Set Visit: Final Destination (3/3)

by Ammon Gilbert

My trip to Vancouver to visit the set of FINAL DESTINATION 3 really was the ride of my life-- I met some awesome people, got to check out some cool ass sets, and to a way lesser degree, I got to feel what it was like to be a movie star- minus the money, the hot chicks, the money and even more hot chicks... Speaking of stars, I got to talk to the two main leads (Ryan Merriman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead) for FD3 about their roles in the film, as well as more from director James Wong, writer Glen Morgan and producer Craig Perry. Everyone was super cool and way nice, and they had a lot to talk about! If you haven't read the first sections of my set visit, CLICK HERE for my original set report or CLICK HERE for my first interview with the director, writer and producer of the film.

NOTE: This interview also features 4 more "first look" pictures from the film. Click to see them enlarged.

Who do you play in FD3?

MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD (MEW): I play Wendy, and she gets on a roller coaster with her friends, and has premonitions of watching it crash.

CRAIG PERRY (CP): She’s the lead.

Were you familiar with the first two films?

MEW: Yes, very familiar. I had seen the first one a few times, and I actually remember auditioning for the second one, but I was a little too young for at that time I think, but I really got into it that time as well, and watched the first one again and everything . I was very excited, you know, that they were doing a third one- my second chance!

How old are you?

MEW: I’m 20.

Are you from Vancouver?

MEW: No, actually I’m originally from North Carolina, and I grew up in Salt Lake City, and started going to L.A. for auditions. I’ve been all over the map.

What did you bring from your experience of watching the first two films to this one, or did you kind of just start from scratch?

MEW: I sort of started from scratch., I don’t want to look at the other films, and the other characters who had the same sort of premonitions and a similar story and try and be like ‘how did they do it?’, and do it similarly- I don’t want to get in that rut. So I just try to start from scratch. It helped seeing the other two as far as knowing the feel of the film- how it’s going to go, and what it’s going to feel like. But as far as the acting goes, I try not to think about it.

We talked to Glen a little bit about the thematic subtext of the film, but what do you think is going on as far as the story of your character and her journey?

MEW: I think that to me, what drives her whole character and her whole motivation is the loss that she has in the beginning- her boyfriend dies on the roller coaster, and it’s kind of what drives her and what motivates her- the pain that she feels from that, and her trying to overcome that and she makes something positive come out of it. That’s the way I see it.

Glen says that these films are a lot about not being able to control the inevitability of these things- can you talk about that?

MEW: Wendy is sort of the control freak, so that’s a big part of her character, is that loss of control and that fear of losing control. And trying to except that control, and try and regain it at the same time. I think that’s a big part of who she is.

Ryan Merriman enters...

Who do you play in the movie?

RYAN MERRIMAN (RM): I play Kevin- it’s my girlfriend and my best friend, along with her boyfriend and her best friend that initially crash in the beginning, so we kind of both end up getting in this wild ride together, and also because of the fact that she has this vision- which brings us together, and we solve it.

Can you talk about some of the stunts and the types of weird things you get to do in this film?

MEW: I’m excited to get started with it. I don’t know how much we can really say- but I really don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’ve never done something like this before, I’ve never done elaborate death sequences or gruesome anything with blood splatter…

GLEN MORGAN (GM): We take advantage of that, we go ‘yeah yeah yeah, really big actors stick their head in the fan…’ (haha)

RM: It’s cool, it adds a whole other element to doing the scenes. Something blows up, and this happens, and horses flying and posts are going and killing- it’s just, it’s really cool – it makes it more realistic if you’re really worried about ‘Ok, I got to hit this mark, then this is gonna blow up, and that’s gonna fly by me…’ it’s all planed out, but it makes it that more realistic. There’s no ‘oh, this is gonna be easy’ .

You’re no in a green room with nothing in there with you then?

MEW: Well, a little bit of that, but not that much.

GM: Well, even in the big green room there’ll be stuff going on.

RM: First day out and there’s a safety meeting, you know you’re going to be in for some shit.

What’s the biggest thing you’re going to have to do?

