With only one writing credit under his belt that made the big screen, Clark had been given a copy of "Choke" before it had been published. He found it hadn't already been optioned and knew he wanted to do everything he could to get a hold of it and make it.
Even as Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club" had been deemed a failure due to budget and revenue at the time, Clark wanted to do everything he could to get this book adapted into a screen-play. As a matter of fact, it took Clark 5 years to write the screen-play for the novel.
With an all-star cast which includes Sam Rockwell, Angelica Huston and Clark's father-in-law, the famous Joel Grey. One small thing most people don't realize is a few cast members are some of Clark's Atlantic Theater friends which include Jordan Lage, Mary McCann and current artistic director of Atlantic, Neil Pepe.
In Clark's own words, he feels this film is a black romantic/comedy. It's about a sex-addict who's named Victor, in which by day he works as a colonial theme park worker and by night he deliberately chokes himself on food and falls into the the arms of the wealthiest and most co-dependent looking of his potential saviors. He then in turns manages to extort money out of them to pay for his mother's hospital bills to keep her in a mental institution.
“Look, maybe I’ll be ending this association very quickly, but I feel like at its heart Choke‘s a very punk-rock romantic comedy.” And Chuck said, “Exactly, that’s exactly right. Go write that. And please don’t be too faithful to the book.”
Clark Gregg on the adaptation and advice from Chuck Palahniuk
Sept 23, 2008, Independent.com
One of the things Clark talks about is the fact this is pretty much his own sense of humor. It's very dark and funny and really irreverent. It will suddenly turn a corner and it will be painful and moving.
"What lies Beneath came out and my agent said that Clark Gregg wrote it. That was such a remarkable movie and that just seemed like a safe bet. Between the ballsiness of the production company and then Clark’s ballsiness to make Harrison Ford the murderer."
Chuck Palahniuk on why he let Clark adapt "Choke"
September 22, 2008, Mannythemoviguy.com
Clark was pushed for time as the film barely was finished 3 days shy of it's debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Not only was he cut for time, he watched the first viewing with Chuck himself. He had to leave the the theater because he was so sick to his stomach. He was nervous about how it was going to be perceived. Clark mentioned that he was worried it was going to be dark and sick and publicists wouldn't want to work on it. He felt as if it was going to be one of those dirty jokes he loves but is so dirty that people are offended and would leave the room while he was howling in laughter by himself. Fortunately, the audience laughed at the same spots that he did in the film and he realized it wasn't that dark or people had the same type of sense of humor he has.
Choke was filmed in a twenty-five day span. The film was almost made in 2006, however, due to New Adventures of Old Christine being picked up for a full season, Clark had to push principal photography to July of 2007.
Clark has always spoke about how he drew inspiration from Hal Ashby films like "Harold and Maude" and "Being There" to the more recent films of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Secretary" As Clark and Sam Rockwell began working together and discussing the script, they proceeded to watch "Boogie Nights", "Bad Santa", and "His Girl Friday."
Clark also mentioned that the biggest challenge he faced with Choke was getting the script right. Once that was accomplished, he found that the script made it possible to connect with people he needed to be in business with to get the film made. Once they found producers for the movie, seemingly insurmountable obstacles arose, mostly when it came to figuring out how to actually make a medium sized indie film on a small indie budget.
Clark credits his time running Atlantic Theater Company (the Off-Broadway equivalent of an independent film) proved invaluable when it came to finding cheaper alternatives that still achieved the necessary creative objects he was looking for in the film.
"They’re very similar and a lot of the changes are pretty subtle. When everyone reads a novel, they see a movie in their head – and this one’s pretty damn close to what I saw. At the end of the day you just can’t keep everything that’s in a book in a movie. It’s like moving from one city to another by plane – if you try to take your house too, that plane’s not going anywhere. You can basically take only the things you need and that’s the new city called “Movie.” I just made that up. (laughs)"
Clark Gregg on how similar the book and his script are
"Naivety was a nice of way of saying it. I mean I’m a perv and I read it and I loved it, and I thought it’s cinematic, it’s got the Colonial village and it’s funny and it’s the saddest thing that I ever laughed hysterically at. It felt like an unbelievably unique blend of that stuff, and I also felt like the whole kind of notion of sexual compulsion and the kind of transformation of that into intimacy, or the attempt to, felt like something that’s really everywhere, and not explored in any movies. After I started working on it or later when we started to get the movie made, people said, “I never thought there was a movie in that book.” I didn’t know any of that and other people said, “You must be so intimidated because he has such ardent, even psycho, fans, you know, plus you must have been really intimidated by having to live up to ‘Fight Club.'” If I’d been smart enough to pay attention to any three of those three things, I never would have tried to do it. I would never have really processed any of that until it was way too late."
Clark Gregg on what made him want to tackle Chuck's novel for his first film as director
comingsoon.net. Sept 22, 2008
A anal bead bookmark gifted at the film's first press day.