Adam Egypt Mortimer Interview

It’s About One Person’s Internal Conflicts That Become Very Visual

Liselotte Vanophem Hi Adam, how are you doing?

Adam Egypt Mortimer: I’m doing fine, thank you.

LV: Congratulations on your stunning film called “Daniel Isn’t Real”. It’s based on a novel right?

AEM: Yes, it’s based on “In This Way I Was Saved”, a novel written by Brian DeLeeuw. Brian and I turned that it into “ Daniel Isn’t Real “. We also ended up writing three other movies together. Our relationship is going very well.

LV: So what were your thoughts when you read the novel for the first time?

AEM: I liked many things about it. That part where they are kids together lasts a lot longer in the novel than in the movie. In the novel, it’s probably a hundred pages about their childhood. Right from the start, it felt for me that it was a dark fantasy world created by those kids. I thought that would be a really interesting way to get into the movie.

Another element that made the novel so interesting to make a movie about was its brilliantly made story. It’s about one person’s internal conflicts that become very visual and externalised by creating those two characters. The novel has some great elements that made me want to turn it into a movie but those two things are what initially attracted me to it. When I got the novel, I was very into it and I read it very quickly. After that, I called Brian and said: “Let’s make this movie”.

LV: In this movie, it’s all about Luke and Daniel, who are stunningly portrayed by Miles Robbins (Luke) and Patrick Schwarzenegger (Daniel). How did you find those two leading actors?

AEM: I auditioned a lot of people and spoke to a lot of actors. What I liked about Miles, who plays Luke, is that he really understood the movie and how it was related to the modern world and the role of young men in contemporary society. He seemed to understand it and he had this deep well of empathy and emotions. That was so necessary for this role. Another interesting fact is that first, he was going for the role of Daniel himself. However, I thought that he would make a perfect Luke.

For the part of Daniel, I needed to find somebody who’s exceptionally good-looking and charming. It also needed to be someone who could embody that idea of what a person might imagine if they imagine the perfect version of themselves. Patrick had all of that and he was also really interested in using his physically and figuring out how to transform and to be this character. He never played anyone so sinister before.

LV: During the casting process, was there one scene they had to act out together to make sure that the chemistry was there?

AEM: Well, I didn’t audition them together but we had a pretty significant rehearsal period before we started shooting. We spend a lot of time together to create the friendship between Luke and Daniel and the memories they would have as children. Miles and Patrick had the time to create a bond that would be so useful in this movie. We worked that all out during the rehearsal period.

LV: Seeing Luke wearing that red suit, how was that for you? Did it give that evil-ish vibe?

AEM: For Miles, it was such a treat doing those scenes. He spent so much time in the movie being traumatised, in pain, crazy and stressed out. Thanks to that suit, he was finally able to stretch out and express himself. He got to enjoy it in the same way the character did.

When we were working on the movie, we were very interested in Daniel being attracted to a colour that’s sort of ultraviolet, neon, and purple. However, we also didn’t want him to wear a complete purple suit because that would look too much like the Joker. We didn’t want to make him look like we’re ripping off from the Joker and so that’s why we put him in a red suit. After that, the Joker movie came out and he’s wearing a red suit. Yep, wherever you go, the Joker is there.

LV: In this movie, there are a lot of psychedelic and crazy scenes that were probably very hard to shoot. Do you still remember the most difficult scene to film?

AEM: Not sure if it was a difficult scene but there was this very action-packed sword fight scene in this movie. We were blessed with an incredible stunt choreographer named Monique Ganderton who already did the fights and stunts for The Avengers movies. She had a short break in between films and she came to our set and helped us with the fights and taught the actors how to swordfight. They had this rigorous choreography that they had to learn. They learned flawlessly how to do it. Patrick’s father [Arnold Schwarzenegger] was in “Conan the Barbarian” and there was some sword fighting DNA in his blood.

LV: Did you try the sword fighting yourself?

AEM: No, sadly not. I still don’t know how to do it.

LV: Well, that might be for during your next film then.

AEM: Yeah, true. I should take these films as opportunities to learn all the skills myself.

LV: It’s almost a year now since this film premiered at the SXSW festival. How was it for you?

AEM: Well, it has been a non-stop journey. I wanted to make sure that this movie could travel to as many festivals as possible and see how audiences were reacting. It was also about talking to the audience and hearing their experiences about it. It felt like I was touring with a band. “Daniel Isn’t Real” went all over the world and that was cool.

LV: Are there any film festivals or cities you’re taking this movie too?

AEM: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s anything else lined up. I’ve just completed filming another movie so now I’m starting with the editing and postproduction for that one. That’s going to keep me busy now for the next couple of months.

LV: Can you already tell us something about that movie?

AEM: Yes, it’s called “Archenemy” and it’s my take on superhero movies in a way. It’s an action, science-fiction and crime movie. It’s about an alcoholic homeless guy who lives under a bridge. He tells people that he used to be a superhero from another dimension but he crashed on their planet. He now has no more powers. He gets involved with a family who needs his help to fight the local crime lord. It’s quite brutal and it’s an exploration of trauma and memories.

LV: Where does the passion for film come from?

AEM: I don’t know actually. I know that I made my first movie when I was 15 years old and it was a black and white film that had very similar topics as “Daniel Isn’t Real”. Dubbelgangers, suicides, madness, etc. It was all psychological and strange. I didn’t go to film school and I was always trying to do it on my own. It must have even started earlier than that. I was an only child and I would play with all of my toys and stuffed animals in a way that was quite narrative. My first directing experience was directing a family of plush pigs.

LV: As a filmmaker, do you still have time to watch movies yourself?

AEM: Oh, yeah. That’s all I do. I love watching movies. I still have to catch up on a lot of the recent movies because I was shooting a film myself. I do try to keep up. I want to see “ 1917 “.

LV: Apart from Archenemy, are there any more upcoming films?

AEM: Brian and I have a new script that we’ve just finished and it’s about witches. We’re hoping to get that going soon. We’ve started talking to people about that. With “ Daniel Isn’t Real “, I felt like I understood how to approach directing and what filmmaking really can be. I feel that I get better at making movies and that’s an exciting feeling. I don’t want to stop the momentum so I want to go back to filming as soon as possible. I just want to keep doing it.

Read our review of “Daniel Isn’t Real” here.

Originally published at on February 3, 2020.



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