The Cabin in the Woods Interview Part 2

Here is the second part of my interview with The Cabin in the Woods‘ director and co-writer Drew Goddard and star Jesse Williams. Be warned; there are spoilers ahead…

Jesse, what was it that attracted you to The Cabin in the Woods in the first place?

JW: A couple of things I think, first it was the material – you know, you are reading 6 scripts a week, desperately trying to find a place for yourself in some of these screenplays and this just stood out to me.We didn’t even get the full screenplay, we just got a couple of audition sides, and I got a couple of different sets 2 pages here, 3 pages there of things that they had just cooked up,  that they had no intention of putting in the film. They had some extra imagination and wrote up really elaborate crazy monsters, I had a molesting jacuzzi in one scene and you have to act this out in a little office space. I was a New York actor at the time so often it has to go on tape to be sent off to Los Angeles, right, so you don’t get the feeling of being in a room with a person you kind of have to pull it together and on top of that, I had to be, you know sexually assaulted by a jacuzzi in an office and fake that it felt like I was going to be on candid camera, it felt like I was being set up for a reality show or something. But what I loved about it was that it was really appealing to me and the voice was very clear, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, right. It’s hilarious, but it’s terrifying but there is monsters and the imagination is making it so that I can’t even really tell if this is the real world or where is it. It was really genre bending but really engaging and the voice was just so clear to me that I didn’t feel that I didn’t feel like it was forcing itself. It’s not a comedy that’s trying to scare you and it’s not a scary movie trying to get a couple of laughs in, in order to break the tension, it’s all of these things in a really honest way.

Is it hard for you to balance Grey’s Anatomy with films, as it takes 10 months of the year to film Grey’s?

JW: It’s very difficult to balance Grey’s with films. You not available to do much of anything and it would be a pain for a studio to try to make that happen and fight with the Network to make that happen. That is the business side of it. That is the gift and the curse of one job is going to prevent you from getting other jobs. But 7% of actors work so I’m very, very grateful among the few that right now to have a job. So no complaints, but it is a balancing, act for sure.

In The Cabin in the Woods you define 5 stereotypical roles, which would you both be in real life?

DG: I was definitely the virgin. Boy I wish that wasn’t true.

JW: I was somewhere in between Marty and Kirk. I was, you know back at that time an athlete and wanna be tough guy but I was like 90 pounds and smoked a lot of weed though. So somewhere in there.

DG: High school’s hard.

JW: Yeah, I was not Holden that is for sure!

Do you think, as a horror director, clichés are necessary for the horror genre to exist?

DG: I think clichés happen for a reason, they happen because they work, things become clichéd not because everyone doesn’t like them, they become clichéd because everyone likes them, and then they start to wear out their welcome. So much of Cabin is about how we deal with mythology, and not just in a horror film, but mythology in general and what it is we do, and how we compartmentalise this and analyse things and then destroy it. It happens over and over and over, and that’s what happens with clichés, and I don’t… this movie comes from a place of love. We’re celebrating a lot of the things that we’re also poking fun at, I don’t hate these things, I’m just fascinated as to why we do this, I’m fascinated as to how things, through the action of storytelling, how things become rote, how archetypes take on a presence that’s larger than the sum of its parts. It’s interesting to me.

Who came up with the idea for the merman?

DG: I remember saying that it would be great if one of them wanted to see something, it would be great if a guy wanted to see a windigo, because he had never seen a windago before. And as we were working on the script, we kept talking about how it would be great that this guy wanted to see a windago. Then we realised that neither Joss nor I were sure what a windago was! So we were like, “well, that might be too hard, let’s switch it”. Then we switched it and it became a merman. But at a certain point we realised that we didn’t even know what we were doing!

Who came up with the idea for the making out with the wolf scene, and why?

DG: That’s a really good question, there were parts of this that I don’t remember who came up with what because they all just run together, because of the way we did it. I actually don’t know, but it definitely feels like both of us. I wouldn’t put it past either of us to come up with that scene, I don’t know. But I feel it’s crucial to the movie. It really was. It’s one of those things that’s not just there because it’s off-putting, it is about the progression of the story.

JW: Was it always a wolf, was it ever a moose?

DG: It was always a wolf, the wolf was very important to the horror film mythology in general.

Did you write Sigourney Weaver’s part for her?

