Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leslie Thy Name is Murdering Whore


'Leslie, My Name Is Evil' Stars Talk Manson Cult, Suburban Culture

* May 20, 2010
* |
* By: Chris Jancelewicz




Canadian films are all snow and desolation and melancholy, right? Not anymore. 'Leslie, My Name Is Evil', a pseudo-fictional feature film directed and acted by Canadians, is found somewhere opposite on the spectrum, far from where we would expect it. Focusing on the Manson Family murders and subsequent trail of the late 1960s, the movie is a dark, satirical stab at the heart of what makes America America: the nuclear family, religiousness, 'wholesome' values, and military prowess.

In his film, director Reginald Harkema (known for his zany style and outlandish hair) looks specifically at one of the Manson girls on trial, Leslie Van Houten (Kristen Hager), as she goes from straight-laced daughter to outright devotee of the Manson cult. Harkema juxtaposes her journey with that of Perry (Gregory Smith), another buttoned-down youth who's selected as a member of the jury for the trail.

At times psychedelic and at other times sobering, 'Leslie' is an interesting departure from the usual Canadian canon. Moviefone got together with Harkema, Hager, and Ryan Robbins (who adeptly captures the manic essence of Charles Manson) to talk about the making of the film, and what it was like to embody – sorta – some of the most notorious people in American history.

Reg, what inspired you to make a film like this? And about this topic?

Harkema: It was a confluence of two things: the first Pink Mountaintops' album being in heavy rotation on my turntable with the song 'Leslie' playing, and me stumbling across a first-edition copy of 'Helter Skelter' at Value Village. I thought I could make some money off of it, but then I learned that the hottest Manson chick was this Dutch Christian girl named Leslie Van Houten – who's the exact same age as my mother. Then I wondered, "How could my mother become a hippie death cult murderess?"

I guess that's all it takes.

Harkema: That sucked me into the book, and then I found this little tidbit about one of the jurors being infatuated with Leslie. I thought that was an interesting story to tell between two people who can't speak to one another.



Those courtroom scenes can be really intense. Especially Leslie's stare – it's hypnotic!

Hager: Well, thank you! I think.

Reg, did you ever balk at the subject matter, or about approaching it in this way?

Harkema: The only time I ever sort of balked was when my next-door neighbour slipped me some ketamine, and I started having an out-of-body experience. I really felt like I was being sucked into hell. 'Halloween' was also on TV. Let me tell you: never try ketamine while writing a film. [Laughs]

What sorts of reactions have you received at film screenings?

Harkema: It's divided. People love it and hate it. Someone called it the second-worst movie of the year.

Hager: Yes, I would say exactly that. People are polarized.

How much research did each of you conduct for these roles?

Hager: I did more research than I've ever done for any other role. Ever. I spent a good month essentially locking myself up in my apartment watching anything and everything on Manson and his girls. Interviews, YouTube, documentaries, books, culture... you name it. I let it sink in and that was that.

Robbins: Yeah, I'm with Kristen. I think I came on a week-and-a-half before we started filming, so I didn't have as much time to prepare. It was a cram session for me. There is a lot of Manson's audio available, so I used that. And Reg had given me this book, essentially written by Charles Manson. I was more interested in his perception of himself than other peoples' opinions of him. I mean, no one willingly follows a madman unless there's a reason. I wanted to explore the girls and Manson from other angles.

Harkema: Follow them and bed them then, Ryan! You cutie. [Laughs]

Robbins: Now, now.

Playing Manson is obviously a major role. Actors would step over one another to play him. Were you ever nervous at all about taking this on?

Robbins: I went in apprehensive, but also a little excited. Speaking with Reg, I was really confident about his approach and vision. Keep in mind, our film is more of a statement than a biopic. There was more freedom that way.

Kristen, what was it like for you to go from Red Lake, Alberta to playing a Manson follower?

Hager: [Laughs] Well, it wasn't unlike Leslie's journey from a small suburban home. Fortunately I went to theatre school and had a few other jobs in between, but hands down this is one of my favourite roles. Definitely the most challenging.

What was the hardest scene you filmed for this movie?

Hager: [Laughs] For me, that's easy. It involved a kitchen knife and some blood. From the moment I read the script, I knew the murder sequence was going to be a challenge.

What were you actually stabbing?

Hager: A cardboard box. I don't know if there was anything in it or not. The make-up lady was sitting a bit too close to the box, squirting blood into my face and eyes.

Harkema: That was actually the toughest day for me. We were shooting in the middle of November in Toronto but it was supposed to be standing in for California in August.

What about you, Ryan? What was the hardest scene for you?

