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How Sasquatch Sunset Directors Made Their “Realistic” Bigfoot Comedy

Everybody has an idea of what Bigfoot looks like – but with no official mythology to speak of, bringing the sasquatch community to life was a bigger challenge than expected for sibling directors David & Nathan Zellner.

As Nathan explained to Zavvi: “What’s interesting about the accounts of sightings, and the way the online Bigfoot community talk about this creature, is the way there’s endless debate about what is real and what isn’t, because of the lack of definitive proof to its existence. There are some tropes you can pick up on through the various sightings which we’ve seeded throughout the movie, like the ways they call out to each other and build nests, but mostly, their movements are rooted in other animal behaviour.

“We cherry picked from the mythology, and then took in ideas and influences from primate videos and other nature documentaries to build a pack dynamic, and figure out ways that these creatures cohabitate and deal with death, things like that. From there, we realised we wanted to chart the entire lifespan of these creatures, as there’s so much to unpack within that social dynamic.”

The result is Sasquatch Sunset, an indescribable oddity halfway between a David Attenborough documentary and a gross-out comedy. Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough, both unrecognisable underneath layers of makeup and prosthetics, play the two leaders of this pack, who we follow throughout a year of their lives in the wilderness – and, to keep it as realistic as possible, there’s zero dialogue, with the actors communicating entirely through grunts and body language.

Naturally, the project was a hard sell to studios, producers and potential stars, as co-director David points out: “we needed every person involved to be dialled in to this specific tone – it wasn’t something you could be half-arsed with, you had to be fully on board with the adventure.

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“We had to be explicitly clear within the script what our intentions were, and thankfully, Riley and Jesse responded to it and found that this could be a very liberating experience for the both of them.”

The brothers’ unspoken mission was to make the definitive Bigfoot movie, a goal they felt was attainable considering how few films there are about these mythical creatures.

David explained: “The few movies featuring sasquatches that exist are horror films or family films, and they’re always about the humans who encounter them – Bigfoot is always a presence in the background. That’s why we didn’t want humans in this movie; we wanted to explore the interior lives of these creatures completely through them, without the judgement or filter of a human character.”

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To get the actors – who also include Nathan himself, and stuntman Christophe Zajac-Dene – to inhabit these figures as accurately as possible, they were put through a “Sasquatch school”, to make the uninhibited, animalistic nature of these creatures become second nature.

As Nathan explained: “Jesse had worked with a movement coach on another movie, and he brought him in to guide us in becoming these creatures. It started via online sessions, where we watched primate videos as examples to learn how to grab things, or pay attention to the specifics when they smell or taste things, so we’d know how to react to things we’d just discovered in the same way.

“After learning speech patterns, we moved to in-person rehearsals to learn how to physically interact with each other, to get us all on the same page so we looked like a species. We had different character traits, but initially, we all needed to approach it like we were playing the same character, so we’d understand how these animals operate, and get comfortable with the basics of being one.

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“When we were filming, the challenge became overlooking a lot of that, to get to the emotional beats of each scene. It was less focused on, for example, how a sasquatch would walk to a tree, and more capturing how these creatures feel – as close to normal filmmaking as this movie ever became!”

Oddly, Sasquatch Sunset marks the fourth time Nathan has been transformed into a Bigfoot-esque creature, which David is slightly envious of.

“I would love to be transformed into a creature someday, but only if it was appropriate. Nathan was born to play this role; he’s much taller than me and has the right build, and because of his previous experience it was helpful for everybody else that he had this foundation to build the character from.

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“What drew the actors to this project was its uniqueness, the way it would let them immerse themselves in the lives of these creatures in a way that no other film would allow. I’d love to play any creature that I’m offered if it’s right – there’s a clear appeal to the liberation that comes with this transformation!”

The pair have always believed that the world would be a better place with these creatures hidden amongst us, and making this movie has only reinforced that belief.

David concluded: “Since we’ve been kids, we’ve been fascinated by mythologies, and every part of the world has their own version of the sasquatch myth – and I think, as a culture, it’s nice to have these mysteries about cryptids that live just outside of our view. In the internet age, everything is so explained, every corner of the world documented via satellite imagery, which is why it’s important that we have myths and rumours of fantastical creatures whose existence we can’t prove; it makes life richer knowing that we might not be alone.”

Sasquatch Sunset is released in select UK cinemas on Friday, 14th June, and gets a Blu-ray release on Monday, 26th August.

Pre-order here.



Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder

Writer

Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.