FATMAN Exclusive Interview: Directors Ian & Eshom Nelms On Casting Mel Gibson, Future Projects, & More

Fatman is now available on VOD, and writers/directors Ian and Eshom Nelms recently spoke to us about their highly unconventional Christmas movie. Check out our exclusive interview right here...

Interviews Opinion

With Fatman now available on VOD (you can check out our review here), we recently got the chance to speak to the film's co-directors/writers about the highly unconventional Christmas movie and what type of projects they might be interested in tackling in the future.

Ian and Eshom Nelms have written and directed several award-winning and critically-acclaimed films such as Waffle Street (2015), Small Town Crime (2018) and Carrie and Me, proving to be adept at working within various different genres.

Their latest project is a black comedy/thriller which puts a unique twist on the Santa Claus legend, and stars Mel Gibson as the big man himself, and Walton Goggins as the ruthless hitman hired to take him out.

During our chat, the filmmakers spoke about Fatman's unique concept, casting Gibson in the lead, potentially taking the helm of a superhero movie, and more.

Mark Cassidy: I read that you first came up with the concept of Fatman almost 2 decades ago. Did you feel this was the right time to make a movie about a cynical Santa Claus given the current climate?

"It's pretty incredible when we think about it. We'd been trying to make the movie for 14 years, and it felt like the script was becoming more relevant with every year that passed! Of course, we were rewriting and evolving it, but the overall story became a reflection of our current times. But that’s the nature of a lot of art."

MC: Mel Gibson is perfect as Chris Cringle. Was he always your first choice for the role?

"When we first wrote the script, 14 years ago, we saw Jack Nicholson in the role. But in 2016, we attended a screening of "Hacksaw Ridge" and Mel did a Q and A afterward. He had an incredible beard. He was at the tail end of the awards run and you could tell he was exhausted, but still incredibly passionate - and that's when we saw our Chris Cringle. He fit perfectly in our minds with the Santa we'd written. Tired, but incredibly passionate - a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders!"

MC: The movie has some very funny moments, but I was surprised by how seriously it takes a premise which could very easily have been mined for, let's say, more obvious humor. Did you always have a specific tone in mind?

"We wanted to play it straight. Grounding the world was always the goal. There's dark-comedy, but it was always important for us to keep it real and have Chris and Ruth be real people. We've all seen the jolly Santa or the Santa who comes down your chimney with a hatchet, but we'd never seen a grounded Santa. We wanted to create an everyman - the guy everyone sort of knows who lives outside of town, but no one really knows. We wanted to introduce the audience to the film through its characters, then start rolling out the more fantastical elements. It's a bit of a Christmas western in that way - with three main characters circling each other, slowly gaining speed until they SMASH into each other!"

MC: Fatman is obviously far from your conventional Christmas movie, but I love that there are a couple of heart-warming moments in there. My favourite scene is probably when Chris reads the thank you letters from the kids. Were you ever tempted to add more of that stuff, or do you feel those moments resonate because the rest of the film is comparatively dark?

"We love those moments too, and that's definitely the heart of the film - that Christmas spirit, bubbling beneath the surface of the darker story. Those moments are important, but we wanted a balance - of hinting at the mythos and ratcheting up the tension. They needed to play off each other and build to a climax the audience cared about."

MC: That ending is certainly something! It seems clear that you guys like to explore many different genres. Any idea which type of movie you'd like to tackle next?

"When people ask what our favorite films are, we prattle off: Predator, Aliens, True Romance, Last Picture Show, Hud, Being There, Shampoo, The Good The Bad And The Ugly. We love so many different types of films. It's difficult to nail down exactly what we want to do next. But we love sci-fi and horror - and I could see moving in those directions in the very near future."

MC: Finally, this being CBM, I have to ask! Cringle is not exactly a superhero, but am I right in thinking there are a few elements or nods to the comic book genre in there (him lifting the crate, healing from his wounds etc)? I was curious if you've had any discussions with any of the big studios like Marvel or WB about working on one of their superhero projects, or if you had any interest in developing one of your own ideas?

"We certainly see Chris as a superhero. And I'd say, both. We love comic books. One of our favorite mainstream characters is The Punisher. His comics hit the right buttons for us. But usually, our comic tastes are a bit off the beaten path, like Sam And Twitch or Jeff Lemire's work. We also seem to gravitate toward books that Ben Templesmith does the art for - we're big fans of his work and his style adds a cool flavor to everything he touches. And we also have some ideas of our own we're kicking around."

We'd like to extend a massive thanks to Ian and Eshom for taking the time to answer our questions, and look forward to learning more about what they have in the pipeline.

If you're looking for a different kind of Christmas movie to watch over the Holidays, be sure to give Fatman a go.

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