Interview by Christine Thompson

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Director Kimble Rendall on Horror, The Chinese Market, Music, and Reflections On Being ``El Presidente``

7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB stars Golden Globe and six time Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer (“Cheers,” “Frasier”), Kellan Lutz (The Expendables 3, Twilight Franchise), and multi-award-winning Chinese actress and singer Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Resident Evil: Retribution) and was directed by Kimble Rendall (Bait, “The Jesters”), who also co-wrote the film with Paul Staheli (Pressure). PHOTO: (L-R) Shane Jacobson as Gary, Bingbing Li as Jia, Jason Chong as Chen, and Kellan Lutz as Ridley in the action, adventure film “7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

Kimble Rendall is an Australian Musician/Director who has both feet firmly planted on both the music and film side of entertainment, having been the 2nd unit director on large films such as “The Matrix” and “irobot,” “Ghost Rider” and “Underworld: Revenge of the Lycans” as well as directing a horror film that hit #1 in China, BAIT3D. He’s well known as a musician, his band HooDoo Gurus (Australian rock and roll royalty. In 2007, all band members were admitted into the Aria Hall of Fame) opening for The Clash and supporting Gary Glitter. He was also voted Australia’s top music video director in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone magazine.   Kimble Rendall and The Slice not surprisingly supply his latest venture 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB with music on the soundtrack, notably a great version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” during the closing credits.

Whats not to like about 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB?   An ancient underground Chinese tomb, a group of scientists on an erstwhile rescue mission, intelligent killer spiders, and an equally killer soundtrack.  7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB is in theaters and available on VOD and Digital HD now.


Australian Director Kimble Rendall

AMFM : So…I think I’ll call you El Presidente if you don’t mind.  

Kimble Rendall:  Oh you’ve done your homework, where’d you get that?

AMFM: I read your Bio and that’s what it says. It jumped out at me because I named myself that too.

Kimble Rendall: That’s official then?  How long have you been El Presidente?

AMFM: Officially it’s El Presidente/Mom.. I wear many hats.  Six years as a self appointed El Presidente.  Much MUCH longer as Mom.

I laughed my head off at your movie, it was a good time, but Kellan Lutz keeps showing up on these Australian movies, what gives with that?  

Kimble Rendall:  He really likes Australia.  At one point he was going out with Sharnie Vinson, and she was in my film BAIT.  That’s where I met him.  He was travelling around, got to meet some of the other filmmakers, and he was aware that I was developing this and he was interested.  

AMFM:  Australia might as well be Texas for everything that I’ve seen, having not actually visited.  But I can tell you I’ve noticed a strong presence at SXSW with Australian films, and you guys are strong with the force.  I love the fact that you’ve got a huge background in music and film.  Also I’m a fan of Fantastic Fest here, I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there.

KR:  I know of that one, it’s great.  Whereabouts in Texas are you?  

AMFM: Austin and Houston, currently speaking from Houston.  But this film just seems so Fantastic Fest-y.  I should be looking for you there!  Now let’s talk about the film, what was the impetus for it?

KR: It was originally called NEST, it was started with Gary Hamilton who runs ArcLight Films, whom I originally made a shark movie with called BAIT, a 3-D film. We had It went into the Chinese market and we had a huge hit became the #1 film in China.  

Following that, we thought “ah well, let’s get another film into the Chinese market.  So we wrote this specifically as a Chinese story.  It started in the Northern Territory of Australia, the Chinese were here before the Dutch and English..  We thought “well if they came for the herbs and spices they can take some spiders back as well.”  And then there was the underground palace the Emperor had in 200 BC, and I thought well, “the underground palace is where he wanted to live in the afterlife, alright – it could be a good premise, we could set our story in the underground palace.  The Australian funnel-web spider is one of the deadliest in world.  So ok, lets put all those elements together.  

So it started as a straight horror movie called NEST, but as it all came together it became more action/adventure and we realized Guardians of the Tomb is more in keeping with the type of film it is.  In other parts of the world it’s called GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB, and in the U.S. it’s called 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB.

(L-R) Bingbing Li as Jia, Jason Chong as Chen, Kellan Lutz as Ridley, and Kelsey Grammer as Mason in the action, adventure film “7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

AMFM:  I detected elements of “Raiders of The Lost Ark.”  Without giving anything away can you give me some easter eggs or at least influences you drew from for this?

KR: I like genre films in general, sc-fi and action.  With horror, some of the great American directors have always been an influence, John Carpenter, and Hitchcock (going back to the old classics).  I’m a big fan of American films AND music.

