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Monday, November 10, 2008

Wayne Coyne Directs a Christmas Movie for the Whole Family



Wayne Coyne, frontman for the flamboyant The Flaming Lips, talks about "Chrismas On Mars: A Fantastical Film Freak-Out Featuring the Flaming Lips," his directoral debut, that's out tomorrow on DVD. Being Wayne Coyne's neighbor must be either really cool or a giant pain in the ass. [Source]

You could fly to Mars and back in less time than it took for Wayne Coyne, the theatrical frontman of experimental psych rock band the Flaming Lips, to finish his film, "Christmas On Mars: A Fantastical Film Freak-out Featuring the Flaming Lips." His directorial debut is out Tuesday on DVD.

Coyne, who built most of the set in the back yard of his Oklahoma City home, began filming in 2001. The trippy sci-fi flick about an isolated, depressed colony on Mars, stars Coyne as an alien and Lips drummer Steven Drozd as Major Syrtis, who wants to celebrate Christmas as life on the Red Planet hangs in the balance.

As the settlers deal with major malfunctions, they await the birth of a baby - who is growing in a bubble. The mute alien arrives in a ball of light (a la Glenda the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz"), dons the Santa Claus suit and saves the day with a feel-good dose of holiday inspiration. It's a B-movie inspired feature made for the midnight movie circuit. It's weird, but the tender moments manage to draw you in a real, not other-worldly, way. The Post talked to Coyne, 47, on Election Day.

Will people see "Christmas on Mars" because you directed it?

You probably have to know who I am to even want to care about the movie. If you care about a director, you want to see what came out of his mind. That made me think, 'I'm free to do whatever I want.'

Are there benefits to filming for seven years?

We'd work on it for few months and then go do something else, so we'd lose the lose . . . the preciousness.

When I'd go back and see a scene, I'd say, 'That's pretty good. I thought was gonna be a bunch of sh - -, but it's pretty good.' Or, we'd do a scene and I'd think it's cheap and amateurish, but seeing it three years later, it didn't seem cheap and amateurish. It was really cool. Then I didn't start to worry about it as much.

So you felt overwhelmed at times?

You go at it with confidence - I have six or seven ideas I want to piece together somehow. But then you get in there and everything is a moment. It's like writing a novel. You just don't go from chapter three to chapter four. You have to write every f - - - ing word in between.

This movie seems ripe for interpretation.

[Laughing] It totally is. It's made in some of these clich├ęd arty bulls - - t ways that help. It's black-and-white. It deals with vague, vaginal-istic weirdness, religion vs. science and what is the meaning of happiness. Once it's made, you see those things in it.

Why did you cast yourself as the savior/alien?

For our annual Christmas card, I took a Polaroid of myself. From that, my wife, [an artist], painted a picture of me as an alien in a Santa suit. Everyone who gets the card says, 'I love your alien Santa Claus.' I was in the mode of making a movie and I didn't know what my character would be, but then I knew it'd be a Martian that turned into Santa Claus.

Most difficult thing to shoot?

There was a 20-foot ladder straight up to the grain elevator to walk up. There were spots up there that you could fall through - 110 feet to your death - that were just covered with duct tape. We first got up there and thought 'This is really dangerous,' but you do it a couple times and it doesn't seem as dangerous.

The pigeon sh - - at the top of this elevator had been there since 1945. Pigeon sh - - piles up pretty thick [he indicates the height of a foot or so], so we literally dug it out.

Problems with taking seven years to film?

We joke about it, but Steven [Drozd], in one scene, is at the height of his heroin addiction - weighing 175 pounds. Four years later he weighs 230 pounds, and he walks through a door as a whole new guy. We also thought it was absurd in a way. He was at the height of being at death's door. He could die after we shoot this. To me, this made it better and more meaningful. That's how you do it - with your life going on.

Can someone who's over 40 and not in an altered state enjoy this at home?

You could put it on and not even know who the Flaming Lips are or anything and go, 'Oh, this looks like some crazy sh - -, I'll watch this.' It's even better watching it and relaxing at your house and answering the phone if you need to. To me it really does roll along. It's funny. It's got action.

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