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August 17, 2010

Interview: Writer/Composer Darren Smith

by Heather Henshaw

I had the privilege to interview Mr. Darren Smith who is a co-creator, writer, composer and the band leader of the cult classic film Repo the Genetic Opera. Yes a cult classic film that is an opera! This film has had many struggles and made its way to the top and is not stopping for anyone. A Goth opera filled with hearts being torn out; face stealing rapist and much more! He covers it all with us in this interview and we find out what he thinks of Repo Men the Repo rip-off! So sit back and enjoy this interview with the fearless bandleader!

Buy Repo! The Genetic Opera on DVD and Blu-ray and get the Soundtrack

First off I would like to thank you Darren for taking the time to do this interview.

HH: I know this film started out as a small live opera. How did you go from a small stage to a huge screen? How many years did this take to get done?

DARREN: Terrance and I started the live show 10 years before the actual movie was made. We use to perform live 10 min shows in little rock clubs. It took 7 years before we really took off and started to get big, leading to the full fledge movie. Repo originally was just a small act one part play to be honest it was not even a full act we had to expand it with a second act. We had to write the rest of Repo in two months before our first booked show. The man who directed the first big show was Darren Bousman who went on to do Saw 2, 3, 4. We were not sure about having him come on to the project but he kept on calling and begging so we decided to go ahead and give him a chance. The show was suppose to be only a few days and ended up going a few weeks. After it took off Darren Bousman had just got a big paycheck from Saw 2 and wanted to fund a short film to pitch at film companies. The film we did ultimately went back to the original 10 minute opera. This film ultimately got picked up by Twisted Picture and we got an 8 and a half million dollar budget.

HH: We notice in Repo the Genetic Opera it starts off as the film being a comic. It goes in and out as a comic as learn the story's of the characters and how they become what they are. How did you all come up with the comic concept?

DARREN: Well at the live show we would hand out comics as a starter, an introduction and the opera would play out from there. In the film only the opening and the ending were going to have comic sequences. We showed the film to people who did not know what Repo was and people who were not involved. When we did not have the comics in people had a lot of questions like who was Shilo to Nathan, things like that. That's why we added the story line comics telling each characters story. Also it's a very fast pace film and it allows the audience a breather. So it worked out great having the comic pieces put in for the film to kind of break the movie down for the viewers.

HH: Going from a short live opera to a huge movie hit how did you go from a few songs to all the songs that are in the film? I would say there are about oh 50 songs in the film give or take a few. How did you choose what songs to go with?

DARREN: When it came to the music we had over 50 songs and a lot of it never made it. It's not that it was not good! We just did not have the time or the song did not fit in the film. The original script we had was a half hour longer then what you see now. That script would have cost 40 million we had 8 and a half to work with so we had to cut because of that as well. It is very hard to choose and pick what song they are your baby's but we had to consider what to keep and what to go. We did not want to have to many show stoppers, and did not want them to long or to short, if that happened it would have became a musical and we did not want that. Some songs we cannot cut like for example At the Opera Tonight, it shows how everyone in the film is preparing before they hit the stage that was not going to be touched. Another one was in the end were Rotti and the crowed are yelling "tell her ,tell her" was originally going to be cut but we decided not and we are glad we didn't cut it (laughs) Darren Bousman said he would walk off if we cut that part out of the film. It again was very hard to choose but it turned out great.

HH: How did you come about the cast for this film? You have people such as Paris Hilton, Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Ogre, genre faves such as Bill Mosely, Anthony Head and last opera singer Sarah Brightman. How did they all get along?

DARREN: Well its funny you know at first we did not want to cast or audition Paris do to all the publicity at the time but we finally caved and she blew us away. We had other people try out for the role of Amber Sweet but she was the best by far. So that's how she was casted. The very first person we got for the cast was Paul Sorvino, then Ogre. We were glad to also pull on such names as Alexa Vega, and Anthony Head, they had acting and singing experience so it made it a little smother when it came time to work on their singing parts. Actually Anthony came in and blew us away in his audition. We gave him Legal Assassin to sing and no one could transition from Nathan to repoman like him. He nailed it first time. The character of Blind Mag was supposed to be played by a different opera singer but she had to drop out do to rescheduling. So when she dropped out we got on the phone to make calls. Sara Brightman's name came up and before we knew it or Sara she had been booked on a flight from Russia to come talk about being in the movie. The funny thing is she got on the airplane not knowing a thing about the film! She ended up coming on board for the movie and she is amazing might I add a very humble performer.

The cast and crew was a big family. In fact most of the crew and extra's were from the Saw films Darren Bousman work on even some of the sets. It was great we would be at the cantina and Paris, Bill, Ogre, and Alexa would all be in costume at the back table playing goofing off, it truly was a family that we had all created.

HH: Repo has become a cult classic how do you feel about how well this movie has done with the small marketing it got? I mean you have people doing shadow cast, getting tattoos in fact I myself have a repo tattoo.

DARREN: Oh the fans getting tattoos and dressing up to me is amazing I love it! You know we never thought about will people go get tattoo's, we did not see the bigger scope of it all till it happened. You know there is this girl who has a tattoo of grave robber on her back and the funny thing is her boyfriend doesn't mind, and this other girl has music notes as a tattoo so for me to see this it is very gratifying! If I had to choose becoming rich off a movie or have the following that we have I will always go with the following again it is so gratifying to me that we have had an impact on people with our music and story.

HH: I am not sure if you know about this but there is an ongoing rivalry between Rocky Horror fans and Repo fans. What is your take on that?

DARREN: I do know about this and to me I think it is a shame. To tell you the truth I love Rocky Horror. I wish the rivalry would melt away. We are a different kind of film from Rocky and that is what we aimed and intended to do. You know I see people leave Rocky and come to Repo and help but they start to bash Rocky or flip flop you know it should not be that way although some people are involved in both films. Again I want the feud to melt away and like I said I personally love Rocky and the films are completely different from each other.

HH: Ok I am sure you knew this question was coming. What is your stance or thoughts of Repo men? It seems that they took a lot from Repo the Genetic Opera even if they say it was from a book that came out a long time after you all started the Opera. What light can you shed on this? We all know Repo fans get heated over this film Repomen.

DARREN: Ok I have to stay political on this one. The facts speak for themselves. We started the show back in 98. I came up with this idea of a Repo man coming for unpaid organs way back then I had a live show to prove the facts. I have not seen Repo Men yet but I have met the guys who wrote it and I have nothing bad to say about them. I will probably see it sometime but I am told it was not all that good. I think they tried to take what should be a fun story and tried to make it like an action packed adventure. You know you have a guy coming to reposess a heart or an eye for not paying on it. It should be fun that's why we also do have the comic book scene in the film to show hey this is a fun good time kind of film and that's why all of it is over the top. Again the facts speak for themselves.

HH: What is in store for the future of Repo the Genetic Opera? Will there be a sequel or prequel soon? I know there is talk of it and if so how far is it?

DARREN: Yes we are already working on the music for both in fact. It all depends on how well the first Repo does, we get feedback from time to time from the production company and the better we do the better the chances at us getting the funds for the other films. So yes it is looking good that we will have more Repo films coming soon.

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