Robert Parigi’s Love Object tells the story of a man and his sex doll…a scenario I’m sure that’s familiar to a few of us here at Film Threat. Being that this is a horror story, however, the relationship gets rather intense, leading one to perhaps re-evaluate their own bizarre sexual habits.
Robert took a few minutes with us to discuss his Love Object.
So…Robert, do you own a Real Doll?
Nope. Next movie I direct, I’m writing in a cool signature prop that’s
small enough to keep after shooting.
How did the story of Love Object come about?
It was like the scene in the movie, when the guys at the office look at the Modern Leisure Appliances website. While web-surfing on the mix stage for another project, my sound supervisor William Dotson showed me the Real Doll website. So I named the character in the movie after Dotson.
At first I thought Real Doll was a hoax, but then I recognized it was for real. There’s a shadowy line between an inanimate body and a dead one. The photo-realism of the inert doll-bodies made them look more like real corpses than live girls. Combined with the Zalman King style porno poses, it looked like soft-focus mass-market necrophilia.
It was creepy and absurd at the same time. You could have more fun with live girls for the cost of one of these dolls, so who would buy one? In trying to imagine who would prefer a silicone corpse to a live girl, Kenneth’s character started to develop, and the story grew out of that.
Was this an actual Real Doll, or did you have your effects team create one for the film?
Both. We ordered two Real Doll bodies for the movie, and Make Up and Monsters Studios replaced the faces with life-casts from our lead actress.
Incidentally, while researching the cost of fabricating a doll, I uncovered weird lore about previous movie bodies. Strange mutilations have been inflicted on life-size nude Sylvester Stallone models from “Demolition Man,” and make-up effects guys tell odd stories about castings from Michelle Pfeifer’s full-body molds from “Batman Returns.” Fortunately, the dolls from our movie were destroyed during production.
What was your first reaction to the doll when you saw it before you?
My first reaction was relief that we were actually making the movie. Since the dolls were the most expensive props in the movie and couldn’t be returned, I figured ContentFilm had to make the movie, just so Mr. Pressman wouldn’t have to explain away thousands of dollars’ worth of sex dolls to the IRS.
My next reaction was “Am I insane?! I’m making a movie about a damn sex doll!”
Did anyone on set form a kind of “crush” on the doll?
In a strange way, production imitated the story. At first everyone was curious about the doll. Then during production, the doll became more and more “demanding.” Wardrobe had to muscle it around to get it dressed, make-up had to constantly clean and touch-up its make-up, camera had to wrestle it into position to light it. We tried to move it around in a wheelchair, but it kept falling out. Finally, everyone hated the doll so much we were looking forward to killing it!
You’ve got an amazing cast in the film. Are these the people you envisioned playing the characters while writing the script?
I’m thankful I have such a great cast in the movie. When I was writing the script I toyed with the idea of stunt-casting Anthony Michael Hall as Kenneth–for that Brat-Pack-gone-bad kind of vibe–and I imagined Lisa as a more child-like woman. But I knew Desmond Harrington and Melissa Sagemiller were perfect the second I saw their demo reels. Now I can’t imagine anyone else playing those characters, they so completely took over the roles and made them their own.
I always wanted Udo Kier for the Radley part, but I thought he lived in Europe. When I found out he was in L.A., we offered him the part and he was kind enough to accept.
Originally, I imagined Novak, Kenneth’s boss, as a more blue-collar, foreman kind of guy, like R. Lee Ermey. When Rip Torn became available I changed Novak to the owner of the company, because his presence is more regal.
So it was a combination of keeping my brain open to new ideas in the case of Kenneth and Lisa, and matching an original idea in the case of Radley. You have to trust your actors and your instincts, and not get locked into preconceptions.
Here’s something that I found interesting about the film: several of the minor characters Kenneth comes in contact with have a kind of purple birth mark somewhere on their bodies. What was this all about?
When I was researching the story, I noticed a clerk in a porn store who had a cancerous growth on his face. The juxtaposition of disease and sex was so disturbing; it seemed natural for the story. Maybe it’s Kenneth recognizing in other kindred spirits the disease within himself? Or maybe it’s a toxin in the dolls that causes the rash and psychotic hallucinations in the doll-lovers, a kind of porno-silicone version of the Salem witch trial rye ergotism. Or maybe it’s something even stranger.
I wanted to recreate in the movie the queasy ambiguity we have in real life when we try to explain serial killers. Is it just in their minds? Or is it a chemical imbalance, something physical that drives them to their crimes? Or is it just evil?
Do you think that your film portrays people who choose to lead “alternative sexual lifestyles” as dangerous?
It’s a horror movie, so everything is dangerous! If the movie had a happy ending, it would be a comedy, like Secretary, not a horror movie. It just so happens that in this story, doom borrows its shape from the fetish scene.
It’s disappointing when fetish topics become too politically correct. After all, it’s the imaginary or implied danger of the scene that generates its intrigue. If it gets too legitimate and respectable it becomes just another support group, but with funny costumes.
Besides, Lisa is clearly the most sympathetic character in the story, and she isn’t exactly vanilla, with her tattoos and piercings. The horror is inflicted by Kenneth, a vanilla drone who can’t handle his own sexuality.
Get the rest of the interview in part two of ROBERT PARIGI: FAKE PLASTIC LOVE>>>