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Studio 666 Director BJ McDonnell on Scaring Foo Fighters on Set: “We Just Had Fun with It”

"I would totally yell [and] bang on the thing right before the take and watch them jump"

Studio 666 Director BJ McDonnell
Studio 666 (Open Road Films), BJ McDonnell (photo by P. Lehman/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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    Foo Fighters Week continues here at Consequence with an interview with the director of Studio 666. Keep checking back throughout the week for more interviews, lists, editorials and videos — it’s all things Foos, all the time. You can see everything in one convenient place here.


    In the sunny days prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, director BJ McDonnell leaped at the opportunity to take a Dave Grohl story and turn it into a horror film starring a little band known as the Foo Fighters — an opportunity to pay tribute to a genre of film that’s been dormant for a while.

    “When I was growing up and when I was younger I would watch these movies with The Beatles or The Monkees,” he tells Consequence. “They would make these movies where they were the stars running around in these crazy situations, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a movie like that, in my opinion. Nobody really actually dives in and tries to make those kinds of movies anymore.”

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    Prior to working with the Foo Fighters, McDonnell had an established interest in horror that encompassed directing several music videos for Slayer and the 2013 feature film Hatchet III. In this one-on-one interview, transcribed and edited for clarity, McDonnell explains what horror films he and the band initially connected over, how the film’s wildest cameos came together, and what it was like directing a group of actors who don’t normally do a lot of acting.


    I want to start off by asking how you got involved with the film.

    So basically, you know, there are two producers I was working with on a different project, Jim Rowdun and John Ramsey. And they also work with Dave on Sound City and some other projects he does; they always work with him. Dave had this idea to make this horror film and he went to the guys and said, “I want to get a director for this.”

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    He had a pitch, they sent it to me. I looked at this pitch and I wrote some ideas that I thought would be cool to incorporate with his ideas. I made basically a lookbook and we had a meeting, passed over my lookbook, went over movies that I loved and movies he loves and what we wanted to accomplish with the film and that was it. We basically just got together, threw ideas around, and there we go.

    In terms of those movies you guys discussed, do you recall off the top of your head any of the particular touchstones?

    We were talking about directors that we loved and movies we grew up watching. I always mentioned John Carpenter films were a big influence on me, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies were huge for me. Amityville Horror, Exorcist — those kinds of films.

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    We basically agreed a lot on those same kind of movies we all grew up on. That was it, once we got going with that, we talked about the tone of what we wanted to accomplish in the house, the throwbacks of the things we wanted to do with the movies. Eighties movies were the movies I grew up on loving; those kind of molded me.

    Dave Grohl stars as himself in director BJ McDonnell's STUDIO 666, an Open Road Films release. Credit : Courtesy of Andrew Stuart / Open Road Films

    Studio 666 (Andrew Stuart / Open Road Films)

    A film like this really plays on the audience’s understanding of not just the band as a whole, but the individual personas. What was your approach in trying to highlight those?

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    I wanted to make sure that everybody got their own time in the movie. I also made sure in the get-go, which was also for me, a way to let the guys relax because they’re musicians, they’ve made the music videos before. When it comes down to acting and knowing dialogue and memorizing dialogue and hitting your marks and doing all that stuff, it’s not their world. It’s more of our world.

    I told them, “You know, play yourselves. We want to see who you guys really would be. I will always remind you guys what’s happening or what’s going on, but be yourselves and say what you would actually say, if you were to see what was happening here or what’s going on over there. I want to hear what you guys have to say — your true selves.” I think it’s really fun to actually play on that in this movie and we did that mostly.

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