Posts Tagged ‘ Evil Dead ’

Director Fede Alvarez and Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues talk reimagining “EVIL DEAD,” in theaters tomorrow

Director Fede Alvarez (right) with Shiloh Fernandez on the set of TriStar Pictures' EVIL DEAD.

Director Fede Alvarez (right) with Shiloh Fernandez on the set of TriStar Pictures’ EVIL DEAD.

Writer Fede Alvarez from Uruguay makes his directorial debut tomorrow with his reimagination of “Evil Dead,” a movie made famous by successful horror film director Sam Raimi in 1981.

After his short film “Panic Attack!” received praise and recognition in the Hollywood arena, Alvarez and his childhood friend, co-writer Rodo Sayagues, penned a brand-new script under the supervision of co-producers Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert.

More than three decades after the original, small budget “Evil Dead” was released, Alvarez and Sayagues spoke with myself and two other reporters at a round table at SXSW 2013. They talk about the advantages of taking on a horror movie classic, working with practical effects, and what their creative process is like having been best friends for so many years.

Q stands for a question posed by another reporter, and AG stands for a question asked by me.

Q: The reaction to this film was tremendous. What was it like sitting in with that audience?
FA: It was such a bizarre reaction to it, because we’ve shown it before, when you do test screenings. It was just once, because it was very well-received. We got such a high score that you got to see the director’s cut. Usually, the first test you do is with the director’s cut, and the audience bashes it to pieces. Then the producers say, “We’ll go and take over from here,” and they turn it into some weird thing that is a mix of what the director wants and what the producers want. This time, it didn’t happen that way. We showed the director’s cut, and there were scores higher than ever for the studio. That’s the movie that everyone is going to see in theaters. That was a crowd that didn’t know what they were going to see. Half of them were EVIL DEAD fans; they’ve seen the original. Half of them didn’t know what it was. It was awesome, but it was way scary. There were some walk-outs and people that said, “I cannot handle this.” I heard that. In general, it was more on the fun and comedy side that is definitely there. I loved that. For me, when I watch it, I laugh all the time. I enjoy it in a different way. For other people, it’s super scary. I don’t know what it was for you guys, but I think that’s the beauty of EVIL DEAD. That’s why some people say EVIL DEAD is a comedy, and others are like, “What? It’s a scary movie!” It’s up to you.

Star of the film,Jane Levy (Suburgatory) in TriStar Pictures' EVIL DEAD

Star of the film,Jane Levy (Suburgatory) in TriStar Pictures’ EVIL DEAD

Q: The way that you were talking about the test screening and the director’s cut versus the producers’ cut and all that, sounds like you’re very familiar with the process.
FA: No, I learned it (laughs). I learned a lot, of course. Three years ago, we’re in Uruguay doing shorts and nothing like this, completely away from Hollywood. I would never even have dreamed of making a Hollywood movie, but suddenly that short was done and ended up getting a lot of attention in Hollywood. We started learning on the fly.
RS: We did learn through experience, because everyone was warning us how hard it was going to be. It was hard, but everything was supposed to be hell. “Developing your script is going to be hell,” but it wasn’t. “Oh, production is going to be hell,” but it wasn’t. “The shoot is going to be hell,” but it wasn’t. Nothing has been hell so far.
FA: Hopefully it’ll make money (laughs).

