DAVID GORDON GREEN ON “YOUR HIGHNESS”
“By making this movie, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have done what all of us have dreamed of doing since we too fantasized about making movies as adolescents. They have used their current success to truly test the boundaries of what they can get away with, and they’ve done it at a time when the Hollywood industry is as timid and fearful and insecure as it has ever been (which is saying something). They have caged their inner scaredy cats and swung for the f**king fence to produce something on a grand scale that has no direct precedent (or at least one that I can recall). Creatively, they’ve managed to tap into their inner smart-asses and be as unselfconscious and freewheeling as possible. On the scale at which they were working, it’s hard to fathom how difficult this actually was to do.”
That’s set visitor and friend Michael Tully over at Hammer to Nail on David Gordon Green’s Your Highness, which has opened today to some goofy raves and more than a few withering pans, including a couple that have debated whether it’s the worst film ever made. (I remember when someone said that about Gummo, and Harmony Korine replied, “Worse than Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag? C’mon!).
Color me intrigued. I haven’t seen the movie yet and was not a set visitor, but I am a Green fan and we ran a career piece on him in our Winter issue by Tully in which the two discussed Green’s transformation from elegiac arthouse auteur to Hollywood laughmaker. In that piece were bits on the older films, the upcoming The Sitter, Eastbound and Down, and the production company Roughhouse Pictures. And there was this bit on Your Highness. Since it was print-edition only, in honor of the film’s opening I’m reprinting it here.
Q: Let’s talk Your Highness. In every way it’s a bigger film with things you haven’t done before: special effects, animals, horses and stuff. Was it a dramatically different experience directing this film?
A: I’m always most protective of the performances. All the logistics — from the sets to the special effects and the creatures to the guys in suits and the puppets that flesh out the world and make it interesting and fantastic — are to me secondary, which is not for everybody. Most [directors] will prioritize those things. But I think that if you don’t have an honest joke or an honest look in the face…. The difficulty of Your Highness wasn’t special effects and [making] a big-budget movie. I had a really smart team of people who were educating me, not condescending to me, and it was exciting. I was living the 11-year-old’s dream of making a movie like this. But it was the first time I had worked with a script where the pieces had to fit together. The plot relied on narrative devices to get from point A to point B. You couldn’t just riff and see what those gags would do if you threw them against the wall and then lift them out if [they didn’t work]. [The film] had a lot of necessary [beats] that were tricky for me to keep in mind because I get self-indulgent in the moment and think about things a lot more superficial than plot. I mean, it’s a quest film, it’s an adventure movie, and I wanted it to succeed in the storytelling. I’ve never really given a shit about story, so I had to really challenge myself and accept the fact that I needed these characters to do [certain actions], and this plot twist had to show up here, and it had have degrees of tension and suspense, excitement and betrayal — all the things that go into making a genre movie like this work. Then I could make it funny. People [needed] to first give it legitimacy because it succeeds as an adventure movie. Otherwise it’s just a spoof or a send-up, and I didn’t want it to be that.