Donnie Darko Director Recalls Rough Ride to Get Cult Hit Financed

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the trippy film’s release, Richard Kelly reveals he owes a big debt of gratitude to ‘Inception’ writer/director Christopher Nolan for raving about the movie.

AceShowbiz -“Donnie Darko” writer/director Richard Kelly was sure the cult hit would end up on video store sale shelves after a disastrous debut at America’s Sundance Film Festival in 2001.

Marking the release’s 20th anniversary, the filmmaker revealed he owes a big debt of gratitude to “Inception” writer/director Christopher Nolan, who was one of the first names to rave about the trippy time-travelling movie, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character.

“[The] Sundance Film Festival [premiere] was a rough ride. No one wanted to buy it ([film], no one wanted to distribute it. The financier didn’t understand the movie, and we were scared it was going to go in the straight-to-DVD wastebasket. We got into cinemas by the skin of our teeth,” Kelly tells

Nolan’s breakout film, “Memento“, had premiered at the same festival in January 2001 and months later, when it became a hit for distributor Newmarket Films, he urged company bosses to pick up “Donnie Darko” as well.

“It’s a huge, important gift whenever you have the support of your fellow filmmakers,” says Richard, who also thanked Drew Barrymore for appearing in the film and helping him get it made.

“[Barrymore] was essential to the financing element. Her star power helped raise the $4.5 million budget.”

However, the film boasts a famous scene, in which part of a plane falls on the Darko home, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in September 2001 meant no one was flocking to cinemas to see a movie with that storyline.

“Donnie Darko” went on to become a hit through DVD and TV airings over the years and did well in Europe too. Now Kelly, who hasn’t released a film in 12 years, is teasing that he may be revisiting the project.

“Hopefully we’ll have something to show people soon that will really blow everybody’s minds. I hope to expand this universe,” he adds.

A poorly received 2009 sequel, “S. Darko”, which focused on Donnie’s little sister Samantha, was not written or directed by Kelly.

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