Interview: Alex Winter, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, and Josh Forbes Talk Destroy All Neighbors

interview destroy all neighbors
interview destroy all neighbors
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Shudder Original Destroy All Neighbors is a horror comedy about chasing an unorthodox dream in an orthodox space. Namely trying to become a world-renowned prog-rock artist. But a growing agitation and obsession leads this prog-rocker to a farcical series of bloody catastrophes that will change his life in wild ways.

ComingSoon’s Senior Editor for Horror, Neil Bolt, spoke with director Josh Forbes and stars Alex Winter and Jonah Ray Rodrigues about the film, chasing a musical dream, the joys of prosthetic work, favorite movie music, and 15-second punk rock songs.

Neil Bolt: Josh, It’s been nearly a decade since you made your feature-length directorial debut. With Destroy All Neighbors, to me, feels like you’ve been on a bit of a journey since Contracted Phase II. Would you say that’s been the case?

Josh Forbes: Yeah, has it been a decade?

Yeah, almost about 9 years I think

Josh: It’s been a while!

Jonah Ray Rodrigues: Happens fast, doesn’t it?

Josh: You know man, I just keep putting stuff out there. It has been a journey. I liken that movie to getting hired for a TV show. They had a ton of things in place, and I was able to put my own spin on it.

But this movie is like the first ‘’Josh Forbes’’ movie. This is where I can put everything I love into one thing physical entity, so it’s been exciting.

Alex, you’ve been behind the camera a fair bit in recent years to great success, what was it about Destroy All Neighbors made you want to be in front of one again?

Alex Winter: Well, I’ve been acting again for the last several years, and I jumped back into prosthetics with Bill & Ted 3, and as you can imagine, I had no power with the first Bill & Ted, and off the success of that, I had a teeny little bit of power for Bogus Journey, which I utilized to get covered in five hours of Kevin Yagher’s prosthetics to play the granny…

Jonah: Why isn’t that on the big list of horror villains?

It is so good, isn’t it?

Alex: So the only thing I ever like to do with my acting capital is get into prosthetics. As George Bush II said, ‘’I have some capital, and I plan to spend it!’’ It was a little bit jingling in my pocket; it wasn’t a vast fortune, so when Jonah came to me with this thing, I mean, in all seriousness, I love on-camera effects in service of very extreme comedy; it’s very uncommon, it’s almost completely unheard of, and this was an opportunity to do that with people who like that kind of stuff, and I knew would be passionate about it. I wouldn’t just get into prosthetics and just be in a regular horror movie or this and that. I mean, I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but it’s unlikely.

Destroy All Neighbors
Credit: Shudder

This kind of thing, specifically, is very much up my alley. The guys have very similar influences to mine, such as British comedy; I knew I would be safe. Jonah, I’ve known him for a while, and getting to act with him was an appeal.

So keeping on the topic of prosthetics, Freaked is a film I’m quite fond of, and it does feel like there’s a kind of connective tissue with Destroy All Neighbors but is there a kind of comfort you find in being in prosthetics? Something freeing as an actor?

Alex: Yeah, I come from theater, and it’s a combination of high and low art, right? Because there’s a lot of practical traditions that are mask orientated that are really about being able to convey human truths and essences through a mask, it goes back to Noh Theater and Commedia dell’arte things like that. And then how that’s got incorporated in modern times is, like, Mr. Creosote in Meaning of Life and all these kind of references I could throw at you that I think are quite sophisticated even though they’re considered ‘’low art’’. And that’s very much my taste and my training and it’s not all I do, but I really love it.

To be in prosthetics, is very liberating, but it wouldn’t be liberating if I was in something I didn’t like or something just for the sake of it, so I wouldn’t wanna be a tree, right? That wouldn’t be liberating. So it really was about this ensemble, and that everyone was going to play it grounded, no matter how crazy they were. Josh’s vision, I knew it wasn’t gonna be this retro cheeseball kind of thing, it was going to have a grounded essence, and for prosthetics, that was important because you wanna play a real person and not playing some parody of prosthetics, you see out there where it’s ‘’Oh, look who I am!’’

Josh: There’s something about the magic trick, you know like with puppetry like The Muppets. There’s something really cool about being an audience member and knowing something is fake but just going with it…

Just being drawn into it.

Josh: Yeah, suspending that disbelief. I think that was part of the choice for having Vlad be in so much prosthetics is that if you can get the audience to buy in that this is a real guy, you’ve got them buying into everything else. That was the hope. It’s just fun.

Destroy All Neighbors
Credit: Shudder

That’s it, I think Alex, you’re unrecognizable, once you get past the foreknowledge of it being you under there. After a while it was ‘’Nope, I don’t see him!’’ only to be reminded later when you show up as a different character out of makeup.

Jonah: We had to get that face on the movie somehow!