AG: For it being your feature film debut, undertaking a Sam Raimi original, did you feel any sort of pressure going into it? Did it influence you in any way?
FA: No, I think it empowered the movie, though, definitely. There’s an EVIL DEAD title instead of being something people don’t know about. Making your first film and having people so eager to watch your film, it’s a blessing. Usually, when it’s your first film, you have to raise everything uphill, try to convince people everywhere that it’s good, showing it somewhere and getting distribution. It was a blessing for it being my first film and having people talk about it, for good and for bad. The previous stage was a process, but at the end of the day, it was amazing. The biggest challenge was to have my own style and my own voice as a director on the film, because the original people knew so much about the style of Sam Raimi and everything. I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat anything. There were a couple of moments in the movie where I was quoting something truly, and it made me feel bad to my stomach, really and honestly. I was like, “Oh, why did I do this?” I think there is one shot that I hate in the movie, when Jane shoots David and we cut outside the cabin and there’s a camera running towards the door. It felt so much out of the original, like 100 percent. The cabin, the light, and I just felt like, “This is wrong, this is wrong.” That was a challenge, to keep my own voice and my own personality in the movie as a director, not falling for the track of “Let’s just do what he did.” I don’t know if I succeeded or not (laughs).

Q: Were there any moments when you were shooting and looking at the script and thinking, “How am I going to do this?”
FA: Many (laughs).
RS: It’s so easy to write on a page. I mean, it’s not easy, but when writing the line, “And then she cut her arm off. Period.”
FA: That’s easy to write, but so hard to shoot it the way we wanted to shoot it.
Q: Especially with practical effects.
RS: Yes, especially the last sequence where it rains blood. We were absolutely convinced it wouldn’t happen, ever. We just wrote, “It starts raining blood for 20 minutes.” We were like, “Forget about it, it’s not going to happen.” It turned out it was possible.
FA: We had a great team. We had a great team of people working on the movie. As a director, you depend on your team. You need to have a great effects team and the practical team. You need those guys to be on your side and to believe in your ideas. Most of all those meetings start with me saying, “Okay, this is the way we’re going to do it. We’re going to have one shot, and it’s a long shot. We never cut, and we see her from every angle, go very close, and then she’s going to cut her arm off. We’re going to do it how they never do it. We’re going to show 100 percent, from a wide angle, so there’s no tricks. We’re not hiding anything.” Everything starts with, “What?” Everybody is like, “No, no, there’s no way, this guy is crazy.” Then, we find a way, evolve, if you keep your vision. Some directors would be like, “You know what, let’s do some green screens, a green arm or whatever.” They were cool enough to believe in that idea and those visions. Every one of those gags were a nightmare to conceive. You’ve seen movies hundreds of times and they are all done in the same way. They worked in the past, but we really wanted to push the boundaries there and make it a different way.

Alvarez on set in Thailand

Alvarez on set in Thailand

Q: So was that the influence to go practical versus CGI?
FA: I wanted the actors to witness real things, so when they react, they have better performances. Mainly, the reason why we didn’t use CGI was because CGI makes movies dated. They make movies old very fast. Avatar doesn’t look so good anymore. Even the best CGI ever will get old very fast. We have a responsibility with a movie like this one, that is not going to stand alone but stand next to three original movie classics. They are classics, because they are timeless. You watch them today, and it’s a movie that is super enjoyable. The first one dated, because it was campy and low budget, but the techniques they used didn’t. That’s why we wanted to do the same thing. If we put some CGI, it may have been great today. It would have sucked in five years. We didn’t want that.

AG: Since this is your first film, what kind of message do you want to give audiences everywhere? What kind of director do you want to be known as?
FA: No message. It’s just a movie. People will get what they get. It’s just… we don’t make movies to send a message. We make a movie to have fun making it, and we enjoy the writing process. I don’t think we ever do that. Hopefully, though, the message will be a good one.

Q: What do you enjoy more, the writing process or filming?
FA: The best part was probably the original creation, when it was just the two of us in the living room going, “How are we going to do this?
RS: The brainstorming. That’s probably the best part. It’s very exciting. Over a month throwing out ideas. You come up with one idea and you kind of wait. We’ve been friends since we were kids, so the way we work is, one of us will come up with an idea, and who knows. It’s an exciting moment where we come up with an idea at 3 a.m. and you can’t wait until the next day to call the other guy.
FA: The other one is like, “Ummm, I don’t know about that one (laughs). That’s the good thing, I guess. We have a healthy creative process where he can pitch me an idea and I can tell him, “Oh, no, that sucks big time,” and he’s like, “Oh man, you’re right.” (laughs) That’s fine, because usually, that’s the creative process that works instead of “That is a great idea, I didn’t think about that,” and all that bullshit. We don’t do that. I think that helped it turn out to be a more honest movie.

Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert talk EVIL DEAD at SXSW 2013

evil dead mpAUSTIN — The producers of “Evil Dead” had a lot to be nostalgic about as their film premiered at SXSW 2013. Bruce Campbell appeared in and co-produced the original “Evil Dead” with Rob Tapert in 1981, and original “Evil Dead” director Sam Raimi helped co-produce this time around. Since Raimi is busy promoting “Oz the Great and Powerful,” Campbell and Tapert sat down with myself and a couple of other journalists to talk about what it was like returning to the “Evil Dead” world.

Bruce Campbell in the original "Evil Dead" in 1981

Bruce Campbell in the original “Evil Dead” in 1981

(Q stands for a question from another journalist, and AG represents a question from myself.)

Q: You were on set, obviously, for the original trilogy. Did you get on set here?
BC: Nope. I had a day job. Burn Notice.
Q: Did you see any of the dailies?
BC: Of course we saw dailies. We saw everything they turned out. Rob was on set. He was there, so he saw it first-hand. Sam [Raimi] and I, from a distance, were still watching.
Q: Was it kind of a kick to see the progression of the practical effects from then to now?
BC: Yeah, but it takes a long time to finally see the finished version. It’s not until they finish the effects that you can finally say, “That either worked, or it didn’t work.” It’s only recently when we were like, “Cool, that worked.” We had a pretty good idea, but we still had to fine-tune plenty of things.

AG: Even though you weren’t physically on set, how fun was it for you to be back in the “Evil Dead” world?
BC: Very good! I was working with Sam and Rob [Tapert] again, I always run into these guys through various things, but this time we actually had to get on phone calls together and talk about the script and run through it like that. Rob was very involved in the actual production of it. We came and went whenever we could.
RT: Post-filming, we brought it here, we did the previews, worked on the sound all the way through.

Q: Why did you film it in New Zealand?
BC: Because Rob’s the king of New Zealand.
RT: I was down there working on something else. It is less expensive, but it was also very easy for me to be there and keep an eye on it.
BC: This is Rob’s world. I mean, these are good crews. I’d put a New Zealand crew up against anybody as far as discipline, ability, craftsmanship. Those guys are really good. I remember I went to direct a “Hercules” episode in the early days. I went to move a table on set, and I about threw my back out. It was a real wooden table. They hadn’t even learned how to fake stuff yet. Like, “Here, you want a wooden table? Here’s your wooden table.” I’m like, “God damn!” So, they’re good craftsmen, and their job is to support Fede. It’s a good place to work, New Zealand, and he’s from Uruguay, so whatever.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the preparation for this film?
BC: The script was everything. We know that know. We’ve been around long enough to know that the script is everything. It’s your blueprint for your movie. The trick was just to have Fede pitch us a tone and a story. Together, the four of us would have long conversations. He’d come back with something, and we would slowly work up the script. Then, Rob mostly had to determine whether we could afford to shoot, based on the budget. It’s always a dance of creative versus monetary.
RT: But it was the easiest movie I’ve done in a long time. It went really smoothly. Fede knew what he wanted and was able to communicate as a director. The most important thing a director can do is tell you what wants, how he wants you to do it, and how he wants you to do it again differently, and you can understand all those things he says.

Q: You guys put this cast through the wringer.
BC: Oh, they should’ve been there for the first one (laughs).
Q: Was it difficult to find this cast?
BC: Chemistry is an amazing thing. It either works or it doesn’t. When we got further into the casting process, we did start to put people that we thought could do the part with other people we thought were good for the part and then just saw how they reacted. Sometimes right in the room you go, “All right, good.” Shiloh [Fernandez] and Lou [Taylor Pucci] did a lot of auditioning together, and they had to be the two guys in the movie who were close with each other. In the room, it worked. That’s what can put it over the top. You might have someone who looks good with this person, but they have no fucking chemistry whatsoever, and two people can be very unlikely and have great chemistry. Chemistry is everything.

