Dan Gilroy Talks "The Power of Humor" in 'Velvet Buzzsaw'

Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal-Getty-H 2019
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the Netflix satirical film, which held its L.A. premiere at the Egyptian Theatre on Monday night.

Monday night, at the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix’s new satirical thriller, Velvet Buzzsaw, director Dan Gilroy and star Jake Gyllenhaal, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the film’s unique mix of camp and gore.

The satirical thriller, which streams on Netflix this Friday, delves into the Los Angeles art scene. The cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton and Natalia Dyer, play a group of art insiders whose greed quickly turns fatal when they encounter a haunted art collection.

Gilroy saw the film as an opportunity to showcase the power of satire: “I have a lot of ideas I try to get through my films and I think people underestimate the power of humor to carry an idea and a story. I thought I want to mix a thriller with a comedy.”

Throughout the film, elements of horror are intermixed with comedic elements to criticize its unsympathetic characters. Gilroy likened the film’s tone to American Psycho and added that Mary Herron’s 2000 thriller helped serve as his inspiration.

“Actually, if there’s a template film for me, which is a film I love, its American Psycho,” Gilroy told THR. “Go back and watch American Psycho. It’s insane how good it is. It's incredibly difficult to mix comedy with thrills and they did it. I thought that’s the benchmark I wanted to hit.”

While Gilroy said he always wanted to make a thriller, it wasn’t until a trip to an art museum that the film’s concept truly came to him. “I came up with the idea while I was at a contemporary art museum at closing with all this freaky weird art. I thought, this a great place for a thriller.”

Gyllenhaal, who plays bisexual art critic Morf Vanderwalt, saw the film as a cautious warning against society’s current attitudes: “Dan makes movies that are basically parables. Modern-day parables that are warning signs in a lot of ways.”

Gyllenhaal went on to say the mix of satire and horror helped bring the film’s message home: “Every parable has to have a kind of bright primary color so people can understand the message that's being said — almost like a myth.”

Velvet Buzzsaw marks the second collaboration between Gilroy and Gyllenhaal, after 2014’s Nightcrawler, which also featured Gilroy’s wife, Russo.

Gyllenhaal told THR that although working with frequent collaborators can present its own unique challenges, working with Gilroy and Russo again was “wonderful.”

“It can be helpful and also be detrimental. So, you have to keep checking each other the whole time. That’s what the movie business is all about. It's about making relationships with people you respect, hopefully, more than once.”