TR Interview: Smiley Director Michael J. Gallagher Does It for the Lulz

By Luke Y. Thompson in DVDs
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

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LYT: And you had issues afterwards with 4chan that almost made it seem like it was coming true, in a way.

MJG: (laughs) Yeah, absolutely! We played a little bit with fire there, in using their actual site and talking about them specifically. They like to have their special club, and there's a group of people that don't want to be discussed, and the fact that we discussed them in the film, and I think the fact that the film got a much larger release than we had intended when we initially made the film was something that when that issue came up, it hit us. It not only hit me, but it hit my family and people that were working on the film, so it became a much bigger deal than we were ever anticipating when we were writing it.

LYT: Did you know when you were writing it that they were a bit like that and base the group in the movie on them, or was that coincidence and they just took offense at that?

MJG: Oh, no, we were well aware of 4chan and what they had done, and Glasgow actually, the co-writer - I'm the co-writer, he's the writer - essentially he was an encyclopedia on 4chan. I was familiar, but I wasn't an active user, or I wasn't actively in that world, and Glasgow had actually spent some time being generally fascinated with them, and really learning about some of the rage, and some of the shenanigans they've been up to. And so learning about some of these dark, twisted stories of what people are capable of doing completely for fun, for the lulz, it was fascinating. It fueled my belief in a group doing something so planned, so vindictive, just for fun.

LYT: Is the DVD cut different from the theatrical cut, in terms of the rating, or is it the same?

MJG: It's the same. I believe it's the same. We have on our website, on smileymovie.com, we have a TV-14 version, that's not officially a PG-13 version because the MPAA wouldn't give us one, but it's sort of our censored version, because essentially, we were trying to make a film for the youth, for the teen audience, and it was deemed too intense, just the look of Smiley and the terror in it, I suppose, they were saying we would never get a PG-13. But that was really our intention because we feel like the audience for this kind of movie is younger, especially because we deal so much with what they're infused with, and talking to strangers on the internet, and going on chat sites and just kind of playing around - that's really what I would say is a young person's game. I think you get to a certain age and you get more jaded.

LYT: So is it an official TV-14 rating, or is that less of a structured thing anyway?

MJG: It's less structured because it's through our own site, but there's minor profanity - it's essentially following the "bible" of the PG-13 - there's no real profanity, there's no blood, cutting out of substance abuse by teens - that kind of thing.

LYT: How did you bring Keith David on board?

MJG: He was someone that was available, and he read the script, and was interested. You know, in talking to him and working together on it, he shared with me that he is a huge fan of the genre, and specifically of psychological thriller horror films, and so he was basically sharing that he doesn't do as many as he would like. So I think this was an opportunity for him to have a little fun and be a part of it, but he always was telling me of his love of Rod Serling, the unknown, the paranormal - he kind of surprised me with his knowledge of this space. So I think, for him, he just likes to be involved with those projects. He's a joy to work with!

LYT: I hope more people who read this interview and are making horror movies get him in some!

MJG: He's game, and he's a great actor.

LYT: What do you have coming up next? Are you going to continue in the horror direction, move back to comedy, or try something completely different?

MJG: I like to kind of keep moving, and trying different things. I would love to do either another Smiley, or I would love to do another film that stays in the genre, because I feel like this was really for a specific audience. I would love to go and do what you might call "hard core" horror, so I'd love to have the opportunity to do that, but right now I'm focused on a kind of mockumentary comedy that hopefully will get off the ground this year.

LYT: Do you have a title for it yet, or is it still secret?

MJG: We're still working on it, and it might change, so I don't want to throw too much out there, but it will be starring a lot of the guys I've been working with online, and it will be ridiculous!

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Smiley is available on DVD starting today.

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