Actress, producer and writer Joanne Mitchell has been making a bloody splash in horror since Before Dawn which she worked on alongside her husband the hugely talented and horror obsessed Dominic Brunt. With Attack of the Adult Babies the due take things to another level in terms of gore, gross out and down right insanity.
Late one evening we had the chance to chat to Joanne who told us the crazy story behind the equally crazy movie as well as discussing the meaning behind the madness and her role in it all.
Beware this interview contains spoilers!
Love Horror: Hi Joanne thank you for doing the interview at this weird time.
Joanne Mitchell: That’s no problem at all I’m delighted. (Laughs)
Love Horror: We don’t normally hear that!
Joanne Mitchell: (Laughs) I didn’t mean that, that sounded really feeble. But I’ve got a glass of wine so its fine.
Love Horror: Oh that’s why you’re so delighted it’s the wine talking already.
Joanne Mitchell: Yes its Friday hooray!
Love Horror: I really liked Attack of the Adult Babies it was just really crazy and I loved how crazy it was. It didn’t go the way I thought it would go in any way and it’s good to see a film that does that these days.
Joanne Mitchell: Absolutely.
Love Horror: I guess I should start by asking where did the insane story of Attack of the Adult Babies come about?
Joanne Mitchell: I know it’s mad isn’t it. But to me it just seem really normal now, I can imagine when people see it they must think it’s absolutely the most insane thing, which it is, but it’s just been normalised in my head now which is quite frightening really.
Basically what happened was I distinctly remember we were filming Bait and we were all chatting and Dominic came up with this title and I remember Geoff Boyle who was our DOP on the shoot, also DOP of Attack of the Adult Babies, and he said “That’s genius, I’m in, I’m there already, I’m doing it I love that title” and I thought well we have to come up with a blinking story haven’t we really.
Dominic had had an idea of something going on in the higher ranks or society and we are all pawns in their crazy insane game. I then needed to break it down into a story and put in characters and plots and look at the tone and style of the thing so that’s what I did. I obviously discussed a lot of stuff with Dominic because he is the sort of horror encyclopaedia much more so than I am. I was much more interested in the journey of the characters and the story and all those kind of things and I love the idea of this sort of supposedly normal middle class family if there is such a thing being thrown into this chaotic insane world that is completely ridiculous and how they would cope with that. I loved that whole juxtaposition so that’s what I was focusing on.
We did a sort of scene by scene plot of the whole thing and then I handed it over to Paul Shrimpton who put the meat on the bones and did a wonderful wonderful job and obviously Dom then added more blood and more splatter and more gore. Sometime I was in a scene thinking ‘I don’t remember this in the script?’ He just thought ‘right lets get a chainsaw now and cut someone in half’ you know.
Love Horror: Was a lot changed then from your original story in the process of moving the story to script and screen?
Joanne Mitchell: I would say that the spaceship was a complete revelation at the end because I was like ‘Oh that wasn’t there!’ although I think it’s a stroke of genius really because as Dom said it couldn’t have ended with them just having a kiss in the car it would have just been lame or too American. He just said ‘let’s get a spaceship in there and let the audience go what the fuck.’
A lot of the gory stuff the really gory gory stuff that was definitely more Dom and Paul. Some of those big set pieces are Paul. He’s brilliant Paul, he did Inbred, he did some wonderful work on that and he really helped us out. As much as I love the horror genre I do feel that I am quite new to it still even though now we have made 3 movies. It wasn’t always on my list of things to do 5 years ago you know (laughs). I’ve always loved horror but I was one of those people who sort of dips in and out but now I am sort of slightly obsessed which is interesting.
Love Horror: That’s good to hear.
Joanne Mitchell: It hooks you in doesn’t it, it hooks you in. It’s such a brilliant platform for stories they can go anywhere as we did.
Love Horror: It’s a very out there story and apart from all the gore and guts it shows some stuff that many might think is controversial or downright offensive which is great. What did people think when you pitched it to them?
Joanne Mitchell: It was all a very exciting time really because we just held nothing back and actually everybody felt the same nobody held anything back. I think with something like this there is always a bit of a risk you know even casting wise you think ‘is anyone going to want to do this?’ but we were really really lucky I mean Sally Dexter wanted to do it she loved it and was in straight away. She’s an award winning west end Shakespearian actress.