Q: Sometimes there is a weak link in the cast, but I think they all knocked it out of the park.
BC: Look, guys like Shiloh had a tricky part. He’s not the obvious hero. He’s a guy who has flaws. He’s a coward, and he’s a little weak-spined. He couldn’t muster up to see his mother when she was sick, and it’s just not his bag. Greatness is forced upon him. He’s not the ripped guy, Dwayne Johnson getting out of a Jeep like, “Hey, how are you guys?” That’s not what it was. It was one of those tricky things. I give Fede credit for writing a character that was that obtuse and slightly flawed.

Q: Was it difficult to fight the temptation to cast some known actors or was it pretty easy to find these guys?
BC: We had pretty much total control of casting. The distributor, Film District, they wanted us to have one person. They were very happy to have Jane [Levy] in that role, and Jane had the most physically demanding part. Her attitude on set help set the tone for everybody else. They saw “Oh, she’s really going through hell doing that. If she can do that, when my turn comes, I can do that. I’ll get through it one way or the other.” So that was really great. Within everything else, we pretty much had freedom to – the distributor, as they always do, that’s the only thing they asked us for. “We’d like one person that we can book.” Can they get on Kimmel? (laughs)

AG: Was there any anxiety or pressure revisiting the “Evil Dead” now that it has this huge cult fan base?
BC: The pressure was the same as the first three. As partners, the three of us just tried to make the best movie we could based on that script at that time. It was no different. We were just making another “Evil Dead” movie. That’s why I call this a new Evil Dead movie. To me, it’s not a remake or a prequel or a sequel or re-imagining. It’s just new, or another Evil Dead movie. People wanted it. They’ve been pressuring us and hassling us for years.
RT: Now that it’s in the marketplace, actually the horror genre. It’s different than anything that’s out there in a way. I think it’ll be a welcome relief to people who actually like horror. It’s something different. It’s familiar if you like “Evil Dead,” but it’s different from what’s currently out there. It’s kind of an old-fashioned, hard-hitting horror movie.
BC: The parents of the kids that see this movie will still go, “Okay, cool,” because it’s going to look like effects from the 70s. You know what I mean? Their parents are not going to know, it doesn’t feel like a “modern movie.” It just feels like a movie.

Q: How satisfying was the crowd last night? They ate it up.
BC: It’s everything you need to hear. You need to hear people laughing and talking back to the screen like, “No, no, no, don’t, don’t, don’t!” I mean, there was legitimate dread. One of my favorite sequences that played last night is when Eric is walking into the bathroom to see what’s going on, and you hear this weird sound. The audience is like, “No, no, no,” and he keeps going, “Are you okay?” The audience was like, “No, she’s not okay, she’s not okay!”
RT: Everyone was laughing.
BC: They did! That’s the thing. You can’t worry about people’s reactions, because it’s in the moment. They’re like, “Fuck no, she’s not okay.” That’s great. That’s a reaction where you know the audience is paying attention.

AG: There were these two big guys sitting on both sides of me, and the guy to my right was slouched over covering his eyes and the guy to my left was like, “No, nah-uh, stop!”
BC: They punch each other! We watched screenings the other day with a bunch of football players. Whenever they got scared, they were, “You got scared! No, you did! No, you did!” (enacts punching)

SXSW 2013: EVIL DEAD Round table #1

Premiere at the Paramount Theater March 8, 2013(Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Premiere at the Paramount Theater March 8, 2013
(Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

AUSTIN – Three decades after Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” violently tore itself into the hearts of horror movie buffs the world over in 1981, Fede Alvarez makes his directorial debut with a “rebirth” of the film. This year’s “Evil Dead” premiered to much applause at the Paramount Theater on Friday night.

