SDCC 2008: Repo! The Genetic Opera

With the recent success of musicals like Hairspray, Dreamgirls and Mamma Mia!, the movie musical is slowly regaining a place in the annual movie calendar.

Original movie musicals are few and far between, especially this musical plot…a bleak future where a massive conglomerate allows people to get loans for organ transplants. However, miss one payment, and they repossess it from your body on the spot. At the heart is a young girl who has been locked away from the world all her life because of a rare blood disease, and her father, who is a repo man racked with guilt over his job and his child. Meanwhile, the children of the dying owner of the conglomerate are bickering over who should take over. One of them is a spoiled daughter addicted to surgery.

Not only that, consider this cast….a former Spy Kid, Buffy Summers’ former Watcher, a well-known character actor, and Paris Hilton. The Thursday night panel for Repo! The Genetic Opera packed Room 6B, not only because of Hilton. Repo! was a cult hit in Los Angeles and New York, and many who remember the show wondered how it can be adapted for the screen.

Terrence Zdunich was there along with co-composer Darren Smith. Zdunich actually came up with the idea in 1999 when he made a ten minute musical. In it, a grave robber has to deal with a repo man over some debts. From there, they expanded it into a full-fledged musical, thanks in part to director Darren Lynn Bousman. It played in Los Angeles in 2002 and 2004 and in New York in 2005. Bousman admitted it was difficult trying to get someone to adopt the musical to the screen, especially because of the bloody subject matter.

After Bousman directed Saw 2 and 3, he decided to get Repo! on the big screen. “I wanted to do something that was completely out of the box and wasn’t necessarily safe.”

However, he admitted he wasn’t too sure that Paris Hilton, who plays Amber Sweet, and Alexa Vega, who plays Shilo, the young girl at the heart of the opera, would be right for the movie. Hilton, however, surprised him when she auditioned. “Paris Hilton walked into this room,” he recalled, “filled with tattooed mohawk guys, all sitting, straight-faced, arms crossed, like shaking their heads. By the time she leaves the room, she has everyone like jaw-dropping, clapping. She rocked it. She deserved the part and earned it.”

Ironically, Bousman was the reason why she wanted to do this movie. “I’m a huge Saw fan,” she says,” so I immediately wanted to sign on. And also getting offered a role like this, I know it’s completely different than anything I’ve ever done.”

And what does Paris think about Comic-Con? “This is awesome. This is hot!” She later said it’s inspired her to do a second album, and maybe consider more musical roles.

Bousman also knew Vega only from the Spy Kids movies, but she was also performing Hairspray in New York. Vega said that Bousman contacted her on MySpace, and wasn’t sure who he was. Once they got together, Bousman saw that she was right for the part.

One person Bousman did want was Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Nathan Wallace, the Repo Man. Bousman remembered Head from the Buffy musical, “Once More With Feeling.” Head was only available for one day, and they set up an audition in Los Angeles. Bousman was pleased with how Head was able to get into the role quickly. “He comes in,” Bousman recalled, “looks at the music for two minutes, says I think I can do this, and just does it.” Part of Head’s audition will be at the website www.repo-opera.com

Rounding out the cast are Nivek Ogre, lead singer for Skinny Puppy, and Bill Moseby as the bickering Largo brothers, Pavi and Luigi, respectively.

Bousman also says it was difficult to film the movie. While the soundtrack was laid out in Hollywood, the main filming was done in Toronto. This means the cast had to sing as if they were on set without knowing what the set would be like. “It made it a lot harder to shoot it,” Vega says, “If you didn’t think about all this stuff beforehand, it stopped us from going further into the scene as far as action and movement. So we had to really think about what are obstacles were going to be on set.”

Those who remember the original version will notice some scenes and songs have been cut, but they will be in the soundtrack when it’s available on September 30th. The producers say that the excitement and core of the opera is there, but is now a “movie opera”. The movie itself will have a limited release on November 7th and on DVD early in 2009.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008

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