Interview with Welcome to Purgatory director Gene Fallaize

IMG_0945The fantasy genre is really brewing, and a new, exciting addition to that pot is the movie Welcome to Purgatory, which is currently in pre-production. Welcome To Purgatory follows three strangers who die in a terrible accident, and consequently awake and find themselves in purgatory. However, the gates of heaven and hell have been broken, and these three strangers must find a way to rectify the situation to prevent an eternal battle between good and evil.

To find out more about the exciting project we spoke to the director of the film, Gene Fallaize.


Whilst Welcome to Purgatory has been gaining some buzz, information on the project has been under wraps. What can you tell us about the film?

Welcome To Purgatory is an action/adventure/fantasy movie about three strangers who die in a terrible train crash and awake to find themselves in Purgatory. They are greeted by the trusty Guardian Paul, who is tasked to lead them to their ultimate destinations – Heaven or Hell. On their journey, however, they discover that the boundaries of Hell have been broken and all its evil has escaped and is destroying the Afterlife. So these three new arrivals must not only adapt to being dead, and that Heaven is now in ruins, but with the help of Guardian Paul they take it upon themselves to try and make things right again, only to find they’ve become the main target of the evil Shaitan King.

How did the idea for Welcome to Purgatory come to pass?

Marcus Ako came up with the original idea whilst on a train at Waterloo Station, and wrote a first draft which formed the basis of some of the final script. Myself and Tony Cook, along with Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II, Hostel I-III) revised the script to its final shooting draft.

How long has it taken to get the project from your initial idea to the where you find yourself now?

It’s always difficult to pinpoint a start point for a picture as rarely do producers or directors work solely on one project at a time, especially if you have a slate of pictures in development as we do. For example we have produced several other pictures during the development of Welcome To Purgatory and I have directed three others. We are currently developing other projects also, so they inevitably take longer than they could if one was able to focus solely on the one project at a time, but that extra development time also helps to mature the project too. Without that extra time this would have been quite a different picture altogether, so it’s better for the project. Looking back, I first became involved in the project in 2010, but having produced several features in between, time it is a shared workload that leads to the length of time it takes to produce a picture.

Whilst life after death has always been a curiosity for humans, how did you feel when it came to tackling the subject matter?

On one hand it’s a difficult one, because everyone has their own interpretation of what Heaven and Hell are like, but on the other hand that same issue allows us a lot of scope to design an entire dimension and everything within it. The important thing for me was committing that Welcome To Purgatory would not be a religious picture in any way, but an action adventure movie that is set in a place that is totally strange, yet somehow familiar to everyone. There aren’t many pictures that use the afterlife as a whole as a setting, so we’ve used that to its maximum potential, by creating this world where Heaven and Hell are physical places – we don’t have any clouds or fire in our picture, nor do we feature God or the Devil – it’s all done in a much more realistic and believable way. Our afterlife is in kind of a parallel dimension to our own, so as real as our own lives are, they are in the movie too. When you remove the fluttering angels walking on clouds aspect, the idea of having Heaven destroyed by all of the combined evil that has ever existed, it becomes quite a frightening and unnerving place.


Whilst it can be inferred that Welcome to Purgatory will be action packed, you also have comedic actors such as Bruce Campbell and James Buckley starring in the film. What can you tell us about the tone of the film?

It is totally an action/adventure movie, with dangers and perils that are truly frightening, in a place where if you found yourself there with no way of ever going back, you’d be faced with the possibility of an eternal hell. So the adventure comes from the desire of our main characters to be in a place that is safe, more like the ideal image they would have had in their minds of what it would have been like before they died. It’s certainly not a kids film, and having horror-master Scotty Spiegel on board gives an indication that this isn’t going to be a light movie, but it does have occasional comic relief from a few characters who break up the tenseness, as a couple of hours of keeping up the tension in a movie like this can be tiresome for audiences. The verisimilitude is really important to me on this project – in my mind as director everything is real; the characters, the creatures, the places, so inevitably you would have a mix of personalities too, some that are maybe lighter than others, which is also why we have these few characters to break things up.

You are working with Joseph Bennie, a composer from your previous project, Superman: Requiem, and Scott Spiegel with Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead 2. Does it make it easier working with those you are comfortable with?

I’ve known Scotty for a few years now having first worked with him a while back on another project, and knew he’d lend just what we needed to this project in terms of helping us create this crazy place where everything good and everything bad are thrown together at war. Scotty has been invaluable to the picture, contributing to the script, aiding production, and bringing Bruce on board too, so working with him again was a no-brainer. It’s the same with Joseph Bennie my composer, who I knew would be able to create a perfect soundscape to suit the feel of the picture. Working with those you know do a great job, and more importantly are perfect for each particular picture, is hugely important. If you have a good working relationship with someone and you know they are right for the project then why change that? On the other hand if someone isn’t right for a project for whatever reason, no matter how well you may get on with them, you have to go with another option, because ultimately everything has to be for the best for the picture.

What was it about these individual actors, which made them ideal for the film?

Casting is always a tricky blend of getting who is perfect for the role, and who is going to bring in audiences who will ultimately pay for getting the movie made. If you can find someone who ticks both those boxes then that is casting gold, and we’ve been lucky so far to have found so many perfect actors for each role. Bruce is obviously a legend, so we were thrilled when he signed on, the same with our leads – Jillian Murray as Danni who brings the girl-next-door aspect, whilst bringing sex-appeal to the film, Tony Cook who brings an earthly-groundedness to the character of Taylor, Serena Lorien who brings a strong-willed determination to the warrioress Nina, and the actor who is playing the lovable Guardian Paul (who we are announcing at the MCM London Comic Con panel) is just brilliant as he’s able to play both the lighter and more serious aspects of the role just perfectly.

Are there any plans in place, for spanning the movie into a franchise?

Yes, Welcome To Purgatory was originally conceived, written and picked up for production as a trilogy. When I signed on to direct we adapted the ending so it could be watched and enjoyed as a standalone film and still make sense and have a proper story arc, but parts II and III are currently in production, which will continue the story in a progressively bigger and more spectacular way. They will be filmed back-to-back after the release of part I.

What can the audience at MCM London Comic Con expect from the Welcome to Purgatory panel?

We have put together a very special panel for the audience, including a detailed story overview, and in-person Q&A session with several members of the cast and crew, including the lead characters, plus Scott Spiegel and Jack O’Halloran (Superman I & II). Also we will be screening an exclusive teaser trailer specially made for Comic Con, as well as an exclusive animated storyboarded opening-scenes preview of the first few minutes of the film, and video messages for the audience from some of our other cast, including Bruce Campbell. The highlight however will be the live in-person announcement that I will make of our newest cast member who has signed on as Guardian Paul, who is a legend due to his vast film credits on films that Comic Con audiences love due to his ability to take on highly serious and also totally fun roles. He will be announced live on stage and join us for the Q&A, and the autograph session that will follow the panel itself.

When can we expect to see Welcome to Purgatory in theatres?

We commence filming at the start of 2015 at Pinewood Studios, so look out for it in theatres towards the end of next year.


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