When I sit down to talk to British director Nima Nourizadeh at the W Hotel in Hollywood, there’s a tray full of liquor bottles and martini-making tools on the table between us. It’s not even 10 in the morning. “Do you want a drink?” he offers, before joking, “This is the second tray they’ve brought me, by the way. I’ve already had one.” That sense of humour makes him a perfect fit for Project X, his directorial debut, about a teenage house party that gets beyond out of control.
This movie looked like a lot of fun to make for the actors but a nightmare for the director.
I mean, honestly, it was one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done. We had a short amount of time to shoot quite an insane movie. But it was like this controlled chaos, you know? It was a lot of fun, but you hit an age where you’re just like, after one night of partying you just want to chill and watch TV. And for me it was like I had to keep the energy up for four and a half weeks of night shoots.
That’ll certainly take a toll on you.
Oh, it did, it did. I had to stay in that schedule at the weekends as well. It was really quite an isolating experience for me. I came out here [from London] to shoot the movie, and for the time being I’m still here. I actually came out here to have a meeting, and I thought I’d be out here for a couple of weeks, and I never went back. Can you believe that? I didn’t even have a send-off!
So how does the movie match up to your own party experiences?
I don’t even know if I can even talk about it. (laughs) My party experiences tend to be I have an amazing time, and then I wake up. I literally wake up and I’m still at the party and no one else is there. That’s happened to me loads of times, actually. And then you hear about what happened in that time period. Actually, that sounds a bit like the Hangover. (laughs) It’s like people texting you and you’re like, “Oh s—, that didn’t happen, did it?”
Was there any concern about pulling back on content to get the R rating?
Me less than maybe the producers knew what we could and couldn’t get away with. And on top of that we’ve got this realistic approach to the movie, so we have to touch on some things that maybe normally you wouldn’t, like the drug use, some of the sex. I just wanted to do as much as possible, and I felt like kids today have seen so many things. It wasn’t like when I was growing up – you had to get a VHS and that was the only way you would see some of this stuff. We didn’t have the Internet. If you wanted to see some boobs you had to maybe watch a movie that was rated R. I just think this kind of material is so much more accessible to kids right now that it probably won’t seem as outrageous to them as it does to someone my age.
Yet there’s no cigarette smoking in the movie, from what I could see.
You might actually see one. (laughs) No no no. I’m not sure if it was a conscious thing or not, but we just never really wanted to show it. Like, there’s nothing really glamorous about it – I’m not saying that everything else is glamorous, but there was no value in having any cigarettes. I don’t think anyone was missing out on seeing a cigarette being smoked in the film. There was too many other things to keep your eye on.”