The Book of Eli Directors Allen and Albert Hughes on Their Sacred MacGuffin” width=”560″/>
Twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, From Hell) discuss their post-apocalyptic flick, share their views on how religion relates to The Force and explain how The Book of Eli is their version of Kung Fu.
Q: Allen, you read the script to Book of Eli first, then you had to convince Albert (an atheist) to do it. What attracted you to the project?
Allen: It was sparse and it was pure and it just felt like a throwback to everything we cared about in cinema. It was getting better and better as a post-nuclear Western movie, and I think around page 45, Carnegie (Gary Oldman’s character), said “It’s not just a book — it’s a weapon.” And I went, “Oh my God!” That was spine-tingling.
Albert: The first thing Allen said to me on the phone was that line from that “Where’s the Beef” commercial, “I finally found it!” So I read it and I called him back and I said, “I just don’t know about this religious element.” And I just heard him deflate. He told me to sleep on it, so I went to sleep with that Trent Reznor album Year Zero stuck in my head, and I had a dream about the movie, and I found my way in through the song.
Q: Variety posited that Warner Bros. should have courted a Christian audience for the movie. Do you agree?
Allen: I don’t think you can consciously court a Christian audience going into a project. Christians aren’t like sheep — there’s this perception that just because they go to church they’re going to do what their pastor tells them to do. But if they hear from their family and loved ones that it’s not a good movie, they’re not going to the cinema [Laughs]. Doesn’t matter what the message is. Kirk Cameron taught us that lesson. If they were so huge, he’d be a f—ing rock star right now.
Albert: You’ve gotta believe in the movie, much like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars: People go in and suspend disbelief and they go along for that ride. But when you get something as incendiary as religion, logical-minded intellectuals, even non-logical people start to get weirded out. As a non-believer, I’m sure some of the stuff will rub you the wrong way. I just hope people go into this movie and use that same side of their brain that let them accept there’s a Middle Earth and Hobbits.
Allen: My theory is my brother always wants to be the hard-a– on everything. I don’t think he’s an atheist. He just doesn’t believe in a certain book or a particular God. But Albert was possessed when he put the book together to get us this job — he damn near didn’t sleep for three weeks and we had to check him into the hospital. My personal theory, and I’ve never said this before, is whether it be Jesus or Buddha or someone like Sitting Bull, they’re all representative of the same one-ness. I don’t think God bets on a horse. [Laughs]
Q: In that sense, the Bible in your movie really could have been anything.
Allen: It’s interesting because I refer to it as a Sacred MacGuffin. The Bible is just the most popular example you can use — and the most debated one on a mass level. It’s the world’s best-selling book!
Albert: It’s not about preaching or religion; it could have easily been a book about how to make the perfect bomb.
Q: This movie follows on the heels of The Road and 2012. Why is now such an appropriate time for post-apocalyptic movies?
Allen: I guess everything is just a delayed reaction. I think 9/11 hit home hard for America — it’s the first time we felt mortal. And that feels real and that’s drama. So I think they started putting those in the pipeline back then.
Albert: I think it’s a complete accident. Everybody brings up genres, and I’m like, has anyone talked about the thousand cop movies that came out last year? It’s true, there are a lot of these post-apocalyptic movies coming out now, but I’d rather see ten post-apocalyptic movies, eight of them being really bad, than a thousand cop movies. For us it was just a good story.
Q: You drew inspiration for Eli from kung fu movies like Oldboy and Enter the Dragon. Will that influence your proposed adaptation of the Kung Fu television series?
Allen: Uh, if we ever do that, yeah. I think Book of Eli is Kung Fu. It’s the same story — it’s a Christian man instead of a Buddhist monk. It’s a walker in the West looking for something and coming across a bunch of trouble. I don’t know how much interest Kung Fu still holds. I’d rather go back and do the Battle of Big Little Horn — Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and Custard and put that on steroids.
Albert: Yeah I think that Eli did get that out of our system. We did the so-called post-apocalyptic, violent, religious, spiritual whatever the f— that thing is, and now let’s do the 180 of that. At heart, me and my brother are clowns. No one really knows that, but we should be doing comedies. But it’s a tough sell in town after all these violent movies.Read More