How Donnie Darko's Director Really Feels About The Movie's Sequel

Writer-director Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko is perhaps the quintessential midnight movie. The eighties-set film follows its titular protagonist (Jake Gyllenhaal, in an early leading role), a teenager who may have some unresolved psychological issues, as he navigates the strangest few weeks of his life. Donnie's odyssey begins with the sudden appearance of man named Frank (James Duval) who only Donnie can see, and who wears a terrifying bunny suit. Frank has a pretty clear message for Donnie: The world is going to end in exactly 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. If you've never caught the flick, this probably sounds like world's weirdest setup; allow us to assure you, this is as normal as Donnie Darko gets.

The flick failed to make much of a splash when it hit screens in limited release in October 2001, but upon its DVD release, it began to pick up steam among audiences enthralled by its sinister, dreamy vibe and its steadfast refusal to be pinned down by any one interpretation. In 2009, those audiences were surprised to see a direct-to-video sequel, S. Darko, hit shelves; the followup focused on Donnie's younger sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase, who also portrayed Samara in The Ring) as she grapples with the events of the first film. Fans of Donnie Darko, which had attained genuine cult status in the intervening years, were first intrigued — and then, upon viewing the movie, sorely disappointed. Critics and viewers alike lambasted the movie, which was made without Kelly's participation or blessing.

In January 2021, Kelly sat down with MovieWeb to discuss the 2K restoration of his 2006 sci-fi flick Southland Tales, an extremely divisive work which most consider to be either a confounding disaster or an epic masterpiece. (We happen to fall in the latter camp, and it's one of those movies you should definitely watch more than once.) Eventually, the line of questioning came around to Donnie Darko and its little-loved sequel, and what the director had to say about the latter isn't terribly surprising.

Richard Kelly has no love for S. Darko

Kelly didn't mince words, and it's pretty plain that he wishes he could somehow rewind the timeline and remove S. Darko from existence. "I've never seen it. I will never see it. It was made without my permission," Kelly said. "It was made against my strenuous objection, but it has no effect on anything that I might be working on with respect to my first film, and I think it should have no bearing or impact on what I would hope to do and that would be really exciting and hopefully satisfying."

But, wait ... that sounds as if Kelly might actually have some plans for another sequel, one which might completely ignore the events of S. Darko. Could that be accurate? "I think that there could be a very exciting step forward," he said. "I've been working on a lot of stuff, especially during lockdown. I've just been writing and writing and creating a lot of things. And I've been making a lot of progress on a lot of stuff."

Well, that's maddeningly vague. But Kelly was crystal clear on one point: He shouldn't be expected to ever offer an informed opinion on S. Darko. "You would have to pin my eyes open like A Clockwork Orange to make me watch it," he said.

Richard Kelly night be working on a true sequel to Donnie Darko

Asked point-blank whether he had any designs on continuing Donnie Darko's story himself, and whether he was still in contact with Gyllenhaal, Kelly didn't offer an answer. (Literally: He sat there chuckling, not saying a word, until finally offering, helpfully, that he was getting a call for his next interview.) It's not clear whether the filmmaker has even been able to reacquire the rights to the property — but he's had occasion to talk about the possibility of a true sequel to Donnie Darko on several recent occasions, and the few comments interviewers have been able to squeeze out of him have been pretty encouraging.

Chatting with The Playlist, Kelly revealed legendary filmmaker James Cameron greatly enjoyed Donnie Darko and wanted to know more about what might have happened next in its universe. Then, in an interview with Coming Soon, he got just a little more specific about the "creating" he'd been doing recently. Asked if a Kelly-sanctioned sequel to Donnie Darko might be in the cards, he said, "Well, I'm probably not allowed to say anything more than there has been an enormous amount of work completed. I'm hopeful that we might get to explore that world in a very big and exciting way. But we'll see what happens. But there has been a lot of work done."

Hopefully, that's just a long-winded way of saying "yes," because we'd love to see Kelly revisit the fascinating and unsettling world he created with the first flick. You'll want to keep an eye here, because if anybody anywhere is able to coax a definitive answer from Kelly about whether we're getting a proper Donnie Darko sequel, we'll be shouting the news from the mountain tops.