'Apocalypse Clown' Dark Comedy Director Talks Making a '$2 Million Roland Emmerich Movie — With Clowns in Ireland'

‘Apocalypse Clown’ Dark Comedy Director Talks Making a ‘$2 Million Roland Emmerich Movie — With Clowns in Ireland’

Of all the films showing at the Galway Film Fleadh on the west coast of Ireland, one stands out for having some sort of wild premise that should immediately pique the interest of anyone with a penchant for comedy of the most ludicrous variety.

Clown of the Apocalypse – which has its world premiere on Friday before screening at Canada’s Fantastia Festival later this month and ahead of its UK and Ireland release on Sept. 1 – could boast the most ‘WTF? film plot of the year, as it is set in the aftermath of a mysterious blackout that plunges Ireland into anarchy and follows a group of failed clowns, reunited after a mass brawl at a funeral, as they traverse the country in chaotic and sometimes bloody fashions for one last shot at their (far-fetched) dreams. A quiet arthouse drama, this is not.

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From director George Kane, who has spent the last 10 years directing episodes of British TV comedies including Crashing (written by a pre-Lots of fleas Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Backwards, Brassico, Wedding season and most recently, the upcoming Apple TV+ series Dick Turpin with Noel Fielding — Clown of the ApocalypseThe mismatched troupe of wide-shoeed performers spans the breadth of clowning onscreen. There’s Funzo, the slightly psychotic horror clown (something considered taboo in the world of film clowning); Bobo, the booze-soaked children’s entertainer clown; The Great Alfonso, a pompous, sleazy circus clown (and former TV celebrity); and pretentious, classically trained, striped-top clown mime, Pepe. The clown may be their life, but they’re all largely terrible (there’s a particularly hilarious scene where they reveal their real, rather ordinary names).

Written by Kane, Demian Fox, Shane O’Brien and James Walmsley and filmed in Dublin and Kildare, the original story of what eventually became Clown of the Apocalypse would have seen the ragtag group of characters head to Africa as part of Clowns Without Borders, the very real charity that helps bring some joy into the lives of refugee children around the world. Sadly, the pandemic stalled that idea and the story had to be scaled down a bit. And, as Kane admits, talking to The Hollywood Reporter before the premiere, that idea was “like a drunk presentation at Cannes” (although he’s not averse to using parts for a sequel).

Is there anything you would like to compare? Clown of the Apocalypse TO?

I don’t know what the Venn diagram would be. I’ve tried it before and I was thinking it’s a bit tropical thunder somehow, and there is a bit of The three friends AND Zombieland in some ways. And there’s a bit of Withnail and I in there when it’s the dark monologues of the actors. Basically, I was trying to make a $2 million Roland Emmerich film with clowns in Ireland. People were waiting for it!

Won first prize for Best International Feature Film in Galway 2012 for Music Mockumentary Discoverdale. It must be perfect to come back a decade later with this, your scripted first feature film?

It’s perfect. And the project actually started in Galway then, because that’s where James Walmsley said, ‘We should do something about Clowns Without Borders.’ It was like a drunk Cannes camp. So it’s perfect that 10 years later, it’s back to where it was conceived.

Will you find clowns at the premiere?

I suggested we hire some clowns just to be out and about in Galway, hang out in weird places.

It seems to me that clowns only appear in movies in a usually low-budget horror setting these days. It’s nice to see them in a comedy.

This is obviously addressed in the film; the whole scary clown thing, which is kind of taboo. But to me, it’s kind of coincidental that these people are clowns. They could be actors, performers, people who just can’t give up a profession that is somehow fused with their identity, even if they weren’t necessarily born for it. It’s kind of like the end of Waiting for Guffmann, when those brilliant people suddenly have their dreams rekindled from utter failure and you say, “Don’t give up your job as a dentist, you shouldn’t.” There’s that sort of anti-optimistic ending where they’ve decided they’re going to keep it. I mean, the opening lines of the movie are, “They say you should never give up on your dreams, but what if you should?” So I think that sets the tone pretty early on.

There are some very British jokes that international audiences may not understand, including one about Rolf Harris.

We just had the freedom to make it: if you’re dealing with a studio, those kinds of jokes don’t pass. So I like that it’s very niche at times. But I also think it’s accessible. It’s very dark, with lots of psychological jokes, but it’s colorful and fast paced and I think it’s captivating. I think you like these guys. But they are all terrible people.

I love the idea of ​​a ridiculous comedy based on Clown Without Borders…

It was so much fun. But naive in many ways. So we started doubting ourselves and thinking, we should do this. But there are some great things about that that I think could be part of the sequel.

You’ve directed some great British TV comedies over the past 10 years, but with Clown of the Apocalypse now coming out do you hope to make more films?

I don’t think you can exclusively do that, but I think the next logical step would be to make a studio comedy with a bigger budget. But I don’t think any will be as interesting as this one.

Interview edited for length and clarity.