Interview: Director Alex Cox on His Long-Awaited Non-Sequel Repo Chick

Or, what Iggy Pop and Emilio Estevez have in common.

Director Alex Cox has made eleven theatrical films, but it’s four early works—Repo Man, Sid And Nancy, Straight To Hell, and Walker—that have shadowed his career for the last two decades. Repo Man in particular holds a lasting charm for fans of early ‘80s L.A. punk and/or absurdist alien conspiracy cult films. Cox's twelfth film? The upcoming Repo Chick— cause, in some quarters, for shudders of cautious jubilation, based off the name alone.

Since we spoke with Cox in July, news of a fresh controversy has arrived. According to Cox's blog, Universal (owners of Repo Man) has just announced that a shelved Jude Law sci-fi project, The Repossession Mambo, has been rechristened Repo Men and rushed into post-production, perhaps to thwart Repo Chick, which is due in September. It's yet another wrinkle for Cox's film, a project with an already quite wrinkly history...

I've heard rumors of a Repo Man sequel for at least a decade now. There was a lot of gossip about an unnamed project. Then there was The Asshole, brainchild of Dick Rude, who played one of the rampaging punks in Repo Man. Then there was your unmade film Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday. Now you're finishing up Repo Chick. Can you sort this all out?

The Asshole was written as a standalone thing. It's nothing to do with Repo Man at all. I think it was a thing Dick wrote for Iggy Pop to act in originally. I was the co-writer. He couldn't raise the money on Iggy's name and so the thing has just kind of floated along since then. Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday WAS the sequel to Repo Man. It was the further adventures of Otto. Otto had been kidnapped by Martians for ten years and they'd changed his physiognomy and given him a new name. He came back in 1996 with a 1983 mindset, so it was quite difficult for him to fit into the world. I and the producers of Repo Man proposed that to Universal back in 1996. We never heard back from them, and it came out last year as a graphic novel [on Gestalt Publishing].

So, if and when you can work out Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday, is that still on the table?

No, I wouldn't do that now, because it's really a ‘90s piece. It's about living in the Clinton era.

It couldn't be updated?

No real point to it. I mean, why bother? Nobody wants to look at Emilio Estevez anyway.

Aw, I don't know about that.

But I don't know if anybody actually wants to see him in a movie. I mean, we had terrible, terrible trouble raising money on the basis of his name for Waldo's.

He agreed to be in it?

He asked to be in it! We were going to do it with John Cusack. And he came hat in hand and said, 'no, you have to do it with me!' [Repo Man producer] Peter McCarthy worked for a couple of years trying to raise the money for that. And then Estevez dropped out. So I wouldn't waste any more time.

So you're saying Repo Chick is not a sequel?

Repo Chick is not a sequel. It's entirely a freestanding film about a very wealthy young woman who finds meaning stealing from the middle class and the poor. You wouldn't need to see Repo Man to make sense of it. It's another comedy about the economic crisis. And how the crisis has intensified so much in this round.

I've read conflicting info about the Repo Chick shoot. I've read that almost every image is filmed against a green screen, but I've also read of specific live interiors. What's the percentage of green screen to live set?

95% green screen. There's a vintage train interior that is a background plate. The actors were all on a sound stage.

I also need to confirm a rumor: David Lynch is one of the Repo Chick producers?

No. He has nothing to do with it. It's a good story, though. I should say, 'yeah! yeah! He was there every day man, giving me notes!'

And he acted in it!

And he acted in it! [laughs]

You mentioned, on your blog, that one of the actors from Repo Man was going to appear in Repo Chick, but got hurt on the set instead...

Tracey Walter [Repo Man's "plate of shrimp" philosopher] was going to be in it! He was driving out to the valley the day before to look at this space station set, so he'd know where it was. And he got hit by a car in an intersection. He's OK, but he was shaken up.

He was replaced?

Yeah. He was replaced with an inferior actor. [laughs]

So what's the timeline? You'd blogged that Repo Chick will be shown in September at an unnamed film festival...

I don't know what will happen to it after the festival. We might sell it to the BBC for TV broadcast in the UK, but apart from that, all territories are available. That's the Catch-22 of independent film. The means of production are in our hands, but how do you get it distributed?

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