The Movie Waffler Waffling With... <i>FURIOUS</i> director TIM EVERITT | The Movie Waffler

Waffling With... FURIOUS director TIM EVERITT

With the '80s cult classic Furious finally hitting DVD from Leomark, we spoke to its director Tim Everitt.

Interview by Benjamin Poole

Hi Tim, I had never seen Furious before reviewing it, and have to say that it is one of my favourite films I’ve seen all year! It is a film that constantly surprises throughout its running time, I had no idea what was going to happen from one scene to the next. There is a real energy to the film that I feel is lacking in today’s climate where most genre film makers (indie and major) seem inclined to exercise caution in order to minimise risk. 
My first question is two-fold; could you talk a little about Furious’ plot - what sort of influences led you to this mash-up of kung-fu and science fiction, and do you feel that the early '80s were a time where a more experimental approach was more acceptable?

Well, the plot is just a standard Kung Fu plot: the hero’s sister is killed, and he has to fight three henchmen, each more powerful that the last, before he gets to Mr. Big and has the final climactic fight. The rest is just filling in the blanks with exactly why Mr. Big had to kill the sister. We had all the props and costumes and locations to make a serious film, but movies tend to make themselves. We found the cast to be hilariously funny, so we started putting in more deliberate comedy. We felt it was the only way to save the movie. We cast for karate ability, and not for acting talent, and didn’t think on our budget we could get both. We thought the martial arts crowd would forgive us for that if the fighting was good. So we just got creative and put in references to Blade Runner and stuff that we thought was funny. We never thought about whether it was acceptable. We thought if we were having fun and entertaining ourselves, that others would get the joke, too. It only took 30 years for the crowd to get hip enough to appreciate it. We call it the post-Python generation, who like something completely different. At the time, in the '80s, let’s just say it was not appreciated, so it might have been an experimental time, but not experimental enough for Furious

The tone of Furious is very diverse; there is the emotional journey of Simon’s vengeance, but also visual jokes that remind me of the madcap gags of Zucker (I’m thinking of the guys playing in the band, and the chickens). Were these shift in tones easy to manage? What was the aim in affecting such a varied approach?

The film gets a little more madcap as it goes. The last third is totally nuts, but that’s because we had to start bringing the threads together and explaining a bit of the plot. Our idea was to put a lot of dots out there and let the audience connect them. That’s the fun of a joke, when you connect the dots. We thought that the smarter the audience is, the farther apart the dots can be, and we wanted to give the audience credit for being smart. So we scattered clues as we went, or really just created the world where all this would exist. But even in the very beginning, with the dwarf Mongol running by going “yi yi yi yi yi”, we were putting out that it should be a fun watch. The title sequence shows the sorcerer blowing his magic tricks. So you’ve got to expect something odd. We wanted it to be fun for the whole family. We have a kid’s karate army, after all! 

On a lower budgeted film like Furious, I would imagine there was already a sense of family like camaraderie (Phillip and Simon Rhee are brothers, after all). What was the atmosphere on set like? Was it a long or short shoot, and what particular challenges were you presented with?

It was shot in six days, with some pickups on the seventh. The challenge was getting something close to 90 minutes on that kind of schedule, especially since we were trying to make an epic. Phil and Simon took it very seriously, and had practiced lots of choreography before we shot. But we were setting up shots too fast to notice any atmosphere on the set. Mostly it was me and Tom just trying to have fun. If it made us laugh, we put it in. Some of it was so funny at the time we laughed during the takes. It was only on the last day of filming that Phil came to me and said: “Tell me, Tim, is this film a comedy?” We still laugh about that, to this day. I mean, we were throwing chickens into the shots if we thought it was dragging. We were moving too fast to explain much of what we were doing. Sometimes we’d tell Simon: “Just look over there like it’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen.” And we’d cut something in later. I’m pretty sure the Rhees didn’t think we knew what we were doing by the end, as the sheer pace of the shoot was surely like nothing they’d ever seen. But we definitely had fun, that was the main thing. 

[Slight Spoiler Alert] A lot of Furious seems ahead of its time, but one aspect that I found strikingly contemporary was the idea of a conspiracy that begins with fast food franchises and ends in world domination - it seems so prescient, what with a Starbucks on every corner and people obsessed with the New World Order and suchlike! Where did this idea come from and do you actually think the rise of, say, Subway is something to be wary of?

That’s a very funny question. And totally in the spirit of the film! Well, the idea just grew from the elements that were appearing in front of the camera. We had a chicken, so we used him a lot. We had a restaurant set. We had a lame sorcerer. Who turned people into chickens. Clearly, Chan was using him to lower his overhead at his restaurant. It seemed perfectly logical to us at the time. Clearly it was capitalism that turned him evil. Even if the pig didn’t point it out, it’s all there. Just connect the dots. And yes, Subway is killing us with processed food, probably ground up from failed kung fu fighters for all we know. Honestly the truth is probably more weird. But not as funny. 

As I said, I’m in love with Furious, and soon I’m going to have a few friends over to watch the re-release on my big screen. Your resume on imdb is incredibly comprehensive; a true Hollywood sensei. What films would you recommend I play alongside Furious as part of an evening’s bill?

Now that’s a good question. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is surely the greatest of them all, when it comes to real off the wall comedy. But I think I’d pick A Chinese Ghost Story. It has stop motion monsters, something I wish we’d done. And it has musical sequences!  Man, I wish we’d done some musical numbers in Furious. You’d never expect that! Oh my god!