Paul Schrader On Unleashing ‘Dog Eat Dog’, The Studio System & Whether He’ll Work With Martin Scorsese Again – Cannes Studio

Mark Mann

Paul Schrader returned to the Croisette this year with his pulp crime pic Dog Eat Dog which made its premiere during the closing of Directors’ Fortnight.

In the movie, Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe play ex-cons who are attempting to make the ultimate score on what could be their last job until everything goes wrong. The film marks the second time in 26 years that the duo have appeared on screen together, the last time being in the 1990 Palme d’Or winner Wild At Heart. The electricity that existed between the two as adversaries in that David Lynch film is restored in Dog Eat Dog, in which they play complex peers.

When it comes to working with Schrader, Dog Eat Dog marks the third time for Cage, and the seventh time for Dafoe. During our interview with Schrader, the filmmaker explained what Cage brings to an indie film nowadays: “First and foremost when you’re packaging, what everybody is doing here on the beach, he brings financing. Nic has very powerful VOD numbers and foreign numbers, so he can’t get any film made, but can go a long way to getting a film made.”

Though Schrader cut his teeth in the studio system writing such movies as Sydney Pollack’s Yakuza, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (which won the Palme d’Or in 1976) and Brian DePalma’s Obsession, he segued as a filmmaker to the indie world where he had the freedom to express his own voice via gritty, offbeat biopics and noir fare. In 2003, Schrader had an entanglement with studio filmmaking when he directed the prequel The Exorcist: Dominion for Morgan Creek and Warner Bros. They didn’t like his cut, and hired Renny Harlin to re-shoot the entire movie, which was then released as  Exorcist: The Beginning in August 2004. That version failed to resurrect the franchise at the B.O., and Warners would then release Schrader’s version, Exorcist: The Original Prequel, in a limited number of theaters given fans’ interest.

“I don’t know if there is a studio system anymore,” said Schrader about whether he’d ever return to it. “I can’t imagine anything that would interest me coming through that system anymore.”

“I had to show Light Sleeper to Mike Medavoy and he said ‘Paul, this is a great film, but we don’t make these types of films anymore.’ He was right, they don’t make that film. I keep making the same film, but now they’re independent films.” In our DeadlineNow interview, Schrader further expounds on how the indie filmmaking world has changed and whether or not he’d ever work with Martin Scorsese again, his last screenplay with the Oscar-winning director being 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead which also starred Cage.

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