RM: Well, I think the end sequence is gonna be pretty tight…

MEW: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking in my head was the whole fire works… There’s a scene where there’s going to be so much stuff happening all at once. Basically, it’s gonna be a huge, huge deal. We’re already working it out with the stunts.

RM: Instead of deaths plan being a little thing, it’s like a bunch of big things going off all at once. It’s like the final climax.

GM: The thing with both movies, that was always a tough part- the first sequences really worked well and by the third act it didn’t live up to what happened in the first 10 minutes, and this has so much shit going on…

Without giving it away, are there elements of crashes, vehicles, fire, water, what?

CP: Yes. (haha) All the elements are involved. And a horse.

RM: But it’s also counterbalanced by good scenes. It’s not just a thriller/action/teen whatever, it’s great writing and it really flows. There’s some really good dramatic stuff, it’s just really well rounded I think personally. I don’t think it’s just about Death and Death’s plan. It’s got a reality to it, like this could be really happening.

CP: And for me too, when we had our first read through, I was surprised at how legitimately funny it was. The characters are funny, the situations have that sort of dark humor that we’re very glad we have these guys to investigate it, but the characters themselves are very specific and they all have the capacity to be funny in their own way and that really comes out. I think in any horror movie, the last thing you want to do is have one character be a durge, one character be morose, so I think the colors and the pallets they all share is really fun.

Is there stuff in this one like the bus-hit from FD?

GM: I hope so. You’ll have to see it when it’s all over. Jim and I searched high and low for something else like it. I think that a bus is one of the only things in life that we come across that has speed and mass that you can just step out… A firetruck has a siren for warning, and I think we’ve come up with something, it’s just that that was… uh, it was kinda easy.

CP: It was also just a by product of pacing. These guy’s had paced out so that not every death is the same, and in everything death there was a different way to get to it, and that’s just good filmmaking. So you’re not doing the same note over and over and over again.

Has making this movie made you more aware of how lethal everything you encounter in everyday life can be?

MEW: You think about it a little bit more, but….

GM: You’re a little more cautious buying drinks at the bar…

RM: I was actually bench pressing the other day, I was working out, and my hands were kind of sweaty, and I thought ‘Shit man, if this fell on my head I would die really quick’. There was nobody else in there so I just kind of racked it and went to the isometric machine… (haha) But other than that, no I don’t walk around scared or anything…

CP: You will. By the end of the movie, you will.

MEW: In the beginning we’re trying to stall and not get too crazy in our heads, trying to keep our sanity.

RM: And also, I mean up to this point, it’s kinda cool because, and I know it’s very unusual, but we are shooting the beginning of the movie at the beginning of our shoot, which hardly ever happens. So really it’s not to that point yet… but I’m sure it gets there.

CP: But I will say, one of the pleasant surprises was, as Glen was saying, it was very hard to come up with new places, we have a sequence that is what is extensively a Home Improvement-type store, which is one of the most terrifying places. I mean, you go in there and there are three story high rafters with all kinds of things that could fall and maim and gouge and spike you and… I won’t tell you what happens there, but….

GM: I think you just did…

CP: Well, those are the things that could happen there. The next time you actually go into one of those places just look up, and you’ll see ‘No good is happening here.’ And they brought that to the film, and I was like ‘Yes, they brought in a cool place for a lot of scary shit to happen!’

GM: I was in the home improvement store on Sunset Blvd. for 3 or 4 days in a row for 3 hours a day, walking through those shelves going like ‘there’s some hydrochloric acid…’ and seeing all the sawblades they had there, and asking myself ‘could that kill ya..’ and never once did anyone come up to me there and go ‘what the hell are you doing?’ (haha) Homeland security, come and get me, you know.

Glen, how much of these deaths reflects your own personal anxieties about death?

GM: This one has a sequence at a drive-thru restaurant, and I’ve been in that position before. My wife Krisin actually, I said we’re gonna do FINAL DESTINATION 3, and there’s a roller coaster, and she said a tanning bed. And I had never done that before, she’s claustrophobic, so I went down to check it out, and I was like ‘yep, absolutely…’. Not initially, but when you go through it, and you do the research on the home improvement store…. now I can’t wait to get the hell outta there.

