INT: Amber Tamblyn

Set Visit Intro / director Takashi Shimizu / Edison Chen / Amber Tamblyn / Takako Fuji

You may remember young hottie Amber Tamblyn from her cult TV show "Joan of Arcadia" and as the opening victim in THE RING (remake). Now you'll know her as the lead in the upcoming THE GRUDGE 2 (hitting the screens on October 13, 2006). A bunch of us lowly journalists had the chance to chit-chat with the smart beyond-her-years and charming actress on The Grudge 2 set in Japan, and here are the beans that she spilled.

Amber Tamblyn

You made an impression in Ring, and now you're in another Hollywood version of a Japanese horror movie. Difference in working on the two?

Well, first of all, the major difference was that the Ring was a very small part. It was just an opener. And obviously ... On this film, we have Shimizu-san, who was the originator of all of these films. There's an American aspect of this film, of having Sam Raimi behind it. And The Ring was directed by Gore Verbinski, and we have two completely different styles.

How they see things, horror-wise. So, um, I don't know. I'm trying to remember. To be honest, I had seen Ringu long before I had even done the Ring. So I knew about them. And when I originally read the script for it, I thought it was really silly. ... And when I went and auditioned for it, ... I think what I'm trying to say is, when I saw that film, I never realized how terrifying it really was until I saw it on the big screen at the premiere. I was like, whoa, this is really scary. I mean, even when I was shooting it.

So ... I don't know. There is a major difference. I think with ... Obviously with what gets lost in translation with working with a Japanese crew and set and working in America. Even though you're ... remaking a horror film that is very big in Japan, there is a difference as far as the actual working on set experience. Trying to communicate things. Or things that you normally take for granted that you never think about, like asking the cameraman if he wants you to stand on your mark so he can ... check focus. Things like which you generally just do without even thinking about it? Now I have to be like, Help!

Sarah Michelle Gellar told us it took a while to get Shimizu san to say Action! because in the Japanese cinema they just go.

It's just certain words. ... Like, when they say Re-Set, that means going on to the next shot. So they'll say, "OK, we're going to re-set now." And ... The literal translation of re-set is that you are ... doing it over again. ... So that for me I'm always like, "OK, we're going to do it again." And then Chiho, the translator is, "No, no, no, we're going to the next shot." It's like, "Oh, OK." I always forget that.

But, uh, it's really funny. It's definitely not I would say an experience for an actor that needs their ego catered to. Because there's no room to be careful with what you say around actors. Which I think is so amazing. Shimizu-san will come to me and he'll say: "That was good, but for some reason, the rehearsal was better." And I love that. Because ... it's that simple to explain something to you. That for some reason, ... what he saw looked better. Whereas, in America, you'll have a director who ... will take 45 minutes to explain what they mean.

Any scenes with Kayako yet?

Yeah, I have. ... It was very interesting for me to watch her work. She's ... It's like amazing to see someone be able to move their body the way she that she does physically. So it was really interesting. She's a really sweet girl. And we talk about fashion a lot. And she actually brought me this Japanese magazine that had this whole article on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. And I didn't understand anything.

I guess the movie here was called Sixteen. And I couldn't understand anything. It was like written in Japanese. But right in the middle, it said "boy." And I'm like, "Why does it say boy on this page?" I had no idea. So I took it to somebody and they translated, and they said that that I drive boys crazy. That's what the article said. I don't know what that had to do with the movie. But, anyway, she brought that to me, and, yeah, it's just been really interesting to see how different things are. Comparatively.

Are you a fan of Japanese horror?

I think I've seen a good amount of it. Probably not all of it. Like, I'm a huge fan of like Damon, like the demon, which is a great film. ... which is actually something that Shimizu-san and I talked about when I first got here, because that was a film that he told me to watch, but I had already seen it. That affected him as a child. That he saw that around the same age as the little boy in the film. And so it was, we were talking about things that were traumatic. And also Shimizu-san was a really big, huge fan, of The Haunting, which my dad was in. So when my dad came, he was sort of like, [mimes fumbling with pockets]... doing all of this with his pockets, it was really cute.

