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INT: Gregg Hoffman

Jan. 23, 2007by:

Back again from the DEAD SILENCE set for This time around we got to exchange words with the late Twisted Pictures front man, SAW champion and Producer Gregg Hoffman. Gregg was in his usual no-BS kind of mood on this day and here's what he gave up for us about the film and the genre.

Gregg Hoffman

It is difficult to talk to people about this movie without talking about the twists and things like that, which you dont have to give away, but it is, uhan obstacle.

Its something well dance around tactfully, so. I mean, you know obviously I can speak because you guys know some of it. Fortunately not all of it. I think thats that hardest thing; the biggest thing when youre making movies that rely on twists are keeping those things a secret..

Thats what happened with The Village. Whats your take on that, I mean that, the trend in, I dont know, in the past 4 or 5 years that if you make a thriller it has to have a twist. And you just hit on something that I wanted to ask about. Do you think about that as kind of the standard now? You don't like the idea of a straightforward movie, no twist, because its not what people are expecting?

Well, let me throw it back to you. Are you satisfied if the ending is what youd expect? If Saw ended and it really was Zep, right? Everybody would have gone, Oh that was friggin lame, right? Its like its a Catch 22. All of a sudden everybody goes, OK, they going to, like, twist or surprise us? But I think people will be disappointed if what you think is the way its supposed to end it is the way it ends, you know. I dont know what the solution is to it, you know?

The twist is theres no twist?

Yeah, but then they go Ok, it was a bad ending. So how do you win?

What are your expectations in terms of Silence and the market, actually? What kind of picture do you think its going to be; what kind of audience is going to receive it?

I think its gonna be different, and thats gonna stand out in and of itself. I mean if you look this onslaught thats like coming down the pike, the Prom Nights and the When A Stranger Calls and that sort of slew of teen remakes. Ok, well, were not that, you know? Its certainly not a gore-fest, its not a grindhouse movie. Its not a 70s era kind of.that thing, you know? It exists in its own bizarro world. Its a contemporary Hammer film. Its lightning and fog and's mannered and its not cut like an action movie and it doesnt pound you into submission, and I think by virtue of that its a very different organism.

Its not about giant music BONGS and that sort of thing and not about bludgeoning you to death. Its the reverse and theres something cool about that, and hopefully people can kinda capture on to that and settle into the rhythm of what it is and its sort of, like, groovy retroness. In a weird sort of way I think it will be, itll be cool, you know? I mean obviously theres a group of people out there going, Well whats James Wan gonna do next? I think thats a hardcore audience. I wouldnt say thats enough to open a movie. On the other hand I think this one may broaden out because its I think youll get the horror audience but I think its gonna play a little older too. I think its gonna skew a little more female, than some of these other films might.

Whats the rating for it?

Its gonna be what its gonna be. Were not really concerned about it.

But in terms of the script, you look at the script and say, Ah its a PG-13 or its an R". You must have an assumption.

Its borderline. Its one or the other, I mean, James is making conscious decisions not to shoot gratuitous. This is more a movie about being creeped out than being grossed out, and I think theres a big difference. Its sort of like dread and slow build and, like I said, its not like some of these other films that are cut like action movies; paced like action movies; scored like action movies. They, like, bludgeon you to death. This is a lot more subtle. So by virtue of that, the MPAA may say, You know what? Its a more delicate flower, therefore it a PG-13, or they may go, Shit, this is the most twisted thing Ive ever seen with macabre endings and ventriloquists ripping tongues out and bizarre curses, and they may go, Well thats R.

I cant presuppose because based on my own experiences with them I think it shifts from day to day, moment to moment, hour to hour and, you know, someones nipple comes out in the Superbowl youll get an R because of that and 6 months later theyll relax and things that you would never expect to slide through on the first pass will slide through. If you looked at Devils Rejects would you say that was a movie that was gonna get an R on basically its first go around? Theres no way, but it did. Its not like were conscientiously saying were gonna make a movie because we want kids to go see it. If it turns out to be a PG-13, its a PG-13. If it turns out to be an R, its R. You know, its by studio standards its priced at a point where it doesnt have to be 4 quadrants to succeed. If it does, fantastic, but it doesnt have to be. So theyre sort of going, Whatever its gonna be its gonna be.

How many days is the shoot?

