Venice: 'The Bad Batch' Director Explains Why Jim Carrey Makes the Perfect Hermit
"It’s like two sides of the same coin, being that famous, no one really sees who you are, and being that kind of poor homeless guy," the director said of Carrey and the character he plays.
Director Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her debut feature A Girl Walks Home Along at Night with the dystopian cannibal love story The Bad Batch, premiering Tuesday night in competition in Venice.
The film opens with Suki Waterhouse playing Arlen, a young woman being escorted out of Texas via a criminal processing system and into dystopia where members of the “bad batch” are kept out. In the desert they must kill or be killed, or struggle to find refuge in a sort of safety zone called Comfort.
Jim Carrey plays a mute vagabond/good Samaritan strolling around the desert wasteland with shopping cart in tow. Diego Luna is Comfort’s resident DJ and Keanu Reeves is the cult leader figure who supplies the town with drugs and keeps the party flowing. Jason Momoa is a member of the “bridge” people who hunt down anyone outside of Comfort.
“It’s like a desert-set action adventure fairy tale,” Amirpour described her film to the press in Venice, saying she was influenced by films such as Romancing the Stone, The NeverEnding Story, The Princess Bride and El Topo.
The film was shot on location in Slab City, California, in the desert Badlands where a large squatter community lives off the grid. The director visited the camp for over a year and explained that about 90 percent of the locals played extras in the film.
“There was no direction,” she said in working with Slab City’s residents on the film. In particular with one party scene involving Reeves speaking to the crowd from atop a giant boom box, “He was saying what he was saying and they were cheering, like he was speaking to them. I think the bad batch is everywhere. Go, just leave the city and drive for three hours."
Waterhouse, who landed her first big role with the film, admitted it was a challenge for her from start to finish. “This is kind of the first movie I’ve ever really been in and it had all these crazy people in it. Lily said to me the first time I met her that this was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said the model-turned-actress. “I was absolutely terrified and I stayed terrified throughout the whole thing.”
And although Carrey speaks no words in the film, he steals the show by saving the lives of not one but two characters. “He’s kind of like the soul in this harsh environment,” explained Amirpour. “In the script it was just a few scenes and there’s no dialogue. You send a part like that to a big actor."
"You couldn’t tell how important it was but he could tell, because I feel like in a way he is the hermit," she continued. "He’s like the homeless guy you ignore at every street corner. It’s like two sides of the same coin, being that famous, no one really sees who you are, and being that kind of poor homeless guy, no one really sees who you are. I feel like there’s something really connected there.”
The Bad Batch marks Amirpour’s second collaboration with Vice Films, which also distributed her first film. Shane Smith is an executive producer on the film and Danny Gabai and Eddy Moretti, who were present in Venice, explained that when they discovered A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Amirpour's was exactly the type of voice they were looking for with Vice Films.
“We didn’t know what the f— we were doing when we started this company, and some might say we still don’t know what we’re doing. But we’re having an incredible amount of fun along the way,” said Moretti in Venice, before qualifying, “And I started in film before I went to Vice, so I bring that along.”
Amirpour said that when they approached her for the film, they only had two prerequisites in contrast to her first film: “Eddy was like, 'Do it in color and in English.' ” The resulting film has elements taken right out of the Vice handbook, from Jeremy Scott-worthy costumes to a soundtrack ranging from Die Antwoord to Darkside to Francis Harris, and a lush set lensed by Lyle Vincent that ranges from drug-filtered starry skies to a nighttime desert rave.