DG: No, we wrote it a-sexual, the part is just known as The Director, but we were thinking of a man because that’s just what we  do ourselves being sort of sexist about it, but we weren’t excited. When we talked about names, nothing excited us, and one day we just looked at each other and said “Lets just switch it, lets make it a woman” and as soon as we said that, Sigourney’s name popped into our head. “Oh, she would be perfect for the genre, and she’d be so good at this” and just that day called her up, and she said “Yeah, I’m in”.We’re like “Really? Are you sure?” but she was “No, I love you guys, lets do this” which was exciting. She knew Joss from the Alien days, and it was nice. She was so fun, the first question every day when she showed up on set was “When does the Werewolf get here?” “First of all, Sigourney, it’s not a real Werewolf” But she was just so excited. It was nice to see someone whose done what she has done still have the enthusiasm for her job, it gave us all a tremendous burst of energy to have around. But don’t say any of that until after.

The Cabin in the Woods is out in cinemas now.

The Cabin in the Woods Interview

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to take part in a roundtable interview with The Cabin in the Woods director and co-writer Drew Goddard and actor Jesse Williams, who plays Holden in the film. The Cabin in the Woods is a fantastic film, so it was great to be able to discuss it with Drew and Jesse.  Given the nature of the film, some of what was discussed contains spoilers. This part is safe for all to read, while next week’s part will contain some spoilers.

Drew, could you give us a summary of how The Cabin in the Woods ended up on screen, and how you ended up in the driver’s seat?

DG: I wrote Cabin in the Woods with my partner in crime Joss Whedon, I sort of started my career working for him on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We had honed our technique of working together over those years. We just enjoyed working together, so after those shows went away we were just calling each other saying “let’s find something else to do”. We thought doing a feature would be the easiest thing to do for us, just in terms of our lives. So we started kicking around ideas of what we wanted to do, and we just love horror movies, and we love cabin movies in particular. He had this spark, this initial idea for Cabin with this upstairs, downstairs quality of it. As soon as I heard it, I went “oh yeah, that’s great let’s do that”. We just started meeting, and over the course of about five months we fleshed out the story, and once we had that we said, “alright, let’s write this”. We’ve learnt with Buffy that we never had much time to write because we were always behind schedule and we’d have to write scripts over the weekend constantly. But there’s a real energy that comes about when you do that. We wanted that energy, so we said let’s lock ourselves in a hotel, and we’re not allowed to leave the room until we’ve got a script done. It was very much an experiment, but it worked. We found this nice hotel and just kept writing, from like 7am to 2am everyday, round the clock, passing pages back and forth. And in the end we had Cabin. We sensed we’d written it, but it was every much what it was. It was very much a labour of love; just two guys trying to entertain each other.

Do you think this film will have the same impact on cabin films as say Scream did on slashers, do you think this will be the film that other films will be referenced and compared to?

DG: I don’t know, I try not to worry too much about how it will be perceived in the pantheon. We just tried to make the best movie we could. The rest of that is for other people to decide.

JW: I think it’s hard to say right now, I mean it hasn’t even come out yet. We’ve seen it in a couple of theatres with people in it. Sure, that’s going to be a by-product, if it makes an impact, that people will make reference to it, so therefore it will have a lasting effect. We’ll start with one, and see if the math continues down that road.

How would you guys describe the film to somebody in a non-spoilery way?

DG: I would just talk about the genre itself, and how this is our love letter to the genre. It is very much about making the ultimate horror film, or at least what we knew how to do. We just love that horror experience. This came about because we love sitting in the theatre, and feeling that energy when you’ve got the type of horror film that’s fun. And you’re screaming as much as you’re laughing, and when you’re sort of doing both. That can only happen in certain types of films, and we very much wanted Cabin to be that. It’s tough, because we can honestly say that the less you know about Cabin the more fun you are going to have, but you also want to tell people that it is worth their time. So it is finding that balance. Luckily, one of the things that has been nice is that we’ve noticed that people who see the movie understand, and they sort of know what not to do. They sort of do that without us having to ask. I think it’s true of most people,  I think most people don’t like being spoiled, and want to spoil, they just want to talk about the things that excite them. I think that is true of not just this movie but of all movies. I feel like we are definitely seeing that happen here, which is refreshing.

