Several years after my first movie was released, I discovered that one of the actors in the film was being convicted for several execution style murders in New York and New Jersey. I had hired “Jimmy Nickles,” as he liked to be called, performed scenes with him. We even laughed over a couple beers at a bar across the street from the theatre on the night of the movie’s premiere. He was a friendly guy, even if he was keeping some terrible secrets. And the fact that Jimmy had killed three people was a horrifying revelation.
When I was a kid, my great grandfather would tell me stories about his father. He had been “influential” in Democratic politics at the start of the 20th Century. When I grew up and was able to do some research on my own, I was chilled to discover that my early relatives may have been politicians by occupation, but they were Irish mobsters by avocation. Later, when Mark Shanahan and I met, the two of us quickly discovered that our ancestors had traveled in the same circles. We were gobsmacked by the idea that we were descended from such brutal lineage.
I had been so anesthetized by stories of gangsters and hitmen, that they had almost taken on a mythic quality. But people like this actually existed. In fact, I knew them. I had talked with them. They had put their arms around my shoulders. These were people, not myths. Not that what they did deserves sympathy, far from it. But their problems were human problems, and their struggles were universal.
The characters of KILL ME ALL YOU WANT are outsiders, societal misfits, desperate for happiness, and bound for heartbreak – feelings I have on a daily basis. And yet, their lifestyles are so violent, so solitary. It is a duality that is impossible to maintain, and it is that kind of impossibility that intrigues me as a storyteller.
The relationship between Nick and his father Max is a fascinating dynamic which opens the film, when Max asks Nick to kill him. Nick refuses – a perfect dramatic problem for our main character and an endlessly fruitful question for me as a filmmaker: Why would a hitman, who could kill anybody, find it so difficult to kill the one person who has hurt him most of all?
The central story, of course, is the relationship between Nick and Lucy. As with the other characters in the film, Nick and Lucy are in prisons of their own making. Lucy breaks free, knowing that it might kill her, and finally has a taste of real living, if only for a fleeting moment. Nick experiences Lucy’s wonderment vicariously through his surveillance of her, just as the audience experiences it vicariously through the watching of the movie. It’s subjective filmmaking in the classic Hitchcockian tradition. What excites me as a director is the opportunity to place an audience inside the hearts and minds of these complex and fascinating people. This outcast pair seeks companionship and intimacy, even though it might very well lead to disaster. What is the price of love? And how much is love worth to these people who have starved for personal contact for so long?
As in the work of one of my great heroes, Charlie Chaplin, nothing is black and white, except for maybe film stock. Even the happiest ending comes with some heartache. Just as the threat of Bernie hovers over every decision that Nick and Lucy make in KILL ME ALL YOU WANT, those haunting memories of my ancestors and of Jimmy Nickles will live in every frame of this film.
- Gibson Frazier