Its about 40+ with some green-screen and that sort of thing.

Can you tell us what the budget is, too?

Im not gonna tell you what it is. I would say its close to 20 times what he had to shoot Saw. Somewhere in that zone.

Have you been backing James a lot in terms of shooting? With this being a studio picture, have you been acting like a father figure to him?

I was an executive at Disney for 8 years before I, er, almost 8 years before I did it and so I really know the ins and outs of how to get a movie green lit, how to navigate the, Oh we want a re-write, oh we wanna do this, oh we wanna cast. I mean the process. It is what it is for better or for worse and so there was a lot of that going on before this movie started and that was where I could really help James because I could understand what was happening on the other side of the conference room and the table. So rather than going, Well I dont understand what theyre doing, I can say, Ok, heres whats happening, heres why theyre doing this. Heres what were gonna do...and that sort of thing.

On the set we have more time, hes surrounded by vastly more experienced people, you know, so in a weird way my job is diminished. Where on Saw we were in each others ear talking back and forth all the time by virtue of the fact, like, OK, well we have to have that piece. Lets give up this piece. I think well be OK here. Here, he's getting pretty much everything he wants. Yeah, occasionally I see some something Ill go, Why dont you have Amber try it that way, you know just to get an option, but other than that, hes got incredibly experienced DPs, hes surrounded by all the toys he wants, so that part of my job is different and then again once we sort of get into post and preview process and, you know, focus groups and things like that., then Ill sort of become the father figure again, but you know right now its, like, fly little robin, fly. Like, go be free, youre doing great.

So with the scoring of Saw; that was, I think half of the success of the film was how effective the score was. Now working with a bigger studio what direction are you taking with the score? Because as you were saying most horror films have either generic, stick to the formula, lets make the same kind of invisible score that plays out. I mean, what kind of approach is James taking?

I mean you should certainly talk to him about it. Certainly Universal needs to give us the final sign off, but we all want Charlie to come back and work with us again, although it wont certainly be that kind of score. The movie doesnt call for it. Theres a certain classicism? Classy? Whats the word Im looking for?


No, this movies an update of sort of a classic format or form of horror movie, so I think therell certainly be a lot of homage to that sort of thing. I think the thing is going to feel contemporary, but I think its going to feel very inspired by films that have come before it. The one thing I can say about James is I think in some ways, to me, hes almost more talented editorially and on the dub stage and with his composers than he is actually, you know, shooting. Its really remarkable to watch. Thats where the vision really takes shape.

How much of the film takes place in the location where we were yesterday, or where does most of the film take place?

Quite a bit. That mansion is..we shot in there for 8 days and its his parents house. Its the family house that he grew up in, that the fathers been in so its, you know, its the House of Usher.

OK, where does the money come from in his family?

Uh, they basically own the town. Its like a mill town.

A lot of the movie is a mystery, right, like who killed his wife? And he moves back to the town after she has been killed, right? What convinces him that the town holds all the answers to her murder?

Theres a town crazy woman that says something to him and that tips him off enough to get started. Its just one of those things, the wife and he are from there. Everythings kind of driven him back there and then theres one of those things where hes getting ready to get the hell out of there and somebody says something thats just enough to let him go, Hmm, maybe Ill just.., you know, and then the more he kind of peels the layers, the more he finds.

The cast that youve assembled are actually very talented, though no really big names stand out. Was that a conscious decision to pull unknowns, or did the studio push for getting a bigger name in there?

Mmm, Ryan was always a really top choice. Universals really liked Ryan for a long time. They tried to put him in several movies, but because of Summerland, he wasnt ever available. We saw the world of guys in their 20s, you know? You name him, if he was available, we probably saw him. I remember my partner, Mark Burg, and I were, in the casting session and Ryan came in and we both just kinda went like, Lets not go any further. You know, the studio really wanted to see everybody and make a choice. I mean, as we know I dont think that these movies are necessarily star driven. I can point to some high profile movies that havent done well in the genre in the last few months that both Star directors and actors.

