Interview: 'Greasy Strangler' Director Jim Hosking on his latest provocation 'An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn'



Writer-director Jim Hosking doesn't think like a regular filmmaker, or, at least, in the narratively conventional sense. What is most important to Hosking, who first gained attention for his film “The Greasy Strangler,” is to create a world only he can conceive. His films are filled with the kind of unique characters that you have never seen before in cinema. He no doubt has his fair share of detractors, but the fact that the filmmaker has managed to find a way to break out of the mold with such a unique brand of filmmaking is something to celebrate. In essence, nobody makes movies quite like Jim Hosking.

What Hosking’s eccentric style has now produced is “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn,” the story of an unhappy coffee shop worker, Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza), recently fired by her husband (Emile Hirsch) who convinces a stranger (Jemaine Clement) to go on a road trip with her. Lulu's goal is to confront a mysterious man from her past, Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson). However, Beverly doesn't speak, mostly grunting and moaning his way in life, and has his manager, Rodney Von Donkensteiger (Matt Berry) doing the crux of the talking for him.

It's a mysterious, deadpan comedy that has suprisingly romantic touches as well . Although you shouldn't expect the shocking outrage of 'Greasy Strangler', Hosking continues to further evolve as an artist by not adhering to any kind of norms and conventions for mainstream audiences. Make no mistake about it, his films are for a particular crowd but that's what makes them so refreshing to behold, they don't abide by any rules whatsoever.

I spoke to Hosking about his latest film, how he concocts his weird style and why Marvel films just aren't for him.

It seems like in your movies the characters have to be unique and strange. Is your goal to go for characters we have not seen before?
I am definitely trying to present something different to an audience. I feel like I want the characters to be individuals and distinctive but I think that there are some characters in the film who are more sympathetic than others and who may relate to maybe more than others, but I’m trying to create a slightly different world with a different kind of universe for people to be transported to. I mean I am not making a Ken Loach film [laughs]

Is there anything you want an audience to take from your characters?
I cannot anticipate how people will react. I mean any film that you watch will be a different film to any other person that watches it. When I am making this film, I am trying to create something that I would be excited to see myself. I am trying to make a film that will connect emotionally with me but will also make me laugh. I was trying to combine tones that maybe do not go together, which can make for an eccentric peculiar world of comedy with a sort of romantic side to it also. I suppose I want to affect people the way I was affected when I made the film. I have no control over how people will react but I was trying to make a film with a surprising emotional sensitivity to it. That was the major difference with this film and maybe "The Greasy Strangler."

With that film, as well as 'Beverly', you are not concerned with what is going on outside the world today. Would it ever interest you at all to make a movie like that?
I think that even though it's a different world that I tackle I still feel it's, in a funny way, about a woman taking control of her life, it's very diverse, it's liberating, unconventional in that way. I feel like it does try to empower the viewer a bit, but not in a didactic political theorizing way. To me, it is a cathartic expression and that can still have an effect on people but maybe not in a literal fashion. A staunch republican, a sort of rampant Trump supporter, would not make this movie.

Can you talk about how you put all these ideas into script? Do you let your actors venture off script a bit?
When I work with the actors, I feel like it rather depends on the actors and the scene being shot but I am open with a scene becoming what it is meant to become. What I am excited about when I’m writing or when I film is to surprise myself, I suppose, as much as my collaborators or audiences. I want to feel very alive when I make it so I am very open to changing things up. When you work with somebody like Aubrey Plaza it would be a bit boring not make it evolve. It is very specific on page and it is about taking the intentions on the script and making it into a somewhat more concentrating version of that. I do try many things on set but I feel like my brain kicks in when I am in that world when I work on a tightrope and have no clue if I am going to fall off it [laughs]

It is never easy having this kind of creative freedom and finding financing. Your films are risky endeavors for studios but thank God, they are still being made
I do not think it was too hard to finance. I am always surprised when I see some films with well-known actors that have small budgets and vice versa big budget films with actors I have never heard of. I do not understand what is an attractive proposition to an audience or a financier. All I know is that what I find exciting to see in a theater is very different from what many people find exciting and want to go to see. I do not go to see Marvel films for example but I do go to see slow Turkish films about lonely middle-aged men. I think this is a very accessible comedy and a very romantic comedy but I don't know how anybody else would perceive it. I don't know why anybody would not enjoy it. I do not see it.

Do you find these Marvel films will age well?
I think that anything that feels very tied to our times will probably not age quite so well. If you make a film about the launch of specific mobile phone then that will not date very well, but if you make a film about emotional relationships and people happen to use that phone when they talk to each other then maybe that will age better. I suppose that is why I also quite enjoy making films that are not of this world and that just feel like they exist in their own orbit. I do love filmmakers that create their own specific universe and if that is somebody like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch or Aki Kaurismaki then I always enjoy those.

Has that been your mantra, making films that nobody else could make?
Or rather just to make what I want to make and it is in my DNA because of my upbringing and how my family was in letting us express ourselves. To express myself in ways that only I and nobody else can. If anybody is doing it then I do not need to say it.

I heard you have been working on the small screen as well. How was the creative freedom on TV?c
I am finishing a TV show for Adult Swim and I got two film projects that I kinda sort of packing, if you would say, so I would like to get that going by next year. They have been very loose in the reigns. A lot of freedom to make something peculiar.

Adult Swim seems to be a good fit for your idiosyncrasies and stylistic choices
It definitely fits a part of my personality. Making films is like getting things out of your system and I got something out of my system with my last two feature films, but Adult Swim is another thing and of course they are all 'of me' so there is some kind of linking between them but I just want to keep exploring different avenues.