“Vampires are Fucking Sexy!” – Jason Flemyng (The VH Interview)

London lad and all-round nice bloke Jason Flemyng has spent the last few decades bringing larger than life characters to our screens. For his latest venture, however, he has decided to step behind the camera in his directorial debut, Eat Locals, a star-studded horror about the vampire overlords of England.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Jason prior to the film’s release to discuss blood-sucking, his enviable phonebook, and the realities of being an X-Man…

It looks like you had a lot of fun making the movie…

We did! You have to keep a check on that sometimes ‘cause you’re having such a great time you’re like “What’s the product??”. It’s my first go, and it’s a learning curve. As much as my first go at acting had all the heart and the spirit that I had back then, it’s honed and developed and now I’m a different sort of actor. And I think that’s true about directing; it’s a craft that you learn. I’m very proud of Eat Locals and I know that by putting myself in the arena, I’ve put my head above the parapet along with all the other first-time directors, but it’s gotta be done! I’m thrilled!

What drew you to directing? What made you decide at this point in your career to give it a go?

Well, I’m not the kind of actor to just sit in his caravan. I love to be sat by the camera. After 130 movies and countless TV shows, I’ve been very lucky to work with Matt Vaughn, Guy Ritchie, George Romero, Fincher, Joe Wright… All these great directors… Some of it rubs off. It is osmotic. You work with those people long enough, you will start to take on board a lot of their talent. I just thought it was time for me to have a go! Dexter Fletcher, who’s my great friend, he kind of paved the way. He was three films in and I was like “Mate, I’ve gotta jump on now and get stuck in!” If Dex can do it, I might have half a chance too!

And how was the experience? Was it easier or more difficult than you anticipated?

It was about what I expected. The great thing about being an actor and being around directors is that you get to know the job. I know what it is and I’ve seen how difficult it is and what the job entails. There was no shock, it was just about sustaining life for those sixteen hours a day for nineteen days. I’ve had a personal trainer for four years trying to lose six kilos; all I had to do was direct a film and it fell off!

What do you think is our obsession with vampires as a subject for film and TV?

Film is fashion. When Lock, Stock came out, everyone was like “Fucking hell! We’ve made $100,000000 and we only spent a million!” And then there was a flurry of gangster flicks that came out after that. I think we’re actually very late; vampire flicks aren’t in fashion now. We’ve missed the boat by about four years. But, I think what we have got is something that twists the genre a little bit and makes it a bit different. It’s a unique take on that world. But the reason people love vampires? I think it’s like horses. Vampires are fucking sexy, you know what I mean? That’s why people like horse riding… I don’t know why I’m making that comparison, but it’s true! What makes young nineteen year old girls love horse riding, it’s the same thing that makes them love vampires. Something elusively thrilling… It’s funny, because I’m at Fright Fest and as I’m walking through there’s all these gothy girls with black hair and white skin; it’s like a vampire convention! There’s a definite obsession with vampires from both boys and girls!

Being such a well-trodden genre, was it difficult coming up with something original and different?

Well, I’d been doing Eat Locals as a radio play. I’ve been throwing it around for ten years. So, ten years ago when I developed it as a budget-specific film set in one location for less than a million quid, it was really hip. It took me ten years though to get someone to really back it. Rod Smith, who’s my producer, he loved it. He was at another company when I pitched it to them about five years ago, but they weren’t interested. To own a script costs about two or three grand a year. I’d had it for ten years, so that was like twenty or thirty grand that I’d spunked, and Danny King paid for two of his kids through school with that money! (laughs) But I’d had enough. I was done. And as soon as I thought that, Rod was like “I’m gonna buy it and I want you to make it the way you said you were gonna make it ten years ago.” And that’s what happened. God bless him.

It’s funny you mention it being a radio play, as it has a real feeling of a stage play about it…

It’s gone through many different lives. It was never a stage play. There were times when people said “I can’t give you half a million quid, but I’ll give you thirty million quid. Could you set it on the moon?” And I’m like “Yeah, I can set it on the moon! The soldiers could come from the planet Zorg and they could all be driving spaceships! Yeah, that’ll work! Brilliant” It was never a play though, but I know what you’re talking about; there’s a couple of scenes that are kinda like 12 Angry Men. Scene 52, for example, which is about seven minutes long and they’re all just sitting in the farmhouse.  Sidney Lumet is my favourite director of all time, and 12 Angry Men is my favourite film of all time, so that’s what that was about. Sidney definitely had a part to play when we were writing that.

How did you all get on having such a collection of big personalities in such close quarters?

It was great! Basically, my fiscal value to any producer was that they knew I’d cast it out of my phone! Charlie (Cox), all those boys, they’re all close friends, so I was lucky to have them all in my phone! Charlie just went “Don’t need to read it Jay. When and where? Can you cut it down to seven days so I can fly back to New York?”. So it was great! That scene we were talking about, it was a ball! The first day Annette Crosbie was there I thought “Oh shit, I might’ve made a terrible mistake here, I hope she’s gonna be okay! It’s three in the morning and she’s 82!” But she was the centre of attention and she loved it! She was amazing! I’m very lucky.

Do you think we’ll see you directing again?

I’d love to direct again. I think I’m gonna be acting to make a living for a long time yet, but if I get the chance, I’d would definitely grab it with both arms and I’d love to do it again. I think there’s a lot of love for this film, but what I’m gonna have to do is pick very carefully what I do next. The next one has to smash it!

Finally, I have to ask, what happened to Azazel in X-Men?

Well, I think what happened was, I’m Matt Vaughn’s lucky talisman, so whatever Matt was doing, I was doing. But then when the next one went elsewhere, when Matt passed on them, or they passed on Matt, they decided “Well, we’re not having him either!” But to be really honest, I loved working with Matt and I would do anything for him, but being painted red and saying three lines a week for, I accept, relatively huge amounts of money, it’s still not as satisfying as directing your own movie!

Eat Locals is out in cinemas from September 1st