I try to find the scary things. You’d be surprised at how much the audience comes up to us and says ‘when I get on a plane, I looked to see if the paint is chipped on the side of the plane’ and you think that’s your own thing… and I guess we share a lot more in common.

RM: Yeah, and I think that’s why they do so well, the fact that some demon from the dead with a knife, or some guy with a chainsaw, it’s like realistic things that could actually happen. You hear about those weird things like a truck’s driving with telephone poles and the one thing breaks loose and decapitates someone, and you think on the news ‘how the hell did that happen?’

You know what I mean, and that’s what’s cool because, even when I was reading the script, I was like, ‘whoa and this happens and this triggers this and…’ and I think that’s what the audience is going to do, they’re going to be like ‘what’s happening next’. And when it does happen it’s like ‘holy shit man!’. It’s just cool.

GM: You guys asked earlier why a third one, and for Craig and Jim and I, it’s these guys. The whole cast, they bring an enthusiasm. We filmed the first week outside at the amusement park from 6 at night until 6 in the morning, it was raining, and it was cold, and it was supposed to be June, and they’re walking around in T-shirts and shorts without a complaint. They’re enthusiasm makes you feel ‘I don’t want to let these guys down’… I’m so sincere, you can get so cynical about it.

How is that, filming in the cold when it’s supposed to be summer?

MEW: You know, it’s kind of the norm when you’re filming in Vancouver… I’ve done that before. You know, you’re supposed to be in the Bahamas, and you’re in Vancouver in the middle of the night, trying to pretend it’s not raining. It’s just what you got to do, you love it so much that you don’t even think about it, you just do it, it’s your job. I don’t even think to complain, I’m so happy to be working on this project.

RM: You see so many young actors, you know, whatever, you get… it’s kind of humbling when you don’t have a job. No matter how many things you book, you’re always like ‘am I gonna work … when’s the next job’, because you don’t think about your next job until you’ve booked it.

So I just think, I remember if it is 3 in the morning, and I am cold, and I’m pissed off, I just think I could be sitting at home, not working on this awesome movie, with all these people. You gotta appreciate every moment- on a serious note, you know what I mean? That’s the sincerity of it.

Glen, this time around, were you able to do things in this film that you weren’t able to in the first one?

GM: New Line is a great place to make a movie. Jim and I were like in a way, weren’t that inhibited. For the first one, our agents said ‘go have that meeting’ and then we said, ‘the only way we do this is that we don’t see death’, and we’re stunned when they go ‘great!’. I was shocked by that. But then you go ‘wow, this is the place that gets it’. They’re not going to turn this into a musical or something…

CP: But it’s also safe to say that the point of interest- they agreed with the first draft. First draft came in, we were on our way. Well…. the tweaks came later, but we got funded to start prepping the material…

GM: Plus, 3 times a charm, so what can they say? It’s a great place to make a movie, they trust you, like all the time we were working on THE X-FILES, we were working with the studio, and they shove stuff on you, and you go ‘why did you hire me? You looked at what we did, and then you hired me, and now you want me to do that.’ Where New Line goes ‘hey I want it this way’ and you go ‘No, it’s scarier like this’, they go ‘oh, ok, I get it…’.

How mindful are you of relinquishing control of this series should it continue, do you worry about your involvement if there turns out to be like 9 sequels?

GM: People could look at this as like a Jim and Glen thing, I don’t look at it that way. Craig’s the guy who’s been a Shepard through all 3, it’s a collaborative process. It’s New Line’s property and it means a lot to them…

CP: I would also argue that you have to earn it. If the third one doesn’t work, then there won’t be a fourth one. If we do our jobs, as we feel that we’re doing, and the movie turns out as well as we think it’s gonna turn out, then we earned the right to even talk about it. But until then, usually, you have to justify there being a fourth time around.

I can’t imagine, that even with the expectations with the bar set by one and two and now the highest level three, if it doesn’t work, they’re not going to do the 5 million dollar knock off, you can’t do it. You go ‘oh it takes place in a bingo parlor, why…’!

RM: This is the first project that I’ve ever been on that they let you know that the heads of New Line are coming in, and when they come in they’re like ‘hey, what’s up guys! Good to have ya on set buddy! Yeah, cool, everything looks great!’.

