A Bunch of Mad Men In The Desert: A Conversation With Matthew Gray Gubler
  • THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2015

  • Posted by: Don Saas

Actor, director, painter...that's a lot of hats to wear but it's just another day of work for Matthew Gray Gubler. You probably know Gubler for his role as Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds, the CBS crime procedural that is currently airing its 11th season as well as his roles in films such as (500) Days of Summer, Life After Beth, and the Alvin & the Chipmunks children's films. But Gubler is also a director. In addition to directing multiple episodes of Criminal Minds, he's directed two Christmas music videos for the Killers, 2007's "Don't Shoot Me Santa" and this year's "Dirt Sledding."

"Music videos are so creatively friendly because you're not really bound by narrative strings and you're able to lead a story if you want but you can also just have beautiful visuals...It's also a tricky one because sometimes if videos dont have enough of a narrative, something's poking you and the videos become more repetitive and after 20 seconds you've seen it all but I love the challenge of making them; I'd love to continue making them."

Before Matthew Gray Gubler's acting career took off when he got a role in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, he was a high schooler studying acting in Las Vegas, Nevada...home of the Killers.

"I've known Ryan [Pardey - the actor that plays Santa Claus in the video] forever...And I knew Ronnie [Vanucci, Jr.] pretty well; I knew Mark [Stoermer], and I sort of in passing knew Brandon [Flowers]. I met David [Kuening] later on...they were signed to whatever label they're on -- I believe its Island Records -- the same exact month that I got this part in a Wes Anderson movie called The Life Aquatic. And I remember it was kinda funny; I saw them at a cafe and we were talking about everything that was going on and a month later the two of us were like "Wow!" We went to a Christmas party in Brians house and we were talking to Ronnie about how ironic it was that [on] the same exact week, we had this very fortunate week in our career. I'm honored to be parallel with them in anyway. I love those guys."



And Wes Anderson's formative footprints are all over the video for "Dirt Sledding" which has the tactile, distinct visual style -- Gubler would emphasize how much that handcrafted look meant to him as a filmmaker in our talk -- that anyone who's fallen in love with Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums or Grand Budapest Hotel will immediately recognize. Before Gubler got his role in The Life Aquatic, he was one of Anderson's interns and he looked back fondly on the role that Wes played in helping to shape him as a filmmaker.

"Wes has always been -- since I first saw Bottle Rocket -- he's one of my 3 favorite filmmakers and what appeals to me about Wes is he creates worlds that seem entirely unique, and they're faced with enough reality that the whimsy doesnt overtake you, and it's something I always sort of strived for...creating a visual dichotomy...like the idea of Santa living in a really harsh environment where you're used to seeing dead cactuses and dirt but then punching it up with the most surreal coloring and kind of make it pop in ways that you would never expect is sort of what I was going for. Wes is a very meticulous filmmaker and loves to have total control over every minor detail of a frame and I definitely identify with that."

Each year, the Killers share a new Christmas video with the proceeds donated to AIDS charity organizations through the Product Red campaign (head here for more information on the RED charity system). And it was clear that being able to contribute to that initiative meant a lot to Gubler and to make a difference any way he could.

"It's one of the reasons I love the Killers. For 10 years, they've gone out of their way to make these songs and these videos to benefit such a wonderful charity and we are lucky to be entertainers that have been very successful on a rather big platform. So, if we can get a gang of people together for a charity video and a charity song and raise lots and lots of money for something like this is...nothing that could make you feel better."



Although Gubler got to make this video with his friends and was wary of presenting any element of the shooting process for "Dirt Sledding" as tricky or difficult, he did acknowledge that there were some challenges that presented themselves.

"The fireworks were a bit of a challenge. We had the scene where everybody was holding Roman candles in their hands and it's something that we are all very used to doing. We are all a bunch of madmen, and when we go out to the desert, it's not a common occurence of us holding [Roman] candles. It's very dangerous...I think we broke every safety rule imaginable during the filming of this and right when we wrapped, the cameraman shouted "I think we broke every single safety law possible" and the guy playing the pumpkin said he had one more idea and he lit up a firework and jumped over it while it was burning. So it's sad that didn't make the video. There was a lot of danger. Nothing was tricky but it was very dangerous."

And if you're curious about which member of the Killers is the most willing to indulge in dangerous shenanigans, Gubler assured us that it was the Killers' frontman, Brandon Flowers.

"Dirt Sledding" is just one of many projects that Gubler has had under his belt this year, and 2016 is looking to be another busy year for the performer who says he always has to be doing three things at once including several films that are due to be released...alongside movies that he'll be directing and writing. So if you're part of Gubler Nation, you'll want to keep your ear to the ground for everything he has planned for 2016.
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