An Interview with John Stockwell, director of “Turistas”
BY KEVIN CARR
John Stockwell is the director of “Turistas,” the new thriller from Fox Atomic, releasing on December 1. “Turistas” deals with the resentment of wealthy American and European tourists in South America, leading to horrific results for a small group of backpackers. Excepts from the interview follow.
Excepts from the interview follow. Hear the entire interview here…
7M: YOU GOT MUGGED WHEN YOU WERE FILMING YOUR LAST FILM IN PERU, CORRECT?
Not mugged. Robbed, shot at. Thirteen year old kids with guns, glue-sniffing, gas-sniffing kids. That occurred right before I read this script. And not only robbed, but I went to the police, and they said if you give us $300, we could kill the kids that did this. And I said, “No thanks, that’s okay.”
7M: DID YOU ENCOUNTER ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN BRAZIL?
A lot of good stuff happened. Some not-so-good stuff, but nothing quite as horrific as in the movie. Our first scout there, we left the airport in Rio, driving in rush-hour traffic at nine in the morning, we look over and there’s a kid with a gun robbing the woman in the car next to us. So that was our introduction. There’s a lot of poverty in close proximity to wealth in Brazil, and those two worlds collide often times, and you just have to be careful. Our approach was to be very low-key, very inconspicuous, not wear a watch, not wear jewelry, try and draw as little attention to yourself as possible.
7M: IS CRIME THERE REALLY THAT DIFFERENT THAN THAT IN THE U.S.?
I’ve been robbed around the corner from my house in Hancock Park at gunpoint, so no, it’s not that much different here. I think the real difference here is that for the most part when you go to the police, you can be pretty sure that they’re not in cahoots with the criminals, that you won’t have to pay a bribe to them, that you don’t have to worry about if even worse things will happen. In Brazil, the police have a reputation that is not so great. There are a lot of Brazilians who are more scared of the police than they are of the criminals.
7M: AND THAT’S EVEN POINTED OUT IN THE MOVIE, RIGHT?
Yeah. You’re never quite sure who you can trust in a place like El Salvador or Peru or Brazil. And you present a greater target there. To have a laptop computer that someone can sell for $100 is a bigger deal in a favela in Rio where someone’s making $5 a month than even in South Central L.A.
7M: HAS THE BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT SEEN THIS FILM?
They didn’t censor us, nor did they really aid us. We didn’t get any subsidies or incentives to come film this movie in Brazil. We didn’t get any particular cooperation, but they didn’t create any obstacles for us either.
7M: WERE THEY AWARE OF THE STORY?
We had to film in a couple national parks and some state-run institutions, so we had to let them read the script. They’re aware of it, but I never got any feedback, any negative feedback at least.
7M: THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL FILMS LIKE “HOSTEL,” “MAN ON FIRE” AND “SECUESTRO EXPRESS” THAT ADDRESS THE DANGERS OF TRAVELING ABROAD. IS THIS A NEW GENRE?
No one wants to go see a movie about people who go to Brazil, have a great time and fly back. Movies are always about extreme experiences, about something beyond the norm. For me, I love being on location, I love taking a cast and immersing them in a world and a culture. “Hostel,” I had no knowledge of it until after we had wrapped and finished editing. That movie, I didn’t know anything about prior to coming into it. “Man on Fire” is a different kind of thing. Is there reality to kidnappings in Mexico City? Absolutely. Is there an underground organ trade in Brazil? Absolutely?
7M: ABOUT THAT ORGAN TRADE? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
There was a Wall Street Journal article about the Brazilian trade where they pay local kids from the favelas, give them $1000 or $2000, fly them to South Africa. They’d bring in a European or an Arab, and they’d do their transplantation there. So there is an actual underground illicit organ trade that originates in Brazil.
7M: WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE HORROR GENRE?
I have always had the hardest time typing and categorizing movies, so when people ask what the genre is, I’m usually just perplexed because I don’t quite know how to categorize anything. With any movie teen genre, the action genre, you try to subvert it a little bit. My next film will not be in this world, but I’d go back to it. Today, for better or for worse, it’s the easiest thing to get made.