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INT: Jeff Wadlow

Sep. 16, 2005by: The Arrow

Let's welcome writer/director Jeff Wadlow to our little horror family! You see, prior to CRY WOLF (which opens today), Jeff had never dabbled in the genre before, unless you count a children's animated film about Christmas (called Catching Kringle) as horror. I sure do! X-Mas...brrr. Jeff checked in the AITH/JoBlo.com Mart to talk about his new slasher, his "killer lion" script that's being made and more! Oh, and CLICK HERE to find out how he got the movie made (crazy story).

Jeff Wadlow

What’s your favorite horror movie?

In no particular order: JAWS, PSYCHO, HALLOWEEN, and SE7EN.  I love all four of those movies for very different reasons.  The one thing that they all have in common is that they get better each time you watch them.

Your prior writing/directing credits are far from the genre; what made you want to tackle a horror film for your first theatrical feature?

Because I love how a good horror movie can engage you on two levels:  a visceral, voyeuristic level and an active, intellectual level.  You’re scared out of your wits, but also wondering what’s going to happen next – and why.  We always tried to make our short films a multi-layered experience, and that’s exactly what we set out to do with CRY WOLF.

What was the initial creative spark that lit up in your mind to send you (and your writing partner Beau Bauman) to write the Cry Wolf screenplay?

It really started as a simple idea: a group of kids who lie for fun, or as Beau puts it “a recreational liar’s club.”  The next step was trying to figure out how their little pastime could get them into trouble. Naturally this started us thinking about “the boy who cried wolf,” and we realized we were basically concocting a modern-day re-telling of that fable (I’m a sucker for revisionist storytelling).

If that morality tale was going to be the template for our movie, we knew we needed a “wolf.”  Something frightening, evil, and anonymous... like a serial killer. So if the characters taunted a real killer by creating a fake legend and m.o., and then the real killer got pissed and decided to go after the liars by making the legend come true, no one would necessarily believe them because the public at large would assume it was just another lie... even though the lives of the main characters would be in real danger.

Although we wrote dozens of drafts, the final version still retains that original idea: no one believes a liar, even when he’s telling the truth.

You have a good cast on your hands: Gary Cole, Jon Bon Jovi, Linda Booth, Jared Padalecki…how tricky was the casting process?

Very. Thank God for our Casting Director, Fern Champion, who has experience with horror movies (FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise) and discovering new talent (she put Cameron Diaz in THE MASK).  Beau told her we wanted a group of kids that no one would believe were in the same movie thirty years from now... and I think she delivered.  From Lindy, to Jared, to the virtually un-known Julian Morris, I think people are going to be blown away by the authenticity of their performances in an otherwise surreal situation (how often does a guy in a ski mask chase you with a hunting knife?!?)

As far as our “adult” cast goes, I think it’s just another example of how established members of the entertainment industry were won over by the spirit of the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival and what we were trying to accomplish with such limited time and resources.  So many professionals, with no financial incentive to help out a struggling director and producer, did everything in their power to make our dreams come true.  Without their help, we never could have made the movie that we set out to make.

How extensive of a role does Jon Bon Jovi have in the film and does he belt out a tune at any point (hopefully “Like a Prayer”)?

Bon Jovi should totally cover that Madonna song.  Totally.

LOL...darnit... I meant "Living on a Prayer!"

All kidding aside, Jon was a pleasure to work with.  He’s a  really talented and smart guy who understands that there is nothing easy about making a movie.  While his part really isn’t that big, I will say that there are no characters in the film that don’t play a crucial role.  The story is kind of a jigsaw puzzle, and you need all the pieces to complete the picture.

How much money did you have in terms of budget and what would you say was the more arduous obstacle you encountered throughout the shoot?

The initial grant was for a million dollars, but if you add up all the resources that were donated, I’m sure the budget would be well over ten million.  Before we began shooting, one of our mentors at Universal told us that if they budgeted the movie, it would have been closer to twenty million.

What is the main difference between Cry Wolf and the latest batch of slashers (I Know What You Did last Summer, Urban Legend…)?

Don’t get me wrong – I really like those movies.  I think the first URBAN LEGEND is amazing.  But they were a part of a horror evolution that began with SCREAM and ended with SCARY MOVIE.  I think we’ve begun a new phase, that is more evocative of ‘70’s horror.  The films that work today feel more immediate.  They’re less about camp and more about tapping into our societal fears. Pick up any newspaper and you’ll see a headline about some sort of internet predator.  There are a lot of really sick and evil people out there, and we’ve given them unlimited access to our everyday lives.  It’s really pretty frightening.

Would you say that the kills in “Cry Wolf” are inventive or more straight forward? We genre fans want to know!

I think they’re fairly inventive, but never over the top.  You’ve got to remember, the characters “kill” each other by writing their own deaths in the viral email they send out to the world... the Wolf is simply following their instructions.

