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Director John Hillcoat Explains Why He Cut The Road‘s Controversial Baby Scene

The Road‘s Controversial Baby Scene” width=”560″/>

The Austrailian director of The Proposition explains how his long-awaited adaptation turns the Mad Max post-apocalyptic genre on its head and addresses why it took so long to bring Cormac McCarthy’s novel to the big screen.

Q: You were originally against the idea of doing a post-apocalyptic movie. What turned you around?

A: There are brilliant films made in that genre that I love: Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorites. But a lot of the genre is so clichéd and entrenched, so it was about trying to find ways of breathing life into them again. And those movies tend to be so much about the big event that there’s no human dimension. That’s what was so refreshing about the book — it turned a lot of that stuff on its head.

Q: In fact there’s almost nothing about the “big event.” Without a specific cause, what rules did you set for the state of the planet?

A: There was this feeling of not just wanting to be stuck in the cities. A lot of apocalyptic films are rife with urban imagery — the iconography of the big city. We wanted the feeling of traveling through suburbia and countryside. There’s a lot of toxic residue left over, and you have the trees dying which means eventually they’re all going to start collapsing. What’s so great is you can read into it however you want: You might be watching it and your greatest fear is nuclear terrorism and that sets alive feelings that they’re in some sort of fallout. Or if your greatest fear is environmental meltdown, that’s there as well. We tried to make it where you read in to those fears because in a way, it’s all just an allegory for fear.

Q: It’s hard not to draw comparisons between The Road and Mad Max, both from Australian filmmakers, both post-apocalyptic stories focusing on a road. Were you conscious of this?

A: I was conscious to avoid Mad Max. Even in the book there’s certain imagery that we chose not to go with. For instance the road gangs having boiler suits — we didn’t want them to have uniforms of any kind because of Mad Max. There was a big army of people with slaves that are chained up, and that felt a little too Mad Max too, so we avoided all that.

Q: All of your movies feature characters dealing with extreme environments and extreme situations. What about that set-up attracts you?

A: It strips humanity bare. Even when you’re filming, it’s pretty extreme: You’re under pressure and things go wrong. You have to deal with and time and money, and you actually see the best and the worst in people. And when you see the best, it’s like gold; you form these great collaborations that go on for years to come. Yet you also see how it can bring out the worst, and that’s always pretty dramatic.

Q: Fans have been discussing your decision not to include the scene from the book where a couple eats their own baby. How did you approach the movie’s graphic horror?

A: It’s all to do with the content and the style balancing each other. In this case it’s essentially a love story between father and son, and it’s about human goodness overall. So the more you show this other stuff, the less you see that. We did shoot the baby scene. And at first I made sure it was going to go in the cut and stay in the cut. Then I ended up fighting to get it removed, because it was too much; it was redundant at that point, going back to all the bad again when the story had moved on.

Q: This movie was slated to be released last year. Why was it delayed?

A: Part of that was this balancing act I was talking about. Also, certain locations that we wanted to film at the end of the shoot were still buried under snow, so we had to wait many months until the snow melted and then go back. To get the film right took longer than what was originally expected. And yet I think there was also an unrealistic, overambitious desire to get it out. So it was frustrating because I have no control over it, and it creates negative expectations immediately, and I can understand that. But all we were doing is trying to get the best possible version and finish the job properly.

Q: Do you think you’ll make a more cheery movie next?

A: Um, well this is a love story. This is my cheery. [Laughs] I am looking for something certainly more energetic and colorful, but I think if there is no drama out there, it’s a sad state of affairs.

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