They’re not worried because they know that these guys are like a well oiled machine, everybody knows what they’re doing. There’s no pressure because they know these guys know what they’re doing, which makes our job easier because whenever they write it, there’s no question as to what’s gonna happen. It all makes sense.

CP: And it’s approachability. There’s always a dialog between takes.

How do you two (MEW & RM) feel about the idea of watching your death on screen?

RM: I died in RING TWO, and I died in THE COLT…

MEW: Oh yeah, you had a pretty graphic death in THE RING TWO.

RM: Yeah, I’ve only died twice before. But whatever, I don’t know, it’s kind of cool, you know.

MEW: I don’t have any worries about it, I’m just so excited about the whole process, I’m so excited to see everything and how it’s put together, so there’s no fears as to how it’s gonna look. I just know it’s going to be awesome. I just have no worries about anything.

Ryan, you were in RINGS, are you aware that that’s actually getting better reviews than THE RING TWO?

RM: Yes, I am aware of that. You know, when I read it, I thought it was so cool. It kind of touches on this type of movie, where it plays into the reality of death. Where in RINGS, it takes this whole scenario of taking the third person and say ‘ok, if someone’s going to die in 7 days, what would happen’.

They were talking about it in Variety on how it was a work of art, and how it’s on the top ten must see things. And you know what, I’m blessing my ass, I’m glad it’s doing good. We shot that in 7days with this guy from New York with handcranks and stuff. It was supposed to be a filler, but it’s turned into this whole other thing.

Do you worry about getting type-cast in horror?

RM: No, not at all, you know, I mean, there’s so many scripts out there that make no sense… You know what, I think that it’s fun because anybody can play the guy who’s the boyfriend who gets the girl in the end, and this stuff is so challenging… if you do it right. If you’re overdramatic about it… but if you do it right, horror films are really a test to any actor.

You’re taking unrealistic situations, and making them realistic. You’re dealing with the action, you’re dealing with not only hitting your mark and doing the lines, but also other people to try and portray a whole story. In horror films, there’s always that underlying thing. I think everybody has a plan, and this is my path.

Was RINGS a deciding factor in casting Ryan?

CP: Really, it was about hiring all the best people. We were blessed by the studio to have the freedom to hire the people who did the best job, and he came in and did the best job, and then we looked at his resume, and was like ‘Oh this is cool, what an extra bonus’.

GM: We read a lot of people. Jim and I wanted an intelligent cast who are talented. You can come in, and maybe I’m old, but in the movie we make a reference to THE WHO’S NEXT album cover, with Not To Be Taken Away was evidence to the premonition to the photography. 75% of the 200 guys we read had no idea. Our cast, you can just tell that when they came into the audition that they get the whole thing, they’re with it, they’re going for the beats that you’re after.

Your cast looks like they could be real people, why not cast the Elisha Cuthbert’s of the world to be in this?

CP: That’s very acute of you to say. The main things that we were looking for were people that you felt like you could know. I don’t know anyone like Elisha Cuthbert, she’s so hot, I don’t know anyone like that. Mary and Ryan are hot too, but I feel that you could talk to them, you can talk to Ryan, you can actually go out and have a beer with them, whereas Elisha is so ridiculously beautiful that I don’t know if I know anybody like that. I’ve only seen people like that on magazines, and they don’t seem real.

RM: I started when I was 13 or 14, and I’ve worked with a lot of actresses, and Mary’s by far one of the most realistic, she’s on target, she challenges me, and she’s the best actress I’ve work with, especially in my age category. I’ve told her that from day one, I’ve told these guys here in rehearsal, she’s good man, she’s really good.

The Elisha Cuthbert’s, I mean it’s true, you get on set, and you’re working with them, it takes away from your performance because you’re trying to make it better because you’re having to compensate. And with Mary, it’s like, I’m just trying to catch up.

GM: Yeah, this cast I think is a group of talented and smart people and you can be like ‘hey, that’s me, those are my friends’ and you can go through this experience believing.