Everyone just gave 100% commitment, there was not 1 naysayer on that film set, and there normally is there is at least 1, but there really wasn’t and it was just a joy to work on. It was hard work of course it was it was stressful and all those things but I think if everyone’s in it makes a huge difference.
Love Horror: For all its gross out there is some pretty heavy weight subjects covered in there as well from capitalism to class, to gender and more. It’s the sort of film you can watch a number of ways either just focussing on the fun and foulness or seeing the deeper messages which I think is the real power of it.
Joanne Mitchell: I have to say a lot of the feedback is that people who have seen it the second time have enjoyed it a lot more which is great isn’t it. A lot of films you just watch and think ‘that’s good but I don’t need to see that again’ or not. I have had a lot of people who have said ‘I’ve seen it now twice and I’ve got so much more from it’ because there is so much going on in the film that I think you can miss things because it’s so fast.
A lot of the subtleties’ which I know don’t appear very subtle when you first watch it (laughs) are there because there are things going on that you wouldn’t necessarily see because I think your just trying to keep up first time round whilst wondering ‘what’s going on!’
I’m pleased with that. No one is ever 100% pleased with what they do but I think we have always had a reaction with this whether it’s been really positive or really negative and I think that’s good. I would rather that than just be vanilla. That’s why we do things, that’s why we make things and try and be creative.
Love Horror: The story takes the audience to some very unexpected places not only in the weird world of the Adult Babies but by also killing off two of the leading ladies unexpectedly, was it always the intention to throw people into such a strange and unstable world?
Joanne Mitchell: That’s what I loved about it because it was a bit of a risk because obviously that not what you do, that’s not the formula. In film making or story telling you have to see these characters through till the end and then they overcome everything and its all great or not but there is a definite journey. I remember when Kate (Coogan) who plays Sandra was reading the script she went ‘oh I wasn’t expecting that!’ but I think that’s really good.
It’s a film that’s not following the formula of … well I don’t think its following a formula at all to be honest! (laughs) It is odd and I can see that people might think ‘I liked that character I wanted to see more of her’ but it sort of zips along to something else and you almost forget about them. It’s very strange.
Love Horror: It’s a very brave film even for a lower budget British independent horror film. It takes some real risks I think.
Joanne Mitchell: You’re probably right I didn’t even think of it like that I think we just made what we wanted to and I suppose had we thought about it a bit more we probably wouldn’t have done it. The whole thing was all very quick. Dom had a sort of deal he took 5 months off of Emmerdale his sort of day job and he was going to go off to America and shot this movie and it fell through as these things do and then he was sort of twiddling his thumbs and reading too many comic books for 2 months.
I had a chance meeting with a prospective producer and we kind of had the script but it needed to go through a few more drafts and he said ‘well why don’t you do it?’ and we went ‘right!’ I remember Dominic saying to me ‘Jo we haven’t got much time but we need to make a decision like now do you want to do it or not because I’m going back to Emmerdale in a couple of months’ and I said ‘okay let’s do it, what do we have to loose let’s just do it.’ We did and I think sometimes it helps to have that speed not always because it could be a complete disaster but because this was so insane it kind of helped. We had to make a choice and put 100% into it really.
Love Horror: You can feel that energy in the film for sure and I think it lead to a better movie as you went all out rather than second guessing yourself or doubting some of the choices you made.
Joanne Mitchell: Yeah that’s exactly what happened. I don’t think it was through much choice but it was just one of those things. It doesn’t often happen, it very rarely happens but everything fell into place very very quickly, even hiring Broughton Hall (the main location of the movie) for that period. We all stayed there and lived there for 3 weeks and it was the most incredible place. It was like living in a museum, there was a swimming pool there where tennis courts, I mean what kind of job does anyone have that you can do that!
It went like clockwork there weren’t any problems and if there where it was sorted very quickly. Sometimes you can be developing a film for years and it’s just besieged with problems. Maybe it was because it was so quick we didn’t have time to think about what could possibly go wrong (laughs) so many things!
Love Horror: You play the hilarious and unhinged Clinton in the movie, where did that character come from and was it as fun performing as it looked?
