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Jesse Eisenberg, Bigfoot, And Gallons Of Sweat – We Sat Down With "Sasquatch Sunset" Creators To Discuss The Creation Of One Of The Strangest Films In 2024

1 month ago 32

I’m just going to cut to the chase, what spawned this idea? What made you think yes I want to make a film about Sasquatch?

David Zellner: Well, we've always loved Bigfoot and Bigfoot lore in general from when we were kids. We’ve always been fascinated with all forms of cryptids but particularly Bigfoot because it was regional to where we grew up and there's not much else in terms of American mythology. So as adults, what interested us was the way it represents this kind of grey area between human and animal behaviour and our connection to the natural world. It felt like there were some interesting things to explore as a story.

The quote-unquote footage out there of it (Bigfoot) is all the same. All the sightings  are just bigfoot walking across the field over and over again and we were just like “Well, what else is it doing?”

Well, they live a peaceful simple life...

David: Haha, but you know, like any other animal you get to see a full spectrum of behaviour so that led us to want to explore more and approach it from that standpoint. This is also why we want to do it without any kind of filter of humans, who would then process the information you're seeing for you. So there’s no humans in the movie – you're telling the story through no voiceover, we wanted the audience to be immersed in their world without judgment.

So far we know that humans are the only animals that exhibit shame, so we wanted to see what it would be like for these animals to have human-like characteristics – showing the full spectrum of their behaviour and treating it all in the same level playing field.

Lore can be interpreted in so many ways and we all have our own theories, but what is Sasquatch to you? Do you have an idea of what they are?

Nathan: Yeah, it's weird because there’s the very specific man in the woods thing but there’s always been this missing link to it. There’s the theory it’s something that didn’t evolve the same way because we have this relationship to primates and so this could be a Neanderthal or Cro-magnon or something like that. If there is any truth or validation to it, that's probably where a lot of the stories from way back came from. When the different stages of evolution happened and humans branched off maybe one got left behind and also became 8ft tall with mythical proportions because it was different. 

David: I think it's interesting to have so many different parts of the world develop their own creature in the woods myth and all independently. For instance, the other most famous one is the yeti, another hairy creature in the woods. All centuries old, all developed independently from one another, I think it’s really fascinating how this creature represents our connection to the natural world and it’s always just tied to that.  People might have written about this I don't know but I’m curious if as human civilisation developed and we went from rural communities to more centralised cities, there was such a separation between humans and the natural world that this myth evolved to bring us back to earth. Does that make sense? 

It makes sense, we constantly hear people longing to have been born in a time of less advancement and technology, with the need to go back to basics so that this creature was created. I too have always believed it was a Neanderthal that got left behind, but I always imagine they were by themselves so I love how you created this little family we follow through life, and all they do is walk across the woods because that’s all we’ve seen them do. 

When creating the script, how and when did you decide not to have it in a language that anyone could understand? And how was this rehearsed between the actors?

Nathan: Well, the script wasn't as long as a regular script, because it's kinda like a script where you’ve pulled all the dialogue out of so it was about 60 pages, but it was very detailed and specific. One because you don't have the benefit of relying on other forms of exposition to convey what the story is, and two because there's not an easy comp for this, this, this film. For everyone involved, from the financiers to the cast, to the crew, we needed to make it crystal clear what the tone was. It's a mix of the kind of humour and pathos in equal measure, and without it being that dialled in the script, I think it is easy for people's go-to responses to be “Oh, it's a horror movie” or something like that, so we just needed to be really clear from the outset what our tone was.

The tone was very clear and it even got quite dark. I thought while watching that if the female sasquatch (Riley Keough) had a theme song it would be Reba’s “I’m A Survivor” 

Nathan & David: haha that is so good!

You were putting my girl through it! Did you add these dark tones to create a more human connection with the audience?

Nathan: Well when exploring this kind of uncomfortable area between human and animal behaviour we knew there'd be humour in it because there’s there's behaviour in this film that you'd see your dog and cat do and you wouldn't think anything of it but if it's something with human-like qualities, it suddenly becomes uncomfortable. So we always knew that would be there.

This is kind of way we like to work in general,  to mix the humour and the melancholy but it's always a very intuitive process and never forced because the story kind of tells us which way to go. We wanted to have a certain level of poignancy and in showing the whole spectrum of the human condition through these creatures you can be open to the the lighter moments in the darker moments in equal measure.

Nathan you actually had the pleasure of playing one of the Sasquatches, can you share how long the process was getting into that costume and just how sweaty did that get?

Nathan: Hahaha! It was GALLONS of sweat!

I knew you were roasting in that suit!

Nathan: Haha yes I was! We had a rehearsal period that started on Zoom and then when we met in person Jesse Eisenberg had brought in a movement coach that he had worked with prior. The rehearsal wasn't really to talk through emotional beats, I mean we do but it wasn't like rehearsing lines or anything like that, it was more like trying to just get everyone comfortable with behaving like an animal. We were learning how to react from our id and subconscious more and how to technically move so that we're all looking like a family, like a species. 

There are a lot of rules that you can make up because there's only so much baseline to Bigfoot available, we built the movement off of the one famous video of it walking. It kind of lumbers and that gave us seeds to work from but a lot of it was taken from watching primate videos of how orangutans eat foods and hold things. Once you got that costume on it was a fully immersive process. it was really fun to disappear behind that makeup because you felt pretty uninhibited as you had about 40 pounds of fur on top of you. Thankfully, we shot kind of late in the fall so the weather, for the most part, was on our side, but there were a couple of days where the sun was just beating on you and you could just feel yourself baking underneath the costume. So when we would eventually pull it off the undersuit was just drenched in sweat.

You finished filming two sizes smaller!

David: Haha yes it was like a sweat sponge!

It’s very different to a Planet of the Apes type film because you’re not as reliant on CGI and you’re really having to become this animal. Did you feel like immersing yourself so much in the character there were days you had to remind yourself to shake off the Neanderthal?

Nathan: No no, because it wasn't as method as that. Most of the time in between takes, we were trying to conserve energy because it took so much energy.

We wanted to do old-school prosthetics work and most of the time this type of work is done on sound stages and from a green screen so it's a little bit more controlled environment, so we had a lot of challenges. But from an acting standpoint, you’re usually worried about overacting, because when you're an actor it’s a lot about being subtle but when you have all this makeup on, you have to really project it and move through it. Even a slight head turn has to be a bigger movement so that you can get through the latex suits and the fur. So that was the biggest thing to learn from an acting standpoint.

It’s very theatrical, almost taking it back to silent films...

David: Yes because we’re big fans of silent films but it wasn’t until we started making it that we realised we have to kind of rewire our braids to convey information in a way we weren’t used to and hadn’t done before.

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