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14 March 2010 @ 08:20 pm
Interviews from SXSW  
SXSW Interview: 'Elektra Luxx' Director Sebastian Gutierrez

Source: Cinematical

Sebastian Gutierrez's Women In Trouble was one of the pleasant surprises at last year's South by Southwest Film Festival. Gutierrez is back in Austin along with much of the cast in 2010, for his follow-up which continues the comic struggles of the titular porn star, Elektra Luxx, portrayed by Carla Gugino, and he is giving Cinematical a little taste of what we can look forward to.

The original film and the tentatively titled third film, Women In Ecstasy, are of the plural sort. Why the shift in the middle to highlight the one character?

SG: I really like the idea of grabbing a character from one film and being able to expand upon it somewhere else. It's something novelists are allowed to do, but filmmakers hardly ever get the chance. I often watch films and see a minor character in it that I think, 'wow it'd be cool if we could follow this person's story.' Often, I'm more interested in that notion than where that particular movie is headed. And without giving too much away, there is direct reason why the third one is titled "Women In Ecstasy" after seeing what Elektra goes through in this one.

Women In Trouble was cited by myself and others as having one of the greatest collection of women who strip down to their underwear. Even the film's trailer involved some of them alluringly inviting us to join them in a swimming pool. While the film maintained a lot of humor in-between the serious moments, how do you balance the deeper moments versus what some might consider just a little extra titillation for the guys? Your films haven't shied away from nudity in the past. Why this one?

SG: That's a lot of questions in one! I was certainly not trying to put in "extra titillation" for guys, I just happen to think some women look really good in their underwear. The pool teaser was simply a function of -- we had an underwater casing for the camera and I wondered what an underwater striptease would look like, with a very early '60s vibe. I wanted the water to act as a sort of slo-mo, sensualist accent to what is basically a pretty goofy idea. Everybody just jumped in the pool and we laughed a lot and imagined we were making a weird boy band video as Helmut Newton might have directed. As for nudity, I'm certainly not shying away from it. "Women In Trouble" simply didn't seem to require it. What's weird is it was only critics that pointed out the movie was provocative but somehow not offensive because the actors kept their clothes on. All of which is a strange concept to me, because most women I know are sexualized and not offensive in any way. It's like there's some weird unspoken thing for women that you must never be sexual and smart at the same time. Maybe it's naive of me to think that line of thinking died decades ago. I'd like to think this is mostly a projection of male critics, but some female critics seemed to have this point of view.

If these films in a way are meant to be chick flicks that the guys can enjoy, what films of that sort did you use for inspiration? What are the best chick-flicks-for-men?

SG: I'd be the worst person to ask! I don't really watch chick flicks. Do Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks count? They seemed to make movies women and men could enjoy.

Carla Gugino has been a part of all of your directorial efforts. How instrumental was she in creating the character of porn star Elektra Luxx? Did she ever sit you down and say "I'm not doing THAT!?" And did you learn anything about the character from her that you didn't know while writing it?

SG: Hmm. This answer would be more like essay length. But no, Carla has never said to me, "I'm not doing THAT," because as an actress she's always interested in exploring characters she knows little about. As for learning things about the character -- of course -- that's why, if you have a chance to cast Carla Gugino, you cast her. She makes everything sound real.

Adrianne Palicki as Holly Rocket was such a standout in the first film giving one of the more hilarious dumb blonde performances in recent memory. Can you top that by providing the audience with more of the same or will we find new ways to appreciate both the character and the actress?

SG: Adrianne is great as Holly because she doesn't comment on Holly's (mis)perceived "dumbness." She's probably the character in the story I relate to the most. And yes, while she's still Holly-esque in "Elektra Luxx," she definitely shows signs of growth.

You have added another collection of beautiful women including Malin Akerman, Christine Lakin and Alicia Silverstone for the second chapter. What can we expect from them that we missed out on in the first film?

SG: Expect Malin to really surprise you by being tender, expect Christine to be hilarious.... Alicia is not actually in it. We shot a really cool segment with her that will probably be expanded elsewhere. It was too strange and risque for the tone of this one.

With characters that range from adulteresses to lesbians and members of the porn and prostitution industries, what kind of reaction have you had from female patrons? Have any been offended by feeling you are stereotyping the male fantasy or have they been in on the joke of looking past the labels and found that you really do know something about women?

SG: I wouldn't say that I know something about women, but the most positive response to the first movie certainly came from women. I think most people are smart enough to see there's nothing actually offensive in the movie, and that its heart is in the right place despite some raunchy moments. In the world of reality TV and mass murder in so-called wars on terrorism, I think most sophisticated cinema lovers can take a joke or two about sex. Thankfully, some people were still a little offended. Like John Lennon used to say, it's not a success if someone doesn't walk out.

Did you or Carla reach out to the adult film community for research? Or have any reached out to you having enjoyed your portrayal of it?