Your father shot one of the most well-regarded giant monster films here?

Yeah. War of the Gargantuas. Yeah, and he shot on Toho Studios.

Any Japan stories?

He just loved it here. This is his fourth trip to Japan. He really loved it, although this time it was a little different, because when they came in, they got in an accident on the way in from the airport, which was like a really bizarre experience. My mother, who had never been here before, was a little traumatized by that. But besides that, he loves Japan. And I told him, ... that they were really excited, because of War of the Gargantuas, it's like a huge film here.

And ... I think they're filming like another Godzilla, so every once in a while I'll be sitting outside to get some sun at lunch, and like between the two buildings, the two studio buildings, I'll just see this like giant thing being like pulled by eight men, this giant like Godzilla like going through between buildings.

Plot? Your character's relationship with her sister?

I think ... Aubrey obviously plays Karen's, Sarah Michelle Gellar's, younger sister. And, um, she's sort of always been the underdog in the family and somebody who is not as ambitious or driven as her sister, as Karen's character, so she's sort of always felt like she's had to follow in her sister's footsteps. And even her mother sending her to Japan to figure out what happened to her ... sister--she wants her to figure out where she went and what happened and all this stuff about fire.

I think she's even nervous about that, because it's the first time she's ever had to go experience something on her own, and it's something that scares her, because she doesn't know anything about it, and she's really alone in the whole scheme of things. So it's really, like, this huge step for Aubrey trying to figure out where she is in her family's life and in regard with her sister, her relationship with her sister, and she goes in a lot more tentatively, I think, you know with her experiences with the ghost and going to the house. I mean, she's really the last one to go to the house and have a horrific experience with it. She's sort of the soft lamb, I would say, the character is.

Talked with Sarah Michelle Gellar about her experiences living and working in Tokyo?

No, actually, Sarah's coming next week. But I've been told she's got some advice for me, so I don't know what that'll do at this point. I've had to learn it the hard way (laughs).

What's it been like to be here?

It's been amazing. I'm actually extending my stay 15 days past wrap so that I can travel. I'd probably move here if I could.

Why's that?

Why would I move here? I love the culture. I think it's just a beautiful country.

Have you learned the language?

You know what's interesting? I actually just took my parents to Kamakura, and like there was a guy sitting behind us in the bus, and I was understanding what he was saying. It was kind of freaking me out a little bit. He was talking about a small village and where it was. ... Like, I can understand general grammatical structuring and like ... a few words, and I can just piece it together. ... Like, if you really pay attention, I think it only takes you like two months to start to figure out what people are saying a little bit.

SMG told us that as she learned Japanese, they'd move away...

That's very interesting. Yeah, I sometimes now, even with Shimizu-san, like, he'll say something, and I'll recognize a word. So like if he's making a joke, I'll kind of understand it. And so Chiho will pout. She'll like, fine, "Nobody needs me. Forget it."

What's your relationship with Shimizu? How do you communicate? What's it like working with a non English speaking director?

Well, I think that the only challenge. ... First of all, I should say that I think he's one of the most remarkable human beings I've ever worked with. He's just got such a great sense of humor. And he's very sweet and very open in explaining things to you beforehand. And I just ... really admire that quality. And I kind of wonder where such a dark side can come out of a person. ... He's got this kind of David Lynch thing. Because David Lynch has this [mimics Lynch's voice] really squeaky voice, and he's really nice when he talks. And then, his movies, "What happened in your childhood?"

But I think that Shimizu-san and I have, ... we have a great working relationship because we're able to even each other out in certain aspects. Like, for instance, things that I feel might be too over dramatic, which is typical of sometimes Japanese films to be more expressive physically, and with sighing or just general body language things, I can pull back and tell him why I think it should be this way. Or even with your language. Things are very written out grammatically, the way things are written out, and we can talk about it, and say, "Well, you know, I think you can run these few sentences together just to make it look more realistic when she's talking." That was an example of the scene we were doing today. We did that. So I ... That's what's great. He's really open about that, too. Whenever you want to suggest something or say, "Well, I see it this way." Or "my experience has given me this," he's very open to it, and ten times out of ten, he's all about it. He's for it. So.

