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Locking horns with Lasso director Evan Cecil in advance of the film’s Arrow Films FrightFest UK premiere

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Evan Cecil

The Western-styled horror film Lasso screens at 11pm on 26th August at Arrow Films FrightFest 2018. Tickets are available here, and the film comes highly recommended by us if you haven’t decided what to see in that slot yet, or just fancy coming down to check out a bus full of pensioners and a cowboy with no arms (Sean Patrick Flanery) face off against a posse of psycho roid-rage rodeo riders. It’s a rootin’ tootin’ bleedin’ awesome slasher full of jingling spurs, jangling nerves and huge brutal unforgettable crowd-pleasing kills that will take the roof off the Prince Charles Cinema.

After loving the film seeing it in advance of its FrightFest premiere, Live for Films recently caught up with the film’s director, Evan Cecil, to talk about the film’s real-life inspiration, elderly heroes, and sawing people in half.

 

Hiya Evan, I’m Alan from Live for Films – thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions from us today. We loved Lasso. It’s a true original and on reflection a rodeo setting is such a great place for a slasher that you can’t believe it has never been done before…

Thanks Alan! So awesome to hear… I appreciate it!

 

…Where did the idea first come from, and how did it change and develop into the final film?

The idea actually came from a real Rodeo I attended up in the redwood forests of Northern California. I got there late, it was already dark, the few folks left had been there all-day drinking beer in the sun. It was fun, but definitely had a creepy vibe. There was also something cinematic and interesting to me, the smaller Rodeo set in the woods rather than the open plains location we’d expect to see a Rodeo. I literally had an “ah-ha” moment while there that a Rodeo would be a great location for a horror flick. The film actually didn’t change and develop as much as you’d think from the original idea. Of course, there was a ton that developed and evolved as this small idea was turned into a complete feature length story.

 

The film very shrewdly comments on the inherent cruelty of a rodeo, is this something you felt strongly about and was there any resistance from any cowboy advisers, researchers or professionals you approached for assistance because of this?

I do think the question of rodeo being cruel is hardly a new one. To me this question/theme feels like an inherent part of rodeo today. So yes, I very much am against animal cruelty in general, but I am not sure I was seeing this as something that would open anyone’s eyes to this as a new thing. I didn’t have much negative feedback from “rodeo folks” I talked to. The situation in the film is so out there, I don’t think people interpret it as a typical rodeo or situation.

The cast is absolutely fantastic on three totally different tiers. Can you please first talk about casting the seniors, and why you wanted a strong and brilliant elderly presence in the film?

A lot of LASSO is playing off of the viewer’s expectations. Often in horror films, older people are used as evil characters, so it felt interesting and fresh to have the seniors have larger heroic roles. If the story had been a bus load of hot teens getting stranded at the rodeo, the film would not have had the interesting vibe that it has now in my opinion. It would have felt like another typical indie-horror movie. The inspiration for the active senior adventure group actually came from my mother. She is an active nature lover and is getting to an age that many people her age can’t keep up. So, finding friends to adventure with can be challenging for her.

 

Then you have Heather and Skyler in the other group. The chemistry between them, and with Simon is fantastic – how important was that in casting?

Incredibly important! We didn’t have the luxury in our schedule and budget to do any rehearsals or pre-readings with the actors to gauge chemistry. So, I didn’t truly know how successful the casting was until we were out in the field shooting. It was stressful but luckily everyone did an amazing job immediately, so I was quickly at ease with the performances. To me, Andrew was the trickiest to cast. The role of Simon was in danger of being unlikable to the viewer if played wrong. In fact, most people read the role as a nerdier type. But I think pushing the role more urban to contrast the rodeo gave the role a “fish out of water”  vibe I believe helped to excuse some of Simon’s bad behavior.

 

Please can you tell us absolutely everything about Skyler Cooper, who plays Trish? They are so cool!

I know! I am a huge fan of Skyler! Although born female, Skyler prefers and identifies as male. I think he did an amazing job with the role. The role of Trish needed to be played by someone physically strong, it was important to me that Trish be able to keep up and excel physically with the men in the film. One unexpected thing about Skyler is how different he is from Trish. Trish is tough and serious and doesn’t suffer fools. Skyler is light and easy, friendly, super playful and goofing around constantly.

 

Did you always have Sean Patrick Flanery in mind for Ennis? And how did the two of you approach his character? He is an unforgettable delicate tragi-comic hero. 

No in fact I didn’t, I actually didn’t have a specific person in mind initially. Actually Todd, our executive producer of the film is a huge fan of Sean and was able to make that happen. I thought Sean did a fantastic job with Ennis. In some ways Ennis riffs off the “classic cowboy” but given the insane circumstances of the story and how he deals with them, he is given an unexpected sweetness.

 

The roid rage cowboys are terrifying. Was their casting more based on physicality and how imposing they were?

I am glad to hear you found them terrifying…that’s awesome.  So, the first evil cowboy that was cast was Travis Ross, that plays Brodeo, he is an actor I had worked with before and knew would do an amazing job in the role. With him I knew I’d get both the physicality as well as acting skills. We actually cast a large number of roles with stunt people; this was especially true with most of the bad guys. The roles had some much action to them. Sure, I was a little concerned I’d only be getting the physicality from the stunt players and less acting skills, but that was definitely not the case. I was incredibly impressed with all of the stunt people’s performances. I mean, it’s clear on the screen how great they all were right?

 

What is the whip claw weapon that the man in black wields called, is it real, and what is it used for?

Oh no, you busted me! I hate to admit it, but it’s not real. It was just made of up be scary and ominous for the film.

 

Was there any specific prep you wanted your cast to do? Was there a cowboy boot camp?

Ha! I wish! But we didn’t even have any rehearsals given out tight schedule and budget. It was stressful for me obviously. Andrew got on a horse for the first time in his life maybe 10 minutes before we shot the scene of him riding horseback.

 

The kills are brilliant and bonkers, and dance between being funny, brutal, upsetting and terrifying. How do you directorialy go about orchestrating such carnage? And did you have a particular favourite? Personally, the sleeping bag and the band saw were the ones that made me gasp out loud. 

Thank you, that feels amazing to hear. They were a lot of work. Luckily for me, my background comes from directing crime TV shows that had tons of action/murder, fights, etc. almost daily. So, I do feel comfortable with these types of scenes. Those shows were also re-telling true crimes so there was a heaviness in knowing these often horrible crimes really happened and the victims will be watching the shows. LASSO was all make believe so the carnage became fun, is that terrible to admit?! It would be so hard to pick a favorite, but I do have a special appreciation for some of the kills that came out great that we shot entirely practically, nothing in post. Like the big saw/hay hook and tug of war scenes am really effective and we just shot them out in the field and they didn’t need anything in post, I think that is cool.

 

What are you doing next? And could there be a Lasso 2?

I have a few projects I am working on, but first of all – hell yes there could be a LASSO 2, I’d love that!! But in the meantime, I am working on a couple other features. One is called BUNKER, it is about a military mission gone bad and the aftermath of survival as well as the mystery of why the mission failed. The other is another horror film called PRESIPICE, it walks a cool line between crazy blood and gore to a beautiful love story.  

 

Thank you again for your time. LASSO is going to take the roof off of FrightFest. 

Lasso is highly recommended by Live for Films and screens at 11pm at Arrow Films FrightFest 2018. Tickets are available here, and we will post a review of the film following its UK premiere.

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