If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
As a trio of law enforcers, played by AVATAR’s Sam
Worthington, WATCHMEN’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan and TAKE SHELTER’s Jessica
Chastain, try to get to the bottom of a longtime (and based-on-fact) murder
spree whose victims are dumped in the TEXAS KILLING FIELDS, this high-powered
cast had a promising up-and-comer guiding them. The film, opening tomorrow from
Anchor Bay Entertainment, was directed by Ami Canaan Mann, who spoke about the
movie, its real-life basis and its ensemble with Fango.
The daughter of veteran filmmaker Michael Mann, who was one
of FIELDS’ producers, she started her own career writing an episode of the
acclaimed NYPD BLUE and directing the 2001 drama MORNING, and directed 2nd unit
on her dad’s HEAT, among other credits. TEXAS KILLING FIELDS, originally titled
THE DARK FIELDS, follows Worthington’s local boy Detective Souder and Morgan’s
transplanted New Yorker Detective Heigh as they investigate the brutal crimes,
with Souder’s policewoman ex-wife Pam (Chastain) also on the case, with Chloë
Grace Moretz as a young girl caught up in the unpleasantness. Suffused with
dank atmosphere thanks to the cinematography of Stuart Dryburgh, it’s a
serial-killer film with extra resonance due to its tragic true inspiration,
which in large part remains unsolved.
FANGORIA: What led you to this project?
AMI CANAAN MANN: This was a script that Michael had been
developing for several years with the terrific writer, Donald F. Ferrarone.
They’d had it in development for about 10 years, and it had gone through
various permutations; then it was given to me, and Don and I started shaping
it, and here we are.
FANG: You directed your last feature, MORNING, 10 years ago;
what had you been working on since then?
MANN: I was directing short films, directing television,
rewriting a lot of TV pilots and doing studio feature scripts. I was basically
a writer for hire.
FANG: What was it about this film that particularly sparked
MANN: First of all, the incredible writing by Don. And when
the script came to me, it came with a package of research materials, an initial
batch of newspaper articles. And one of them had a map of the killing fields,
with images of some of the victims next to where the bodies were found. When I
was looking at that, I felt that if there was anything I could do to help tell
this story, I should do it. The movie is told from the perspective of two
detectives who are real detectives and live in Texas City, Texas. These crimes
have occurred outside of Texas City for over 40 years. There are just under 60
bodies, and currently, I believe, just over half of them have been solved. So
there are quite a few cold cases there.
FANG: You mentioned that Michael had been developing the
script beforehand; what did you do differently when you took over the project,
and how does your filmmaking outlook in general compare and contrast to his?
MANN: I don’t know exactly what I did differently from the
other drafts; I didn’t read them. I was just given the one draft. Don and I
both very much wanted to elevate the character of Little Anne, played by Chloë
Grace Moretz. And then what I discussed with Don—because the subject matter was
so intense and dark, and all the more so because it was inspired by real
events—was that I felt the way into that subject matter was to treat the film
almost like a ghost story. And treat the killing fields less like a true-crime
location and more like the haunted house down the road that you’re both
repelled by and compelled to know what happened there. That way, we could
create a situation where the audience wants to know about something that is
ostensibly very difficult to know about. That became part of the shooting of
the film as well.
FANG: Would you consider this a horror film or a thriller,
or would you even categorize it within a particular genre?
MANN: I would go with not necessarily categorizing it within
a particular genre. I mean, it has horror elements, it has thriller elements,
it has police-procedural elements and it has straight drama elements as well.
FANG: How graphic is the movie’s violence, and what was your
approach to the violent scenes in general?
MANN: My approach to the specific scenes of violence, very
similar to my approach to the overall violence of the story, was to be less
literal and more evocative with it. The theory was that that would be,
hopefully, more compelling.
FANG: You got a great cast in the film. Are all the actors
your first choices, or did you audition people for the different parts?
MANN: I have an extraordinary cast. I was incredibly
fortunate to get them, and they’re all ridiculously talented and the depth of
the research that they did was phenomenal. We were so lucky, because we had
access to both the actual detectives and detectives from the LAPD. So we went
to actual crime scenes and studied how you handle them, and we went to the
morgue. There was, collectively, among the cast, a level of respect for the
treatment of the material that really shows in their work.
FANG: I read on-line that Bradley Cooper was at one point involved in the film…
MANN: Briefly, yeah.
FANG: Who wound up taking that role, and what happened to
MANN: Jeffrey Dean Morgan ended up taking over Bradley’s
part. There was a scheduling conflict, unfortunately. Sam Worthington was the
first to sign on, then Jeffrey.
FANG: When you cast Jessica Chastain, had she done THE TREE
OF LIFE or any of the other films she’s now getting attention for?
MANN: She had shot TREE OF LIFE, but we hadn’t seen any of
it. I was given an independent film of hers called JOLENE, and she was just
stunning in it. So I got very lucky to work with her.
FANG: Chloë Grace Moretz has a fairly intense role for someone her age. Was the
fact that she had done KICK-ASS and LET ME IN beforehand helpful, or an
inspiration to casting her?
MANN: The inspiration for casting Chloë Moretz was Chloë
Moretz. She came into the room and started reading, and I knew right away she
was the girl. I don’t exactly know how she does it; she’s just an extremely
talented person. For being, at the time we were shooting, 12 years old, she had
such craft, and total control of it. And in terms of embodying Little Anne, she
had this ability to be in the moment of the character, and understand, almost
intuitively, how to carry that with her through the story. She had no
self-pity. She brought this understanding that Little Anne is a girl who’s
going through tough circumstances, and her objective is to move through them
and get out. That was exactly what this character needed.
FANG: Growing up with Michael, did you always have an
interest in becoming a filmmaker yourself?
MANN: I actually grew up with my mother, in Indiana. But I
was lucky enough to get an opportunity to work as a production assistant in the
art department on his television show CRIME STORY, and I was sold [laughs]. I
had always done photography and always written, and done music and theater, and
as soon as I stepped on a set, I realized this was the way we could put it all
FANG: Speaking of which, there are a lot of crime stories
and police procedurals on television and in the movies these days. Would you
say that TEXAS KILLING FIELDS is driven by the procedure, or driven by the
MANN: I would say this is a story that is driven by the
characters, who are in circumstances that present them with tough obstacles.
And we watch the way that they move through them.
FANG: Do you have any other films of this kind, or other
types of movies, in the works right now?
MANN: I have several things that I’m working on, as a writer
FANG: Anything that you can talk about specifically?
MANN: No [laughs].
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment