Characters and the landscapes they inhabit have been at the forefront of David Gordon Green's films for the last decade. From his hypnotic 2000 debut, George Washington, captured in the sprawling rustbelt of North Carolina, to the hazy stoner apartments and anonymous suburbia of Glendale in his crossover weed comedy Pineapple Express.
Prince Avalanche explores the poignancy and idiocy of a modern odd duo, as Paul Rudd (Alvin) and Emile Hirsch (Lance) argue, bond, bond and argue through the faded forests of a Texan state park, painting traffic lines across the charred landscape. Gordon Green's acute character observation explores the blind spot of how both characters perceive their own personas, and the reality of their ridiculousness.
Dazed talked to Gordon Green about the world of Prince Avalanche and why gummy bears and skunks are a powerful combination.
Dazed Digital: Prince Avalanche focuses on two characters, but the landscape is like another character. Can you talk about Bostrop Park, where you shot it?
David Gordon Green: It’s a region of central Texas that was devastated by wild fire and it was devastating to the community, and just from walking around the ashes and the remains of the fire I felt this strange haunted beauty. What was once a very lush, green park is now charred and grey and black but had these little vibrant colours of re-birth too, so I was really moved by the beauty of the location.
DD: Landscape plays a big part of in your films like George Washington and Undertow...
David Gordon Green: George Washington I made because of the landscape; then I found characters that emerged from the landscape. Prince Avalanche existed the same way - before I had a concept I had a place, so that becomes my character study. I’ve worked on so many films where schedules are tight and the money’s so large that everything has to be so studied and efficient, and this movie was so cheap and quietly produced that we could really take our time. Being such a modest budget nobody really cared what we were doing!
I think about guys like Alfred Hitchcock. Wouldn’t it have been great if he’d made a TV sitcom?
DD: Was the skunk scene set up or was that purely incidental?
David Gordon Green: The skunk was supposed to be a coyote eating road kill. We didn't have any money for a coyote, but a friend of ours had a skunk that ate gummy bears, so we knew if we smashed a turtle and put gummy bear guts into it, it would eat them.
DD: The film reminded me of Waiting for Godot…
David Gordon Green: That was the idea and certainly a model. Paul Rudd and I would talk about Samuel Beckett from the origin of the project, and the original had a kind of mystical quality too, it was kind of a haunted ghost story in either way.
DD: Was the chemistry between those two characters something that unfolded as you started filming?
David Gordon Green: The relationship of Paul and Emile on set was not unlike that of the characters, so there was a great reality we could draw from. Moments and notes and looks and eye rolls, a lot of the things that I find really funny, was genuinely the dynamic of Paul and Emile . But at the same time it was an opportunity to take an actor who’s most comedically known like Paul and give him some dramatic depths, or an actor who’s most dramatically known like Emile and give them some comedic opportunity.
DD: You have done that with your own career to a certain degree. When you did Pineapple Express people were surprised having seen your previous films…
David Gordon Green: I didn’t think anyone had ever seen any of my films, and then when Pineapple Express came out people were talking to me like, what was I doing?! But you know, I think about guys like Alfred Hitchcock. Wouldn’t it have been great if he’d made a TV sitcom? I would love to see what that would have been. But he had his signature, his fans, he didn’t really stray from that. I’ve got an incredible curiosity about all genres of entertainment, from music to television to commercials, comedy, drama, horror, whatever it is, I’m an eager sponge to be entertained myself but then also to learn about these things.
DD: Totally, there’s been greats who have, like Cassavettes and Kubrick…
David Gordon Green: It’s funny. Tomorrow’s my last day of production on this HBO TV series Eastbound & Down that I do, and it’s a strange blend of all these things. It has very broad humour one day and on the next day it’s really dramatic and at times it can be strange and absurd and witty and lyrical. Not everybody likes that show but people that are fans can have an appreciation for exercising within a world. And then I think I’ll branch out from there and work on a dramatic film or hopefully do a horror film someday.
Prince Avalanche is released today.