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quietearth [Film Festival 01.03.08] movie news interview scifi

For those who don't know who Michael Mongillo is, one of his earliest comic books, "The Philistine" was featured in Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, and in 2001, he turned filmmaker with the horror flick "The Wind". He went on to write and produce the comedy "Broken" and also direct "Being Michael Madsen", and will eventually be doing a film adaption of his comic "The Philistine", but what really caught my eye was the plot summary for his upcoming film, The Lost Girl, and Michael graciously agreed to give us the inside scoop complete with concept art!

First off Mike, I want to thank you for doing this interview, we greatly appreciate it.

Michael Mongillo:
Happy to do the interview. Thank you for the interest and support, Don.

I'd like to ask about the story because the plot outline is what got me interested in it:
"United in their forbidden love, Joy and Rurik fight a small army of Neurian flesh-eaters who have come to kill Rurik for abandoning their fading clan."
Now I can think of about 10 questions to ask, but the foremost is what are the Neurian flesh eaters? Aliens? Zombies? Cannibals?

Michael Mongillo:
Neurians, or the “Neuri,” are a people from southern Russia cited by Herodotus, the Greek “Father of History.” What’s interesting is that in this ancient historical account, he wrote that they were a tribe of “shape shifters,” and they have since been commonly associated with werewolf folklore. What fascinated me is that this legend is rooted in history, not myth. So I started to wonder, what if these people really were shape shifters; what happened to them and where would they be now? That was the seed of the story for “The Lost Girl.”

The characters names imply some sort of evolutionary throwback, maybe to the dinosaur times, or to a point where humanity has devolved, can you comment more on that?

Michael Mongillo:
Trying to keep it consistent with its history, all of names of the Neuri are Russian.

Is there anything more you can tell us about the story?

Michael Mongillo:
I had wanted to write a creature horror movie for a long time but unfortunately the story I wanted to tell only seemed to work with werewolf-type creatures. “Unfortunately,” because I’m not a big fan of that sub-genre, which is not to say I’m not a fan of quite a few werewolf movies. But as a filmmaker, there’s just no escaping certain limitations of werewolf “rules” and audience preconceptions and expectations are, understandably, hard to overcome. I though about it for awhile and looked a bit more into the werewolf mythology and folklore and what I found is that almost none of the “rules” came from mythology or folklore. When I found out that the screenwriter of the original Universal monster movie just made it all up – transforming on lunar cycles, the bitten becoming werewolves, pretty much everything – I decided that I would revamp the werewolf sub-genre, much like Alex Garland did for zombies with his “28 Days Later” screenplay. Garland openly, affectionately and unapologetically stole and borrowed from many great horror movies and, as simple as it may seem, him making zombies “the infected” and super aggressive and fast was really a big change and a huge contribution, especially considering most of what’s followed in the zombie sub-genre. And what I did may seem just as simple but it opened up countless doors. My werewolves change every night as part of their specific biology and only feast on human flesh to achieve longevity, which is an element at the core of the story. Even when transformed, they are more or less, human not wolf-like, and they retain all of their intelligence and faculties. No one changes into a werewolf if bitten and, well, pretty much nothing remains the same as the genre standards, except a slight nocturnal transformation, which I’m considering losing entirely for the film version.

I was once told by an English major that science fiction allowed teenage boys to experience romance as part of the stories, in a socially acceptable way. I in turn said "shut up", but they kept going. Anyways, what do you think of that? I'm getting a hint of that here.

Michael Mongillo:
I would have told that English major to shut up, too. There are so many things wrong with that statement, where do I begin. First off, you can say that about pretty much any literary or movie genre, from comedy to intrigue to drama to adventure to crime, anything really, most of which have romance as a common element. I think a more accurate statement would be that statements like that about science fiction give academics something to say in their attempts to sound smart around women they’ll never be romantic with. There’s tons of schlock in every genre in writing and film and even though it’s probably true that there’s more schlock in sci-fi, fantasy and horror than any other, there’s no way that anyone who would make such a statement has read any science fiction from the last forty odd years. Nevermind the classics and giants like Philip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut, what do you think Jonathan Lethem, John Shirley, or Neal Stephenson would say to a statement that retarded...

There's a comic book being done right alongside the movie, will any part of this be put on the net for us to get a view of and is it due out before the movie?

Michael Mongillo:
Depending on how things work out, one may precede the other. No, I don’t plan to put anything more than a “coming soon” page with probably the cover art on the Internet until the comic book is out there, for sale. And it depends on the publisher, too. To be honest, I’m probably more excited about the comic book than the movie. The artist, who I’ll be collaborating with, Rob Ten Pas (, is amazing and it’ll be my first work in that medium since my first outing, “The Philistine” ( Coincidentally, that’s being adapted into a movie, too. If everything works out, Nathan Fillion will star in it. We’re in talks with him now and I’m probably more psyched about this than pretty much anything I’ve ever done in movies or comic books.

Now you have Norman Reedus from Boondock Saints in talks for this project. That's one of my favorite movies all time and definitely a cult classic. How do you feel about him starring in your movie and can you tell us anything about his role?

Michael Mongillo:
Well, after Nathan Fillion (sorry, Norman), does it get any cooler than Norman Reedus. I love his work and so, naturally, I’m thrilled that he’s on-board. Rurik is a tortured soul, having left his clan because he doesn’t want to conform to the Neurian orthodoxy. He’s the outsider and a rebel, always an interesting type of character to explore, and Norman is nothing short of perfect for the role.

This isn't the first film or comic you've done.. in fact you worked with Michael Madsen in "Being Michael Madsen". Is that dude as crazy in real life as his characters?

Michael Mongillo:
Michael Madsen is actually one of the most normal people I’ve ever met. Totally cool, no doubt, but beyond him being super funny, he really is just a straightforward, regular guy. Don’t get me wrong, he is a total superstar when he’s up on the screen and when we signed Michael for my last movie, my excitement level was the same as it is now for Nathan Fillion and Norman Reedus, so no disrespect to Michael. It’s just when you get to know someone, even a little bit beyond their public persona, it’s tough to see them in the way you did before. But that’s anything but a disappointment. Maybe you don’t get to think of them as a character from one of your favorite movies anymore but you get to know them as a person. And the longer I work in this crazy world of art meets commerce, that’s what it’s all about for me. If you can’t work with people you like, what’s the point? I can go work just about anywhere if I want to be around people I don’t like.

I think it's pretty rare to see a filmmaker into both comics and film, which love came first?

Michael Mongillo:
I have loved both movies and comic books for as long as I can remember. Wow, literally, as long as I can remember. Have I wasted my life?

Your production company Mean Time Productions is behind this and it looks like you're doing great so far.. have you already had interest in distribution?

Michael Mongillo:
No, no distribution interest yet. All three films I’ve done have sought distribution after the fact so I’d love to reach that next level. That level is the studio system and, you know what, I’m ready for it. Am I ever.

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Hilliard Smith (11 years ago) Reply

Mr.Mongillo has stretched the Herodotus account of Neurians beyond recognition. While Herodotus did state that Neurians and others claim that the Neurians change into wolves once a year, he quickly points out that he (Herodotus) did not believe it, and that the only evidence provided for such change was based on oaths.

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