SG: I did get a couple of emails from actresses in the industry about it. Mostly asking about how to get out.

As this is part of a proposed trilogy, who is on your short list to fulfill your complete dream cast? And can we expect to see it at South by Southwest 2011?

SG: Dream cast? Let's see... Anthony Hopkins, Jack White and Ludivine Sagnier. (I just don't have any roles for them yet). And, um, hopefully we'll be there next year.

'Elektra Luxx' -- Punk Filmmaking With Big Stars

Source: TheWrap

You wouldn't expect an ultra low-budget movie shot in 10 days to spawn a sequel, but that's exactly what last year's South by Southwest premiere "Women in Trouble" has done.

And you'd hardly expect that sequel, "Elektra Luxx," to attract a wide variety of known actors, or to make up the middle part of a trilogy – but it does have a wide-ranging cast, and according to writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez, who debuts his new film Sunday night at SXSW, a third installment is already in the works.

"Why should trilogies only belong to 'Star Wars' and 'Lord of the Rings?'" asks Gutierrez, a 35-year-old, Venezuelan-born director who has also worked on studio films like "Gothika," "The Big Bounce" and "Snakes on a Plane." "Although it isn't really a trilogy as much as a bunch of friends who wanted to work together, and kinda grabbed these characters and moved them around in different, related stories."

"Women in Trouble," an episodic comedy about nine women in Los Angeles, starred Carla Gugino, Josh Brolin, Simon Baker ("The Mentalist"), Marley Shelton ("Eleventh Hour"), Emmanuelle Chriqui ("Entourage"), Adrianne Palicki ("Friday Night Lights"), Elizabeth Berkley ("Showgirls") and a cameo by Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("(500) Days of Summer"), among many others. "Elektra Luxx" follows Gugino's title character, a retired porn star; brings back Chriqui, Shelton and Palicki; makes Gordon-Levitt the narrator; and adds the likes of Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood"), Vincent Karthiser ("Mad Men"), Malin Ackerman ("Watchmen"), Justin Kirk ("Weeds") and Kathleen Quinlan ("Apollo 13").

It also includes a "really cool cameo" by a four-time Oscar-nominated actor whose identity Guitierrez won't reveal.

"I'd love to tell you that the writing was so brilliant they couldn't resist, and they all had to pass on huge jobs to do this movie," says Gutierrez. "But the non-romantic explanation is that the time commitment is very small. People come in for a day or two. If you're shooting in L.A., it's fairly simple to get people to commit to one day on a teeny movie, rather than six weeks.

"And there aren't that many roles for women. So women are very wiling to show what they can do when they don't have to just be the girlfriend."

"Women in Trouble" began, he says, when he was perusing the script he'd written for a movie that was never made, and he came across a 10-page, dialogue-heavy scene between two women getting ready to go out for the night.

"I thought, I could probably get a couple of high-def cameras and shoot this in one day and have a pretty cool little short," he says. "But once I started to assemble a crew for it, I realized it was kind of a shame to assemble everybody for one day. I thought, if I write nine more of these 10-page segments and interconnect them, we could maybe make a movie in 10 days.

"It was a pretty silly idea, but it's basically what we did, and 'Elektra Luxx' is a more refined version of that."

Plans for the second film, he says, were hatched midway through production on the first, when the cast and crew were having so much fun that they started making plans to do it again. Again, it takes place over the course of a single day, although this time he took a full 15 days to shoot it – "really decadent," he says with a laugh.

"The first movie we were trying to do 10 pages per day, roughly 10 minutes," he says. "This time we had some days that were only five pages. Very civilized."

The scenes were rehearsed and shot like a play, he says, but "Elektra Luxx" – in which the title character learns she's pregnant – was also more ambitious: it includes a musical number, and a black-and-white flashback to the 1950s.

Like "Women in Trouble," "Elektra Luxx" goes to SXSW in search of U.S. distribution; the first film was picked up by Screen Media at last year's festival.

The third film, says Gutierrez, will be called "Women in Ecstasy," and will include "pretty much almost everybody" from the first two films. And since the first film was shot in 10 days and the second in 15, does that mean the third will have a luxurious 20-day shoot?

"It could be 20 days," he says. "Maybe 21. We'll go crazy.

"I think the whole point is that we've all worked for the studios and made these big movies. And without being a technology geek, finally the price of the technology is not an impediment to making a movie. So I think there is a bit of the DIY punk movement of the late '70s – of, like, 'let's go make instant movies.' Some of them will be better, some of them will be worse."

Despite the porn-star title character and its genesis in a film called "Women in Trouble," Gutierrez insists that "Elektra Luxx" is not meant to be campy; he's trying to make a real movie, with comedy and drama and a genuine structure to it.

"The challenge is, can you bring a movie down to its very bare bones, with a crew of 10 instead of a crew of 90, and still have great actors and have it look professional? In the most naïve part of myself, I feel that you can tell almost any story with two or three people in a room."