Christmas Day saw the long-awaited release of filmmaker Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer.” After a rocky career, featuring incredible highs (“Girlfight” and “The Invitation”) and devastating lows (“Jennifer’s Body” & “Aeon Flux”), the director is poised to come back and assert herself as one of the best creators in the industry. And she has been able to bounce back thanks to some lessons she learned from previous films.
In a new interview with Deadline, Kusama details her failures and what she learned from them, leading her to the realization that will hopefully bring forth a new era of films from the director.
First, though, she had to learn from mistakes, namely the two black eyes on her IMDB, “Aeon Flux” and “Jennifer’s Body.” With “Aeon Flux,” Kusama was on the brink of becoming a superstar director, with Oscar winner Charlize Theron starring in the new sci-fi (expected) franchise. But the film crash and burned, pretty badly.
In explaining the film’s failure, Kusama thinks it all came to those behind-the-scenes executives that pull the strings:
“With ‘Aeon Flux,’ it started out as a Sherry Lansing movie. She transitioned out as head of the studio, and Donald De Line became the new head. While I was cutting the film, he left the studio and Brad Grey and Gail Berman came in. So, there were three administrations at Paramount during the life of the production and its eventual finish. New administrations at a studio typically see the movies from the prior administration as failures, and it’s tough to wrap your head around from a business perspective, from an ego part of the business. That’s hard to understand. The person who can’t control those huge transitional moments is often the director.”
Moving onto “Jennifer’s Body,” which has found a second life as a cult favorite, Kusama learned another lesson – marketing can make or break a film. She explains, “The movie was really the movie I wanted to make and the movie that Diablo Cody wrote. In regards to its marketing, it was an epic misstep and they sold it to boys instead of to the girls who it was written for, and by, and about. They shifted the emphasis to boys based on Megan Fox’s sex appeal.”
So, with those lows in her rearview mirror, what has the director learned? Well, long story short, she wants to keep that final cut of her films and is willing to sacrifice that high profile to do it.
“I was talking to a director friend of mine about the concept of ‘final cut’ and how that doesn’t mean you become more of a tyrant. It means you listen better and you have the freedom to listen better,” says Kusama. “I’ve had final cut on three movies—’Girlfight,’ ‘The Invitation’ and ‘Destroyer’—and that’s how I’d like to continue to work. Working independently on a very aggressive budget; sure I’d like to have more time and resources on future films, but I recognize that sometimes creative control comes at a very high price, and I’m willing to pay that.”
“Destroyer” is in select theaters now and expands nationwide in the weeks to come.