Adam Green may be an alien from outer space. The indie rocker-turned-director crafts a wildly imaginative world in his film, Adam Green’s Aladdin. Green’s film, now available on iTunes, is loaded with sexy genies, techno-junky rulers, and struggling indie rockers, reframing the modern world through a fairy tale lens.
CONVICTS caught up with Adam Green at The Hole Gallery, where a selection of his props are currently showing. Green gave us the good word on his relationship with technology, his artistic process, and the genesis of his psychedelic brainchild, Adam Green’s Aladdin.
Hey mate. So can you tell us where we are now ?
Oh god well, we’re here in the Sultan’s throne room. It’s still under construction, so this room is the Sultan’s throne room.
And the Sultan is…
The Sultan is a tyrant trying to put everyone in town in jail. He’s played by Jack Dishel in the movie. Jack’s a friend of mine and an incredible actor. He actually plays two main characters and he’s all over it.
How does your vision of Aladdin differ from the story we all know?
Its my own psychedelic version. It’s my attempt to look at the myth through modern eyes.
Can you elaborate a bit on that? Give us some examples of the twists you put on the original narrative…
So in this version the lamp is a 3D printer and the princess is a Kardashian and Aladdin is an indie rock singer about to get dropped from its record label. Some of it’s based on autobiographical things but what I like most about Aladdin is that it’s a love story; a story about love trumping material wealth in the end. In this time, especially with all this bullshit hovering around, I thought it would be fun to make a story about love.
Right on. Where does the conflict, or the darkness come into the plot?
The other side of the movie is this fear of technology. In a way I set out to make a movie about technology with handmade, analog things: cardboard and paper. I was trying to bring out a really earthy spirit. Ever since I’ve had a smartphone, I’ve felt like I’ve been possessed by technology, that it was sort of dissecting my soul from my body, forcing me to view my personality in the third person through social media. It seems very perverse.
So how does that fear of technology factor into the film? The love story’s a bit more self-explanatory…
The sultan is a technophile who has a perverse relationship with technology. For him, tech is like drugs. There’s that way of looking at technology but also, there’s a flipside to that. The movie’s world is sort of a videogame world.
So you produced the soundtrack as well. Tell us about the interplay between the script and the soundtrack?
I was writing the script and the songs at the same time. I had lines on different index cards like, ‘This is a sultan line, this is a genie line, this is an Aladdin line.’ It was all coming out of my subconscious. At times, it was hard to know what should be in the script and should be in the song. The movie lines are more like lyrics to a song. That’s my approach as a writer.
Do you think that stems from your musical background?
I’m not a normal person making a movie. I’m a musician making a movie. I think of it differently. For the actors, I’m not a director approaching them. I’m approaching them as just a dude.
So these sets look incredibly elaborate, can you tell us a bit about their creation?
We had to make five hundred props for the movie, over four years. It was all done in a warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Do you have any favorite props from the movie?
The Asparagus Chair is pretty unique, there’s only one of those. God, I don’t know.
When did the idea for the movie begin germinating in your head?
I started writing the script when I was on tour with Binki Shapiro, writing this Aladdin movie. Eventually I did a kickstarter campaign and got money to rent out the warehouse. That drew in a bunch of people from the internet who helped me make props. The warehouse in Red Hook became like a summer community project; like a summer camp. There was an art center called Pioneerworks across the street and a lot of musicians, actors, artists came together and it became a multidisciplinary project.
Would we recognize any of the actors?
There’s a lot of actors people might recognize: Macauley Culkin; Natasha Lyonne, who’s a total new york legend, people would know her from Orange is the New Black; Alia Shawkat – Alia’s really incredible, she has this mime-like thing that she does with her face. There’s something very old fashioned about the way her body moves.
That seems to fit with the medieval setting. Is this Aladdin world you rendered something you’ve been marinating on for a long time?
These are subjects I’ve really been writing about for a while. The concepts are really weird, like a baseball diamond miner who mines baseball diamonds. I have so many songs about princesses; now I’ve shown the people a princess. The movie is also, I think, a really sexy film. There’s lots of really gorgeous ladies in this movie, it’s pretty hot honestly.
How important is the fantastical component?
I feel like I was born in the wrong time. I should have been born in medieval times or ancient times and this film was a unique opportunity to show the world the fairy tale world my songs exist in. A lot of the movies I really like don’t really take place in any kind of time; they’re fantasies like The Princess Bride, The Holy Mountain.
Was the Aladdin story itself important to you as a kid?
Aladdin was important, but it wasn’t like the most important thing that happened in my childhood.
What, then, drew you to this story in particular?
The thing about working with myths, it’s kind of like working with colors. I wanted to pick a myth and tell something from my real life through the myth. Aladdin was a great thing ‘cause it has a lot of symbols: the genie lamp is genuinely very phallic. Aladdin goes into a cave and he finds this penis and it helps him make up everything he needs to become a grown up. It’s a sexual organ that involves creation and I had a baby during the making of Aladdin, so thinking of the genie as Aladdin was always part of a movie for me.
How did it feel to finally premiere the film? How amazing does it feel to wrap up such a long project? Are you going to miss it?
Last night when we showed the premiere, it was so fun. I was nervous people wouldn’t understand the movie or it would be too weird, but people really connected with it. If I think about the last four years, though, I would say it seems like fun as a memory, but it was honestly really stressful.
Thanks for the chat mate, and best of luck with the film.