I got to sit down with a couple of other journalists to talk with the cast, director, writers and producers for round tables the next day, and here is the first. Cast members Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore talked about “zombie classes,” the original “Evil Dead,” and working with practical effects.

(L-R) Shiloh Fernandez, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Jane Levy(Photo Courtesy of Yahoo! Movies)

(L-R) Shiloh Fernandez, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Jane Levy
(Photo Courtesy of Yahoo! Movies)

AG: So how are you enjoying Austin?
LTP: I’ve actually only been here less than 24 hours, and I’m leaving in four hours. It’s been crazy. I got a pilot, so I’m working in New Orleans. Like, right now. Literally, it’s starting in two days. They didn’t want to let me go.
EB: We went to Stubb’s on Thursday night.
LTP: They did. I wish I had been able to. Stubb’s is iconic. The first time I came here, I went to Stubb’s. Amazing. Then, I go home, and I look at my mom’s kitchen. On the stove, there’s Stubbs’ face. Like, what the fuck? They started bottling his barbecue sauce after I was there, not before, so I’d never seen it before. I was telling them all about the best barbecue ever, and now everyone can have some.

Q: So I don’t know exactly how it works for you all, but when you got the script, did you know right away that you were interested in it?
LTP: Immediately, I was not interested at all. I didn’t want to do it at all. I thought it was a terrible idea. Why would you remake Evil Dead? It’s so good. Someone was just showing us the Rotten Tomatoes score. The old Evil Dead is still at 100%. It’s a perfect friggin’ movie in some ways. So yeah, I didn’t think it was a great idea. It was written like we were 30 years old. The characters were a bit older than us by like five to ten years, so I was like, “I’m not right for this.” When it came down to it, to get the callback, Bruce Campbell was going to be there, and I just wanted to go meet Bruce Campbell. And then shit happened.

AG: What kind of influence did the original have on your interpretations of the characters?
EB: I actually hadn’t seen the original. I didn’t know Evil Dead, didn’t really know what it was. I hate horror films. They scare the crap out of me! When I got the role, my boyfriend made me sit down and watch the original then. I think we were given so much freedom. Having Bruce and Rob there, I feel like it took care of that. For us, they gave us the freedom to make something beautiful.
LTP: We were safe. We were in such safe hands. You can’t be in better hands than with Bruce Campbell being a producer on it.
Q: Was he on set with you guys?
LTP: No, he wasn’t there.
EB: He was filming. Rob was there most of the time.
LTP: To answer your question, I was a huge Evil Dead fan. That’s why when I got the script, I was like, “This is dumb. How are we going to do this? We can’t do this.” But obviously, it was the right thing to do. When I found out they were going to do it all practical, I was like, “This is it. This is going to be so cool.” I can’t believe they even came up with that idea. They were in such good taste.

Q: The practical effects have obviously come a long way since the original. What was it like working with them?
LTP: They came out even better than I thought.
JL: My stuff was pretty much practical. It was a prosthetic piece on my face that blacked out in the middle, and then they put white dots on it to be able to follow it. So the actual inside of my mouth is CGI, obviously. That was not real (laughs). Everything else was practical. It was like three and a half hours of makeup.
EB: I think my most was six or seven hours.
JL: I probably had it the easiest out of everyone.
EB: We spent a day in New Zealand, about a month before we started anything, just getting body cast. I had like five different arms in different positions. We all had our faces cast. He had his chest cast. We spent a whole day doing that, so I knew it was going to be big.