JW:  Yeah, and I think also, the word spoiler is kinda lost, its meaning is kind of amorphous, some people mean it “don’t spoil the ending of some sitcom” it doesn’t even matter, it’s like little pieces to a story where they’re not deal-breakers. Whereas this I feel that people who’ve seen it are coming out and saying “we don’t wanna not spoil it for the sake of the director or the writer or the actor, we’re not gonna spoil it for the audience, we want you to have the best experience possible” and just throw back to before twitter and the information age when everything was just fun to show off, to flex how much information you had ahead of time. Not “Oh, I got to see it before you, and now I’m gonna f**k it up for you.” It’s just a little muscle flex, and that’s not what this is about, you see that  people wanna… Less is more. The first thing about The Cabin In The Woods is don’t talk about The Cabin In The Woods!

How do you feel about the casting, as you’ve ended up with a doctor and Thor?

DG: Its nice to be proven right, as definitely at the time, we had the future of Hollywood in our cast. It’s nice to see that come to fruition before we even came out.

JW: You had that spec script, “Dr. Thor”.

DG: We couldn’t get that made, so we made Cabin. It’s nice and gratifying, it’s what you always want for your actors. You always want them to do even better than before they  met you. It’s nice to feel justified.

Was using the Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer actors again a nod to the fans?

DG: Not really, it’s just because we love those actors and we wanted to use them. Joss has always… this energy he has created, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like you’re getting your friends together and having a party and just sort of “let’s put on a show”. That’s the energy we like to feel, we like to feel that we’re this roving band of misfits, we just pick and pull and mix and match as we go, and I hope we keep this energy going forward.

Drew, with you directing for the first time, did you find there was a big change in perspective from writing and producing?

DG: Well, I certainly can’t blame the director anymore when things go wrong, which was the hardest part. Luckily I was really fortunate in my career to work for people like Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams who very much have a feature mentality to the television shows they’re working on, and they’re very much empowering the writers, and writing in general. Television is a writer’s medium. I was very comfortable doing things like talking to actors and working with guts and looking at budgets and all of those things but there is something rather harrowing about stepping on set the first day and realising there’s no one else to turn to, that all eyes are looking at you. And that takes a lot of getting used to, but there’s also good in that, it’s nice when you realise you’re in charge.

The release date of The Cabin In The Woods seemed to change frequently. How was it on your side?

DG: It was definitely frustrating but I was just concerned about protecting the film. Every time there’s new management, you’re never sure what’s going to happen. Very early on the other studios, they started screening their products. Because what happens when something goes bankrupt, they screen their assets and other people buy them. That’s why it took so long for The Hobbit and James Bond, they were all dropping with us as well. We were in good company, it felt like. The studios saw the film and started loving it and there was a bidding war, and Lionsgate called me, said ‘we love the movie, we’re gonna do everything we can to get it, we’re not gonna change a frame’, and once I knew that, it just became a matter of the red tape getting untangled, and that was fine. There’s worse things in life than having your film come out slightly later than you thought it would. Joss and I joke, but it’s been the best thing that could possibly have happened to us, we love Lionsgate, they’re wonderful to work with, our actors have gone on to become stars. Be careful what you worry about, because it ends up working out fine.

Read the second part of the interview next week. The Cabin in the Woods is released in cinemas on 13th April 2012.

Film Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is a smart and amusing horror hybrid. Viewers should avoid finding out too much about the film beforehand, to maximise enjoyment.

Dana and Jules are college students looking forward to a break away. Along with fellow students Curt, Steve and Marty, the group travel to a remote cabin to spend the weekend. Not long after the group arrive they discover that something is amiss…

The Cabin in the Woods is difficult to review without giving away significant spoilers. It is easy to see the preoccupations of producer and co-writer Joss Whedon. The story is good overall, although the ending does not quite match the high quality of the rest of the film. Although it is not completely original, in terms of type of movie, The Cabin in the Woods is executed in witty and gratifying manner.

Drew Goddard’s film is an interesting play on the horror genre. The Cabin in the Woods excels in mixing genres. The mystery of the overall scheme is nicely juxtaposed by a strong vein of humour that runs throughout the film. The set up is great, with the audience being fed details slowly as the film progresses.

The Cabin in the Woods features some great touches. The cellar sequence in particular is great, with its perfect balance of apprehension and humour. Effects in the film are good overall. Nevertheless, Goddard’s film would have benefited from fewer CGI effects, which more often than not tend to look artificial.

Performances are good all round in The Cabin in the Woods. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford share great chemistry. Fran Kranz provides a good deal of humour as Marty, while Kristen Connelly and Jesse Williams fulfil their roles well.

Showing a good imagination, Drew Goddard directorial debut is a lot of fun. Fans of the horror genre should definitely aim to see The Cabin in the Woods.