BUTT BOY Interview: Director/Star Tyler Cornack on One of the Craziest Movies in Recent Memory
If you talk about ridiculous movie premises that not anyone would think of, and filmmakers that take them to even more extreme and unthinkable places, it’s imposible not to mention Butt Boy, Tyler Cornack’s debut feature, which world premiered last year at Fantastic Fest.
Butt Boy is about Chip, a family man (played by Cornack himself) who’s going through the famous midlife crisis. He’s not having the best time at work or with his partner and, on top of that, is about to face his first prostate exam.
This medical consultation will provoke a complete turnaround in his life, once he discovers that putting things in his asshole causes him pleasure... and the premise doesn’t stop there as Chip gets obsessed to such a degree that he begins to put living beings up his butt! Starting with his own dog, and then, in a rather radical decision, someone else’s infant.
We talked with the director and star Tyler Cornack about his unusual feature.
ScreenAnarchy: What were the origins of the film?
Tylar Cornack: This kind of started out as a very short film. We make comedy content online, the production company named Tiny Cinema, is kind of a group of us that make comedy videos and Butt Boy was one of our short films on there. It was just a one-minute version of a guy going to the doctor and then gets addicted to the feeling of things going up his butt [laughs].
We always thought that was funny and weird. As far as the rhythm goes, we figured that out in the short film, so we knew we could set it up with the shots like the next thing he’s looking at, the audience will therefore know that’s going to be the next thing that goes up his butt and so on. That was kind of it.
And the midlife crisis thing, that was just digging into a little deeper once we wanted to expand the short film, making his life kind of a miserable and mundane life that he’s living and he just wants out in any way, shape or form. And kind of just treating it like, almost like it’s heroine, you know? If the butt addiction was heroine, just treating it the same exact way. That was kind of the idea.
Just by reading these words, BUTT BOY is definitely the type of film that isn’t for everybody. And, certainly, I can't imagine it was easy for you to put together.
It’s tough for people to get past the title page a lot of the time, a lot of people can’t get over the title. But I always say, I don’t think we would have gotten this much buzz if we didn’t have the title so it’s one of those things that you need but a lot of people are uncomfortable by it. We were lucky enough to get some early on investment that we actually passed on.
From our comedy channel, we had a fan of our comedy stuff, it was a wealthy man that was just looking to invest in some project so we showed him the script and he said he wanted to do it but he wanted to change a lot of the stuff, he wanted to change too much in fact. So another friend of ours said "hey, look, if you cut that budget in half I’ll do it and you can do whatever you want to do." And that’s what we ended up doing.
Our whole production budget was $150,000, we spent a little more in post but we didn’t have that much money to work with but I had a lot of creative freedom to experiment and get weird. We had doubled that originally but we said no to that because too much wanted to be changed. It’s still a tough conversation to even have, even when I’m doing this press and stuff, even when people ask me to describe the film, it’s still not easy because it is such a wild and out there thing. But that’s kind of the whole point of it.
BUTT BOY could've been one of those movies that doesn’t pass beyond the mere anecdote, but you really dared to take it to another level and it actually works, almost miraculously. BUTT BOY’s true plot unfolds years after the missing boy incident, when Chip has quit his addiction, aided by an Alcoholics Anonymous group (though obviously no one knows his real problem isn't alcohol). However, Chip will relapse and another boy will disappear... up his ass.
In the short film it went up until the animals so we knew that the whole idea of the short film was the dog goes missing, that was kind of the end of that one. So we knew like, "OK what if over time people start to get involved? What if a child went missing?", and then we were like "it’s that too fucked up?", but not if it’s handled with care, I think, not if you do it in a classy way.
The whole key is not showing what happens, I think that the movie would be a lot more graphic if we actually show a lot of the stuff going up the butt, but it doesn’t really show any of it, it’s all alluding to it.
The interesting thing about BUTT BOY is that it becomes a genuine thriller, once the other protagonist takes action: Russel (a memorable performance by Tyler Rice), Chip's new partner in AA who works as a detective and who’s assigned the tragic case Chip caused.
Just to give it more of a threat, we had the idea to have the detective character come in to be onto Chip. Knowing that we wanted to bring that character and it only made sense for people to go missing, to give more at stake for the detective to chase him. It was just like playing with different ideas, running things by each other. That’s kind of what we came up with.
Imagine that classic scenario of police vs. criminal, particularly the skillful and dedicated detective (with personal problems) who deduces everything but nobody believes him (here for obvious reasons!). The seriousness with which BUTT BOY takes this duel is great.
There were tons of influences, the whole idea was to do exactly that because the premise is so ridiculous, and you’ve never seen a premise like that, it was very unfamiliar, so it was to kind of surround the film with familiar things you have seen and tropes you’ve seen in other movies.
Breaking Bad was definitely one of them, particularly in the bathroom scene, that was kind of an homage to that. The movie Heat was a big one, a lot of movies from the eighties and even the seventies. Columbo we talked about, just Peter Falk back in the seventies. A lot of different stuff.
