‘The Shallow Tale’ Director on Casting Steve Buscemi as a Serial Killer — Who Is Also a Marriage Counselor — in Tribeca Dark Comedy (EXCLUSIVE)

Turkish director Tolga Karaçelic, who made a splash in the U

Published Time: 07.06.2024 - 18:31:27 Modified Time: 07.06.2024 - 18:31:27

Turkish director Tolga Karaçelic, who made a splash in the U.S. with absurdist comedy “Butterflies,” is getting ready to premiere his first English-language film, “The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write About a Serial Killer,” in which the offbeat serial killer in question is played by Steve Buscemi.

The New York-set film, which takes Karaçelic’s comic streak in a new direction, will launch on Saturday from the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Shallow Tale” also features John Magaro (“Past Lives”) as Keane, a struggling writer who befriends the “retired” serial killer, who eventually becomes Keane’s unlikely marriage counselor as he goes through divorce proceedings with his straight-laced wife (Britt Lower), as well as the muse for his next book.

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Karaçelic, who got a law degree in Turkey before moving to New York to study film, debuted as director in 2010 with the well-received “Toll Booth,” about a Turkish toll-station worker with a vivid imagination. His second film “Ivy,” set aboard a stranded cargo ship, premiered at Sundance in 2015 and went on to score multiple nods, while “Butterflies” won Sundance’s grand jury award in 2018.

“The Shallow Tale” isn’t just Karaçelic’s fist film in English — it’s also his first film that’s unrelated to turmoil and societal changes in Turkey, though of course it stems from his personal demons, as he tells Variety below.

How did you come up with this wacky story?

The first time I put it on paper was in 2015. I was just playing with the idea of this killer who is trying to make a writer write about him. I don’t know why it came to me, but I was living in Boston and just having fun with it. Then I got married, and the tone changed over the years. I think it also coincided with me trying to get over writer’s block. Later, after I won the 2018 Sundance grand jury award with “Butterflies,” I realized that I was potentially inclined to take these things seriously, which bothered me a lot. And that is why the writer character, Keane, evolved into who he is now. This film is the first time I’ve written something that did not stem from personal experience or from a political situation that I was experiencing -

in Turkey.

More specifically, how did you get the idea of a serial killer who is also a marriage counselor?

It came out during one of my therapy sessions, actually. My therapist really liked it and he mentioned that he also does couples therapy. I told him that, in some cases, I thought you had to be a psychopath to continue the relationship with your wife. You have to be dull to the other person’s emotions, time after time, to continue this relationship thing. So I think the idea came from there. I also thought that the the best marriage counselor is really a psychopath who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings or is emotionally disabled in that sense. I think this can be food for thought.

How did you get Steve Buscemi on board?

Our casting director, Susan Shopmaker, approached Buscemi and he read the script and liked it. I remember the first time I spoke on the Zoom with him – I think it was three years ago – I was in Germany visiting my wife, and it was such a lovely meeting. He was talking to me about my script and about Kollmick, his character, and laughing.

What type of indications did you give Buscemi for his role?

First of all, when I hand over a character to an actor, I don’t like talking too much. I don’t want to limit my actors because, even though I know who the character is, I always want to see what they bring. But Steve and I were always on the same page about Kollmick. All the characters in this film are childlike. They are like three children in the adult world, each one trying to get their own way. And the roles can be taken to lots of different places, all of which are legitimate in terms of the way they are acted. But I wanted the real mystery to be on Kollmick, starting with his name. While I was writing, I always saw him as an outsider, like a mythical figure of sorts. You don’t know if he’s lying, nor if he is who he says he is. So I wanted that weightlessness andSteve was great in portraying Kollmick like that. His performance really carries the film.

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