Magazine article Screen International

Ti West Talks SXSW Revenge Western 'In A Valley of Violence'

Magazine article Screen International

Ti West Talks SXSW Revenge Western 'In A Valley of Violence'

Article excerpt

The genre director known for horror titles The House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers has just wowed SXSW with his Western starring Ethan Hawke as a mysterious drifter and John Travolta as a ruthless, one-legged marshall.

West talks to Tiffany Pritchard about partnering with Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions on his seventh feature, which mashes absurdist humour and quick-witted dialogue with violent hysteria, and how he didn't want to repeat himself on "another low-budget horror film."

Focus World holds US rights and Universal Pictures International will distribute across the rest of the world.

You have been attending SXSW since 2005 with the world premiere of The Roost. How does it feel to be back at the festival?

I remember first coming here when I was only 23 years old with a backpack full of flyers. The Alamo Drafthouse welcomed me with a sold-out movie. It's like home returning here year after year, and luckily, it generally works out that I finish my films just before the festival. Between SXSW and Larry Fessenden, who took a risk in financing The Roost [and also plays Roy in In A Valley Of Violence], I wouldn't be sitting here now. I am forever grateful.

This is the first time you have worked with Jason Blum, who is known for producing indie hits Whiplash, Insidious and Paranormal Activity. What was his involvement with you in making this film?

We always talked about working together, but there was never the right project. So when I started thinking about making a Western [Blumhouse Productions] were my first call. Jason said he was interested, I wrote the script, and the money was there. He has this unique ability to pull budgets together for tier-one-level movies. He doesn't just talk about making movies, he actually makes them. And while we may not have a lot of money, they are relatively hands-off, letting you make the film you want to make.

Why did you decide to transition to the Western genre? And are you worried this may deter your loyal horror fans?

It wasn't a conscious choice to be different - it was just an idea in my head. If you like my movies, it's unlikely I'll have lost you. But if you don't like my movies, this might be the one you think, 'This is okay.' I like to flip archetypes on their head, and Westerns still have all these archetypes: all the characters are good at what they do, they like spinning their guns and saying all the right things. In real life, violence is always disastrous, and people often regret their actions afterwards. It's not often you get to see that in a Western. I wanted to show this reality where violence is scary, but also funny.

How did Ethan Hawke and John Travolta come on board, and what were they were like to work with?

I knew I wanted Ethan Hawke in the film, and since Jason had worked with him [on The Purge], he helped set up a meeting while he was doing Macbeth in New York. I told him the day he finished the play, I would have a finished script. If he didn't like it, I would send him something else another time. But if he did like it, we'd make it. So I wrote it in December, he read it in January, and were shooting in New Mexico in May.

Jason pitched the idea of John Travolta to me. We had dinner, and I was amazed how much he understood the tone of the film. It's like he was in my head. …

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