Killen is also the creator of Lone Star, a show very well-received by critics, which fell victim to the peculiar practises of US Network TV and cancelled after just two shows had aired but The Beaver should propel Killen to greater heights.
I had the chance to put my questions to the man who put a talking beaver puppet on the hand of Mel Gibson (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write…), here’s the interview:
The premise is a very bold one, and has to be sold to the audience quickly for the film’s emotional threads to work. Was this a daunting task?
When I started the script I was actually adapting it from what had been a novel I was trying to write, so the first step was really figuring out what to get rid of, what characters and storylines really weren’t ultimately required to tell this story between a father and a son. Matt Lauer for instance was a big character in the novel, but got the axe in the script.
Did you ever come under any pressure to change any elements of the scripts, or was it the difference what made it exciting for the cast, crew and producers?
Before Jodie came on there was lots of pressure to change certain elements about the end. It was really her defence of those items that allowed them to exist. That certainly made her involvement exciting for everyone involved. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have other things about the script that she wanted to rethink or change, but it meant that on some level we were working with someone who hoped to tell the same type of story the script set out to tell.
Were you on set a lot, and was there anything you changed or cut at the last minute?
I wasn’t on set that much. I’d sold a TV pilot and was off writing that. Jodie tended to want to get the script nailed down before she started shooting so most of the changes took place before we got to set. Jodie and Mel are about as close as two people can be and they worked out what they were going to do entirely between the two of them. I think they had a sort of shorthand that you can only develop with people you’ve known and trusted for a long, long time.
How was working with Jodie Foster as a star and director – was her take on the material different to how you had written it?
Jodie was excellent. Her take on the material was different than mine, but it came from a very personal and unwavering place. She knew what kind of movie she wanted to make, and she did just that. In the end that’s what you ask of a director, to have a vision for the film, and Jodie brought just that.
With the success of the film are you finding the landscape of opportunity an exciting one, and do you have any passion projects which are closer to being made?
It’s been a very exciting time. The opportunities that have stemmed from it are both incredible and intimidating and there’s an awareness on my part that it could all dry up at any time. The Beaver really came from a willingness to not worry about what might work and to instead focus on a story I wanted to tell. I’ve tried to let that guide me since.
Your next project is Scenic Route – can you tell us a little about the film, and how far you are along with it?
Scenic Route is casting to shoot in November. It’s a very small film that sort of came from the idea that if you were to be trapped in a rapidly deteriorating situation with someone, you’d probably hope for your best friend. But in this case it turns out the baggage you bring might mean you’d be far better off with a total stranger.