By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Now in select theaters and on VOD from Gravitas Ventures, BAD MATCH is an update of the FATAL ATTRACTION paradigm for the on-line dating generation. RUE MORGUE got an exclusive sit-down with writer/director David Chirchirillo and J.D. Lifshitz about their twisted psychological shocker.
BAD MATCH stars Jack Cutmore-Scott as Harris, a guy whose dating life consists of hooking up with women he meets via Tinder-esque apps for one-night stands. One such conquest, Riley (Lili Simmons of TV’s BANSHEE and RAY DONOVAN), doesn’t take his typical dismissal lying down; she continues to contact him, then harass him, then invade and manipulate his life. But this is no simple psycho-girl-torments-innocent-guy thriller; both Harris and Riley have dark sides that make BAD MATCH a creepily entertaining game of cat and mouse—or cat and cat. We spoke to Chirchirillo (pictured below at right), who previously co-wrote E.L. Katz’s CHEAP THRILLS, and Lifshitz, who produced with Raphael Margules and whose credits also include DEMENTIA and the CONTRACTED films, at this summer’s FrightFest in London.
Tell us about the development of BAD MATCH.
DAVID CHIRCHIRILLO: It started as a very different movie. It was one crazy date night on Tinder, similar to AFTER HOURS, and then I wanted to have the thriller aspect enter into it at the midpoint, like in SOMETHING WILD. And it didn’t work; it was like, “Why doesn’t the guy just go home?” I also realized I didn’t just want to make a repeat of AFTER HOURS—so I decided to make a repeat of FATAL ATTRACTION instead [laughs]! Part of that was, a horror script I had sold called ELI [which he discusses here] got some credibility around town, so I was going on these meetings—they call it “the water bottle tour,” because you meet with these studios, and they all give you a bottle of water while you’re sitting in the waiting room. Everybody was asking me, “What’s the next movie? We’re excited for your next project,” and I thought I needed to give them an easily digestible pitch. So I said, “What about FATAL ATTRACTION for the Tinder generation?” and everyone went, “Oooh, I like that, that’s exciting, that’s something I understand.”
When I set about writing the script and started to beat the story out, it just wasn’t that exciting. It was just FATAL ATTRACTION, but on Tinder, and we’ve seen that movie a million times. So I thought, “All right, how can I twist this idea, how can I build up expectations and then subvert them so that suddenly, the movie you think you’re watching is not the movie it actually becomes?”
Have either of you had a bad Tinder experience, and David, if so, did that feed into the writing of the script?
J.D. LIFSHITZ: No, Raphael and I are both married, so we haven’t had anything like that. I will say that I was having lunch with a journalist not long ago, and talking about how I was doing a Tinder thriller and the perils of that, and she had met her husband on Tinder! So it is a viable dating option for some people.
DC: I have definitely had some unfortunate Tinder dates—not necessarily in terms of anything insane happening, but certainly not getting what I expected when I met that person. It’s like, you see this person, and there are five pictures, and you text for x amount of time, and I think there’s even some sort of theory that when you meet someone on Tinder, or any dating app, you have to meet them within seven days or you’re never going to meet them at all; that’s the rule of thumb. So you text with this person, and you look at their pictures and maybe their Instagram page, but all that stuff is curated, so you don’t actually know who he or she is. Then when you meet them, you realize they’re not at all who you thought they were going to be. So it was that sort of feeling that I used for this movie. But have I ever met someone who’s stalked me or hounded me? No.
Given that Harris is a flawed guy, and Riley is pretty unbalanced, how concerned were you about assuring that the audience would stay engaged with them?
DC: Hugely. It was very important, and this was something J.D. and I talked a lot about, and same with me and Jack Cutmore-Scott: How can we make sure this guy is the most charming person we possibly can, until he’s suddenly not so charming anymore? That was actually less difficult than working with Riley’s role, because she does things in the movie that are suspect, so to speak. But it was important to me to make a movie that wasn’t just about a crazy girl being crazy, and a guy who makes a mistake but is able to redeem himself at the end.
J.D., how did you get involved with the project?
JL: Raphael and I were involved pretty early on. Originally, when we were doing CONTRACTED: PHASE 2, a mutual friend recommended David to write it. I sat down with David, and he was pretty candid about not particularly being interested in writing a sequel to CONTRACTED, but we hit it off and had a pretty strong conversation. David told me he wanted to do a Tinder thriller, and I was very interested in Dave and that concept, and I followed up with him for maybe six months, every few weeks.
DC: I think it was more like a year. Every two weeks, I got a text or an e-mail from J.D. saying, “When can I see it? When can I see it? I want the script, give me the script!”
JL: To David’s credit, he said, “I’m going to send you the script as soon as it’s done,” and he did. David said he wanted a certain amount of money, and thank God, we were able to get him that, and then some.
DC: For the budget, not my personal salary!
JL: Right, I should clarify: He wanted a certain budget, and I think he sent us the script in December or January, and we shot it in June. Generally, movies take years to put together, so it was a very fast turnaround, but David knew exactly what he wanted. There’s often a concern, like, I remember one of our first days on set, there was a scene that David shot all in one long take, more or less, and I pulled him aside and said, “David, I don’t know if this is gonna work.” And he said, “J.D., you have to trust me.” And I have to say, it’s one of the best scenes in the movie, and I was totally wrong. That’s the kind of director David was.
How did you find the right leads for the film?
DC: We knew we needed certain qualities: Harris had to be a handsome, charming, believable, likable womanizer, and Riley had to be beautiful and sort of dangerous and wild. I sat down with Amey René, our amazing casting director, and she gave me this big list. Jack was on there, and I had seen billboards for his show, COOPER BARRETT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE…
JL: May it rest in peace.
DC: Yes, he’s now on a new ABC show called DECEPTION that’s coming out midseason. I liked his look—he’s got this kind of baby face, he seems kind of innocent—and then I watched some of COOPER BARRETT and thought, “Oh my God, this is our guy.” And we didn’t look at anybody else. To J.D.’s credit, he went for it, though at first he was like, “Usually this isn’t how the process goes for our lead; we go out to a lot more people.”
JL: That was another decision where we trusted him, and I really believe that Jack is the movie in a lot of ways. We were looking for somebody who could do the Patrick Bateman thing a little bit, or Patrick Bateman lite, and he completely pulled that off. David and I talked about how we wanted BAD MATCH to feel like Brian De Palma making a low-budget thriller in 2017, and Jack has the De Palma leading-man quality from the ’80s in a big way—the all-American pretty-boy thing.
DC: Although he’s British! And he does a great American accent. With Lili, I knew her work and I liked her, but we assumed we wouldn’t be able to get her. You can kind of tell when you go out to somebody who isn’t interested, because they don’t get back to you for a long time; in Hollywood, a non-answer is a no. But Lili’s people read it, she read it and got back to us two days later, saying, “I’ll do it, I’m in!” She didn’t even need to meet with me; I was shocked. She instantly got the character, and got the movie.