Robbins: Well, day one, the first shot is me having to have sex with Kristen. [Laughs] It's like, "Hey, how you doing? I'm the second guy you have sex with! Sorry about that."

Hager: It's always like that with every job I have. Intimacy is always the first thing.

Robbins: It was especially challenging because I was strapped to a huge cross in nothing but a loincloth with naked women dancing all over the place.

Harkema: That's really tough, Ryan! [Laughs]

If you can pinpoint it, what would you say is the main message you hope to send with this movie?

Harkema: I think it's a message-less movie. Take what you can from it. The only thing I hope to get out of this movie is that a boy and a girl, a girl and a girl, or a boy and a boy will go to it on a date and get into a big fight about what it means, and then have great make-up sex.

What stood out to me as the main issue was the stubborn adherence to that nuclear family, right-wing, religious ideal. It still seems to be prevalent today, 40 years later.

Robbins: That's what I remember thinking too, when I read the script.

Harkema: Yes, we're still making the exact same mistakes. My girlfriend of 10 years is American. We go to Tennessee and have Christmas with her southern Republican father, and then the other Christmas we'll go to Olympia, Washington with her mom's family, who are all dope-smoking lesbians. So the cultural divide of America is clearly demarcated, and that's what the movie is about – about how much that still exists today.

14 comments:

Pristash said...

Oh my freaking God...

Pristash said...

John Waters must be pissed. If this thing sees any kind of the light of day, Leslie's chances for parole get slimmer and slimmer. That's purely my opinion, of course, having not seen the movie.

Matt said...

I hope that the people who see this movie remember that there are many people still alive today who suffer greatly suffering in as a result of these crimes (on both sides). I won't see it because I don't want to see people profit from tragedy. On the other hand, I am in favor of Leslie's release. The only two I have always felt unfit for release are CM & Squeaky. Squeaky got out. Sandy & Nancy Pitman were far crazier than Leslie.

St. Circumstance said...

I am definitely going to check this out. It will be interesting to see another take on how the "Beautiful" one in the family is able to seduce the fine upstanding youth of America and sway them from to the dark side. The Leslie in this movie is actually even a little cute. Someone will be doing movies and stories about this subject forever. It wont hurt to watch one more. Especially about LULU my very favorite!! You ask and the COL delivers lol TY!!

Marliese said...

Matt, that's an uncommon opinion. Why only CM and Squeaky?

St. Circumstance said...

Matt- you come across as very intelligent, and a straight shooter! But you cant possibly think anyone is less fit for release than Tex? Most of them had issues, and a few of them were probably genuine bad people, but Tex personally stabbed repeatedly many people, and committed almost 80% of the violence. That man to this day is trying to convince himself that he is not the most evil person on the planet. But for every exaggeration, or over-hype about Charlie and the family- Tex is the only on who really deserves all the notoriety. He was one brutal self absorbed psychotic maniac, and no matter how many prisoners he helps- I hope god never forgives him :)

Matt said...

Marliese/ St.C,

I'm sure we all agree that Charlie will never be suitable for release, we don't need to waste keystrokes on that.

Squeaky never really renounced CM. I read a few quotes where she alluded to the idea that they were all tricked, but I never got the sense that she was 100% contrite. She and Sandy were two peas in a pod. Sandy has been free for decades and has never publicly renounced Charlie. Still, I don't think she is any threat to society. But it bothers me that these two have NEVER publicly renounced their devotion.

I make no excuses nor will I try to diminish the horrible acts committed by these people in 1969. But, There were other members of the group that continued lives of crime and disregard for human life long after Tex, Pat, Susan & Leslie went to prison. There were the members of the Hawthorne shootout, for example All since released.

I believe each and every one of them would have traded places with Tex, Pat, Susan & Leslie had they been asked to. Clem was there. Linda K as well. Both free. Would Mary have gone to Cielo & Waverly? Sandy? Nancy? Ruth Ann? Gypsy? I believe so.

In my eyes, none of the remaining prisoners minimize their roles in the horrible deeds of August 8th & 9th. They have described over & over in graphic detail what they have done. All have expressed remorse, and I believe they are remorseful. I don't expect anyone else to believe that and I won't argue with you if you don't - I especially will never take issue with the families of the victims. They are entitled to their feelings and they are entitled to fight for their continued incarceration.

Disagree with me if you will, it is your right, but I believe that people are capable of change. Even Tex. I believe that he has changed and is no threat to society. Same for Bruce, Pat & Leslie. I personally hope that they eventually are granted release. They are old. They are remorseful. They are no threat to anyone.

St. Circumstance said...

