Interview: Boy Kills World director Moritz Mohr on choreography, creativity and French cookies; “The heck if I could tell you how it came to be.”

In his directorial feature film debut, Moritz Mohr aimed for the jugular, and bloodied it out with gusto.  Boy Kills World (you can read our review here) is a balls-to-the-wall action flick about a deaf and mute orphan who is trained by a mysterious shaman to repress his childish imagination and become an instrument of death.

As the film smashes its way into Australian cinemas this week, Peter Gray spoke with Mohr about his unique debut film.  After discussing the unique use of profanity – a conversation that couldn’t be reprinted – the two touched on casting, the action choreography, and if there was any significance behind the titular character’s love affair with macarons.

Bill Skarsgård does so much with his eyes here.  When it came to his performance as a whole, he’s obviously learning the script, despite having no lines, but is someone feeding them to him off-camera so he gets the reaction right? And then you have H. Jon Benjamin coming into the fold with THAT voice…how did he come about?

So, we actually thought (about) the different scenes that required different approaches.  Obviously there’s (Bill’s character) having his thoughts, and there isn’t really an issue because you write the lines and you know you’ll add the (voice) later.  But then there’s the dialogue between him and his sister.  So you have to go back and forth.  And we thought, “Oh my god, how are we going to do this?”  We needed time.

We thought about pre-recording the lines and feeding them into (Bill’s) ear.  But then ended up too complicated.  It was a complete fail.  So, Bill then just did the lines.  When Quinn (Copeland) was on camera, he would do the lines so she could react to them.  So he did have to learn the lines.  We then got the first AD to say the lines, just so we could get the timing, and that would be our way of getting Bill to react on camera.

Jon Benjamin coming in was our last point.  During the edit we changed the voiceover to make it fit.  We realised how much could be changed.  We did test screenings and listened to the feedback, and we started to see what was supposed to be funny, and what should be funnier, and we just implemented that.

One of things that blew me away every time here was the fight choreography.  I have to ask about one particular character.  Dave.  The way his body moved…is he a contortionist? Or was it camera trickery? It just looked so natural.  The fact that his character refused to do felt very inspired by Monty Python almost.

(Laughs) Yeah.  So, that’s actually funny because when we wrote that role, that character of Dave, didn’t have a name.  It was actually Andrew Koji who yelled “Fuck you, Dave!” Suddenly he had a name.  Dave is also our action choreographer.  So he’s actually called Dave.  Dawid Szatarski (is his name).  He did the action.  He designed the action.  We just put him in there because he’s also an amazing performer.  It’s just the insanity that he adds.  So, it would have been a waste not to use him.

After Evil Dead Rise, I thought they used a cheese grater in the worst way.  You went and absolutely one-upped them here!  There were moments in this film that hurt to watch.  When you’re creating some of these sequences, are you looking at certain items and just thinking, “What’s the most fucked up way we can hurt somebody?”

So, me and Dave were actually on the phone, having a video call, and he walked away and went to the kitchen, and lightly ran the cheese grater over his arm.  Everybody knows how that would feel to really hurt yourself with a grater, so we just thought, “How can we make it so much worse?”  You spend so much time wondering what the most fucked up and creative way there is to kill someone (laughs), but you do have to calm yourself.  Because sometimes it can be too much.  And not just that particular scene with the grater.

With the casting of the film, I feel like we’re seeing actors here in roles we wouldn’t expect.  Andrew Koji, for example.  I’ve seen him in Snake Eyes and Bullet Train, but as much as they were action films, his dialect and energy here was so different.  Same with Jessica Rothe, and even Bill.  The training regime for this looked intense!  Were they always the type of people you had in mind?

Sometimes you want somebody and they’re just not available.  It’s a game, basically.  But once you decide on somebody, you’re stuck with them.  And then your first time on set, and you see them play for the first time, and sometimes it’s shit.  You think, “What the heck do I do?” In this case, it was all sort of just amazing!  Seeing all these people work, and being so good at what they do, it was eye-opening.  It was mind-blowing for me.

As you mentioned Andrew.  His first casting call with me, he had basically already worked out the character.  He started talking (like the character), and he just added so much more than I would ever have imagined.  That goes for most of the cast.  You have this picture in your head of how you want a character, but then the actors all add their own spice and suddenly you have something completely different.  It’s as you imagined, but then it’s more.  That’s a fantastic feeling.  It’s the best feeling ever when you get on set and realise that this worked out.  Somehow.

And before I wrap up, I have to ask about the macaron.  Bill’s character has quite the love affair with them in the film.  Does that come from a personal love of the macaron for yourself?

I love macarons.  But the heck if I could tell you how it came to be (laughs).  I have no idea.  At one point, there was something in the script that relayed back to (Bill’s character’s) childhood.  But, sorry, I can’t really tell you where that came from (laughs).

Boy Kills World is screening in Australian theatres from May 2nd, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.