James Duval told what it was like to play Frank and confirmed the sequel

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20 years ago, Richard Kelly he presented to the world a work that took many by surprise. Donnie Darko came to theaters with a cast that at that time was not so well known, with figures such as the brothers Jake y Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Seth Rogen and Jena Malone in his first steps, and with the star figures of Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze. Critics were not very kind to the complex plot of the film and this did not favor its reception, but over time it became a cult story.

Donnie Darko focused on the life of a completely lost young man who begins to hallucinate with a strange rabbit from another dimension. This creature is the one that manages to get her out of her bed minutes before an airplane turbine crashes in her room and takes her life. From that moment on, the visions will become more and more everyday in a metaphysical journey of 28 days in which Donnie He will try to understand the meaning of things and save the world.

One of the actors who was part of Donnie Darko it was James Duval, who years before had been with Will Smith on Independence Day. In an interview with Spoiler, the actor told what it was like to be part of this strange film, and was encouraged to tell his theory about the justification of the end and all the science that goes through the story of Richard Kelly. “I believe that Donnie Darko it touches us for the idea of ​​possibilities. The possibilities that are presented to us dictate what our future will be like forever and enhance our lives in a magical way. People you come across and become very friendly with, who have things in common, but if it weren’t for that moment they would never have met. It is more than a coincidence. I think that’s magic “.

What was it like auditioning for this movie without having so much knowledge of what was really going on?

Believe it or not, when I read the audition scene, I read it exactly how it was happening: he runs over a girl and he wants to know, honestly, why they were in the way. But I had to read it because I realized that the way it got there was complex, how it got there Frank. I read it four or five times because I thought it was like The Twilight Zone, it reminded me of that. There I realized that Frank He was the boyfriend of the sister of Donnie, who leaves the party to get more beer. I’m driving drunk and hitting Gretchen. This was my approach to the script. It wasn’t until they gave me the role that I realized how much Frank He was not the traditional boyfriend but the dead man that he manipulated from another reality. I came to that conclusion quickly after that. Much of my performance was based on that.

I must say, the first time I saw the movie I went on the internet to read theories and explanations. How was that for you as an actor? Did you discuss these script and story complications on set?

As an actor you need to make sense of the script to know where you come from, what your character thinks and where he is going. What is it that you are trying to communicate in the film. When he seemed to get it, he was at one point in the script and it was: “One moment!”. He had to go to the beginning of the script and reread, then go back to where he was. I was able to make sense of it, so I knew, by the time we started shooting, and I think it still does, it makes sense to me. I don’t know if that’s why they gave me the role, but at the audition I looked at the director and told him … Because he asked if we had any doubts. I told: “I have no questions but I want you to know something. I completely understand.”.

As a fan of entropy, science and astronomy, for example black holes and the entropy they cause in the universe … There is a certain amount of order and a certain amount of chaos in the universe, the same happens in physics : nothing really disappears, matter only changes its shape. I applied all of this in Donnie Darko and I remember telling the director: “It’s about this, I understand, there is a certain entropy and if you unbalance it the universe is going to implode, that delicate balance is broken, that’s what happens in Donnie Darko. This is what we are doing”. He looked at me and said: “What you say, Jimmy… Whatever you think it is “.

Luckily he let me draw my own conclusions about what it is all about. I had to think about why it makes sense, why it makes sense to me, and how it works with everything, so I chose a universal theme. And I think the director, Richard Kelly, says he took a universal theme to make this movie. If you believe in physical science, it really does say that whatever reality you think about is happening.

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The multiverse …

The multiverse, exactly. Believe it or not, the other day I came home and wrote it, but I think I remember … This applies to Donnie Darko but I didn’t think so … I’m thinking about it. I was coming home and for an instant I understood the universe: the past, the present and the future happen at the same time. What has not yet happened has already happened, and what has already happened has not happened yet. But since we are human beings, we perceive things in a linear way. But in reality everything happens at the same time, past, present and future. Now that I’m talking to you, I feel like that suggests that’s what it’s all about too Donnie Darko.

The gloomy figure of Frank in Donnie Darko

As part of the poster, Frank, the rabbit, became a Donnie Darko emblem that was replicated on T-shirts and tattoos. Despite his gloomy figure, to James Duval this character is much more complex than one that can be divided into categories of “good” and “bad.” The actor believes that the film lends itself to that interpretation that each one makes based on how he understands it or sees it.

Throughout the almost 30 minutes of talk, Duval He had at his side a replica of the mask that he used during the filming of the film. “It is a copy, but from the same mold. The original … We used three in the movie. One was sold to Kirk Hammett from Metallica, so you have one of the ones I used. There is another who kept the suit, which will be donated to the film museum, they are about to donate it. And the third was a gift for the producer Nancy Juvonen. If it wasn’t for her and for Drew Barrymore, the movie would never have been made “, he assured.

