This is not a simple story. How did you pitch it to producers?
They'd already read the script before I spoke to them. Trying to pitch this film without the script would have been impossible. Everyone would've said, "This guy's crazy." Even though everyone who'd read the script loved it, the money didn't start coming in until Drew Barrymore signed on.
What was your inspiration for the film?
I came out of film school and I was broke, so started writing. I set out to write something ambitious, personal, and nostalgic about the late 80s. I thought about a jet engine falling onto a house, and no one knowing where it came from - it seemed to represent a death knell for the Reagan era - and I built the story around that.
As a director, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Artistically, Dali and MC Escher are real inspirations. As for filmmakers, Terry Gilliam and Peter Weir are both heroes of mine. They both look at the metaphysics of life, making films that ask cosmic questions. They're at either end of the spectrum, but their ideas are similar.
Where do you see your career going from here? Will you stick to this surreal style of storytelling, or go for the mainstream?
I can see myself following either path. My next four or five movies are already written. It took so long to sell "Donnie Darko" that I grew frustrated, and started writing to get over the feelings of rejection. My next film will probably be called "Knowing". It'll be bolder, bigger, and more commercial, breaking new ground. I plan to continue to follow the path I've begun.
"Donnie Darko" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 25th October 2002.