So BAIT was a more action/adventure/horror, and this one started as that.  But the more we talked about it, the more we realized, yeah, Raiders of The Lost Ark is one of our favorites, and this film is a bit more of that, with Kellan Lutz becoming an action hero going in to save the day – and he does hate spiders, so we thought that was pretty funny.  So he gets tossed in the middle of all this and stuff happens as they move through the palace.  So it is a bit more action/adventure, because my thought as it developed was to show less of the spiders, with a sound that was even more creepy than the spiders.  It’s different from having spiders jumping on people all the time – these spiders are trying to track them, they’re intelligent.

AMFM:  So did you write it first, and then change direction as you went along?

KR: Originally NEST was written as more a classic horror story. Then after BAIT came out, the investors said they wanted something a bit more open and epic in nature.  The more we worked on it, the more it changed to what it is today.  I don’t know, if I was to write it again, I might push the horror more than the action/adventure.

AMFM:  Also, working with Kelsey Grammer in a horror movie, how was that?

Kelsey Grammer as Mason in 7 Guardians of The Tomb. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

KR: That was amazing, I’m a huge fan of Kelsey from comedies, Cheers and so on and so forth.  He’s a very talented actor not only in comedy though.  Right after he finished our film he went straight to a Broadway production.  He’s across the board really talented, something I wasn’t aware of.  But we knew him from comedy, so when he came to Australia to do wardrobe, we were in this bar in Surface Paradise, which is on the Gold Coast up in Queensland.  We were all having a drink and he was talking to the barman about Martinis, and I thought “Well!  I’m in a episode of Cheers, and it’s happening right before me!”  But he was really great to work with.  He embraced the genre, knew what type of film he was in and it was no holds barred.  He’s really good in the film, don’t you think?

AMFM: Yes, he is, and I’m not used to seeing him like that either, as the bad guy.  So it was a good turn.  Let’s talk about BingBing Li, and her casting, and the Chinese connection.

KR: So Li BinBing…

AMFM: (interrupting) so it’s Li BingBing?

KR: You can call her BingBing, but it’s the other way around Li is a first name, but it depends on who you’re talking to.  We call her BingBing. So uh.. So Im confused maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is Li.

AMFM: I’m already confused.

KR:   And that’s two confused “El Presidentes” that’s not good (both laugh). Our outside Chinese partners contacted her people and she was interested.  That got the ball rolling on their side and that was a big start, because the Chinese are major investors, it’s an Australian/Chinese co-production.  We have another star called Chun Wu, who was in a boy band. He came out of music and went into acting, became a TV star over there.

AMFM:  With the the Chinese connection, this is really an international film.  American, Chinese, and Australian actors.  Chinese and Australian investors.  I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more of this from you.

KR:  I think so.  This was my second film as a co-production.  This one has done very well so far, I think $10 million.  For this type of film it’s done well.  It’s the way it goes, it’s what’s happening in the world market, particularly as the Chinese market is the fastest growing in the world.  If you’re not making films that are going to be shown there, then you are missing out.

(L-R) Jason Chong as Chen and Bingbing Li as Jia in the action, adventure film “7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

AMFM:  I think that’s very smart.

KR:  That’s why I’m… El Presidente. (laughs)

AMFM:  In the U.S., this is being released by Gravitas Ventures, who are now huge, but it went onto the big screen in China first?

KR:  Yes. It was made for 3d  I also have two songs in it, I’m a musician.  “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

AMFM:  That was you singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” at the end?  I loved it, I thought that was hilarious.

KR:  Yes, that’s us. Jason Fernandez and myself, we do that.  

Kellan Lutz as Ridley in the action, adventure film “7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

AMFM:  You’ve got it covered from both angles, music and film.  Well it’s no surprise then that your Chinese actors are singers as well.  Does Bing Bing sing in this at all?

KR:  No, there’s another singer called Jayne Zhang and she did the song, she’s a big singer over there.  But she didn’t act in the film.

AMFM:  You’ve had such a long and storied career in music….

KR:  It’s true.  I’m ancient, but yes I have.  

AMFM:  I didn’t mean it like that, you’re probably younger than me…which is why I am called… El Presidente.

KR:  Well, El Presidentes are ageless so they go on forever.

AMFM:  Good one!  What can we hope to see from you next?

KR:  A science fiction film called The Ruum by Arthur Porgres, and if that doesn’t happen a another monster style movie.  

AMFM:  So is your favorite genre horror?

KR:  Actually,Like music, I have a wide taste, classical to punk to heavy metal, I like good stuff…In terms of genre I do like horror, and I do tend to watch a fair bit of.  But I’m watching the Oscar Films at the moment, like “3 Billboards.”

AMFM:  I know you have been the 2nd unit director on huge movies like The Matrix etc, but so do you expect to ever do anything else?

KR: I do think I’d like to try different things, yes.  There’s one I’ve been quite passionate about for a long time, it’s a great Australian story about the people who introduced opera to the Australian people,  believe it or not.  So I’ve got a wide range of interests.  I’ll keep it open and I might mature into it one day.  

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