Joanne Mitchell: I had written her and I wanted her to be the sort of yang or yin to Margret’s character. They are 2 sides of the same coin. Clinton was Margret’s little monster, her little pet and I just wanted that institutionalised mentality for her. We all know what institutionalisation can do to people in this film we just took it to the extreme. I like the idea that she was probably one of the nurses in the early days and managed to stay and she doesn’t know anything else outside these walls. She doesn’t think there is anything wrong with what she’s doing, it’s become normal to her.
I think that’s what’s interesting about institutions that we lose a grip on reality sometimes if we are in somewhere too long. I wanted to explore that and that’s what I did with Margret and Clinton. She was kind of in love with Margret but I’m not sure if you can even call it that because she was her little lap dog. I loved the idea of this sort of matriarchal character in Margret and her little minion Clinton following her around. I loved that image. It’s always fun to play those kinds of characters because they are slightly no very insane and psychotic and she’s a little monster. I saw something in her, she has a vulnerability to her as well like a little puppy with their mother.
Love Horror: Sally Dexter was brilliant as Margret I thought.
Joanne Mitchell: It’s also what the actor brings to that part and Sally just brought so much to it. It could have been played by someone else and not been what it was. I thought she was just incredible in it, and so much fun to work with, such a lovely person. We discussed things on set and said ‘let’s try this’ or ‘let’s try this bit’ and sometimes we would add a line here or there just to keep it fresh. It was a real little partnership.
Love Horror: Here’s the big question then. What do you prefer most writing, producing or acting?
Joanne Mitchell: I’m asked that quite a bit and you know it’s really hard because I enjoy all three. I’m just finishing off a screenplay because I haven’t actually written a screenplay yet and I really really loved it. I really didn’t think I could write an actual screenplay, I’ve always done the plots and the stories and scene by scene synopsis but I really really enjoyed this. I believe that if you really give yourself that time, if you have the time, you can really open up your imagination. Especially with writing its very therapeutic and it takes you to all sorts of places you didn’t know you were capable of going and that’s what I love about writing.
Just being actor you come in for a couple of days and hopefully you enjoy it but then that’s it. You’re on to the next thing. That’s great there is nothing wrong with that it’s just that’s what it used to be like for me very much and now it’s turned into something slightly different now.
And then the producing side is so much more practical. I know Dom really doesn’t like it, it’s not him at all but I am really fascinated by every single area of this business, this profession, because I don’t think you can be, well unless you are really really lucky, I don’t think you can just be an actor or just be a writer I think you have to do other things. In my experience you know, I know a lot of people who have made an incredible living being an actor or just a writer but for me it seems to be that you need more. Maybe I am just a jack of all trades, master of northing (Laughs)
Love Horror: Well you have your own company now so you really are in control of every element when it comes to making films .
Joanne Mitchell: It’s just happened. We set up the company of Mitchell-Brunt Films, myself and Dom, and to have that element of control is really nice. I always liken it to baking a cake, which is strange, because there is a beginning a middle and an end product so if you’re lucky and luck doesn’t always happen I know lots of things can stop you along the way as with baking a cake, but I do find it really rewarding being part of something with other people as well. You’ve got the pre-production, you’ve got the production, then you’ve got the post and I find it all really fascinating.
Love Horror: What’s next for you?
Joanne Mitchell: Well I’m just about to direct for the first time, I’ve never directed before. I’m just about to direct a short film which I’ve written with someone else. It’s a horror and we are doing it next week. It’s a very small crew, very small cast and we are filming in 3 days. I’ve do all my shot lists I’m just making sure everything is ready. There are a million things to do. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking ‘I haven’t emailed that person and what where the measurements of that wall!’ and all those things. It’s great I am loving it.
Love Horror: Wow well that’s everything now you can tick them all off. You’re a one woman show, its literally all just you now.
Joanne Mitchell: (Laughs) Yeah I don’t know who knows what will happen. It’s a great story, hopefully it will do all right. We haven’t even started yet. It’s a bit scary but exciting.
Love Horror: Thank you for talking to us and good luck with the short and Attack of the Adult Babies. You can enjoy the rest of that wine the glass or the bottle whatever.
Joanne Mitchell: Thanks so much. Just the glass not the bottle! Yeah right.
Attack of the Adult Babies splatters on to DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download courtesy of Nucleus Films on June the 18th 2018. You can read our review right HERE