CP: It’s rapidly set up this way. In the first 10 minutes, you get set and locked into identifying your own character, and then you’re on for the ride… no pun intended…

RM: What’s also cool is that although you try and make your character have their variables, right? In this, there’s the beginning, the accident, the whole rest of the movie, so it’s nice because you can really play it up. I’ve met people who’s mother’s just died and it’s devastating, but it’s cool because you also have that in the film, right? Not necessarily while you’re shooting the whole 3 months, but once you see the film, you get to play sort of like 2 different characters. Pre death, after death…

MEW: It’s a big contrast. You get to see the change between the two characters.

How does your character change?

MEW: Even in the beginning she’s sort of a serious, intelligent, grounded person- she’s much more lighthearted and fun and everything. But once her boyfriend is killed, it just sort of turns her whole world upside down, and she doesn’t really have time to have fun, and all those petty high school things. Everything is so petty once you realize that there’s imminent death. She just kind of changes her mind a lot, definitely.

You both were in THE RING TWO, what’s the difference between making a horror movie like that, and a lighter toned, more fun movie like this?

MEW: You have to play the reality of it to me. I don’t really see this as a lighter toned horror movie. For me, I have to play as if this is all really happening and that this is serious. The small character that I played in THE RING TWO was an insane woman in a mental institution, so it’s a different character, but I approach it the same way. I don’t approach this as sort of a fun horror movie. It’s serious to me.

RM: Each roll you do you take it as the roll, not what movie it is, right? So really, the only difference is a different cast.

Glen, are there any more things that we have come to expect to find it’s way into this film?

GM: They’re all teens.. and I’ve killed everybody by the end… I think there’s some inside jokes . All the characters last names are horror movie directors that we admire. The first movie, Claire was named after our assistant… and in this film, Wendy is our assistant cause we think that’s good luck.

James, you guys have done many movies now together, are you bringing any lessons that you learned from THE ONE or from WILLARD?

JAMES WONG (JW): You would think so. (haha) Yeah, everything adds to your experience. Hopefully you do better next time. But you find out that as you start the movie, you go ‘wow, I’m making the same mistakes again’. At the beginning of the day you always feel like you can do everything, and by the end of the day you’re just rushing so I just have to work on that kind of time management thing. There’s a lot of great lessons to be learned, a lot of times when you think about what to shoot, you just know that it’s not going to work, that camera’s don’t do that.

CP: And at least your glad that the character’s aren’t fighting their doubles.

JW: Exactly.

THE ONE and WILLARD both seemed like great ideas, but they didn’t seem to find an audience, what do you think happened?

JW: I think WILLARD’s a great movie. I think THE ONE is a great movie. I like them both. THE ONE wasn’t a disaster or anything, but maybe it was just the timing. There was a Jet Li film that had just come out 3 weeks before, and then another one comes out, and maybe people were like ‘oh, another Jet Li film’. Who knows? When you’re making a movie, you’re talking about a loss of control. The way it’s marketed, and when it’s released- you have nothing to do with it. You have no control.

GM: In television, there’s these programmers and schedule guys that you never meet, and they’re the one who pick the pilots. And when they’re working on these movies that are coming out this summer, and yours is kind of down the line, and just one thing can throw the whole thing outta wack. It’s very frustrating.

JW: I’m really proud of WILLARD, it was a great, solid movie, and had a great atmosphere and all that- who knows? I thought people would like it. Not that people didn’t like it, but I thought people would come and see it. And the people who saw it come away from it with a good reaction.

Do you think it was the memory of the old movie, or that people just didn’t know what it was?

JW: If I knew what it was, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. I’d be running the studio, and I’d be going ‘ok, this is the way you make it!’.

Do you guys ever think you’ll go back to TV?

GM: Yeah, we love TV.

JW: We wrote a couple of pilots last season, not this season but last season, and we really liked the ideas too. In fact, they were really terrific. One was about Internet prostitution for Showtime, and yeah, you can smirk at that, but it was really cool. And the other one was sort of like a heist set in 24 episodes. We thought it turned out nicely, but they just didn’t get picked up.

Do you think you’d ever return to SciFi?

CP: Yeah, you got an idea? (haha)

JW: We’re open to everything, we’re just into good storytelling.

I'd like to thank everyone for sitting down and chatting with me, as well as letting me walk around and check out the set. Thanks guys!

FINAL DESTINATION 3 will be released
in 2006



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