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Warning: this article contains adult content.
Here's a sentence you don't get to write too often:
In the horror-comedy Glorious (the trailer for which you can exclusively see above) Ryan Kwanten plays a hungover traveler named Wes who finds himself communicating through a restroom "glory hole" with an ancient Lovecraftian god voiced by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons.
"He is definitely down on his luck when the movie opens," says director Rebekah McKendry (All the Creatures Were Stirring) of Kwanten's character. "He just had some type of falling out with his girlfriend, and has driven with all of his worldly possessions in tow, and gets to a rest stop, and decides to get drunk and burn everything. The next morning, he rushes to the bathroom to throw up and there is a god in the stall next to him and the god has a favor to ask."
Shudder Ryan Kwanten in 'Glorious'
The director and her regular collaborator, husband David McKendry, initially considered shooting the film in their own garage in Los Angeles
"We had it ready to go at the height of the pandemic," says McKendry. "We were still sanitizing our mail and wiping our groceries down with Lysol wipes. Nobody was shooting anything and I was dying inside. I sent the script over to my regular director of photography in Los Angeles, Pietro Villani. I was like, 'Pete, I know we're not supposed to get together right now, but if we quarantined for two weeks, do you think we could shoot this in my garage?' He emailed me back and was like, 'Bekah, this is really good — we're not shooting it in your garage.'"
Although Villani did not ultimately work as cinematographer on the movie's Mississippi shoot (that position would be taken by Jakob's Wife DP David Matthews), he was the one who alerted Simmons to the script.
"He's been friends with J.K. for a really long time and he told me that J.K. absolutely loves Lovecraft," says McKendry. "Forty-eight hours later, we got a call from J.K.'s reps. They said, 'What can we do to make this happen?' I remember Dave and I, we danced around our kitchen table just thinking that J.K. Simmons had read our work. It was just absolutely amazing."
Kwanten came onboard with the help of Re-Animator star and all-around horror legend Barbara Crampton. The actress had previously worked on an episode of Shudder's Creepshow series with director Joe Lynch who had collaborated with Kwanten on both Creepshow and 2013's Knights of Badassdom.
"That role was legit a difficult one to cast because it's basically Wes onscreen by himself," says McKendry. "I could tell immediately from talking with Ryan that he was really into trying some weird stuff."
While Kwanten and Simmons would not physically work together during the production, they extensively rehearsed ahead of the shoot.
"What we did have during the pandemic was time, so we were able to do a lot of rehearsals," says McKendry who also co-hosts the horror podcast Colors of the Dark. "For our recordings [with J.K.], he is in a sound studio with me and we had the actual bathroom built on a soundstage in Mississippi and we had Ryan there. But because we did have time, we had five or six really massive rehearsals where they would just run the script over and over and over, over Zoom. And we recorded all the rehearsals, so whoever was on set reading J.K.'s lines was able to emulate his tenor, his pace. We were really able to nail it even though they were never in the same space."
Shudder J.K. Simmons
The film's pair of principal characters are themselves separated by a wall between two stalls and communicate through the kind of hole more traditionally used by strangers to facilitate anonymous sex acts.
"You would not believe how many on-set awkward discussions I had to have about glory holes," says McKendry. "We were constructing the bathroom and our amazing set person is holding this massive drill. He looks at me and he goes, 'How wide is this thing supposed to be?' We all just look at each other and we're like: What is regulation glory-hole width? It turned into a 35-minute conversation."
Shudder Glorious director Rebekah McKendry (center) with cast members Tordy Clark and Ryan Kwanten
Glorious currently boasts a 92 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and was warmly received when the film premiered this summer at Montreal's Fantasia Festival.
"Oh my gosh, Fantasia was amazing," says McKendy. "To suddenly be in this room with, like, 350 people all cheering and laughing and gasping and screaming, it was so wonderful."
And has McKendry noticed people avoiding theater restrooms after seeing the film?
"We just did our screening in Washington, D.C., last night and that became a running joke," says the director. "'I don't want to go to the restroom now!'"
Glorious premieres on Shudder Aug. 18. Exclusively watch the film's trailer above.
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