When you read the script for the Ring, you said you found it kind of silly. What appealed to you about Grudge? And have you noticed trend of TV actors moving into horror?

The first thing was, obviously, the fact that Shimizu-san was going this film again. And because it's something that he created, I think that he really has no choice but to make it the absolute best thing that he can, because it's really his neck on the line. It's really his baby. And I think you couple that with, like I said, Sam Raimi, who's such a legend as far as American film is concerned and otherwise. To me, that seemed like a really, really incredible match team to put together. Script was really sold when I read it. So I think ... it's a double-edged sword, too, because not only is it a remake of a Japanese film, but it's also a sequel, which is twice as scary. But I think at the same time, it makes people work on this end twice as hard to make it the best film that we can possibly can to put out.

Because I've already heard people saying that ... it's going to be better than the first one, but, I mean, that could be just producer talk floating around the studio. ... From what I've heard, it's coming together really, really well. So ... And, you know, it's all about like making leaps. Like, when I did Sisterhood, for me, that film could have been terrifying, because it could have been this like sweet little syrup teeny bopper film, and I really felt like it carried a lot of weight for young women and didn't marginalize them. And that to me was a risk in its own mainstream level. So no matter what you do I think you're risking something at a certain level. But I'm definitely proud to be working with these people in specific. I feel like I'm in really good hands.

Raimi come over?

He's doing Spider-Man, yeah. He has not come over. We've all spoken to him via satellite communications or whatever it may be, get your notes from him from an alternate universe. I think he's getting everything, absolutely.

He cast you?

Yeah, he was a part of it. It was Sam Raimi, and it was everybody at Mandate, Nathan Kahane at Mandate, and Sony.

Takes more as an American to scare you?

No, I think it's gotta be less. That's just my ... I think every great sequel, ... like here's a classic example for me, ... I don't if you guys are film buffs and you're going to hiss at me right now, but the sequel to Alien I thought was really good. And really well edited and put together. ... I say that because ... You were expecting things flying out of walls and being this tumultuous thing the whole way through the film, but in reality they were just building you up continuously, and I love when that's done in a film. I think that's the best part of it. ... is to through little pieces. And that's why the Ring works so well, because you were throwing little pieces in there. ...

It's like bait to the shark. And eventually, you get swallowed up, I guess. This film has a lot of that. But what's interesting about it is that it's a lot ... smaller disperses of it throughout the entire film. Until you get to the end. And there's definitely a grand secret that they're going to deliver to everybody that is completely different than the sequel to Ju-On. So it should be interesting. I think they're very aware of that, too, that because you're working with ... This isn't really a thriller. This is a film about ghosts and about haunting and about things like that, so there's a thin line that you thread with violence, and keeping people interested and scared throughout and hour and a half or two hour period.

Do you believe in ghosts?

No. ... I think after you die, your brain shuts off, and that's it.

What look for in a director?

I think, with the experience that I had on Joan of Arcadia, and with being in every medium from theater to daytime to primetime to film, the most important thing that I've found is when you have a director who knows exactly what they want from every scene, from every shot, and if you ... I love being in the position of having a suggestion for something, and they go, "No. It's this way." And you go, "Cool." Like, totally get it. You know, where they have such a vision of how they want something to be that they're driven by that. Not to say that they're not open, but there just is a real drive for a vision. I think that is so incredibly important. And that's the way it is with Shimizu-san. I mean, he's got storyboards and shot lists and playing with little figures and like figuring out where he wants [things].

I mean, everything. He's got everything covered, and it makes you feel as an actor, it makes you feel really comfortable to then be explorative and be able to move within scenes and make them your own and sort of not feel like you're afraid people don't know what they're doing or anything like that. Because I've been in that position, and it's really horrible. It's like the worst thing possible for an actor, is to feel like people are just sort of guessing what they're doing.... And I think also just ... there's also this amazing thing about Shimizu-san, is that he can just be really ... at any second, he can just like think of a new shot to add or a new scare or something, it will just like come to him at the moment. So he can go either way. He's ... he's really fluid like that and sort of loose and easygoing and open to everything. It's definitely a nice treat.

