Adam Egypt Mortimer’s feature film directorial debut, Some Kind of Hate (2015), really showcased the filmmaker’s talents. Dark and brooding, it’s a gut-punch of a movie. Daniel Isn’t Real (2019 – read our review here) is a fantastic film as well. Fast forward to 2020 and Mortimer’s latest endeavor, Archenemy, is released. A complete 180 from his earlier works, Archenemy is his version of a superhero film, and vastly different than what he’s given us so far. I wanted to know what inspired the story behind Archenemy, so I sat down for a chat with Adam. We discussed time travel, why he wanted to be a filmmaker, and of course, horror movies.
Read our first interview with Adam Egypt Mortimer here.
PopHorror: Hi Adam! I watched Archenemy last night, and I thought it was great.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Cool, cool!
PopHorror: We also spoke about a year ago about Daniel Isn’t Real, and you were telling me about this film. You said it was your version of a superhero film, and you not only wrote it, but you directed it as well. What inspired such a unique and visual story?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: For me, it was about the idea that we’ve seen so many superhero movies now that I wanted to show that it’s a really good thing, and we can tell stories about those kinds of characters in very different ways, and I wanted to see how I can do something that’s aesthetically very different from a superhero movie and work with the understanding that the audience is really sophisticated when it comes to this kind of material. We can jump right into the middle or the end of a story, and you sort of get what these characters are, and you get the archetypes of them, and then play around with it.
To me, that’s what my favorite comic books did, starting as far back as the ’80s when things like Dark Knight and Elektra: Assassin and Watchmen were sort of saying like, “Okay, we all understand what these characters are, but what are they really? And what else can we do with them? How can we make them feel like a completely different genre?” So I was really excited to try to do that, and thinking about how to do something that would feel very small scale and personal and psychological. But then, of course, as soon as I started writing it, the psychology also turned into the multiverse and black holes and multiple realities and is it real or is it not real? And it got a little out of hand, but that’s okay.
PopHorror: I appreciate the different approach to it. I don’t watch a lot of superhero movies, and I appreciate what you did with it. So where did you film, and how long did it take you?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: We shot it right around Los Angeles. We kept it local, which was one of the ways we were able to get such a great cast in the movie, you know? If you’re shooting around LA, then you can have Paul Scheer show up for one day and play the most insane thing and then go home. How long did we have? I think it was a very small amount of time, as I recall, as I remember how my panic felt. It was something around 18 to 20 days. I can’t remember exactly, and we were definitely rushing through it like maniacs doing shoot outs and punching and all that stuff. What’s funny is we started shooting it the second after… when I talked to you, I was already probably starting the prep work on this movie, and it’s just wild.
Daniel Isn’t Real opened, and I was at the Alamo Drafthouse on a weekend doing a Q and A on a Sunday night, and then the next day I woke up at 5 am and started shooting Archenemy. And the back to back filming of these, in a way, was both grueling and insane, but was also such a treat to be able to constantly be cycling through, working on my skills. “Okay, now I think I know how you make a movie, so let’s do it again.”
PopHorror: I remember you saying you were just going to make a career out of working with the most attractive men in the world.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Yeah, yeah! I know, my God! What a great job!
PopHorror: So if you could have any super power, what would it be?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Oh, man. I think it would be time travel. I think I would love to… What’s it going to be like in 1,000 years? What’s going to happen to our species? What was it really like back in the Roman era? I think that would satisfy a lot of my cosmic curiosity.
PopHorror: I’ve thought about this one long and hard, and I still don’t have an answer.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Really?
PopHorror: There are so many good ones! How can you pick and choose? Like… I want to be invisible, but I also want to fly.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: I think possibly the only other one to rival time travel is being able to turn into a cat. I look at my cat, especially during pandemic times and I’m at home all the time. I’ve been taking a lot more naps, and I think at first, when the pandemic just started, my cat was like, “Why are you here all the time? Get the fuck out of my house.” But I started taking naps all the time, and then he’s come around and he’s like, “This is great. We’re just two cats napping.” And I think if I could just be a cat, when things get to be too much and just turn into a cat, and curl up in a ball under a cabinet? That would be a rad super power.
PopHorror: What made you want to be a filmmaker?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Oh, man. It’s so hard to know the answer to that. I think part of it was that there were movies that I saw when I was a kid that deeply upset me. Watership Down, Pink Floyd: The Wall, American Werewolf in London… which I remember seeing as a kid, and I had this nightmare where the pig SS troopers come in and kill his whole family… I couldn’t watch it past that scene, and it just ruined me for months. When I look back on that, all of these really alarming, intense experiences with movies really gelled with my understanding of the world or the way that I’ve been able to connect them to parts in my life where things go very wrong. I think there was something like, “What is this incredibly expressive form that movies are that can kind of communicate those feelings?” I think that was part of it.
Another part of it was loving cool images and loving cool pictures, and wanting to create cool pictures. And then what kept me in it was, you have this funny fantasy—or I did when I was really young—that you’re making this movie by yourself. I was an only child, and I would spend all of my time with piles of action figures and kind of setting them up in this big story, and then bring in my parents and be like, “See how this dinosaur is trying to swing to this castle?” I had this idea that that was how movie making would be like. But then as I actually started to do it, I was like, “Oh, it’s actually about interacting with 50 other people in this nonstop communal communication, collaboration thing.” That’s really awesome and that’s kind of given me life to keep doing it and to get better at it.
PopHorror: You’ve already worked with some really great actors and done some great collaborations, but if you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Oh, my God, living or dead? I think I would love to collaborate with Raymond Chandler, and have him write a movie. His novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye… I would love to bring him up out of the grave and be like, “You’re witty. Take a look at where the world is now. Okay, you’ve got it? It’s pretty fucked up! It’s changed a lot in the past 70, 80 years. What do you think?” I think that would be a really fun collaboration.
PopHorror: Great choice! And just one last question. I know that Covid has stalled a lot of things, and projects have been cancelled. Is there anything else that you’re working on? What’s coming up next?
Adam Egypt Mortimer: Well, I’ve only just finished this one, and one thing that was actually kind of wonderful… It was like a blessing that we had shot this before Covid happened, and we were editing it throughout the pandemic, which was so cool. So I was busy this whole time and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’ve written another movie with Brian (DeLeeuw), who wrote Daniel Isn’t Real with me, and we have this horror/crime movie about witches and capitalism and money. It’s very dark and exciting, and I hope we’ll actually be able to shoot that movie next year. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully in New Zealand where they don’t have Covid anymore, because they’re an awesome country.
PopHorror: That does sound exciting! I’m intrigued.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: You’re the magic! All I’ve got to do is talk to you about the movie I’m going to do next, and then it happens. Now I’ve got your blessing, I’ve got your wishbone, and now we’re off and running!
Thank you so much, Adam, for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to go see Archenemy now, playing in theaters and VOD.