If you ever wanted to know what Betty and Veronica would be like as vampires, filmmaker Amy Heckerling has your answer. Her latest film, Vamps, is her reunion with Alicia Silverstone, who starred in Heckerling's 1995 hit Clueless. Silverstone pairs up on-screen with Don't Trust The B_____ in Apartment 23's spunky Krysten Ritter as two cute girls in the big city trying to balance love, work, school, and saving the vampire population from extinction at the hands of a modern-day Van Helsing — without daylight, no less. Sigourney Weaver plays their deliciously evil boss, while Dan Stevens (yes, Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey) plays Ritter's love interest. Heckerling talks to The Advocate about her favorite vampires, whether she would be on Team Jacob or Team Edward if she were a 12-year-old, and how gay characters add life to the worlds she creates.
The Advocate: How deep into vampire lore did you have to go to make this movie?
Amy Heckerling: Before this slew of vampire TV and movies, I was always a night person. So I've always gravitated toward that anyway. There's a whole vampire community online — those are some crazy people. Pre-Twilight. Like, donor club–type people. Like, "Let's go down to the club to meet people who will suck our blood." As far as movies from that genre, of course, there's Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi's version. I'm not big on the 1950s Hammer films. But I love the Dracula that [Francis Ford] Coppola did, and Gerard Butler was in an interesting one, Dracula 2000.
Yeah, he was hot. But I'm a night person, so hearing the birds and thinking, Oh, no, I didn't get anything done today. You live on the other side.
Goody and Stacy are sisterly in Vamps. How were you able to get Alicia and Krysten's chemistry to work so well?
They're both very sweet young girls. They're not bitchy actress types. They're just very game girls, and just giggling and talking and having a good time together. Krysten was trying out Alicia's food program for a while. I think it was a little bit too much for her, but they were into it. And Alicia was pregnant for much of the shoot, which I didn't know. They were just adorable. Sometimes I'd put them on their marks and look at them and think it was like we were shooting Betty and Veronica. They're so cute together.
Yeah, as I was watching, I remembered how Alicia is vegan, and in the film they're vampires who don't go after humans.
Yeah, that would be the equivalent of vegan for vampires — drinking blood of vermin that's going to get sprayed with toxins anyway. You're really not adding any harm to the world.
You went the indie route on this film, as opposed to your previous works, many of which were affiliated with a major studio. Did you prefer doing it this way?
In one respect, I like the freedom of using all the people that I love instead of being dictated by the studio to use the hot person of the moment. In other respects, if you have an idea with a scene but the only way you could shoot it would be such a cheap way that it wouldn't come out right, you might as well not do it. So there's trade-offs, but the best situation is when a studio leaves you alone and you have their resources.
When have you been in that situation?
It happened in Clueless. [Paramount] had bigger movies. One thing about being a smaller movie at a studio is that they'll have bigger fish to fry. And like in Fast Times, we've got a five-and-a-half-million-dollar movie. Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was shooting at the same time, and their budget just to pay the actors and get the rights to make it was more than our entire budget.
No interview with a female director would be complete without a question about being a female director. Despite making so many iconic films, do you still, or have you ever, encountered sexism from within the industry?
I'm sure I have, but I kind of try to wear blinders. Everything you try to do in life, of any value, people are going to be saying "no, no, no." You have to have the ability to not see that or hear that. And also, I hate to say this, but some of the people who will do the most harm will be other women. I mean, you could be any ethnic type, or sometimes the people who are hurting you the most are the same religion as you. It's not like women are bitches to each other, but just that's the way it goes. You end up with people who help you and hurt you. Some women are great, and you wouldn't have been able to get to where you are without them, and others are doing what they can to undermine you.