The film, director Richard Kelly’s follow-up to his cult hit Donnie Darko, featured a star-studded cast, a plot with political resonance, and some true apocalyptic verve. But Southland Tales, which debuted at Cannes in 2006 and was ultimately released more than a year later, in the fall of 2007, was just too weird for most audiences, earning a total of $374,743 at the box office.
But I fell in love with Southland Tales, when I saw it for the first time at a press screening back in 2007- one that, I should note, many people walked out of.
Southland Tales is a film very much of the George W. Bush era, but went on to predict a lot of things that came to pass in the following decade. The film was set in a dystopian then-near-future, following a terrorist attack, the subsequent clampdown on dissent, and the rise of a cell of “neo-Marxists” in Los Angeles. There’s also a new energy source called “fluid karma,” created from harnessing ocean waves, a process that may have the side effect of ruining the space/time continuum:
The cast included Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Boxer Santaros, an Arnold Schwarzenegger stand-in who was both an action movie star and the scion-by-marriage of a powerful political family, and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Krista Now, a porn star-turned-screenwriter. Seann William Scott played the dual role of two soldiers, while Justin Timberlake played a soldier who, in perhaps the most famous scene, lip-synced The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”:
Wallace Shawn played the mad scientist, while nearly all of the small roles were cast with comedians playing against type, including several Saturday Night Live alumni. Jon Lovitz played a brutal cop, Amy Poehler a revolutionary, and Nora Dunn a government agent.
The film, like Donnie Darko, has gained fans as the years have gone on, and now it has a new Blu-ray set – of its “Cannes Cut” – as well as a documentary about it and the original theatrical cut.
“Yes. I’ve been working on a new screenplay. There were these three graphic novels that were published 15 years ago, when the movie came out. In the theatrical version of the film, there’s animation that really alludes to the full six chapters and the events that happen prior to the movie. The existing movie is divided into chapters 4, 5, and 6. There is a chapter 1, 2, and 3. So, there is this prequel story leading up to the events of the film, which I hope to achieve using animation. Then, there’s a whole new level to the story which is Boxer and Christa’s screenplay, which they’re discussing all through the film, and you see throughout the film, that actually takes place in the year 2024. So, there is an opportunity for us to explore the world of his screenplay and the significance of what’s happening in his screenplay, and the additional reality of what that could mean.”
Of course, the director wanting to make such a movie and a studio agreeing to fund it are two very different propositions, especially when the original made so little money, and Kelly is known as a director whose work tends to only be appreciated years later. But if a star of Dwayne Johnson’s caliber were to agree to participate? That could make it possible.