Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of Saw II through IV, says he came to Hollywood to make rock operas, not horror movies. His new film, Repo! The Genetic Opera, covers both genres – and a few more.
The film, starring Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino, and Paris Hilton, is Bousman's attempt at a 21st-century Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's the grisly brainchild of Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, who met in a Los Angeles acting class and soon started performing music together, eventually staging Repo as a musical.
Filled with guttural, infectious music Zdunich describes as "Puccini meets Nine Inch Nails,"Repo predicts a future in which people addicted to surgery – cosmetic and otherwise – have their organs repossessed when they miss medical payments. Budgeted at less than $10 million, it looks as disturbing and jittery as a Saw film, but the images are more stylized. And of course everyone's singing from beginning to end.
Bousman talked to us about Repo, how he went from being fired from a series of low-level jobs to directing three sequels in a multimillion-dollar horror franchise, and whether Paris Hilton can sing. (To judge for yourself, check out the film's clip- and music-filled Web site here.)
Repo comes out November 7 in selected theaters; Saw V opens wide Oct. 24.
TVGuide.com: How did you first hear of Repo?
Bousman: This play came across my desk, just a libretto. I read it and it was amazing and I flipped out, and I called the two writers.
TVGuide.com: This was before you shot Saw II, your first movie. What were you known for then, that caused this to cross your desk?
Bousman: Being fired from X-Files. I was a (production assistant), and basically perception is reality, and I made a fake message that made people think I had an agent, and I had a fake e-mail account and pretended that I was my own manager. … But it worked for me.
TVGuide.com: You really hadn't done anything but been a PA for the X-Files?
Bousman: Yes, and fired. And a PA on Van Wilder. And fired. I came to Los Angeles with big dreams of being a director. And I was kind of hit in the face that I had to pay my dues for 10 or so years, and I wasn't wired for that. I was so passionate about wanting to make these movies that while I was on X-Files and Van Wilder all I cared about was working on this script I was writing. … And when I was fired from Van Wilder I actually got that line, "You'll never work in this town again with that kind of attitude."
TVGuide.com: And that was the script you were shopping around that people thought was kind of Saw-like, and then the creators of Saw contacted you and you collaborated to turn the script into Saw II.
Bousman: Yeah, that was the script I was working on for all of those years.
TVGuide.com: So for the uninitiated, what's Repo about?
Bousman: It's a story of what happens if as a society we continue with this kind of plastic surgery perfection craze that we're in. I live close to Beverly Hills and if I walk down the street 95 percent of everyone I run into looks like they are trying to aspire to be a Barbie doll. They have fake eyes, fake boobs, fake butts, fake skin that doesn’t look real. So what is the next step of that? Replacing other organs: replacing hearts, livers, kidneys. And that's what this movie's about. If you could replace your face, would you? That kind of becomes the new "in" thing, but what happens if you buy it on credit, you can't pay for it? If you miss a payment on a car, they'll send out repo men to recollect. And in the future they can recollect organs. Murder becomes sanctioned by law.
The story is a much more personable story, though. It's the story of a 17-year-old girl coming to age in this kind of screwed-up world, and the secret that her father is a repo man – that he's one of these killers that are killing her friends that have replaced organs.
TVGuide.com: There's kind of a lesson.
Bousman: The movie on the surface sounds very dark and horrific but in truth it's a love story of a father and daughter set against this very apocaplyptic world.
TVGuide.com: How do you tell that story in song?
Bousman: It's impossible, but it's great. I wanted to do something different. I'd done three Saw films, three sequels, that basically – the whole reason I got into filmmaking was to break out of the mentality and mold of doing cookie-cutter movies. I didn't want to do a cookie-cutter movie anymore. How about a rock opera about the future? And the music is so – it kind of hits every genre from industrial pop to goth to full-out opera. We have the craziest cast, too, from Paul Sorvino to Paris Hilton.
And you know, it's funny, people always want to ask, Paris Hilton, why her? Of all the reviews that have come out, there is not a single one that is negative on Paris Hilton because she's great. She holds her own and she proves herself. And she's great in the movie.
TVGuide.com: In this case you've made a movie that has kind of a message, but one of the raps that Saw gets is that it's just torture – that there's nothing redeemable there at all. Do you agree that those movies are message-less?
Bousman: No, I think those people who say that aren't watching the same movies that everyone else is watching. To put it in perspective, both of my parents that year were diagnosed with cancer. Both of them. It went to show what Saw's about: Appreciate your life. Learn what you have. Because what would happen if I took it all away from you?