You’ve probably heard of The Greasy Strangler by now. You might have heard words like “weird,” “disgusting,” “hilarious” and, of course, “Greasy.” It’s a truly unique vision of a greasy, greasy world, filled with pink jumpers, cartoonish gore, weird nudity, running jokes based on the phrase “Bullshit artist” and a grease-caked killer that stalks the streets by night.
Meanwhile, Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) decides that it might be time to move out of his dad Big Ronnie’s (Michael St Michaels) place, and when he falls for Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), he might finally have the strength to stand up to his old man. But what if Big Ronnie is the Greasy Strangler?
We loved the film a lot (read our review), so we were very excited to talk to director Jim Hosking and his co-writer Toby Harvard about their vision, the practicalities of working with so much grease, and the sweetness beneath the bodily fluids.
How would you pitch The Greasy Strangler to a reader who knows nothing about the film?
Jim Hosking: I made the film like a desperate man howling into the void after a year of psychological traumatic pain and madness. I would say that if you feel bored by much of the formulaic predictable film fare on offer and that you want to see something different that will surprise you and take you to new places then you should start booking your tickets online as soon as possible! Don’t delay! Go see The Greasy Strangler today! Hooray! There, that’s my considered pitch.
Toby Harvard: I always saw it as Carnal Knowledge meets The New York Ripper. Two overgrown schoolboys bickering, but with bonus scenes of extreme eyeball-popping and flapping inflamed genitalia. If that sounds enticing to you, you’re in for a truly luxurious cinematic experience.
Had these characters and this world been in your head for a long time?
TH: We’d done a short film called Crabs about a father and son who despise each other but can’t live without each other. Then we did part of ABCs Of Death 2 where a man battles his creepy granddad, so I suppose it’s a theme we’ve been intrigued by.
JH: People living on the edges of society, in the cracks and in the margins, they are always in my head. I feel like an outsider. I feel like I don’t fit. Maybe we all do, I have no idea. But that’s how I am. I used to have to drag my Mum around the sitting room by her neck every day after school, because she claimed she had been hit by her Biology teacher over the head with a large textbook when she was at school in Switzerland and that it had squashed her neck. The characters in The Greasy Strangler are a product of mine and Toby Harvard’s imagination. Toby wrote the script with me. So it’s a Harvard Hosking joint. Like a Spike Lee joint. But with more male nudity. They are an extreme example of the characters that I come up with. But hey I still came up with them. It can get a lot weirder than The Greasy Strangler. It’s just hard to get the money for the weirdest characters that live in my head!!!
It’s got a style that’s all of its own, both visually and in the dialogue. Was it difficult to find collaborators who could be on the same wavelength?
TH: It’s a script you either really love in an all-consuming way, or utterly despise. You get it or you don’t. There’s no middle ground with a script that features a 2-page scene where characters are calling each other variations of “bullshit artist”. So that definitely sorted the wheat from the chaff very early on.
JH: No. Everybody involved was excited to break free and explore something different. It felt like an experiment. In the best way. It’s fun to make something and to feel like you don’t know whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, because it feels different and is speaking its own language. We went off-road. It was an adventure. It felt like an adventure holiday with no map and not much food or water. But with a lot of grease. Honestly it was so much fun, because we are all adults. And we are making The Greasy Strangler. My Dad was in the army. I made The Greasy Strangler. We all go in different directions. But maybe they’re not so different. We greased a couple of men up and sent them into battle.
All four of the production companies involved have great track records for making really interesting and challenging films. Was it reassuring to have the backing and support of people like Ben Wheatley and Elijah Wood with a film like this?
JH: It was really fantastic to have Ben and Elijah support me. I felt really touched by it, and I still feel very lucky. I’ve had fantastic conversations with other filmmakers thanks to this film. You realise we are all a bit of a gang, we appreciate each other, and it’s just a great little community. It’s probably the same with farmers when they have one of their large vegetable competitions. They all come together and admire the girth of each other’s carrots. And why not eh? What the fuck else are we here for?
All the performances are incredible! Was it difficult to find people like Michael St Michaels and Sky Elobar?
JH: Well, I think it’s not that difficult to find people like Michael and Sky. Maybe the really difficult thing is to find the combination of a director who wants to cast these kinds of characters and also for that director to have a team of producers who are like-minded and amenable to this prospect ha!
What are the practical challenges of making a film with this much grease?
JH: There wasn’t as much as grease as I wanted. The budget couldn’t stretch to the amount of grease that was truly required. I needed tonnes of grease. The house would have collapsed under the weight of desired grease. Grease grease grease! Well, grease is slippery, grease is hard to remove and reset when you need to go again. But grease is also the lubricant necessary for such fantabulously greasy performances.
I loved the soundtrack! Could you tell us about collaborating with Andrew Hung?
JH: Andy is one of the two members of Fuck Buttons. I love their music, and love Andy’s solo work too. I want collaborators to bring their own ideas and to contribute, and I want to confine them as little as possible. It was a true collaboration. Andy saw the film. I told him what was in my head, why I loved his music. I told him to do what felt right for him. To not worry about doing what he thought was the right thing to do for the film. I wanted him to express himself as purely and freely as he could. I wanted the film to feel really like a free unfiltered expression. Andy went for it. And I couldn’t have been happier when I heard the results. I love the music! And he does too!
Were there any particular inspirations for this film?
TH: When we wrote it I was on a heavy diet of Harold Pinter, William Lustig, Daniel Clowes, Robert Crumb and Giallo. And lots of Barry White.
JH: The main inspiration was Carl Solomon who played Danny The Crooner. He makes me and Toby laugh. We thought of Carl naked dripping in grease and then wrote the script. Beyond that I wanted to shoot in LA and for LA to not feel like the clichéd LA you often see. It’s not Michael Mann. It’s Michael St Michaels. I took inspiration from maybe some distant flashes of Crumb, Readers Wives, Ruth Gordon dancing, strange men prowling Hollywood at night in velour suits, old British Kids TV, Wallace and Gromit, Robby Muller, Dennis Hopper, Berlin in the 70s, and hearing my Dad brushing his teeth when I was a kid. I think that informed the Ronnie tooth brushing watching Janet pee scene.
How have you found the reaction to the film so far?
TH: I was bracing myself for a lot more bile and accusations of immaturity, but amazingly people are mostly in on the joke. I think there’s a sweetness and innocence beneath the grease and bodily fluids.
JH: I am constantly amazed that anybody is shocked by this film when they generally watch films filled with graphic violence. I just have two guys running around with triangular penises and a lady who is very hairy downstairs. I don’t know, maybe there’s something I’m not getting here. I made something that I know I would find funny if I went to see it. I try not to get too bogged down in other people’s reactions. You just make what you want to make.
What’s next for you?
JH: I’m shooting a film in November. It’s very different to The Greasy Strangler but I think it will be distinctive in its own way. It’s an ensemble piece about a mysterious man with a changed identity who will perform a magical magical event in a small American town in mid-winter. His fans are mainly senior citizens. And trust me they absolutely love him. You will too!
The Greasy Strangler is released on 7 October in the UK. Read our review here and keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.