Homicidal hyphenate – Brief Article
He shoots! He scores! He edits! Director-composer-editor John Ottman demonstrates killer skills on Urban Legends: Final Cut
The term triple threat, in showbiz lingo, has usually been used to describe performers: multitalented kid-from-Fame types who fancy themselves the next Jennifer Lopez. This fall, John Ottman–though he has never worn anything by Capezio–is giving the moniker a fresh spin, becoming one of the few in Hollywood history to simultaneously direct, edit, and score a studio film: the slasher sequel Urban Legends: Final Cut, which opens September 22. “It was a killer,” admits Ottman, relaxing, for a change, on a sofa in his Sunset Boulevard office-studio.
“There were many times when I thought, Why didn’t I just take on one job? But now that it’s done, I’m really jazzed about it.” That’s right, folks: He shoots, he scores, he cuts, and, hey, he’s single.
“That was the big joke-on the set,” laments the openly gay 36-year-old University of Southern California film school graduate. “When we were in Toronto shooting, my friend Bryan Singer would come over to my set from the set of X-Men,” Ottman says, referring to the director behind The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, both of which Ottman edited and scored, “He’d say, `Your crew is so much better-looking than mine!’ I’d go, `Yeah, but they’re all straight!'”
Not that Ottman had much time for romance. The first-time director had his hands full trying to breathe new life into a genre that has been done to death in recent years. “When Phoenix Pictures asked me to direct this, I reacted like you would when your old grandmother gives you a Christmas gift you’re not really pleased with,” says Ottman, who had scored the films Lake Placid and Apt Pupil for the production company, with a laugh. “But then I realized the value in being able to showcase different styles as a director. My intention was to take this story, a slasher-type movie set at a film school, and turn it into a Hitchcock thriller for young people.”
Ottman managed to throw in a few touches for the gay crowd as well, including a lesbian subplot and a cadre of male hotties (including Blossom refugee Joseph Lawrence and sexy newcomer Matt Davis). There are even a few campy in-jokes, like the fact that the film’s foul-mouthed, tantrum-throwing film director character is a dead ringer for Singer. “Some people at Phoenix are convinced that I strictly patterned his persona after Bryan,” says Ottman, “but it’s a total coincidence.”
As a Star Trek freak and sound track junkie growing up in San Jose, Calif., Ottman always dreamed of directing movies. The idea of scoring them, however, didn’t really present itself to the self-taught musician until after he had graduated from USC in 1988. “I threw together some old equipment I bought from the Recycler,” he recalls, “and as a hobby I rescored some old student films. It just mushroomed from there.”
It’s in his music, he believes, that his being gay has had the most impact on his work. “Everything I write tends to have a longing tone to it,” reveals the composer, who actually came out to his parents via one of his USC student films–a love story shamelessly based on the romantic relationship he was in at the time. “I think it’s because I have a lot of empathy for people who go through the coming-out process. I was really fortunate to be in a very liberal family, but even in that environment I felt there was something wrong with me. Imagine what you must feel if you grew up in the opposite environment.”
Asked if his being gay has affected his employment opportunities, the filmmaker shrugs and says, “I think if you have a value, a talent, no one gives a crap in this town.” In fact, if Ottman’s going to be looked at funny in Hollywood, it’s more likely because of his youthfulness, not his sexuality. “Every year I go to this composer’s dinner, and I feel like a little kid,” admits Ottman, whose score for the short-lived revival of Fantasy Island garnered him an Emmy nomination. “No one takes me seriously, because they think I’m just some son of someone who happens to be there. Last year I actually wore glasses to make myself look older.”
With Urban Legends: Final Cut shot, cut, scored, and in the can, Ottman is using his time to compile his Web site, produce a gay-themed musical in Los Angeles called Bare, and, of course, look for his next script. “God help me if the film makes less than $35 million,” he says with a nervous laugh. So, is there anything about his debut he would change if he could? “Not really,” he says, sighing. “We fantasized about getting Britney Spears to play the girl that got her head chopped off, but we didn’t have time to put an offer in. Wouldn’t that have been fantastic?”
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