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Exclusive Interview With “SLC Punk!” Writer/Director James Merendino!!

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Hello my fellow kilSters!! Back in 2000, I had the good fortune to be introduced to a movie that, for lack of a better word, spoke to me. It was January and nearing my sister Eva‘s birthday. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she told me that she wanted some movie called SLC Punk! Now, at the time I was heavy into punk (and 13 years later, not much has changed.) I was flabbergasted. SLC Punk!? What the fuck is that? Needless to say, I could never deny my sister anything, especially when that anything included something PUNK! Eva had pretty good taste then (can’t say that now though. She now enjoys the soothing sounds of Dashboard Confessional or some other shit-tastic group, but back then, Eva knew what good music was.) Anyway, I tracked the movie down and purchased the VHS for her. Folks, I didn’t even bother wrapping it up or waiting for her birthday to give the movie to her. I came home, VHS in hand, I handed it to her with, “Here, happy birthday, what’s this? Pop into the VCR, let’s watch it now.” Ladies and gents, I was fucking floored. From those first few moments of the film where I heard main character Stevo’s (Matthew Lillard) opening voice over of…”The thing with me and Bob and pretty much all of us was we hated rednecks, more than anything else, period. Because rednecks for us were pretty much America incarnate, and America? Well, fuck America!SLC Punk! hooked me right there. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I didn’t have any rednecks that I had to endure, but, hell, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have daily encounters with male chauvinistic jocks and “the cool kids”, so I could relate to this film in many ways.

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The way that bands like Local H and Bad Religion, and on a larger scale, punk rock saved my life and helped me to get through the day to day of my mundane day to day; SLC Punk! was like that warm blanket that every time I watched it (2-3 time a day habit for the first year), I felt secure that I was on the right path and that everyone else around me was completely ignorant, stupid, and just plain not with it. I never would have ever foreseen that I would ever have any sort of contact with the writer/director, James Merendino, but as luck would have it, social media has truly united us all. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found solace in this great film and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank James for sharing his story with us (and for his time and overabundant patience with my punk ass.) It turns out he’s human just like me and not some Hollywood asshole, so James, thanks for being, you know, normal and above all, a human being…

kilScene: Did you know in 1998 that there were plans for a sequel to SLC Punk! ?

James Merendino: No. I thought I would be dead.

kS: Who do you most identify with from all the characters in SLC Punk!?

jM: Stevo. I took the name from a Stevo in Utah, got permission. But Stevo, the real person is not the character, I rant like that.

kS: What’s up with the “Punks Dead” photo featuring the back of Bob’s head? As far as we know Bob is dead so what role, if any, will Michael Goorjian play in the sequel?

jM: The idiom within the context of the story allows me to insert Bob whenever I digress: Or when Stevo is talking to us he can refer to his dead friend and his dead friend can react as long as he does not effect the events in the story. He can be dead and still comment. Think Sunset Blvd. Holden’s Character narrates that movie, yet he is dead.

kS: During the scene in SLC Punk! where Stevo and Bob got into a scuffle with the cops, you clearly see a Bad Religion crossbuster sticker on Stevo’s windshield. How would’ve a punk in 1985’s Salt Lake City even have known about Bad Religion?

jM: Bad religion formed in 1979. Don’t understand the question. There are worse bloopers than that. …[Ed. Note: I know Bad Religion formed in 1979, I was only surprised that Bad Religion had made it to the heights they did in 1985 considering their first full LP, Suffer, wasn’t released until 1987. James, I stand corrected. -g.K]

kS: Who was your favorite punk band in 1985?

jM: Minor Threat

kS: Who would you say is your favorite punk band today?

jM: Rancid

kS: What’s your take on the government shutdown?

jM: Ha! I think it is pure anarchy. I have no public political position. But, I like Chaos.

kS: Do you particularly feel prophetic as we come a little closer to the edge of anarchy?

jM: Not really. Entropy is a scientific fact.

kS: What would the 1985 James Merendino think of today’s James Merendino?

jM: The young James would think, “What an old fuck this guy is.”

kS: How far along are you to completing the film?

jM: I am still raising the money. I hope to start shooting in March 2014 and still make my late 2014 deadline. As in all movies, there are delays.

kS: What’s your take on the state of music today?

jM: I would love to hear something completely new. But really new. Like Jazz was to Rock.

kS: How do you like to unwind when your not writing and directing anything?

jM: I am always writing. I never unwind. Maybe I should look into that.

kS: Is there an overarching theme to the sequel? If so, what would you like your fans and critics to take away the movie?

jM: Gen X is still overlooked, underrated and ignored yet we are here and we are still asking relevant questions. Like why are we here?

kS: How much time has lapsed between SLC Punk! and when the sequel takes place? You had mentioned that Gen X will play a role in the new film so am I to assume 7 years? (for whatever reason in my head, Gen X started in ’92)

jM: Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom. Demographers, historians and commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, is the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when Generation Y starts and ends. Commentators use beginning birth dates from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. The first and this movie are about the struggle for identity of Gen X. But I said that Gen Y will be addressed. It’s 18 years later. but spans from 1986 – 2003

kS: Was there really a “Mark” in your life? If so was that story about “Mark”‘s family true?

jM: Mark was a real guy. But he was born in Miami. The real Mark died in a second plane crash. 1985-86. Famous crash out of Dallas Fort Worth.

kS: Which was the first punk song that turned you on to the punk movement? “Kiss Me Deadly“?

jM: “When The Shit Hits The Fan” [by the] Circle Jerks.

kS: Any plans for a New York premiere of the film? and can you/will you hook kilScene.com up with a few press passes?

jM: Yeah. When I show the movie you can come. Please come.

kS: Do you have a definitive release date for the film, and if so, when?

jM: I do not. I am aiming for a Toronto Film Fest Premiere.

…And there you have it folks. When I first heard there was going to be a sequel to SLC Punk!, I wasn’t exactly thrilled, but after this interview with James, not only am I hopeful for what’s to come in the next chapter of Stevo’s life. Now, having to wait until late 2014? Patience is a virtue for some. I’m not one of those “some”, but alas, what the hell else can I do but wait. Folks, fellow kilSters, everyone, if you’ve never seen this gem of a film, what in the blue hell are you waiting for? You can watch it for FREE on Crackle, but if you like the feel of Blu Rays/DVD’s here’s the link where you can buy (and this is a film to own.)

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