This seems like an ambitious project to take on for your directorial debut. Were you daunted by it?
I was a little too dumb to be as daunted as I should have been. I didn’t get it, how hard it was going to be. A part of me did feel like it probably would be pretty complicated. I thought, well, it almost always seems to be years of effort, so if you’re going to go through that, you better have something that you really are passionate about, that you think is funny. I thought, this is just kind of twisted enough to be right down my alley, and it’ll probably keep me interested in it long enough to do it.
Was it long in the making?
Yeah. I was first sent the book in galley form before it came out in 2001. And I was doing other stuff. It was a labor of love, as they say, which means you don’t get paid. And so I had to do other jobs between drafts of Choke, to eat and survive. So it wasn’t a realseven years, but it was a real seven years between when I read the galleys and when we started shooting.
How involved was Chuck Palahniuk in the film?
He was involved deeply, while giving me absolute room, and kind of keeping some distance while I wrote the screenplay, because he wanted to see where I would take it, which was amazing to me. I started out by kind of trying to just do the world’s most faithful adaptation of a book I already loved, despite the fact that he had told me to be careful of that, that adaptations that are too faithful rarely are any good. And I still think it’s a very faithful adaptation, but he kind of nudged me at a certain point into writing a movie based on his book, and not writing the book into a movie. I involved him at every step, and sent him the first draft I thought worked at all, which was about four drafts in. And he came and hung out with us during shooting. I think he was really happy to see the movie being made. All the things that were making my life hell—the fact that it had no money, and no budget, and just great actors and a great cinematographer—all those things I think he felt very much were like a logical extension of his world of outsiders.