So I have to ask, because it kept coming to me. Was prog-rock a deliberate choice because it’s a great representation of chasing what most would consider an unorthodox or difficult dream? I know from personal experience That when I say my job is mostly about covering horror movies and games, the looks I get from most people are pretty standard. So was that intentional?

Josh: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, to me, a big inspiration is the movie Inside Llewelyn Davis by the Coen Brothers, where you have a guy who is destroying everything around him in a way. He’s throwing everything away for his dream, and his dream is to be a folk musician. So it was kind of similar to that, and in one of the earlier versions of Destroy All Neighbors, Jonah’s character was a cartoonist, but when one of writers came on, Mike Benner,  he had the great idea of, like, ‘’we have Jonah and he’s a musician, he should do music’’. And for me, it was then. ‘’What’s the kind of music where even if you’re the best at it, nobody will give a shit about it?’’ And prog, if you were a prog guy now…

You couldn’t market it.

Josh: You won’t be getting free coffee at Starbucks or whatever. I have that feeling working on a movie like this and being so in love with these things that are so dorky, I pin so much of my happiness on ‘’Oh, if I can achieve this, I’ll be happy’’. This is a cartoon version of that, and William, he has to learn to just enjoy the things he’s doing, because even if he succeeds, that’s not gonna be enough to sustain him, if that makes sense.

That’s a pretty good explanation, I’d say. It surprised me with the film, despite being music-focused, more of the focus is on chasing the dream and the creative struggle of making it. I suppose that was an intention as well?

Jonah: Yeah, I’ve tried to pitch shows that involve bands or music, and music can be such a  divisive thing for people because it’s so subjective as an artform. So we just like it’s not so much about music, even though we have a little Sideways moment where we’re talking about music. We wanted it to be like ‘’This thing means a lot to this person’’ and people watching can go ‘’Oh I know what it’s like to have something that means a lot to me’’ so that was intentional with us, but y’know we still got a Peter Gabriel joke in there!

Josh: Also, a lot of the movie, to me is about having ADHD. Jonah and I have geeked out/commiserated about that and I feel like prog, to me, is the most ADD music form. when you have ADD you have all these ideas and you wanna do everything at once,and prog does that. It’s full on tilting at windmills stuff, like ‘’maybe you shouldn’t have a tuba and a flute and whatever else in that’’.

Jonah: It’s like a hat, on a hat, on a hat, on a hat, on a hat.

Josh: Yeah, but it works. Well it does for me. It’s funny because Jonah’s favorite music is, like, 12-second punk songs or something.

Jonah: Just give me one riff for 15 seconds, and a blast beat, someone screaming something incoherent, and I’ll be like, ‘’that might be one of the best songs ever written!’’

Exactly, and proof of how subjective music is.

Josh: I will add, speaking of subjective, When you’re doing a movie about music, and you have a song at the end that’s supposed to be the winner, that’s a really difficult thing to do.

Jonah: Alex would have no idea what you’re talking about!

Josh: I wanna give props to Ryan Kattner and Brett Morris for just killing it. Everything we threw at them, they knocked it out of the park, and that last song, it feels like a good song.

Destroy All Neighbors
Credit: Shudder

Jonah: It’s a good song!

Josh: Very virtuoso!

Jonah: Available now on Sub-Pop Records!

So keeping it on the music theme, music is a common theme in your collective careers, and I’m such a sucker for the great use of music in movies. What are your favorite uses of music in a film?

Josh: Ohh, that’s a good question.

Alex: Repo Man. There are certain movies driven by a punk rock ethos that work really well. Obviously, we’re not talking about musicals or films driven by music, but films that can use music tonally.

Yes, that’s right.

Alex: And not even thinking about scores. Phantom of the Paradise is really great use of music. Peter Jackson uses music well too. Meet the Feebles is one of the great unsung gonzo comedies of all time.

Jonah: Or movies like Drive, where they showed people a bunch of music they didn’t know they liked. And say what you want about the movie, but the Garden State soundtrack was just, I think the soundtrack probably made more money than the movie. I was working at a record store when that came out and those bands became huge because of that.

But one of my favorite movies about music, building up the songs for the movie that’s not a musical, That Thing You Do. I used to listen to that a lot. All these different genres and artists covering them, it’s incredible.

Josh: For me, it’s Magnolia.

Ohh, yes, 100%.

Jonah: With the Aimee Mann cover? One is the Loneliest Number?

Josh: I mean yeah, but throughout, even like the Supertramp song in the bar. It’s a lot like Scorcese in how it has these needle-drop moments or whatever, but so good.

Jonah: Also, that Metallica song in the most recent season of Stranger Things was pretty great. To use one from Ride the Lightining too. But it’s funny, outside movies, the thing I’m a sucker for is when I’ve done TV, it’s like ‘’What’s the song that plays over the credits?’’ What’s the song that can wrap up this episode? Fleabag was good at that, and Mad Men.

Good examples!

Destroy All Neighbors is available on digital and streaming on Shudder now.

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