bigbadwolves2BIG BAD WOLVES, a film from Israeli filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, was a surprise hit at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

We sat down with the two filmmakers along with cast members Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, and Doval’e Glickman to talk about the film, influences, and future projects.  Despite the dark and twisted (but deliciously fun) content of the film, we had an absolute blast.

Be sure to check out our review of the film here.

So I saw the film yesterday and everybody in the theater, myself included, loved it.  

AK: Wow, that’s great! Thank you.

NP:  Great!

So let me start by asking how the idea for Big Bad Wolves came to pass.

NP: Well we wanted to make a film about a pedophile, eh, suspected pedophile, from his point of view. The audience doesn’t know if he did or didn’t do it but his life is collapsing.  You know, his wife doesn’t talk to him and he gets fired and he’s the most miserable in his life, and so we wanted to make a film about that.

AK:  At another angle, in a revenge thriller.

NP:  But there are also other interesting characters in these kind of movies.  You have the vindictive father, or the vigilante cop – why not do three different movies in the same movie from the point of view of every one of them.

That’s interesting, because the archetypes for these characters as we would normally see them are backwards.  You can’t help but sympathize with the alleged pedophile.  So Rotem, when you first read the script did you feel like you had to do this movie?

RK:  Yea, I read the whole script after auditioning for it.  I read four scenes and those scenes I really liked, the way it was written and the rhythm of it and I said, I really want to play this.

What was the casting process like?  Did you have specific actors in mind?

AK:  Some of the roles, just like in RABIES, are written for specific actors.  Also in this film.  The cop role was written for Lior Ashkenazi and the father for Tzahi, they’re well known.  But we wanted for the pedophile to have a fresh face.  Somebody with a blank presence for the Israeli audience so they could act with it, ya know?  You don’t know anything about him, so if you take a very famous actor in Israel they’re just like “Okay” (rolls eyes).  It’s just like Kevin Spacey in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, he was not yet a well known figure back then.  You get something out of the audience.  They try and guess all the time.  So when we sat down to cast the role of Dror, we tried to think about a fresh, new actor.  He (Keinan) did a beautiful film before BIG BAD WOLVES called THE EXCHANGE and did a marvelous job in that.  He has like this great face, ya know? (places his hand on Keinan’s cheek) He’s lovable! You want to kiss him – he’s like an angel!  Navot and I looked at each other and said, ya know we gotta have him.  The other cast, well you know Doval’e Glickman is the biggest comedian in Israel.  He’s like our John Cleese.

DG: Make sure you write that down.  Very important. (laughs)

AK:  And Tzahi Grad is one of the best dramatic actors in Israel, and the other best dramatic actor in Israel is Lior Ashkenazi.  So when we got both of them in the same film it was a great thing for us.  Tzahi is also a director.

Tzahi, was it hard to play some of those scenes, or did you know that you could do it even when it got really intense?

TG:  I think this guy is in a very different psychological state.  I mean it’s easy for me to do this things to Dror, because he’s done these things to me.  He’s done something awful to my daughter, and it’s easy to play him when you think of this.

NP:  We worked a lot on the tone.  It was a lot between comedy, dark humor, dramatic pause and pretty violent, brutal stuff.  So, I think  most of the work was with the tone – with the drama and then the comedy relief.  I mean, the actors don’t play it like comedy.  It’s not a parody.  The comedy is like, for us to see it, but the actors had to nail the right tone and I think they did an amazing job.  It’s so fragile, the tone.  You can miss it.

Yes, the you definitely struck the right balance tonally.  A few other press members I spoke with made a comparison to the Coen brothers because of their penchant for blending tones.  

NP:  Doval’e, tell him to write this down as well!

DG:  (looks over his eyeglasses) Write this down.

TG: Coens sure, but what about Chinatown?

Yes, Roman Polanski! I can definitely see that.

TG:  Our movie is just that, a different movie.

Your expectations are definitely turned upside down.  With that being said, who are some of your influences as directors?

AK:  Number one of all time, as a director, my favorite film is THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY by Sergio Leone.  It’s the best film.

NP:  We grew up on it.  We both saw it, (turns to actors Doval’e Glickman and Tzahi Grad who are chatting) Tzahi and Doval’e, you are very interrupting!

DG: Sorry?


NP:  (Points to the cast) They have such good chemistry, on the set sometimes you could see the entire crew was busy trying not to laugh.  You could see the photographer holding himself… Everyone was trying not to laugh.  Some shots you can see everything was juggling a bit and that’s because the cameraman was laughing!

AK:  Sometimes they made each other laugh so much, we had to try hard to get control of them!

NP:  But yes, to answer your question I think Sergio Leone was the common ground with Aharon and I.  I grew up on a lot of Spielberg, George Lucas – a lot of Wes Craven.  Of course THE EXORCIST – I think I’m still scared of that film.  But in recent years, you know Korean films I guess.  I worship the Coen brothers and Tarantino.

AK:  I think that when we thought about doing a film like this, we thought what if Hitchcock made a torture porn directed together with the Coen brothers?  We wanted this whole different film, you know classical with this deranged, twisted aspect to it.

What do you think it is that sets BIG BAD WOLVES apart from other films like it?  I know it’s hard to nail this movie down to one particular genre.

AK:  Well that’s it, you play around with 3 or 4 different genres.  We have three parts in this movie, and every part has another layer to it.  We didn’t want to do something that you could easily put your hands on.  We want it to be out of the box all the time.  So when we thought about doing this kind of film, I think the way we described it was like: what if Dirty Harry walks into a Korean revenge film written by The Brothers Grimm?

That’s kind of a perfect description.  

AK: Yes!

So what do you guys have in mind for your next film?

AK:  We really want to make a spaghetti western, set during the British occupation of Israel, because everybody was a terrorist back then.  The Jews and the Arabs were killing everybody, and the British were fighting everybody.  Everything was loud, and everybody was killing everybody – so to do something set in that era, I think it would be a dream come true for me and Navot because we are big fans of spaghetti westerns.

NP:  (With a wide grin) We want to call it ONCE UPON A TIME IN PALESTINE.