Talking Vampires With Jemaine Clement And Taika Waititi

The New Zealand comedians on Game Of Thrones and their new horror-comedy What We Do In The Shadows

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As one half of Flight Of The Conchords, Jemaine Clement is responsible for, among other things, scaring off would-be muggers with instant hip-hop classic 'Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros' and the slightly creepy ode to having sex in a long term relationship, 'Business Time'.

Since putting "the almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand" on hold, Clement has been steadily carving out a film career with roles in Dinner For Schmucks, Rio and Muppets Most Wanted. 

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Teaming up with New Zealand director Taika Waititi (the man behind Boy and Eagle Vs Shark), Clement has most recently delved into horror-comedy, co-writing and co-directing What We Do In The Shadows, a Wellington-based mocumentary about the lives of a group of ancient vampire flatmates (think Spinal Tap meets Interview With A Vampire). 

Esquire sat down with Clement and Waititi ahead of the film's premiere at Somerset House to talk avoiding Twlight stigma, Game Of Thrones predictions and re-making Mork & Mindy

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Why vampires?
Jemaine: We wanted to imagine life’s small problems, but extended over hundreds of years. It began with asking “would you keep the old friendships and how long does it really take to get over old girlfriends?” Also, we just wanted to dress up as vampires.


Were you worried that people might have had enough of vampire films? 
Taika: We originally made a short vampire film with the same name in 2006. Twilight hadn’t taken off at that point and I remember saying we’d have to compete with Underworld. There were no cool vampire films. All that stuff’s so popular now but it had gone through a peak in the 80s but we thought it had died down.


Which films influenced you when you were writing?
T: I watched a lot of British comedy growing up, so things like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder fed into it.
J: We looked at a lot of things that we thought were the ultimate comedy movies, so things like Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Spinal Tap.


Jemaine, you and [Flight Of The Conchords partner] Brett McKenzie were in an episode of The Simpsons. Do you have a favourite Simpsons moment?
J: When I was a kid The Simpsons was just a three-minute sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show. It was on so late, so I think that whole period might be my favourite moment, just because it was so exciting to stay up and watch it. I don’t like them as much now. It’s quite hard to watch some of it now that I’ve had kids, like Homer strangling Bart all the time.

[Above: Jemaine entertains in What We Do In The Shadows]


You were in Men In Black 3 as the villain under some heavy make-up. What was the process like?
J: When we first tried it out it took eight hours, so like a whole working day. I was so worried it would be like that every day, but they whittled it down to four. Sometimes the call time to start shooting would be six am and I’d have to be there at two am. It was brutal. You can’t sleep in the chair. There’s a very bad risk of them spraying something in your eyes.


You’re both huge Game Of Thrones fans...Do you have any theories for the next season?
J: I want to know who Jon Snow’s mum is.
T: It’ll be someone with black hair. That’s what they do in movies and TV isn't it? Whoever has the same hair colour is related. What about that guy who tortured Lily Allen’s brother? His name’s Snow too.
J: Anyone who’s a bastard is a Snow.
T: Oh right, I see. I think Jon Snow is gonna hook up with the dragon chick. They’d make a nice couple on the poster, and also, what a great team.
J: They’re good people.
T: It’s so satisfying when she burns people with her dragons. I loved the final scene in the first season when she comes out of the fire.
J What about with the fight where the Mountain squashes that guy’s head? It’s brutal.


Are there any films or TV series you’d be interested in remaking?
T: I had a meeting with this guy in L.A. who wanted to remake Mork & Mindy. I didn’t want to do it. I guess they’ll be pushing for it now.
J: Now that’s just covered in sadness. Before they could have had Mork come in…


What’s been the best advice you’ve ever received?
J: When I first moved to Wellington a screenwriter told me, “If they ask you if you can ride a horse, say yes”. I’ve often had to ride horses and I wouldn’t say I know how to ride a horse, but I can sit on one and smile.
T: Don’t say that, people from Game Of Thrones might be reading this.


What We Do In The Shadows is released 21 November

 

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