By Christine Caprilozzi
Malek Akaad talks “Free Fall,” Elevators, and “Halloween”
Horror News Network: Let’s talk about “Free Fall.” You’ve produced several movies in the past, but this is your first time directing a full length feature film. How was that shift in roles for you? Also shifting role directing the legendary Malcom McDowell?
Malek Akaad: When I first came out of film school, I was always directing music videos and commercials, and at the same time working as a Production Coordinator and Production Manage. My focus was always to be a Director, but in this industry I learned to be flexible. I started producing and then started working with my father. So this was really going back to my first love, which is really being on set, working with the creative team, and really dealing with all the little issues that come up every day. There’s also a rush when working with a crew and set of great actors. So with that said, working with Malcolm McDowell was great because of course he is a legend and just the consummate professional. With having worked with him on two Halloween films (2007 and 2009), it was just fantastic. I felt like we had a language that we knew each other and knew how he worked. But we had this close friendship which I felt put us both at ease as far as us both getting what we needed. He is actually in the film quite a bit for only having been on set two days. So we really put him through the paces, and he was a joy to work with and would work with him again anytime.
Horror News Network: Let’s talk about the story. Corporate corruption isn’t exactly a far -fetched concept, but this is really extreme. What drew you to this story?
Malek Akaad: The script in its original form was more of a straight thriller, it didn’t have some of the subtle themes and that I added in there. I liked the strong female lead that had to take on the bad guys. I saw in there a space where I could subtlety put in the theme of corporate corruption. I think our character, Jane, finds herself in the dilemma of having to face this corporate giant. I think it’s a metaphor for how a lot of us feel in a day in age where 400 people have more wealth than 90%. So Jane is in this position where she’s found this corruption and she can either be silent about it, and go along for the ride or she can try and do the right thing at her own risk by taking on the powers that be. I think that’s what sort of filled it out for me to have the audience be able to grasp onto and relate to. On face value, the film is also just a fun ride.
Horror News Network: Jane Porter is such a strong female character, and Sarah Butler does an excellent job at portraying her. Talk about her character a bit since traditionally in horror films and thrillers women have played more of a victim role and not as empowered.
Malek Akaad: Jane Porter is definitely a fighter and a strong woman. In the opening scene, we see her kick boxing and working out. I needed a lead actress that could really believe have that strength to take on what she had to. In Sarah Butler, not only did I find someone who was willing to go through all that we put her through filming, but also a vulnerability that doesn’t get lost. I wanted someone who could maintain the audience’s empathy and have then root for her to find that inner strength.
Horror News Network: There are some very intense scenes, especially the action packed scenes. Because it takes place in an elevator and elevator shaft, were there challenges in shooting those scenes?
Malek Akaad: Oh yes! You know when I first read the script it was a very contained scenario because it takes place in an elevator. Well that was a huge production issue for us because we had to keep track of what floor we were on and had to shoot up in the shaft. Getting the actors and lighting in the shaft, etc. So for a small budget film, it proved a huge production issue, but one I think we tackled in a way that was satisfying in the finished film. That was probably the hardest part about directing this film, and I don’t know if I’d ever want to take on another elevator movie.
Horror News Network: D.B. Sweeney’s character was incredibly creepy. How was it to direct him playing a psychopath?
Malek Akaad: Well D.B. Sweeney was fantastic to work with. We worked together to get where we needed to be with him as an actor and me the director. At the end of the day he brought so much care and passion for his character. He really fleshed out his character in a way that helps the final product, so I am forever grateful to him for that. He was a huge collaborator and wonderful to work with. His character Frank is made so much better for all the work he put into it
Horror News Network: He does portray Frank as very sinister. Is that as you imagined it, or more how he interpreted it?
Malek Akaad: Well I did see it as sinister, but I have to give credit to him. What D.B. Sweeney brought to that role I can’t take credit for. He brought so much to the collaborative effort and a greater depth to the character.
Horror News Network: Recently released was Halloween the Complete Collection box set. As the producer of a couple of those films, and with your father being such an integral part of the original and the older films, which all have influenced generations of horror fans and filmmaker, how does it feel to be a part of it see this complete set come to fruition?
Malek Akaad: It’s amazing and I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen. It’s hard to get everyone together on board as far as different distribution companies, production companies, behind the scenes footage etc. It was, though, very satisfying for me to see. The first eight in particular since my father was the one person to work on all eight of those films, so that was very satisfying to sort of in away pay tribute to him and all the fantastic people who worked on those films. But then also to step back and look at this classic made 36 years ago has stood the test of time. The main credit there goes to John Carpenter and the tour de force he made with the first Halloween. He created characters that were so iconic, have become part of the American lexicon, and are still beloved or feared today.
Horror News Network: What’s up next for you?
Malek Akaad: Well at the moment we’re working on a couple different projects, which are films I will be producing. One which I know people are excited about is another Halloween.
Horror News Network: So there will be a Halloween III?
Malek Akaad: There will be a Halloween three, no Director is attached yet, but it’s in the works. The script is being worked on and I think it’s something diehard fans will love and will also open it up to new horror fans.
Horror News Network: Thanks Malek!