioned Crispin Glover. As the cinematographer what was it like watching his performance through the camera? Was there anything that you noticed on set that separates him from other actors because he just really seems to stand out from the others?
CD: This is a hilarious story. As the cinematographer I really wanted to shoot the magic show differently because it’s going on in a dungeon and he’s torturing people so I was going to do all these low angles and make Crispin look menacing and enormous and the first day he shows up on set wearing a white suit a with a pompadour hairdo and he had this huge codpiece in his pants and we’re all just like oh my God what is that? My producing partner Glenn flipped out he started screaming at Jeremy (the director) what the fuck is this? You can’t do this make him take that codpiece out we’re not shooting that. Jeremy called for lunch. Jeremy went to Crispin in his trailer and said the producers want you to take the codpiece out Crispin refused saying I am not taking this codpiece out if the producers want to make me take it out they can go ahead and fire me or they can come in here and I can explain to them why I’m wearing it. We all end up in his little trailer and there’s 6 of us in there trying to talk him out of wearing the codpiece. He would not do it he explained while pulling out an old book with pictures of magicians. He starts showing us all this research he did on magicians and he said do you know who the most successful magic Act of all time is? None of us knew so he answers Siegfried and Roy we were like fuck he’s right, all of the best magicians throughout history they all wore Cod pieces I have no clue why but that’s the reality so we were like oh well okay and we went with it but my plans of shooting at all low angle would have made this codpiece look like a Volkswagen so I had to change my entire process of how I was planning on shooting the movie and we went high angle and put the camera on a crane with a remote head. I really wanted to free him up I didn’t want him to have marks and I just told him you do whatever it is you want to do and I’ll follow you and Crispin is such a professional he became my dance partner on the set the camera is always moving with him and it’s like we’re floating around with all of the weird back-and- forth wide shots and close-ups. My takeaway with Crispin was he is a real true actor he was always on time he comes on set and can’t wait to get going he studies and knows all of his lines and goes all in on it. He’s different for sure but his performance in Wizard of Gore just really comes through the screen.
TT: With your history with horror films in the visual effects field and as a cinematographer have you ever considered directing a horror film?
CD: I would love to. I love the genre.
TT: thank you so much for the time today Chris I truly appreciate it. I look forward to watching what you do next.
CD: Thank you Brad. It was great talking to you. It’s So Easy and Other Lies has event screenings on May 26th and June 1st before it’s theatrical run on June 3 rd .
Take a look at the trailer for ‘It’s so easy and other lies’
Here is the complete list of theatrical screenings: