After making CURSED (a two and a half-year debacle replete with cast changes, re-writes and re-shoots), no one would have blamed Wes Craven if he quit the film business altogether. But just like a great horror film villain, the iconic director couldn’t be held down for long. He jumped right back into work with the thriller RED EYE, starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. RED EYE represents a slight departure for Craven, a director legendary for his work in the horror genre. It still packs some scares, mind you – just not of the Freddy Krueger variety.
stopped by the Regent Beverly Wilshire last week to talk about his latest
project. RED EYE
opens this Friday.
What attracted you to this project?
A lot of things. I’d been looking to do a thriller for a long time, so everybody wouldn’t just say, “Oh yeah, he makes horror movies.” I liked the script a lot. I think it’s really well-constructed, obviously. And we were looking to do something at a different studio. The Dreamworks guys were big fans of my early films, so I felt like they would give me a lot of support. The resistance was that I’d just finished…actually I wasn’t even finished with Cursed, and I’d been on it for two and a half years. So my first reaction was that I just wanted to get some sleep. But it was so good, I said, “Ok, fine.” And it kind of took on it’s own energy and was great.
But I kind of did everything in the middle of it. I got married on a weekend during the shooting. It was kind of wild. My editor and I, when we watched it for the first time, I turned to him and said, “How long is this thing?” He said, “72 minutes.” And the only thing we’d taken out was one…I can’t even remember what the scene was. I said, “How long was that scene?” He said, “45 seconds. It’s not gonna help us.” So we literally said, “Well, we’ve gotta have really long tale credits.” And we didn’t know the legal limit you could give to a studio. Nobody had ever thought that it would come out that fast. But my editor and I have a very fast editing style and we just took all of the fat out of it. We didn’t take any scenes out, but we took moments out of scenes.
There was a long time during take-off where (Cillian) was asking (Rachel) about her family and then her brothers and it’s like, “Let’s get all that shit out of there.” That happened a lot. So it was just about trimming the fat, you know. And so we ended up with kind of a racehorse. It’s a great ride. The studio actually had to…for their television contract, they had to have us go out and shoot this little Q&A thing for eight minutes to get the thing up to enough time where they could say, “Here, we’re giving you the movie and we also have this little thing that you can fill your time with.” But you know, the studio just was not used to a movie this short. And they were not used to a movie being made this fast. We made it – especially in post-production – so much more quickly than anybody there thought was possible. My director’s cut took five days. And the director’s guild minimum is 12 weeks. But it turned out well.
there was great concern on the studio’s part about Flight Plan.
I don’t know whether or not I’m supposed to talk about it.
But it was a big film with Jodie Foster and it was going to come out very
soon, so we had to go go go. So they
waited a little bit for me to get off of Cursed, and then we decided to go like
bandits. At a certain point it
became clear that we were going to be out long before they were, but for a long
while that was the big bugaboo, that they would come out and kind of take all
the audience for airplane pictures.
made you decide to go with Rachel McAdams for the lead?
It was the combination of seeing her in the two films that she had out at the time, The Notebook and Mean Girls. The Notebook – obviously she was a really good actress and she was beautiful, but Mean Girls to me was very significant because she was so different in that, and was able to have comic chops and just be somebody totally badass. I thought that was really impressive. We had to cast this movie in a week. So I had a meeting with her while we were mixing Cursed. She flew in from some place where she was doing a show or something and we had about 45 minutes in a room.
I just loved her face – she has these incredible eyes and she’s beautiful. And then just talking about who she was and where she came from, that she’s spent a lot of time on her parents’ farm when she was a kid – I knew that she had a very down-to-earth quality, somebody who’d actually seen life and death and everything in between. And she’d been a championship skater. I don’t know if that’s in her press materials, but it told me that she had a great discipline and that she was physically strong, that she would be coordinated for that third act and that she’d be tough.
I met Cillian. I thought, “I think
he’s good, but he sounds like he’s a guy out of an Irish pub.
He’s supposed to be an American.”
But they said, “Well, talk to him.”
So we had this conversation by telephone with him in
his face has this angularity to it and he looks like he might have boxed for
five years of his life. He looked
like he could be very tough. And I
checked out his resume and there was Shakespeare in there and I thought, “This
guy is really interesting.” And he
had a huge enthusiasm for the role. I
thought he was really terrific in 28 Days Later.
So I thought, “Ok, let’s go.” We
weren’t even able to get him and Rachel in a room together, because we’d
already met her and she was back in
didn’t meet until you started the film?
It was pretty scary. (Laughs)
you have to work a lot on Cillian’s accent?
There was lot of work on that at first. He had a dialogue coach that was with him all the time. Honestly, the first couple weeks of shooting, had grave misgivings because I could tell that even when he was getting the accent voice-coach perfect, it was affecting his performance. He was speaking much more slowly, as a way to not make mistakes. And there was a point where literally my producer and I gave him a bunch of dailies and said, “Look, this is boring. And you’re not coming off good. I don’t care if you sound like you’re Irish. I no longer care. Just be yourself, because you have to be spontaneous and charming.”
he went off and looked at that stuff and came back and said, “I see what you
mean.” I said, “Just go in there
and relax,” and it was one of those cases where he suddenly came in and just
nailed it. We actually went back and
re-shot his close-ups and medium shots. And
I would say that probably 75% of his performance was in that one day of
re-shooting the stuff, where he just loosened up and a lot of those affectations
and very careful pronunciations disappeared.
And suddenly he became a real person.
do you plan on doing for the DVD?
You mean extra materials? There are no extra materials? (laughs). I don’t know. One of the fun secrets about the film is that there are a lot of extras who are either producers or crew members or…it was just ridiculous. The irate woman in the hotel is Teri Press, who is like the head of marketing. We went into a marketing meeting to talk about the movie while we were in pre-production and there was this woman in there who was just barking orders. And I said to my producer: “That’s her.”
I guess that’s what the DVD will be. We took out one tiny little scene. I don’t even remember what it was – it was 45 seconds long. We actually went back and shot some material. We shot for three extra days, based on test screening notes and just getting a little bit more time to film. I wanted to get more time at the house and the chase. I wanted a moment when Rachel (McAdams) got to get some licks in, as they say.
do you have coming up next?
that much. Because I had been on
Cursed for two and a half years and we had to prepare another picture before
that and then I got right into this. I
got married and we hadn’t had a honeymoon.
So my wife and I went to our house on
I felt so strongly about this picture, so positively about it, I just kind wanted to see if that change of perception could happen, where I could be talked about as a director who could do a thriller, or could do suspense, or could do maybe romance or whatever. And I didn’t want to commit to anything until…I was being offered a couple of thrillers and stuff like that and I just felt like it would be really smart not to be engaged to anything and just be available for what fate brings down the road next.