Interview with Director / Writer / Actor / Clark Gregg – Choke

Interview with Director / Writer / Actor / Clark Gregg – Choke

By Beth Accomando

Director-writer Clark Gregg describes his film Choke as “a very dark comedy about a sex addict who’s living in a very depressed world where he chokes himself in restaurants to support his mother in a very expensive mental hospital because he forms kind of financially and emotionally parasitic relationships with the people who save him. It’s another one of those movies.”


Well if that doesn’t peak your interest, consider this: the film stars the ever inventive Sam Rockwell and it’s based on a novel by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Rockwell plays Victor a con man that keeps his mother (Anjelica Huston) in a mental hospital by choking in restaurants and then playing on his saviors’ sympathies to con them out of money. He has a lot of issues – not the least of which is finding out who his father was – he’d like to work out with his mom but time is running out as she succumbs to dementia. Providing some needed distraction, though, is his mom’s lovely doctor (Kelly Macdonald).

Sam Rockwell & Kelly Macdonald

Gregg, who came to San Diego earlier this month, says he fell in love with Palahniuk’s novel because “it was the strangest sort of satirical voice and yet to me really moving and painful in some parts, and then it would veer very quickly into this absurdist comedy.”


But adapting such a unique book and one with such a passionate fan base was no easy task. Gregg likened it to “safecracking.” He suggested to Palahniuk that Choke was a “punk romantic comedy.” The author, agreed: “He said no you’re right, that’s exactly what it is. So go write and don’t be too faithful to the book because it won’t work.”


One thing Gregg remained faithful to was the main character’s addiction to sex. Gregg says, “Like a lot of things in Chuck Palahniuk’s work there’s a certain titillation factor in that, it’s the boundary that he’s pushing at. It’s the kind of uptight area in our culture that he’s poking a stick at. Yet to me I don’t think it’s tremendously sexy. A lot of the stuff that’s going on with him at a certain point when it starts to get romantic [with the doctor] and it starts to get intimate, then it does start to get sexy. But as the character says, sex addiction is just another thing like drugs or gambling or shoplifting – it’s another addiction that you use to dull a certain pain or to avoid something that you can’t handle.


So it’s going to be publicized as a movie about a sex addict but I really think it’s about intimacy.”

Victor also finds an odd intimacy with the people he cons into saving his life. “There’s a moment where he’s kind of held and treated like a baby by them,” says Gregg, “that is what Chuck has referred to as a way of tricking someone into loving you. I think that’s a theme that runs throughout the story that there are a lot of damaged people here finding off kilter ways to get something that feels enough like love that they don’t suffocate.”


Choke opens September 26.