Having seen so many movies this year and many more left to see, I can hardly compare Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” with any of them. Oh, just a heads-up for you, it’s not something you can watch with the entire family, unless it’s Halloween. But there’s one thing though; with all the craziness happening in two hours, you might find yourself bereft of any family members after it ends because who in their right mind is going to cheer for or enjoy what Nicolas Cage’s Red does? And if you’re surrounded by people with common sense, we all should agree with their decision, right? Nevertheless, it’s not going to be the case this time. Maybe just because of the infection called collective madness, you will find everyone around infected by it, in a good way of course.
Overall, there are way too many details to be discussed or even written about “Mandy” or getting deep into director Panos Cosmatos’ approach. As part of the release of the film in Toronto, I had the great pleasure to chat with the director, Panos Cosmatos, over the phone to discuss “Mandy”.
MOVIEMOVESME: Mandy appears very colorful, more than what we usually see in a film like this. How did you paint out everything in one image? How did you make Mandy so flawless?
Panos Cosmatos: I don’t know, I mean, it goes down to the creative process, which tends to be kind of layer based, painted on layer, painted on layer. One layer will be the genre that I’m interested in sort of exploring and one layer will be the emotional core of that and then one layer will be my own personal experiences, neuroses and traumas and so I feel like even though I’m trying to make something that appears to be one simplified version of a genre film, I hope that there’s many, sort of, layers floating throughout.
MOVIEMOVESME: Talking about layers or even genre, what makes Mandy so outstanding is not just the visual effects, the actors, which are simply perfect, but this film is so dark and yet so colorful at the same time. Is that how you envisioned it when you were creating it?
Panos Cosmatos: Yeah, yeah I mean I want to make films that are tonally somewhat dark and inhuman, have a sort a strain of humor to them. At the same time I feel like … I just love colors in films, to me, not having a lot of color is like cooking without any flavor.
MOVIEMOVESME: The movie doesn’t have a lot of dialogues. Red, Nicolas Cage’s character, talks a lot about Mandy and what happens to her after the incident. And after that, all what we see is through his expressions. I wonder how you managed to explore the character Red in a way that his emotions and expressions became much more powerful than a single word.
Panos Cosmatos: I don’t know. It’s just that creating something for me is just a very instinctual process, and when you come to a very important crossroads in the story like that, and then sort of, life of these characters…I feel like, you have to show a certain respect for their existence, and I didn’t want to feel like I was, I love Mandy, so I didn’t want to feel like I was exploiting her death, and at the same time I really wanted to magnify the effects of that horrific act on the face of the person that it was affecting the most.
MOVIEMOVESME: Throughout the film I felt all the actors, the way they were performing, playing creepy, psycho characters, I felt like they had all run away from a mental facility. Did you have strict rules for that? How did you do this?
Panos Cosmatos: Specific rules. I think the actor I worked with the most on the specifics were, was Linus. He played the, plays Jeremiah Sand. And I was trying to achieve a very specific kind of feeling of this sort of, West Coast…character that I sort of encountered many times in my life. So, with him, we got really specific together. In the case of the rest of the children, I noticed that a lot of the actors were bringing these very eccentric, kind of, ideas, that they had sort of seen in the characters when they were reading the script and imagining what their characters would be like, and instead of trying to tone those down, I let them leap out, seeing them sort of perform these bizarre, physical actions was really quite striking. And that’s sort of, one of the things where I think where I decided to let them do exactly what they wanted, and I think it gives it a sense of chaos and unpredictability to their world.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was that atmosphere on the set for you, as a director, seeing what the actors did to capture what you have written?
Panos Cosmatos: To me, that’s the most exciting part of making a movie, period, is seeing the actors bring the characters to life. As your building sets and finding locations, and all those things, they’re all gratifying, and you see it sort of slowly coming together, but when the actors come into the process and start infusing this sort of diorama with actual blood and life. To me, that’s the most thrilling part and invariably, they’ll sort of approaches and ideas to these creatures that you’ve written that are surprising, and that’s what I find the most exciting thing of all.
MOVIEMOVESME: Nicolas Cage as Red was outstanding; it was so character driven. Was he your first and last choice or did you have other options? Because I don’t believe that anyone else could’ve pull off what he did with that face, anger, everything?
Panos Cosmatos: Yeah. We were very lucky to have him. I had some trepidation about him playing that role, but when I took a moment to reflect on it, I realized that, an actor that’s still as inventive and deep in his ability as Cage (e.g. Nicolas Cage) is would really maximize the potential for dimension in that character that is actually quite simple on the page.
MOVIEMOVESME: People are eager to see the film because they found something unusual in it. Is that what you wanted? Is that what you were expecting?
Panos Cosmatos: You never know what to expect. I felt like I was making a film for my friends and for me and…I’m always trying to make something that I feel doesn’t exist and that sort of speaks in a very specific way, what I want to see. Because, there’s movies about every possible story and subject, but at the end of the day, it comes down to how well those stories are told, more than what the story itself is, in a way. So, it almost comes down a strange kind of aesthetic, level of how do I want to see a specific kind of story told. But, I don’t know. I hoped that it would, I felt like there was an audience out there for this film, that wasn’t really being spoken to, and I think that may be the case.