Well said Matt- very good points- almost all of them. You said a lot of things that are really fair and probably true!! I dont ever want to come across as a "know it all" on any subject- let alone this one in which nobody could ever know it all. And the one or two points I have differing opinions on- are subjective ones, so there ultimately is no wrong or right- just different points of view.

So let me offer mine only where where they differ...

The others continued in there lives of crime while the ones arrested did not- because they had no choice. The ones arrested were the most of his devoted followers- do you think it it hadn't been for the arrest- Susan, or Leslie would have suddenly walked out a few weeks later to get real jobs and attend AA? Same for remorse.. They were all underground members of society by choice.The ones who didn't go to jail expressed no remorse - because they didnt have to. The ones who did got jail- have had 40 years to try every different way to push any buttons to get free. After enough time passes and you go the natural process everyone goes through of maturing and growing up, and have hour after hour to think about what your mistakes have cost you- who wouldn't be sorry? didnt Patty once say herself at a parole hearing the one she thought she did the most harm to was herself? Wasn't that the truest thing any of the ever said? Of course they feel sorry- but mostly for what they have lost- and when an older women is reflecting back on forty years of a life wasted- and is tearing up doing so- I bet it looks really sincere- because it is!! But it brings me to my next point which is... it is not enough

Even if they were all truly remorseful, and we had a guarantee that they would never commit another crime- it wouldn't matter. They did terrible things- and they have a price to pay for them, and that is life. The life they chose, and the price for the lives they took. You brought up yourself the feelings of the families. Would watching a movie about the trial, be a worse aggressiveness to them- than letting there loved ones killers free?

Finally Tex- what piece of .... work lol

Tex had a life most young people would die for let alone kill for. He was popular- had a good family who had no financial problems, or single parent issues. He had a college fraternity style start. He went to L.A. for his own selfish reasons, and when he got there- he chose to live a party- drug dealing lifestyle for his own selfish reasons. He found an even easier way to party, live and get girls in the family so he did that when it suited him, and every time e felt like there was something better he left to go do that. He viciously stabbed and shot about 8 people in the most personal and gruesome of ways, and did this not once in a homicidal rage, but on different dates, and occasions. Multiple stab wounds, too multiple people, on multiple occasions- while they beg and pleaded for there lives. Some women, and one pregnant....
Then he gets to jail, and connives his way to a great job, and plays the system to the point where he is having sex in jail more than some people reading this blog are probably having it in free life. He has a job earns money- a family- all the things he took away from so many people who had the right to have them.

I read his website all the time. Tex is trying hard to convince himself it will be alright. Over and over the passages about forgiveness, and the Lord will protect him.
You can let him go free, and take your chances- you can keep him locked up, an he will tell you why god changed him for the next 20 years- it doesn't matter. As long as he draws breath there is an adherent danger in people like him.
Self serving egotistical maniac

Maybe I am wrong, and he would go back to Texas and go quietly in the night. As long as he goes its good with me. Because where he is going when his time comes... not even God will be able to help him :)

St. Circumstance said...

Looks like Arnold is on my side:

Schwarzenegger said in a letter made public Monday that he is reversing a January decision by the state parole board because the murders were "especially heinous."

He says the 67-year-old Davis might still be dangerous.

Marliese said...

Thanks for the Davis update, St. Circumstance.

Btw, Leslie Van Houten's next parole hearing is scheduled for July 6.

St. Circumstance said...

No problem Marliese :) Wonder what must be going through Ms.Van Houten's head when she hears the news about Bruce??????

Brian Davis said...

Hello all !

Matt, Good points ! I agree with some..Clem should have been held accountable for LaBianca.

But, IMO, Leslie or any of them do not deserve parole I don't care if she is "Mother Teresa" these days.

For what Leslie and the others did
they deserve life in prison, at the least.

None of the rehabilitation should matter.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I could have sworn I watched or read where Leslie claims she believes Mrs. LaBianca was already dead when she stabbed her.

That sounds like Leslie minimizing her role.

I have watched Krenwinkle own up to full responsibility. It's great that they have become human again. But, they should have to remain locked up.

It's the price they should have to pay for their particular crimes.

And at this point, only Susan Atkins has actually paid in full.

Brian Davis said...

Saint, Good posts ! When you lay out the Tex in prison scenerio like that, it infuriates me.

I would think Leslie is a bit nervous, lol.

It actually amazes me that Van Houten and Krenwinkle (tho I have heard PK doesnt bother going anymore ?) even have the nerve to ask for parole, given their offenses.

Hi Marliese !

Marliese said...

Hi Brian, nice to see you.

St. C, LVH has to be thinking I am never getting out of here.
And she's probably very aware her denial this time will likely be for five years.

I don't think she'll get out until she's a very old woman, if she doesn't get sick and die before then.