Back to series television?

I don't think so. It's an ambiguous question that would get an ambiguous answer.

Ever write a screenplay yourself?

I think that could be in my near future at some point. There's a few things that I've been exploring and thinking about. It's just, to be honest, like finding the time. Which kind of sucks.

Disappointed when Joan of Arcadia ended, or because you have a movie career, not so much?

I think everybody was just disappointed, because it was a great show and we especially were disappointed because it had a great cast and a great crew, and it was a rare situation where everybody seriously got along so well. It'll be just like God, it'll be one of the great mysteries.

SMG had a boyfriend in the first movie. Does your character?

She comes alone.

Love interest in the film?

Not really. Which I'm really glad that they decided not to do that. Because love and horror don't mix. It really pisses me off every time I see it. I mean, there's a little bit of that with Eason, Edison, but not to a degree where it's distracting. I think Aubrey should have a love interest with Kayako. That would be the ... weird ... fraternizing with the enemy.

What's next?

I'm doing a film called Normal Adolescent Behavior, which is sort of like a Carnal Knowledge for teenagers. A study of MySpace and sexuality and young kids and what exactly monogamy is to them. and relationships. First time writer director. Her name is Beth Schachter. Brad Wyman is producing the film at New Line.

What do you think the film is about?

I think that they're about the dark side of human nature. I don't know. They could be about ghosts, too. To each their own. I think everybody takes a piece of it. But just like I said that Shimizu-san told me he was affected by that film Demon, and, you know, about this young kid who has to live with the devil of a stepmother. I think that there is ... a huge undercurrent in all of these films with domestic violence as well. In fact, there was a whole sequence ... Did he like release a director's cut of the first one? So I didn't see that. Did it show the scene where Takeo is like beating the crap out of Kayako? OK, that was a scene that they shot and apparently they were not allowed to release it because it's not PG-13, because of domestic violence.

And that was like a really crazy thing to watch. But when you watch a thing like that, it's really interesting to think about how you as human beings can almost take on a ghostly affect, or your spirit can take on a ghostly affect, if you have gone through any traumatic experiences like that, whether it be any kind of abuse on any scale. So I think you're talking about real human nature, but you are emphasizing the unknown about it: What it does to your psyche and your brain and those areas. And so that's what make it really scary, the idea that someone who can go through such a terrifying violence that we can identify with, like domestic violence or whatever--not personally identify with it, but we know what it is--and then they themselves can go on and do a violence against you as an audience member, which is to terrify you. So it's almost like you are second-hand experiencing what they are going through. I don't know, that's the way that I see it. I see these films being a commentary on what we as humans, what violence does to us.

What affected you?

The Haunting. That was like, that movie still to this day really terrifies me. Rosemary's Baby, probably one of the most brilliant. ... The first time ever that I had really started studying the editing and the way that people shot horror films. And like the first time I had ever started to think about what makes a film scary. Going from like huge wide shots of an empty room into tights of Mia Farrow's face, so that you feel isolated and things like that. It's just really interesting, the psychological trip that horror films take you on. Way more than thrillers. Way more than most films. Interesting.

Your family is here with you in Tokyo?

Yeah, my mom and my dad are both here, and they're here for another week. They've been here for a week already. Yeah, it is nice. It's good.

Give your dad a cameo?

(laughs) That's what they've been talking about. I've been trying to get Shimizu-san to bust an Alfred Hitchcock in his own films. Just a shadow somewhere. Pop up in a screen. I don't know. Maybe he could just show up like a Miyazaki character, like some little like wood nymph on a tree somewhere, just like tiny in the background, just perched there and you won't know what it is. I don't know. We'll see what shows up.

Anybody in the future you'd like to work with?

I think David Lynch. Yeah, my dad got to work with him. And I'm extremely jealous. So that would be a real honorable moment for me.

You got to meet him at least?

Uh-huh. But I was like seven, so I don't even think I knew who he was. I was like, "Oh, he's got a funny voice."

Thanks to Amber for this compelling interview. Kick that ass in Grudge 2!




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