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You had the script, you got it, but then with Frank’s mask and suit, how much did it help you shape the character?

Well, it helped me to shape the character in the sense that … When I saw him … Because when reading the script, it says that it is a rabbit of 1.80 meters, it does not describe any of its characteristics. Once I had the paper, they measured me for the rabbit costume and they showed me a drawing, a cartoon, and they said: “This is how you will look”. Suddenly, things changed for me. But they changed only in the sense that I realized that what people see doesn’t change what the character is like. When I saw it, the way I always thought of Frank It was like he was the guardian rabbit of Donnie Darko, who helped and guided him to straighten the universe.

But it is presented in a dark way and we almost think that it is a demon …

He’s almost a demon, but he’s actually a friend. He is a dark friend, because he comes from an element of another reality in which he was shot and killed, he killed Gretchen for drunk driving. He also tries to set things right, because he is responsible for a death in another reality. How do you know DonnieBecause he is his girlfriend’s brother, I wanted to add this element that he is, in some way, an older brother. A guardian who wants to make sure that Donnie it’s going to be fine. That is something dark, because for what Donnie fix things, you have to die, you have to accept your fate in reality. She had to guide him so that he did not fear death and accept his death, and while doing that, he was not only saving himself and the people he loved but saving the entire universe. That brings me back to when I was reading the script that I love so much. When I was reading the scenes … I love all the scenes in between Gretchen and Donnie, but one of my favorites is when they walk home and she says to him: Donnie DarkoWhat kind of name is that? Are you some kind of superhero? “. And he looks at him and says: “What makes you think I’m not?”. And he’s completely a superhero. So, he’s a superhero, and my job as Frank is to help him realize that, it’s like the role of Luke Skywalker, let him cross the threshold and take on the role of the hero. He is part of the hero’s journey and I am his Obi-Wan Kenobi that helps and guides you through this.

Did you record your lines? Because I think you have what we call today “autotune”, but I don’t know if they used that.

Well it’s interesting, we don’t use autotune. What we did was … I did the voice when I said … When I take off my mask, it’s my normal voice. But with the mask, for example, if I say: “Donnie, despierta”. He would do one like this (with a normal voice), and then he would do another like: “Donnie, despierta” (in a deep voice). And then a third: “Donnie, despierta” (like a whisper). They would take the voice in the studio, separate it and do five levels of this. It sounds like autotune, but they copied my voice on all those recordings and then mixed all five of them together.

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Yes, it is another layer of sinister thing for the character …

Yes. Most of the time he wore the mask, you must give credit to Jake, who is an amazing actor. He was an amazing actor and you couldn’t understand what he was saying through the mask. It seems to me that he could not understand me, but he had that look. I had to memorize my lines and learn the cadence, so that when I was speaking to him with the mask, he could react the way he did. It’s a testament to what he does as an actor, but also to the director, because we weren’t sure what it was going to sound like. Frank, six months after filming I went to the studio to experiment, whispering or doing it with a lower voice, projected, or a soft one and mixing all three, making five sounds with all three. It was something his sound engineer came up with once I left. For the first time that I saw Frank speaking, I got scared, because I didn’t remember that. It’s amazing to see what they add in post-production, because we hadn’t done it that way on the principal photography shoot.

What was it like interacting with Jake Gyllenhaal with the mask?

It was amazing to watch, because for me as an actor, I just had to respond to what he did. When it got sinister, it was easier for me to be sinister without trying.

There is a sequel that is not canon. Is there a chance that a continuation will be seen?

Believe it or not, a rumor leaked to the media, but it is a well-founded rumor, that Richard Kelly He thought of a sequel, an idea to expand this, which would be canon. I don’t know what it is or if I’m involved, for some reasons, but the moment you ask, I’m back in an instant. I don’t know if it will be done, but I know that he wants to do it, that there is interest and that it has a history.

What movies would you recommend watching before watching Donnie Darko?

Before shooting, I watched some movies about time travel. One was Return to the future, and somehow strange, although it has nothing to do, I saw Hellraiser 2. I would recommend Hellraiser, because it takes you to a dark place and that the perception of angels and demons … They are actually one thing and we perceive them as good or bad, but they are one thing. It is the idea with Frank, which you can see as good or bad, but it is one thing: a manipulative dead man and he is guiding Donnie. I see too Donnie Darko like a love movie. I would recommend that you see Starman from John Carpenter.

And for later?

Cloud Atlas, which has to do with reincarnation and alternate realities. It is one of my favorites. Maybe you can see after Donnie Darko.

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