One important cannibal scene in the post apocalyptic film The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy's book, was cut. Here's why, along with how director John Hillcoat feels about his movie being compared to, and marketed as, "disaster porn."
Earlier in our exclusive interview with director John Hillcoat, we discussed exactly what author Cormac McCarthy wanted put back into the film that was originally cut from John Hillcoat's translation. But strangely the writer had no issues with the missing scene from his novel where The Man and The Boy discover a baby being roasted over a fire. We found out just why, from the director...
People are asking why some of the cannibal scenes were cut from the film.
There were some definitely, that I wanted cut. I had to fight to cut them. And I was supported though. Because first of all, I fought like hell to make sure we had shot that stuff, and I got my way. Then I realized it didn't work, it was total overkill. It just made it redundant and didn't have any impact. Because once you go through the road game and the house, the cannibal house, you know about cannibalism. And the trees is the new element. Whereas if you go back to that, it's like going back to the start of the film again.
What was the reasoning for cutting the baby over the fire scene?
It also it all works in the book because it's in your head, when you visualize some of this stuff it just becomes too much. And it was overkill. Luckily, Cormac himself, he really understands how film works as a medium, how different it is. He didn't miss anything from the book other than four lines of dialogue... Just those four lines. Nothing else. He didn't miss any of it, he didn't even bring up the baby. He said, 'Oh, that's irrelevant.'
What did you think when you saw the first trailer for the film?
Well I was a little disappointed. I thought it was a little misleading. I would never put stock footage that isn't part of the film in something, like the trailer. But I also understand, from their point of view, what they were trying to do, which is give people context. Because their point was that most people haven't read the book that will come and see the movie. And in the film it's a very subtle, gradual thing that befalls [humanity], but it's never fully explained. So what they said is, that in when you have 30 seconds or a minute, this was their way of putting it into context for people. But it didn't work, they have a much better trailer now.
How do you walk the line of bleakness and hope that was in the book. It was a pretty bleak in some points, the book.
I never really saw it like that, for one. The heart and soul, the reason this book is now the most translated of modern time, apparently, is because of this love story between father and son. If it was just about that other stuff it wouldn't have struck that kind of chord. That's if you focus on the background scenery. I'm a little defensive about that. But sure, it's a projection of everyone's worst fear. The apocalypse has been around as an idea since ancient times.
It's very simple, it's humanity's worst fear. What is it? It's us dying, the world dying. And we saw what happened with the dinosaurs, so we don't want to join them, and that's understandable. But then I think, also, every individual has their own personal apocalypse, where your time comes. We're mortal beings, we have to check out. So I think in many ways it's just a projection of our fears. And it goes through different periods. In the 50s they were really freaked out about nuclear threats, so you had the mutant monsters that came out of radiation. A brilliant masterpiece of all apocalypse films is Dr. Strangelove. But again that came out of the whole nuclear situation, the Cold War. And you can see in ancient times, and the biblical apocalypse.
But that's also why it's not really about bleakness, it's about fear. And actually there's a morality tale about this. We see a man that we project on to, and we can see that his choices, under pressure, we see how he can, understandably, lose his humanity. And it's actually the boy that gives him back that humanity. So I'm with Cormac when he said that his was a book about human goodness and kindness.
Where do you think we are now with post-apocalyptic movies? What do you think the trend is now?
Well I mean the focus tends to be on the big event, so much so that there's no human dimension. I think that's all valid, I like to see spectacle, we all enjoy that. I like roller coaster rides, although I'm actually having trouble with them as I get older. But, there is thrills and adventure in The Road, but the focus as I say is more about this human experience. And really more, I love films where, what I love speaking in scifi, like I saw 2001 when I was 9 years old and I'll never forget I actually felt like I went into outer space - like I really felt like I was transported into this other world. And the more I watch films, the films that I love are those where you feel like you've gone to another place and that's what I love about scifi. When it's just a CGI fantasy or like a video game, that's when I kind of tune out of it. I don't feel like kind of, being transported.
So that's you comparing The Road to those other post-apocalyptic films coming out. Because we know the difference. But even when I was at the Book of Eli panel at Comic Con, people were asking, 'So how's this different from The Road?'
[Eyes widen] Well, ok, the big difference is also what we've tried to do is, well what I always try to do with genre, is find and make it fresh again, like something we've never seen. And ironically what we've never seen before is the real thing. And so that's why we shot at Mount St. Helens, the mountain blew up.