ARROW IN THE HEAD
Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick has a lot to be happy about! His first screenplay FINAL DESTINATION broke bank, the sequel (in which he had a story credit) kicked butt, he's presently wrting the DAY OF THE DEAD remake for Steve Miner and his last screenplay TAMARA (Read my review here) got made, hitting the big screen (limited release) on February 3rd 2006. I got the chance to tango with the horror loving screenwriter and this insightful and much interesting read is what came out of it. Dig in!
What was the initial creative spark that sent you on your way in creating the Tamara screenplay?
“Tamara” came about because I wanted to write a fun, gory, envelope-pushing horror movie that had all of the elements that I wanted to see in a movie. I love strong female characters. When I was little, I used to geek out when I saw that Batgirl was gonna be in an episode of Batman. I loved Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about a beautiful women (usually in spandex) kicking ass that inspires me. But I digress. After “Final Destination” became a hit, everyone kept saying, “come up with another really high-concept, original, supernatural movie.” As all writers know, that’s easier said than done. So, I decided to write something for fun and go all out with it.
Carrie was an obvious inspiration, intentional or not. Any other films that stirred you when it came to coming up with Tamara?
“Carrie” is one of my favorite movies and the set up was definitely a purposeful homage to that movie. I love the prom massacre at the end and I’ve always thought “wouldn’t it be cool if the mistreated girl died in first act and spent the rest of the movie getting revenge?” But a quick side note…Stephen King is one of the best writers of our age and his work has affected almost everything I’ve written. (Clive Barker has too…)
But with “Tamara” I wanted to create a female empowerment story. The staple of horror films is that women are victims and I hate that. So I wanted to create a film where a girl who’s an outcast, comes back as everything she ever dreamed of being - beautiful, desired and powerful. But the power and desire for revenge, corrupts her.
Another, random, inspiration for ‘bad Tamara‘ was the character of “Diana” from the old “V” mini-series. Jane Badler, who played her, is beautiful and strong. And her character had the quality of being evil and using her sexuality to get others to do what she wanted. She’s one of my all time favorite villains. (And yes, I’m hoping she’ll read this and be in one of my movies….)
How much did the script change when it entered pre production and production?
changed quite a bit. Because of last minute time, and budget, constraints,
we had to lose about 20 pages of material. Of course, the first thing to go
was a lot of character stuff and more subtle story layering. We lost Chloe,
the heroine’s, whole subplot which was really interesting and made her a lot
stronger. It’s typical Hollywood, but we basically had to scale things back
to keep the basics of the story. Also, some of the gorier stuff had to be
trimmed because it would have been too expensive to shoot.
Were other screenwriters brought onboard during production to “polish things up” or were you the sole screenwriter throughout the whole process?
I was the sole writer, which was great. This is a rarity in Hollywood. Studio executives are so nervous about keeping their jobs, that they think that the more writers they throw on a project, the better it will be, or the more people they can blame if the project turns out bad.
I had this experience on an MOW. The network loved the script that I submitted and went to the director, who immediately signed on…as did the main cast. But a few weeks later, one of the executives thought the script was “too clever” for their audience and they brought someone in to “dumb it down” (their words, not mine.)
How present were you during Production and Post?
I was on set for almost two weeks and even have a small cameo (call me Dr. Reddick.) I’ve actually visited the set of every film that I’ve done. I never impose, but it’s so cool to be on a set and realize that everyone there has a job, and is working, because of something you wrote.
But on “Tamara” Jeremy Haft and Martin Wiley (the producer) really kept me in the loop during production and they were nice enough to let me come to looping sessions and sound mixes during post. It kind of spoils you, because that’s not usually the way things go down. I have to give Jeremy major props, because he busted his ass under extremely tight circumstances. He was doing the job of 3 or 4 people, but still kept a level head and was always great with me and the cast.
Being that you invented these characters; what are you thoughts as to Jenna Dewan’s casting as Tamara?
I love her! I’m outing myself here…but I’d go straight for her. Jenna was really beyond anything I could have hoped for. It sounds like a cliché, but we’d really met with almost every actress I Hollywood. Some could do the sexy stuff, some could do the evil stuff and some could do outcast stuff, but no one was the whole package. When Jenna came in…she was Tamara.
Originally, we were going to make Tamara REALLY ugly in the beginning of the film with prosthetics. But aside from being expensive, we couldn’t explain how she changed so radically over a weekend and everyone didn’t question it. But the thing about Tamara’s character is that she feels worthless and ugly on the inside…because of her home life and the way she’s treated.
I mean, we’ve all seen a girl, or guy, where we’re like “If they cleaned themselves up, they’d be attractive.” So we needed an actress who could convey Tamara’s incredibly low self-esteem and self-loathing. We basically needed an actress with the skills to do what we couldn’t afford with FX.
Jenna pulled this off great. I really felt for her in the earlier scenes of the film…and when she came back as ’Hot Tamara’ she gave the character so many layers. She goes from manipulatively, playfully innocent, to incredibly cruel in a second. Jenna just nailed it. On top of her great acting, and the fact that she’s stunningly beautiful, Jenna’s one of the sweetest people I’ve met.
If a Tamara sequel was to happen; would you be interested in helming it? Do you already have a concept?
You can’t help but think about concepts for a sequel, but you never want to put the cart before the horse. I’ve got some ideas. As for directing, I’m hoping Jeremy will come back. But if he doesn’t do the sequel, I’d definitely think about it.
You also wrote the original Final Destination and came up with the story for Part 2. What are your thoughts on the two FD films and any comments on the upcoming Part 3?
Well, first of all, I’m extremely grateful that the “Final Destination” films have done well. I’m really blessed as a writer, and proud as a horror fan, to have a franchise out there. The fans of the film have been so fantastic.
It’s hard to comment objectively on a film when you’ve worked on it. I thought the first film, was extremely creepy and well done. The biggest divergence from my original draft (Read it here) was the Rube Goldberg way that Death came after the people who cheated Death. That was all Wong and Morgan and I thought it was great.
Working at the studio that produced the film was great in that Bob Shaye (New Line Cinema’s founder) was incredible. I really credit him and Joy Mann for my career. Bob inspired me when I was a young writer from Eastern Kentucky…and Joy was like my second mom. She sent me scripts and film stuff and I don‘t know why she did it. Looking back, I was probably a horror stalker…asking for every tibdit of “A Nightmare On Elm Street” memorabilia that came out…but they really took the time to get to know me. I luv em….
But on “Final Destination,” Bob kept me in the loop from the beginning. I’m a big fan of James Wong and Glen Morgan’s work and when their name came up as directors, I was like “Hell yes!!!“ But there was some weirdness down the road. Bob Shaye got me every draft of the script and asked for my opinion…which I gave.
This was incredibly respectful, because usually once a script is sold, the writer is kicked to the curb. But that caused some drama behind the scenes. I’ve read interviews with Wong/Morgan, where they said they heard I was unhappy with them and stuff…which wasn’t true. The funny thing about working at a studio is that you’re privy to all the behind the scenes stuff.
So even though you hear that people “hear” you’re annoyed, no one takes the
time to clear things up. Everyone is so worried about egos that they
can’t just have a conversations. But I have to get ghetto about one
thing. I’ve read interviews with Wong/Morgan where they’ve said they
just used my set up - and that I had some hooded, maniac chopping up
the kids with a sickle. Aside from being untrue, that really pissed me
I’m from a theatre background and I’m all about collaboration and spreading the wealth/credit. So, it sucks when the behind the scenes bullsh*t, gets in the way. But as far as a movie goes, I think “Final Destination” is a strong genre entry and I’m extremely proud of it.
I also loved the second film. Not only is it fun, but it’s one of the bloodiest movie I’ve ever seen. J When you have an unseen force killing people, you can get away with a lot more gore. I think everyone involved delivered a fast-paced, scary, bloody-as-hell, worthy sequel.
I’ve read the script for the 3rd “Final Destination.“ It definitely delivers the goods. The opening scene will blow people away and there’s some great scares and death scenes. I’m not trying to ass kiss…but back to giving props, producer Craig Perry has been so instrumental in all the “Final Destination” films. He’s smart and incredibly insightful and I remember on the set of the second film, that he had this idea about a roller coaster accident. He’s great.
Now I can’t say I’m too enthused by this where I’m all “remaked out” at this point; but you’re presently writing the Day of the Dead remake for Steve Miner. What can you tell us as to the direction you’re taking? How different/similar will it be to the original?
I hear you about sequels. I’m sick of them too. And I’ve already been feeling the hate from horror fans. But the thing is that as long as people go to see remakes, they’re going to get made.
I’m a huge horror fan and when I found out they were doing a remake of “Day Of The Dead” I was like, either I can write this as a fan, or they’ll end up hiring someone with no respect, or knowledge, of the genre and it could turn out to be really bad.
But, knowing that Steve Miner was directing the movie was the thing that really attracted me to the project. I really respect him as a director and some of my favorite movies, “Friday The 13th Part 2,” “House,” “Warlock” and “Halloween H20” were directed by him.
I can’t go in too much detail about the sequel…but it is going to be a straight-up, R-rated, horror film…with lots of action and scares. We obviously pay homage to the important elements of George Romero’s film - the military base, Bud, the intelligent zombies, etc. But we wanted to update the story, so it fits in to the current world climate. And we’ve added some fresh twist on things that I think fans will appreciate. Steve and I have worked hard to create a story that stands alone, but doesn’t trample on Romero’s classic.
Are you a fan of the original Day of the Dead?
I am a fan of the original Day of The Dead. However, I like George Romero’s original, un-produced draft better. It was a situation where budget cuts, etc., forced someone to compromise on their vision and do something fast and cheap. I liked a lot of the philosophical ideas in the film and the idea of the zombies evolving. And the gore scenes are awesome. But I think the movie is a little talky in spots, which again, was the product of a budget and time constraints.
What’s next for you, any other projects in the works or pending?
I’m up for a few projects, but you know how it is, until something’s signed, it ain’t a done deal. I also have two down and dirty horror scripts that a colleague and I are currently working on financing.
Will we ever see a genre film directed by Jeffrey Reddick?
Oh yeah. I know it sounds like another cliché, but directing is really the only to way to get “your vision” on screen. I‘m not saying I want a full time career as a director - it‘s way too grueling. But I plan to direct one of script of mine called “The Horror Show.“ It’s my baby and I don’t want anyone else messing with it.
Why “Tamara” (Great name by the way)? Where did you get the name from? Was she ever going to be named something else?
I always wanted to have the title of the film be the villain’s name. Again, I wanted to pay homage to “Carrie,” but shock people by killing her character off early on. Of course we had to give this away in marketing, but what can you do?
The girl’s name was originally Helena. (Which was an homage to “Suspiria.”) But it just didn’t sound scary when you said it out loud. I knew this girl in high school named ‘Tamara,‘ who was really tough. People thought she was a b*tch, but once you got to know her, she was really cool. So that’s where the name came from.
I'd like to thank Jeffrey for this hefty interview and wish him all the best with TAMARA and his future genre related endeavors. Keep on rocking bro!