Writer, director, producer Adam Egypt Mortimer has already made a name for himself in the horror genre with films such as Holidays, Some Kind of Hate, and Daniel Isn’t Real. Mortimer sat down with me to discuss his new gritty superhero film Archenemy, starring Joe Manganiello.
In Archenemy, Max Fist, who claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster (Skylan Brooks). When Hamster finds himself in danger, Max will stop at nothing to protect him.
Horror Fuel: “How did Archenemy come to be?”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “I started writing it after my first movie Some Kind of Hate. I already had Daniel Isn’t Real written. Some friends of mine who were involved with Ghost Tomahawk – I liked the way they shot that movie, in that really gritty, low-budget sort of way but it was a really high concept – I thought I could learn from that approach to do a thing I’ve always wanted to do which is make a superhero movie about a guy who you don’t know if he’s really a superhero or not, this story about a guy who sometimes wears a cape to a bar, drinking and talking about all of his stories and no one believes him. That was the launching point for the movie that delves into the character of this guy who is brutal and exciting.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s a clever story. And I’m a fan of Joe Manganiello. He is a great fit for the character.”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “He is the guy! He was perfect for it. You could believe it if played Superman and he has so much physicality. He loves doing his own stunts too. He loves fighting, punching people, tackling them, and shooting them. He wants to be seen as his character. He’s an actor who can embody these people and he actually has tactical training, so he has this perfect form. He plays such a tragic and emotionally deep violent action-man. Once the role got into his hands he really ran with it. We really had him flopping around in the garbage. He did it.”
Horror Fuel: “He did a great job. I love the chemistry between Max Fist and Hamster. It’s almost like Max was trying to be his big brother.”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “I’m glad to hear that you liked that. Skylan Brooks who plays Hamster was a kid we really needed to love. I loved the scenes with the two of them. I think it’s a really beautiful part of the movie.”
Horror Fuel: “He is great in the film.
When it comes to the scenes that are split between reality and the scenes that reveal his backstory, what made you choose to do those in the animated/comic book style vs. a regular shoot?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “The story he tells about his life on Chromium, that may or may not be real. I wanted it to be like the way you experience dreams or memories. It had to have a type of abstract sense. I didn’t want it to feel too much like it was the same reality we are in. I really wanted them to feel psychedelic and otherworldly. The animation, which is intended to be a little bit rough, like with skulls screaming at you and stuff. It evolved and made sense to do it that way, to not present it like a completely discernable action-packed reality.”
Horror Fuel: “I think that it works well. It was a good choice. It’s also very pretty. I love the use of color.”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “I wanted the colors to feel immersive, with bright pinks and blues and then for the audience to see little sprinkles of those colors in the real world also. I wanted it to feel like you’re being pulled into this universe. The music hopefully really pulled together this great space.”
Horror Fuel: “It left me wondering if those scenes really happened or if they were just a creation of Max’s mind. It didn’t give a concrete answer and I liked that.”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: I don’t like concrete, there’s plenty of concrete in the movie, the concrete of the city, the concrete Max falls on. I wanted those scenes to be fluid, to make you feel like you’re floating in space. I think it was really fun.”
Horror Fuel: “Have you always had a love for comics and superheroes?”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “Oh yeah, absolutely. I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid. I was really highly inspired by comics by Grant Morrison who plays with the question of what do superheroes mean in our culture, in our reality. When I was really young I found an old back issue from like 1968 drawn by Jim Steranko, it was a Nick Furry comic book, and he used photographic techniques and pop art that was psychedelic and I later became so obsessed with that artist. There’s something so energetic about the way that he bends reality in comics. I just love that comic and the way that superheroes can be more than one genre. They can be gritty or cosmic. There are so many possibilities.”
Horror Fuel: “I think Archenemy is a great film. I really like that we get to see more than one side of Max. There is a great contrast between those almost elegant animated scenes versus the gritty, ugly reality. Are you considering building and exploring more in the Archenemy universe in the future?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “Oh, I would love to. I have an idea for a graphic novel. The movie is like a window into the huge universe. With a multiverse, there would be a lot of places to go. I hope I will be able to do that. One of the members of the team that did the animation is someone I’ve been talking to about doing another graphic novel idea for a while. I would love to explore things with him on the page.”
Horror Fuel: “Besides exploring the gritty superhero angle, what else do you hope viewers get from it?”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “With everything I do, there’s a question of how can you take a genre and put real people with real feelings into it. How can you tell a story that is very, very violent, and still pursue empathy? I look at filmmaking in terms of those questions. Those are questions for myself as I’m making it and I think the then become questions that you can ask from the film.”
Horror Fuel: “As you’re getting ready for Archenemy to be released, what are thinking and feeling?”
Adam Egypt Mortimer: “With Daniel Isn’t Real I was able to travel the world with it to all these festivals. Everywhere I went I was able to talk to viewers and have an emotional experience with them. With this movie, I haven’t had much of that so I haven’t been able to see how people are reacting to it. I don’t have a strong idea of how audiences will feel about it. I’m really curious. I have no idea how they are going to react. The human reaction is what’s really the most worthwhile after all the work you do on a film. I want to talk to them about it.”
Horror Fuel: “I think audiences are going to enjoy it, I did.”