"At the beginning of Richard Kelly’s new film, “The Box” a mysterious parcel is delivered to a suburban family’s doorstep. Inside is a device with a button, which Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) soon learn will earn them $1 million if pressed. It will also cause the death of someone they don’t know.Mr. Kelly, a University of Southern California film school graduate, earned cult status with his first feature, “Donnie Darko”, a 2001 psychodrama about a sleepwalking teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal, then unknown) who receives messages of the pending apocalypse from a man in a giant bunny suit. In person Mr. Kelly comes across like a former fraternity guy, his torn jeans and gelled hair complementing a T-shirt that reveals an obsessive weightlifter. “My dream is to be able to have thought-recognition software that, as I’m exercising, will just write the script,” he said.
His Twitter feed (with more than 5,000 followers) has revealed his love of University of Southern California football, beer pong and the Coen brothers’ movie “A Serious Man.” (“Oy vey! This goy is beyond smitten!” he tweeted.)
Everyone interviewed for this article mentioned the dissonance within Mr. Kelly. “A contradiction would imply something that would be understood”, Mr. Gyllenhaal said, “two things that would be a yin and a yang. He’s not that.” Mr. Gyllenhaal then took a moment to formulate an accurate description. “I sometimes feel like he’s out of the mind of John Hughes. He’s like the missing character in ‘The Breakfast Club’.
Though “The Box” is intended to be a crowd-drawing thriller, it returns Mr. Kelly to the setting and some of the themes found in “Donnie Darko”: Both are set in upper-middle-class Virginia suburbs (Mr. Kelly grew up in Newport News and Richmond) and pose questions through tales of a traditional family in an unusual circumstance. “The suburbs are emblematic of the life we pretend to enjoy”, he said. “All those houses that look like a gigantic machine just squirted them out. Obviously some people do enjoy that life, others do not, but they all try to pretend to.”“I decided to take this gift of a short story and make it about people I care about and respect,” he said. “I’m not interested in telling a story about a couple of selfish jerks who push a button.”“Richard has really commercial taste,” said the producer of “The Box” Dan Lin, a former production executive at Warner Brothers, which has a tradition of making mainstream movies with artistic directors, like Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Oceans Eleven” series. “He can elevate the material without selling out. He still has his own style.”Getting the go-ahead for the movie was helped along immensely by Ms. Diaz, the star of “What Happens in Vegas” and “In Her Shoes”, among others, agreeing to sign on. A close friend of Drew Barrymore, who produced and had a supporting role in “Donnie Darko”, Ms. Diaz was dating Justin Timberlake while he was shooting “Southland Tales,” so she was familiar with Mr. Kelly’s work. “I loved ‘Donnie Darko,’ ” she said. “Richard is an artist; he has such huge ideas.”
And having Ms. Diaz on board helped ground Mr. Kelly. “Cameron would police me,” he recalled. “She would say, ‘Richard, now you need to keep this focused, you need to explain this because this logic doesn’t work.’ Mr. Gyllenhaal has his own take on Mr. Kelly’s willingness to work inside the studio system. “I think what Richard’s saying is, ‘I kind of have to wake up every once in a while, live in reality and not just explore my dreams.’
“I’m amazed by Richard’s courage by how he really believes in something and even when he’s doing something for the studio, he can’t do something not from who he is.”
“I would like to stay in the studio business,” he said, naming Christopher Nolan, who’s moved from “Memento” to “The Dark Knight” as a model. “Because having to depend upon a film festival and trying to get a distributor, having acquisition executives hem and haw over this and that — I’ve done it, it’s scary and I just don’t want to do it anymore.” Source: www.nytimes.com