AG: I’m a huge baby. Scary movies creep me out. So what was it like filming? I feel like I’d be scared all the time.
EB: It’s not scary at all!
JL: Really, you’re so uncomfortable, too. You’re just grumpy and trying to make a great scene, wanting to get it as crazy and out there as possible, so you’re more focused on that. You don’t have time to think about it.
EB: It’s just not scary. It hurt, because you’ve had your arm folded for three days, and the blood is sticky. I got allergic to my prosthetics, and my face was all fat.
LTP: It was hours and hours and hours in makeup and all that. So no, it wasn’t scary, but it was fun. You had to keep up the fun and keep up the energy, and that was about it. That’s really the hardest job the whole time, having to do that where you look scared again.
EB: Like, how many ways can you look scared? We got to take three, and I was like, “I’m not scared anymore, what else can I do?”
LTP: “What other faces can I make?”

Q: Did you guys have to do a lot of takes for each scary reaction?
LTP: Sometime yes, and sometimes no. Sometimes it was very little. It was minimal. But some days we would work for five days on one scene.
Q: Which scene?
EB: Guess (laughs).
LTP: It wasn’t action-y, but there was a lot of stuff to do. And even those days, we’d still only get like a take or three takes.
JL: We didn’t do a lot of takes ever. They would spend a lot of time setting up and all that.
LTP: We spent a lot more time on wides than on close-ups.

Q: This is kind of a big breakout for a lot of you. I mean, Fede [Alvarez], this is his first big film. Was there a feeling of that on set?
LTP: I definitely felt that was the coolest thing. Knowing the original Evil Dead so well, stepping onto the set that first day was like stepping into the old Evil Dead. It was the same house. It looked the same, and I was in that house. That was cool and scary. That was cool.
JL: I never thought about it, really.
EB: I think you’re safe with Fede. You knew he was going to make a really cool film.
LTP: The biggest thing when we got there was he wanted rehearsal time. He wanted to get us able to work with these people who were doing a sort of interpretive dance, yoga-zombie training, so we could learn to move as if we were being marionetted or something.
EB: We spent a day writhing on the floor.
JL: There’s tape of us doing crazy, weird stuff with our faces and bodies.

Q: There was an actual teacher?
LTP: Yes, a zombie teacher.
EB: She was a choreographer.
JL: We just learned to move our bodies.
LTP: How cool is that? They thought to do that for us. We didn’t ask for it. We just got there, and they were like, “Okay, zombie class is tomorrow at 1:00.”
JL: It was great, because I think we all felt like kind of anxious about that. How do you act like a zombie? We were trying to figure that out.

Q: If you all want to apply for “The Walking Dead,” you have that on your resume now.
LTP: I know! It was easy then, though, to really get to know each other, because we were all on the ground going like (enacts a seizure). They were like, “Okay, the poison is going through your body, so you’re on the ground again.” Interpretive improv dance zombie stuff.

Q: You just kept coming back, you never died.
LTP: (laughs) Seriously, Wes gets stabbed, like, 30 times.
AG: It reminded me of “Pineapple Express,” how Red never dies.
LTP: (laughs) Yeah! That part, though, with the crowbar, that was nasty.
EB: That was awesome. I really hurt the stunt guy that day. I bruised him so bad. They gave me a crowbar! It wasn’t a real one. It was firm, but the core is still metal. They were like, “Beat the shit out of him,” so I did. I cracked his rib! I had contacts in, so I couldn’t really see what I was doing.
LTP: That was the thing, you couldn’t see anything most of the time.
EB: I didn’t want to hit his head! It was sick.

AG: Obviously, this was really physically grueling for you all, but emotionally, how did you prepare?
LTP: Like I said, I just needed to have fun. It was really about keeping that energy fun and not making it too heavy. It was already written pretty heavy. It’s a detox and all that, so we all had to just be light with it.
JL: We knew what we were getting into, too, so nothing was that surprising to me.

Q: Was this the first time you saw the final film?
LTP: Yeah.
EB: First time ever.
JL: Good audience, and they were really into it. It was nice.
LTP: Insane. I thought it was going to be at the Alamo Drafthouse with 150 seats, and then I walk into the Paramount with 1,200 seats.
EB: I didn’t know there was a balcony!
JL: Me neither!