Variety has learned exclusively that the German distribution rights were snapped up by SquareOne Entertainment ahead of the Cannes virtual film market. Negotiations for other territories are under way, according to Mister Smith Entertainment, the outfit handling the hot title’s worldwide sales.
Set in 1964, the film represents the feature directorial debut of Australian commercial director Jeffrey Darling, and is based on the extraordinary true story of a road trip and strange bond between a serial-killer in the midst of a spree, an animal handler down on his luck, and Zippy the TV chimpanzee.
“As a stellar, award-winning commercials director and DP, Darling’s unique eye for detail and nuance is keen, and his cinematography is inspired. We are proud to be joining this road trip with a serial killer, an animal handler, a chimpanzee, and with Jeffrey Darling at the wheel,” said SquareOne CEO Al Munteanu.
“He Went That Way” was written by Evan M. Weiner and is in pre-production, aiming for a Fall 2021 start date in California (depending on Elordi and Quinto’s packed schedules) with “Hurt Locker” and “Old Guard” cinematographer Barry Ackroyd on board as DP.
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It stars Quinto as Jim Goodwin (based on animal trainer Dave Pitts) and Elordi as youthful serial killer Bobby Falls (based on Larry Lee Ranes).
Variety caught up with Darling ahead of the film’s Cannes unveiling to preview it and get a sense of what the two leads will bring to the project.
After such a stellar career as a commercial director, what made you choose this project as your feature debut?
Well, I liked that it was based on this very short story in a book, it was probably about 10 pages, and Evan had written this script which was amazing, which brought these little edges to the true story. There were these beautiful heightened elements that attracted me. It’s these little fragments and leads and subplots and secondary characters that brought my amazement to it. It’s a very simple film. It’s basically a road film about a young serial killer and an animal handler who’s at the end of his journey. He’s feeling down on his luck, and then the chimpanzee provides the third element in this three-hander.
The chimp must be one of the heightened elements you’re referring to?
The chimp really does make that difference, it always brought me a smile. It’s not necessarily a big element all the way through, but it’s an element that proves itself because it was Bobby the serial killer’s childhood hero, and for Jim the animal handler, Bobby is almost representative of what the chimp has been for him in terms of managing a younger creature. It becomes this really curious bond between the three of them.
How will you be bringing the chimp to life?
We’re using Legacy Effects and there’ll be a young girl in costume who has come out of that world of playing those characters before. We’ll also be adding some CG for some of the face stuff. We really wanted to make sure the actors had something that wasn’t just a green pole with an X on it sitting next to them, something they couldn’t respond to.
Talk about casting Jacob Elordi and what he brings to this role.
He brings almost that Jean-Paul Belmondo sense of personal style, without the self-consciousness of it. There’s a physicality to him, even talking to him over Zoom he can’t stand still when he talks about character, he’s always alive. And that’s who Bobby is, he’s untamable and he thinks in this very immediate sense. He’s a man trying to understand who he is. I saw Jacob in him very easily, even when he’s talking about his boots or his hats or the little nuances he’s trying to play with. Jacob’s got this odd little gun to work with, and all those things are bringing this youthful angle to it all. The other interesting thing which we’re going to explore with Jacob is he can flick into that menacing character really quickly, he’s done that before.
How would you define his relationship with Zachary Quinto’s character?
Jim is quite mesmerized by Bobby and that’s something that Zach does so well in his face. He can suddenly find this way of feeling and understanding something and feeling the heft of it. His character is a showman. Yes he’s at the end of his run, his career’s fading, his money is fading, but when it’s time to switch into showbiz mode, it just happens. The thing I really loved in talking to Zach was he really knew to look towards studying Jacob’s character. For them to be in a car and look at each other, you really don’t have to do much more. Both Zach and Jacob have been great in supporting the project. They’re helping it, they believe in it. I think Zach’s about to immerse himself in something else, and Jacob’s in the middle of another “Euphoria” series, but they’ll pop their heads up and they’re desperate for it to be something. Everyone’s found some common worth in it.