Art

All everywhere at once: Daniel’s interview on Multiverse

SXSW: Daniels explained their long-term commitment to their unique spin on The Matrix and why they pushed to keep its gay character for a China release.

Filmmaking duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka Daniels, had been tinkering with an ambitious script for their new movie when the Marvel opportunity presented itself.

“There were meetings with Marvel about ‘Loki’ that we didn’t even do,” Scheinert said in an interview alongside Kwan at the SXSW Film Festival. “We were trying to make our own multiverse movie,” Kwan interjected. “Well the meeting was scheduled and we left, but when we left we said we probably wouldn’t,” he said. “We tried to make our own film at the same time.”

That was Everything Everywhere All at Once, the dazzling and uncategorizable saga that opened the festival on Friday. The directors’ first feature film together since the similar blend of poignancy and surreal humor that characterized their 2016 debut Swiss Army Man, the second feature sees Michelle Yeoh as a woman learning that she can simultaneously experience infinite dimensions and the Kraft tries to reconcile with her estranged teenage daughter (Stephanie Hsu). The film, which hits theaters on March 25, promises to please a growing fan base that has followed them for years and bring their vision to an even wider audience. “We’re pretty sure this is going to be a life changing month for us,” said Scheinert.

Produced by A24, which signed a first-look TV deal with Daniels after taking over the project, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the latest example of the unique filmmakers and their ability to blend genres into their own goofy-cuteness . Needless to say, even though they weren’t exactly sure how “Everything Everywhere at Once” would turn out, they didn’t regret passing on the Marvel show. Instead, the opportunity to direct a larger-budget project with a similar conceit prompted her to tinker with her epic script.

“Everything everywhere at once”

Allyson Riggs, courtesy of A24

“They were trying to do Douglas Adams-style sci-fi,” Kwan said of the Loki concept for Disney+. “It was kind of scary getting those offers and being like, ‘Damn, we’re working on that!'”

The Daniels dreamed up “Everything Everywhere All at Once” while on the press tour for Swiss Army Man. however, during this time, Scheinert also directed his solo feature film, The Death of Dick Long, and the pair directed a number of standalone TV episodes. During that long period of pregnancy, any film that came across as having some resemblance to her plot made her nervous. This included another Marvel entry, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which, like her own storyline, incorporates extensive martial arts indebted to the classics of the genre. Above all, Everything Everywhere All at Once builds on The Matrix, with its unlikely protagonist’s gradual realization that reality is more complicated and malleable than it seems, but even a new Matrix movie came before their own tribute out.

“This movie is obviously 100 percent an answer to ‘The Matrix,'” Kwan said. “We wanted to do our version of it. It was wild to say, ‘It took us so long that the Wachowskis beat us to it.’”

But Daniels watched The Matrix Revolutions last year with her own film under her belt, and they grinned over the results in a mini-debate. “I loved it,” said Kwan. “I know it’s a mess, but there was enough in it to be really happy.” Scheinert shrugged. “I think there’s a ‘Matrix’ movie,” he said. “This is one of the best films ever made.”

His opposition to the recent sequel was also shaped by her own navigation of the industry. “I’m not a fan of many series or trilogies,” said Scheinert. “I love a seating experience that starts and ends well. I don’t need ‘Die Hard’ anymore. I have Die Hard.”

If the pair end up tackling a pre-existing intellectual property, it would be just as strange and alluring a choice as the original films they make. Kwan said they came up with a list of sequels to consider, and the only one that really excited her was a pitch to Paramount for a follow-up to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

wait, really?

“I loved this movie growing up,” said Kwan. “We proposed it to Paramount. They said no. I loved this film growing up.” The idea came out of a broader impulse. “I want to do a rom-com,” Kwan said. “We’ve tried replacing the idea with other rom-coms, but this is what we’re looking for.”

He added that the executives who got the pitch at Paramount have since left and are dying to try again. “It’s all sketched,” they said. “If someone wants to make this movie, I want to use the original cast and the original movie soundtrack.” But he did offer a caveat. “It just has to be cinema and a director’s cut,” he said with a grin. Scheinert intervened. “And $200 million!” he said.

