Breaking the Rules: Roger Avary on ‘The Rules of Attraction’ (2003)

Out of all the reactions a director could wish for with a new movie, shocking Oliver Stone has to rank near the top of the list. “He couldn’t believe it,” says ex-Tarantino collaborator and Oscar-winning PULP FICTION co-writer Roger Avary, “He said to me ‘How did you do that? How did you get them to let you make that?!?'” The film that sent Stone’s head spinning is also the Canadian-born Avary’s first movie since making his directorial debut with 1995 Parisian heist thriller KILLING ZOE, and in the intervening time he’s learnt one vital lesson;- “I finally realised it’s easier on the eyes to look at lots of young beautiful kids than a bunch of French junkies!”

Adapted from AMERICAN PSYCHO author Bret Easton Ellis’ darkly satirical College saga, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION pushes the teen movie boundaries and nearly received the dreaded NC-17 rating in the U.S., thanks to some full-frontal nudity and a harrowing rape sequence. Familiar territory for Ellis and Avary- but the last actor you’d expect to be along for the ride is DAWSON’S CREEK star James Van Der Beek as dope-dealing man-slut Sean Bateman.

“When James’ name was first discussed,” says the 37 year-old Avary, “my reaction was the same as everybody’s- ‘Dawson?!?’ But when I met him, there was a moment when he took his sunglasses off and I could see his eyes had this capacity for looking totally cold and dead, like sharks eyes. I was sure he could do the role, but the moment I cast him, everything nearly collapsed. The studio wanted someone ‘edgier’, and plenty of other actors didn’t want to be in the ‘Dawson movie’, but we stuck to our guns, and just had to make it for less money.”

To capture the multi-viewpoint style of the novel, Avary used a barrage of techniques;- from backwards footage, to split-screen sequences that ‘fold’ together into a single shot (“Nobody understood that scene until we filmed it- you could literally hear this collective sigh from the crew of ‘Oh, that’s what he was trying to do'”), but his real challenge was filming the manic European tour of party animal Victor (Kip Pardue);- seventy hours of video edited into four mind-frazzling, adrenalised minutes.

He’s even started cutting the footage into a full-length feature entitled GLITTERATI, but looks back on the raucous two-week Euro-shoot as one of the hardest things he’s ever done. “I shot it all myself- sometimes 18 hours a day- and me and my producer would be following Kip around Europe with no idea where we’d end up next. Kip stayed in character as Victor the whole time, and I’d film him everywhere, whether he was taking a shit or making out with a girl;- and girls love it when you’re an asshole like Victor. Although, I guess having a camera following you around makes it seem much more glamorous…”