It took seven years, $300,000, and countless trips to Home Depot, but Wayne Coyne has finally finished the Flaming Lips movie Christmas on Mars, which premiered May 25 at Washington’s Sasquatch! Music Festival. Shot largely in black and white, the kooky, experimental film centers on the story of a depressed space colony’s Santa salvation. ”I want kids to fill in every gap with their imagination,” Coyne says. ”I did that with movies my whole life. I never really knew what f—ing 2001: A Space Odyssey was about.” Look for screenings at festivals this summer (including Bonnaroo) and a DVD release planned for the holidays. In the meantime, here’s what Coyne had to say about why he made the film the way he made it, seeing Jesus in pieces of toast, and LSD-laced popcorn.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your life probably could be easier if you didn’t do things like shooting movies in your backyard.
WAYNE COYNE: You’d think. I do believe there’s a certain amount of just submitting to your obsessions that all artists probably do. You just say, ”F— it, I want to do this thing, and I can’t justify it.” So you just go and do it, you know? We think about this all the time, especially with big projects like making a home movie that stretches out for seven or eight years: I know that the torture of not doing it is a little bit worse than doing it. And it’s horrible doing it, don’t get me wrong. But to sit here and have all these opportunities and all the people around to help me, and not do it, I just felt like, God, Let’s do this thing! And in the end we all know it’s just dumb art. I’m not saving starving children.
The film is rather dramatic, much like your shows. What appeals to you about working on that scale?
To talk about how glorious life is — and to be optimistic and to talk about hope and death and all these sorts of things — in regular life, it’s just a struggle. You’re sitting there watching CSI, and you’re talking about what you’re going to have for dinner. Sometimes within the context of art, you really can break through and wonder about your own subjective meaning. And that’s wonderful. And once you begin to get into conversations like that, there’s a richness that can happen to you. Looking at trees and sunsets and being with your friends can take on biblical proportions. You don’t have to wait to be a movie star to become a movie star. So in that way, I mean, it’s wonderful. But I do know at the end, I’m just doing it because I f—ing like it. I can’t really justify it any other way.
All right. Talk about the practicalities of this movie. We know it took seven years to shoot — how many trips to Home Depot?
Gosh, you know, if I would have thought that it was going to take seven years I probably would have tried to keep some sort of entertaining track of all that. When I started doing the movie, there weren’t that many big hardware stores like there are now. There wasn’t even a Lowe’s here. Now, there’s like eight or nine of these things around here. And to give you a kind of marker — when I started to go to the hardware store, you could only get grey duct tape. I would paint it white, because I’m trying to look futuristic and like a space station, and NASA’s stuff is all white. But they didn’t make white duct tape. About three years into making Christmas on Mars, they started to make white duct tape. As if they knew. There’s an old saying that when you’re really determined and you’re really ambitious, the universe magically cooperates with you. And I can say for sure that all the things I tried to do that seemed impossible at the beginning, little by little, someone would kind of invent the thing that made this thing more possible. Or maybe I just was so desperate to find answers that it’s like seeing Jesus Christ in your toast. I see Jesus Christ in every piece of toast I eat.
How many of the props did you just scrounge out of your house? We were talking about the vacuum cleaner, for example. Is that in fact your vacuum cleaner painted white?
We have a big trash day where you can take all the junk out of your house and put it on the corner and the city will come by and pick it up with their big trucks. And I’d just be driving around on my way to Home Depot and I’d go through a neighborhood and go, ”Look at that! There’s a white vacuum cleaner!” Or, ”There’s a big white tube! I can use that!”
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