So much may have been a wink. But Daniels is keen to discuss that even a commissioned work needs to be passed through its own unique filter. “We also have a ‘Terminator’ sequel,” Kwan said. “Some people said, ‘What would you do with a ‘Terminator’ movie? And I said, ‘I would never – oh wait a minute…’ He stroked his chin and smiled. “Our only real rule is that we don’t want to get bored with anything we do because we’re sure the work will suffer a lot,” he said.

The pair tend to talk about the blockbusters that inspired them to speak through a critical lens that is also reflected in their filmmaking. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” for example, was a reaction to other multicolored sci-fi movies that annoyed her. “My favorite tease is time travel, when you introduce it and do just a little bit like it’s no big deal,” Scheinert said. “That would be such a big deal! As if logic collapsed and time didn’t move forward and a million people could go back in time a million times, there would be absolute chaos.”

The 2009 Star Trek reboot teased him for its own multiverse twist. “When the ‘Star Trek’ universes intersected and there were two Spocks, I thought, ‘Okay, if I was there, I’d be philosophically freaked out about more than that.’ I’d say, “What is time?” It just always feels like a missed opportunity.”

The bottom line is that Daniels was better off building concepts from the ground up. “Then we can throw out everything that doesn’t work,” said Scheinert. “I respect people who can play in someone else’s sandbox, but it’s kind of intimidating because when there’s a pre-existing fandom for a character and a lore, a mythology, and I don’t have the authority to throw out something that doesn’t work , that seems difficult. ” They were thrilled to have a new home at A24 to develop TV ideas – even if (like many first-look deals today) their options for producing films were less certain.

“That’s the harder part,” Kwan said. “We’re developing TV stuff with some friends and we’re really excited that something will come of it one day. With film stuff, we’re still lost at sea. Our brains have been waiting for this movie to come out to really figure out what we’re going to do next. ” At least now, with A24, they didn’t have to worry about what to do if another Marvel TV deal popped up. “We don’t really love meetings,” said Scheinert. “Just having a home is a kind of consolation.”

While it remains to be seen how Everything Everywhere All at Once performs when it opens in theaters later this month, their decision to keep the project on track seemed to be vindicated by the ecstatic response at the SXSW premiere, where The Q&A lasted over 30 minutes and the audience ignored Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and the other performers on stage to ask Daniel’s admiring questions instead. The conversation mirrored the Daniels’ films themselves, with an element of absurdity giving way to sweetness and a surprising amount of depth. Kwan in particular juggled questions about intergenerational trauma and violence against the AAPI community with aplomb.

“I’m flattered and honored, but I love that the film speaks for itself and I’m very confident that I can shut up and let that happen,” Kwan said in her interview the next day. “I don’t know if we want to be the ones who want to be a part of this, but this film will spark a lot of conversations, whether we’re a part of it or not. It’s so important to talk about this stuff, but sometimes I feel ill-equipped.”

There was one aspect of the film’s impact that Daniels wanted to guide, and it concerned the plot around the teenage character’s sexuality, who is gay. While Everything Everywhere All at Once has yet to find distribution in China, the pair were adamant that censorship was the only way to ensure their sexuality remained a part of the story. “It’s not up to us if the film will be released in China, but we just said you can’t cut the gay storyline,” said Scheinert. “That’s all we know about foreign salespeople.”

Their involvement echoes comments from Chloe Zhao last year, who similarly insisted that the sexuality of the character Phastos remain intact in The Eternals. The film was never shown in China. “If they had to censor other stuff and we got a gay story out, we’d be so excited,” Scheinert said. Kwan chimed in, “The film doesn’t work without him.”

For now, they were still basking in the glory of a finished film that was actually played to the audience. Kwan was moved to screen the film to an audience that included his father, who screened martial arts films as a child. “My dad was so happy last night,” Kwan said. “I just saw something I did in it with Michelle Yeoh — my dad is a very stoic man, but he smiled all night, and it was wild.”

A24 will release Everything Everywhere All at Once on March 11, 2022.

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