I was personally disappointed to hear that the film was snipped down from an R Rating to a Pg 13. How severe are the cuts and in your opinion how much of a difference do they make in terms of the film’s impact?

Yeah, I’ve followed some of the debate online about our rating, and I’ve avoided commenting on it up until this point, because the truth is, from a purely thematic stand-point, the movie came out exactly as intended and I doubted the naysayers would believe me (ironic, huh?).

As I mentioned above, CRY WOLF is a modern day re-telling of “the boy who cried wolf,” so we always intended to build paranoia and terror by playing on that fine line between truth and fiction.  If we showed you everything – put it all up on the screen – there would be no doubt about if and when the killer was actually attacking (and trust me, the killer does; it’s just a question of when and how). 

By leaving a little ambiguity, I believe we’ve created a far more terrifying situation, where our main character can’t tell the difference between when the Wolf has actually struck and when his supposed “friends” are just telling another lie.

Will there be in R Rated or Unrated cut of the film available when it lands on DVD?

Honestly, I’m not sure. You know how it goes these days...unless we’re talking about Peter Jackson, an extended, un-rated version usually means three seconds of new footage. I’m going to do everything in my power to make the DVD as cool as possible (we’re planning tons of bonus features), but at the end of the day, unless you make a multi-billion dollar trilogy that wins a ton of academy awards, you only have so much control over the process.

I did have control over the movie in theaters, I can tell you that it represents what we always intended – a movie that relies on more than just gore for scares.

Is the door left open for a “Cry Wolf 2”? And if feasible would you be interested in helming the sequel?

If you are talking about the kind of sequel that just drops the villain in the middle of a new cast or tries to string out a narrative based on an ambiguous ending (insert “hand popping out of the grave” joke), the answer is “no.”  We always intended to deliver a completely satisfying conclusion, and I think we pulled it off... but you’ll have to be the judge.

If you mean some kind of revisionist sequel that evolves and elevates the original concept, like ALIENS or T2, then the answer is “sure, I’d totally be game for directing a sequel.” But only if James Cameron Doesn’t want the job.

"What's your take on the AMAZING SUCCESS of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" over the past weekend”?

No one can say that the horror craze is over.  If anything, it validates why we made this movie – audiences want films that work on both a visceral and intellectual level.

How important do you think the Internet is in marketing a film like Cry Wolf these days?"

Vital.  We made our movie for movie fans, and that’s the best way to reach them.  I can’t tell you how cool it is that I get random IM’s from people who’ve put me on their buddy list because they got my AIM ID from my blog.  And then when I sign on to play the game (www.crywolfgame.com), they recognize me and vote me off immediately.  Okay, that last part kind of sucks... I would probably get to play longer if I came up with something more creative than “wadlowwolf.”

Your “killer lions” screenplay “PREY” (which you wrote with Beau Bauman and Darrell Roodt) is presently in production; how much input do you have in the film at this point if any?

As I mentioned above, one of my favorite movies (and Beau’s) is JAWS, so when we read Darrell Roodt’s first draft of PREY we got really excited.  Darrell is an Academy Award nominated filmmaker, and his affection for South Africa is not dissimilar from my feelings for Virginia (where we shot CRY WOLF and I was born and raised), so we hit if off immediately.

He was getting ready to shoot the film, and needed some fresh eyes for the script.  Beau and I were more than happy to take off our “production hats,” and be purely creative.  By batting the screenplay back and forth with Darrell, I think we were able to hone a truly terrifying screenplay.

Although I love the final script, we wrote some really difficult and dangerous scenes that involve real lions, so I am quite happy to say we’ve had absolutely nothing to do with the production.  Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from Darrell in weeks... we should probably make sure he’s okay...

How is it looking thus far? Anything you wish to share with us about the picture?

Just that I am incredibly grateful for all the help we’ve received.  Although I won the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival, CRY WOLF could not have been made without the extreme generosity of our supporters.  I will never forget how fortunate I’ve been, and hope I have the opportunity to return the favor in spades.

In fact, we’ve already begun that process.  If anyone reading this lives in the South East, Beau and I will be hosting the second annual Adrenaline Project, which is a 72 hour short film workshop where participants are mentored through writing, shooting, and editing a short film that is screened at the Virginia Film Festival for an audience of hundreds. You can get all the info. at www.vafilm.com at the end of the month.

What’s next on your plate as a director?

I’d love to keep making smart and fun movies.  We’ve got a bunch of ideas brewing, but a lot will be determined by how well CRY WOLF does.

What was the first drink that you consumed at the “Cry Wolf” wrap party?

I was too tired that night to remember. And by “tired” I mean “drunk.”

What are the three words or sentences you hope audience members will utter when leaving Cry Wolf?

Very cool ending.

I'd like to thank Jeff for popping by the site and wish him the best with CRY WOLF. I'm going to check it out this weekend. Let's see if it's something to cry about!

Check out the OFFICIAL CRY_WOLF WEBSITE here

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