Director’s Cut: Depeche Mode’s ‘Wrong’
By Ryan Dombal ~
From ‘Thriller’ to ‘Sabotage’ to ‘Fell in Love With a Girl’, great music videos are quick bursts of sound and vision that leave an indelible impression. Director’s Cut is a new Pitchfork News feature in which we chat with music video directors about their creations. The men and women behind the camera are often overlooked in today’s YouTube era, but this feature aims to highlight their hard work while showcasing the best videos currently banging around the internet. A little behind-the-scenes dirt couldn’t hurt, too.
To jump-start things, we called Patrick Daughters to talk about his gleefully sinister new clip for Depeche Mode’s ‘Wrong’. Daughters is one of the decade’s finest video directors– he’s the guy responsible for retina-burning clips like Feist’s ‘1234’ and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’. Currently toiling away on a feature screenplay in the California mountains and putting the final touches on a clip for the new Grizzly Bear song ‘Two Weeks’, Daughters chatted with us about some on-set drama, the intricacies of creepy masks, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from fellow directing visionary Spike Jonze.
Pitchfork: Did the final cut of ‘Wrong’ turn out how you had planned?
Patrick Daughters: My original idea was a lot more ambitious. The main character was going to get into a big accident halfway through instead of at the end– and not quite die. An ambulance comes, but the car starts rolling again. Then it crashes through a fence and ends up in a river. But that wasn’t really possible to execute. I envisioned it on a Hollywood movie studio budget. I have a problem where I tend to think really independently of any financial consideration. It just gives everybody around me a headache. They’re like, “Come on, man. You can’t do that, that’s fucking ridiculous.”
Pitchfork: It’s a pretty violent video, did anyone get hurt during filming?
PD: No. But I was talking to Spike Jonze while making it, just trying to get my head around how to make it good, and he was like, “We should just drive around and crash into shit and film it!” He’s kind of like Peter Pan where he’s just like “Yay, let’s do that!” and it just happens.
There’s a part in the video where a random guy gets hit by the back windshield and rolls over the car. I had the guy jumping into the windshield already shot, but I didn’t have him rolling off the front of the car. So I got Spike to do that stunt– the part where the guy jumps off of the roof onto the hood and rolls onto the street, that’s Spike. He’s a pretty good stuntman, I gotta say.
Pitchfork: That definitely looked like it hurt.
PD: I was so impressed. Everyone was like “Holy shit!” It’s like he’s made of rubber. He just came down and was like, “Give me some old-fashioned knee pads.” And then he did it once and was like, “Oh, was that good? I can do it again!” I said, “Yeah, just flail a little bit more!” He’s like, “Ok, great! Let’s do it!” And he did it again. And then he went home.
If that were me, I would’ve dislocated my shoulder and sprained my ankle.
Pitchfork: Was it a stressful shoot, in general?
PD: Well, the first day of shooting was a disaster. We shot with this arm that goes off the front and the back of the car and gets removed in post [production] and I really wanted to see the car getting creamed from that angle at the end of the video because of how cool it would look when the car skids around and the camera’s attached to it.
So, at the end of the shoot, we just parked the car in the intersection and then mashed it with the truck. But the car spun around and that really expensive arm that was on the back of the car got ripped off. So we ended the shoot not really having like a great shot of the car accident, and this really expensive piece of equipment was destroyed and lying in the middle of the road in downtown Los Angeles. It was like: “I guess that’s a wrap.”
After the first day we didn’t have enough footage. To have spent what is considered a large budget for a music video nowadays and still not have something that worked– it was pretty depressing. So we scraped together some money and went out of pocket to finish it off.
Pitchfork: The guy in the car is played by Julian Gross from the band Liars, right
PD: Yeah. Julian’s a really good friend of mine and I thought of him because when we did the Liars video [for ‘Plaster Casts of Everything’] he was like, “What else do you want me to do? Do you want me to cry? I can make myself cry, watch!” And I was like, “Shut up, you can’t.” And he starts breathing really heavy, and it looks like he’s flexing every muscle in his body to squeeze the tears out. It was pretty impressive; we were laughing hysterically.
Pitchfork: Was there any talk of Dave Gahan playing the main character?
PD: Not at all. Originally, it was just going be a stunt guy. Then I was like, “Shit! Stunt guys aren’t actors, this is horrible! I need somebody who wants to do this for free and is gonna have fun with it.”
Pitchfork: I feel like the creepiest part of the video is that fleshy mask…
PD: Yeah, the super creepy mask. I was originally thinking it would be one of those translucent ones where you can sort of see the person’s face. But all those made me think of Saw. So I just grabbed a mask we had lying around for a commercial I did a year or two ago. The idea is that you think it’s just a guy until you see a close-up of the mask and you’re like “Oh, that’s weird.” It’s better than a Point Break type of mask.
Pitchfork: This video is the direct opposite of something like ‘1234’. Did you make a conscious decision to do something darker?
PD: It’s just right for the song– it didn’t make sense to have a lot of dancing. I thought, “If I’m ever gonna do a really fucked up video, it should be for this song.”