I think its really more about people who understand it and get it and are willing to embrace it. Ryans willing to go there, Amber was, Amber, you know.Amber was an interesting thing. If you start thinking about someone who you could believe as Bob Guntons trophy wife, so it narrowed the age. It couldnt go really young; couldnt go too old; definitely wanted someone sexy; definitely wanted someone who could play a trophy wife and I had seen her in Hitch and I had thought she was great. And then Donnie and I worked on Saw II and we just had a great time together and he just brings something to everything. And so it was really just, again, more about putting together an ensembleI dont think these movies are star driven.

You think in some way that James is actually more of the attraction here, because of Saw?

I think people are curious to see what he wants to do. There was an article here in Canada that ran about 2 weeks ago after The Island tanked and the whole comment about it was, who really thinks that Michael Bay opens a movie, aside from people in boardrooms in Hollywood or people who write about it? I wish I had the answer to that because wed all be richer and never make bad movies and never make failures, you know. But its hard to say. I dont know. I certainly think that whats happened, especially with the DVD release itself of Saw, it expanded the people whove seen Saw far beyond the people who saw it in movie theatres.

I think there was a group of people who wouldnt normally go see it because they thought it was really graphic to have seen it. I've had people come up to me, taxi drivers, our transpo guys, people on the street who said, Oh, I saw it on DVD but when it first came out I never would have seen it. It looked way too bloody and gruesome and it really cool. Its a thriller. So I think theres an audience thats expanded beyond the hardcore. I think were being arrogant to say that James Wan is a household name in horror at this point. But I think theres a hardcore group of people who would wanna go see his movie, but again I think its about is this a compelling idea? Is it a cool idea? You know, are people gonna dig the vibe of this movie, and oh, by the way, its that guy who directed Saw. Its a long winded way of saying it.

Whats so scary about these dummies? When you read a script and you see dummies are in the movie, whats so scary about them?

Theyre creepy because theyre like quasi-alive. When we had the ventriloquist on-set and he was manipulating that dummy it was just bizarre, you know? Theres, something about it, like, if youre watching it do you watch the guy whos doing it, or do you watch the dummy? Do you find yourself talking to the dummy? You do you talk to the dummy and youre like, Why am I talking to the dummy? And these things become, like weirdly supernatural and stuff like that and thats why I think people think theyre creepy. I had my 4 year-old on the set and the ventriloquist saw him and came over with the dummy and he was like, Hi little boy, and hes still traumatized. Hes like, Daddy, daddy, please. I was like, Come to work with me, and hes like, Nuh-uh! Billys there! Billys there! I dont wanna see Billy. And, um, he still talks about it. It, like really tripped him out. So its obviously something primal.

How many different dummies do you have?

Well theres the main dude theres Billy, and then there's101 dolls, thats really only a shot that you see though. So theres 101, but, you know, Billys the main, the main one.

What sparked you about Silence? I mean, if you didnt know who wrote it, you didnt know who was associated with it and it comes across your desk, what is it, aside from of course Billy, that really grabs you and says this is the movie that Im interested in?

We were finishing up Saw, if it was a speck I dont know if I wouldve gone like, Wow, this is really, just like, whacked out., you know? I think we have to take the genre in another direction. I mean, if I had to say what compels us to make it, I think it behooves us, especially as this wave is.wherever we actually are in the wave... to try different things and to go outside of this 80s remake thing that seems to be going on. I like to take chances. Im glad Universal did too, because this thing isnt normal, any more than Saw was, so I think its like you gotta try. You gotta try. You gotta do this as opposed to just dust off a chestnut. You know, put some girls in and have em scream and throw some drums on the soundtrack. So I hope that kind of answers it.



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1:18PM on 01/23/2007

Its been a year...

...since that interview took place and yes the embargo just got lifted now.
...since that interview took place and yes the embargo just got lifted now.
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8:59AM on 01/23/2007

Great the hell?

Great interview, but how the hell are you interviewing Gregg Hoffman?.....he passsed away December 2005.

Can someone please explain? It seems like even if this is an embargoed interview, there is no way it could have been posted a year after it was given....what the hell?
Great interview, but how the hell are you interviewing Gregg Hoffman?.....he passsed away December 2005.

Can someone please explain? It seems like even if this is an embargoed interview, there is no way it could have been posted a year after it was given....what the hell?
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Please email me when someone replies to my comment
6:52AM on 01/23/2007

Isn't he dead?

If so, how can there be an interview with him? I really don't understand this.
If so, how can there be an interview with him? I really don't understand this.
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