Tyler [Rice] I know read a lot of different old mystery stuff; we knew he was playing kind of a cliché, we wanted him to be like a cartoon detective to kind of balance with Chip, who’s kind of monotone and to himself, we wanted him [Russel] to be a little bit larger than life and a character you’ve seen a million times but you’re kind of comforted by it in a weird way.
We talked about Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, anything with a detective squinting his eyes we looked into. That’s what we were really trying to do, pay homage to movie lovers who love genre and love seeing grittiness. We all love that stuff and I think we were really trying our best to bring that to life in the film, just gritty crime chase cat and mouse, and just paying respect to all those movies.
The alcoholic thing goes into that. A lot of stuff comes from personal stuff, like not with me directly but close people, just friends that I’ve seen go through things and the redundancy of being caught in their own brains and just being addicted to certain things from alcohol to pills to anything like that. It was just kind of to capture that energy of what they feel like.
The film kind of does that with Chip, you’re kind of locked into his brain a little bit and how he sees it, although was he’s doing is damaging a lot of lives around him he just wants to feel good and that was kind of the whole idea. And then with the alcoholism, that came from a lot of personal stuff with friends and family.
You just take stuff from that, you hear people say, particularly in the dinner sequence when he’s [Russel] talking about how he misses the hangovers and all that stuff, that was just stuff you would hear from real alcoholics that you know. Put all that stuff together and then you know the film is going to be about addiction so you just kind of combine it all and make it work.
BUTT BOY’s evolution is always ridiculous, witty, and hilarious; I mean, its thriller element shifts to post-apocalyptic fantasy territory and even detective Russel becomes a complex character and genuine hero. That all of this takes place in Chip's rectum... well, as I was saying, not everyone could come up with these ideas and manage to film something interesting based on them.
There’s a film that I always tell people to watch, it’s called Society, it’s a B movie, it came out around the time when Re-Animator came out, that whole stretch of those kind of films. It kind of takes the same idea where the movie is one thing and then by the third act it becomes this completely horrifying other experience.
Part of it was that and we always knew that we wanted to go there, specifically to that place. I think at that point in the film you either going to be in or you’re going to be out, I think you have to suspend disbelief a little bit but if you’re in you’ll have a good time. We knew we were going to take it there and we knew where ultimately ends, that was known pretty early on, we were like “that’s where it goes but how do we get there?”, and then that was most of the writing process.
What about Russel becoming the real hero?
He does steals the film, he’s the best. We wrote it for Tyler Rice. I feel like we really got to know the character in writing it, so we knew exactly what he was going to do with it; obviously he always brings more but we knew he was going to crush it, we wrote it with him in mind, it was just a character written for him.
I really got to know and understand the character in writing it, in making him the hero in that sense, because I knew whatever we gave Tyler he was going to be able to do, but just finding the backstory and the tragedy behind him and everything he’s dealing with, that was mostly in the writing process. And then of course when we filmed Tyler brought so much more to it, it was just great.
When it played at Fantastic Fest, BUTT BOY met with a divisive response, which was exactly what you expected. However, the film is now on VOD and Blu-ray, and strong word of mouth has been bringing to it more of the attention that it truly deserves.
Those are always the kind of films I enjoy seeing so there’s a part of me that’s very proud of that, and there’s another side of me that’s human and always when you read negative or weird things you go “oh man, maybe I should have made something just everybody can enjoy.”
We knew from the beginning that it was going to be divisive and people were going to be split on it, how can you not be split on a movie that’s this ridiculous? Half the people that don’t get it, I understand where they’re coming from almost, there’s people in my own family I won’t show the movie to because I know they’re not going to understand it completely.
The group of people I made it with, we were our own audience and we made it for people like us that would enjoy seeing it. I’m proud of that, I’m proud of everybody who worked on it for sticking with it, that’s how I feel. It really is finding its audience, we’re finding that now, just with press and everything, and that’s such a relief obviously.
You can never tell from one film festival how is going to be, we knew people liked it there [Fantastic Fest] and we knew people hated it there, and we know people like it now and we know that people hate it now, but it’s great to see that the people that are in for the ride, it’s a ride that you have to get it and you have to be down to go on it and if you are, I think it’s a fun time.
Finally, what’s next for you and your team?
I really wanted to start with something this unconventional because it just going to allow more freedom to happen in the future hopefully, that’s the idea. There’s two more movie scripts that are out, it’s hard to explain but one is a straight horror comedy… that’s really all I’ll say because I’m still very much in the middle of it all.
But we actually just shot a TV pilot, if it doesn’t get picked up by some networks and stuff that we met with, probably we will release it independently. It’s our Twilight Zone anthology kind of thing, where there’s a host that takes you through these little, tiny weird stories that go horrifically wrong but they’re funny and they’re all their own little Butt Boys basically.
We had three more days to shoot on that, we had to stop production because of the coronavirus but we’re almost done with that. I’m editing the rest of it right now and then there’s two other movies we are trying to get made in the near future.