Seven Questions with Fede Alvarez

In seven short days The Evil Dead unleashed to US theaters.  To celebrate this week will see a number of Evil Dead themed posts.  All faucets will be covered from the original to this 2013 remake.

Earlier last week I was able to sit in on a phone conference with the director Fede Alvarez, so to kick things off I've got the transcript below for your reading pleasure.  While it is a bit on the long side, it does cover quite a few topics from conception, to inspirations.  It was pretty interesting and I'm very happy I was chosen to listen in.  So without further ado...

On Jane Levy's performance and getting performances out of the actors
Fede: Everything starts, of course, in the pages.  It's very hard for an actress to give a good performance if the script sucks, so everything starts in the pages and we put a lot of love in the characters in general and we really care about giving them stories that weren't necessarily related to the supernatural story, so each of them has their journey that is not only plot driven, but character driven, so that always helps.

And then on the shooting itself, I think my job was kind of like exposing them to real things all the time.  That's why we decided to make the film 100% practical and not just CGI and all that.  It was not just because I love horror films that look real, but also because I knew the way the actors were going to be exposed to real things.  That's why I decided to shoot the film in a real forest when sometimes with these films the first instinct is to build it on the stage, and I thought that was going to be a betrayal to the spirit of the original film, so I felt that we had to go to the woods and spend long nights in the woods and everybody was freezing to geth, but that's the way I think movies should be done.

And then also for the actors...All those were real things, the performances they're not faking all the time. You know when they're scared, sometimes I would surprise them with real jumps.  Sometimes I kept them in the dark about some scenes and some moments of the movie so they could react in a more truthful way.  Yes I was really pushing them to have the real experience because I knew if they were having a real experience that would translate into their performances.

On his background with shorts, jumping into a feature length film with a bigger budget, and remaking a classic film
Fede:  Well, it's never a problem to have a good budget.  It's never going to be a problem, it's going to be a good thing.  I mean for a horror movie, it was a good budget but even we had to be very resourceful and come up with new ideas to be able to make the movie look even bigger.  I'm a big fan of movies but I'm a bigger fan of film making itself.  I fell in love with it since I was very young and I always loved to learn the craft and every aspect of it, not as a director because I never thought of myself as a director.  It's just like I was doing everything that was film related.  I did music for my past films, I even played the piano on the soundtrack of this film.  So it's something that I love just about every aspect of, except act.  I would never be able to do that, but the rest I think I did it all, so I think it was really helpful when it came down to making the movie and also like it just helps if the director knows a little bit of everything so when it came down to the visual effects and all that, that's something I feel I know so it really helps me a lot and it makes it very easy. 

Sometimes people ask me how it is you come from a $200 short to a movie like this, is it hard.?  My answer is always the same.  The hard part is to make a $300 alien invasion movie with no money and nothing, that's the hard part.  When you have resources to make some fantasy that's always awesome and always a pleasure, and how I would that the chance to be surrounded by amazing actors and a great team, so all of that was great.

Then regarding the challenge of remaking a classic  I don't know.  I was such a fan of the original and Raimi's movies in general and I think that's reason why Sam gave me the movie.  Otherwise he would have never given me this movie, because I know the universe and I my friends and I are all freaks of horror and all that, so I know my audience.  I know who I'm making the film for in many levels, so I always felt great about it.  I knew when I was rewriting it I wasn't overwriting anything, I wasn't trying to make a movie that was going to take the place of another, I just wanted to make a new story.

That's why I went with different characters, I decided to go with a different set up.  I mean, the setup is completely different and we were very careful and I think we did good.  With my friend Rodo, my Co-writer, he's my best friend since we were kids together and I think we did a good job bringing ideas of the original and fitting them in this new story with out it feeling forced.  We don't feel we were just trying to put those ideas in there.

There was pressure, but I was felt that it was just awesome to be making a new 'Dead movie and be part of this family and having the chance to make a movie that is called "The Evil Dead."  I was always thinking about the cool side and the great side and the honor of making one and not the scary part of the pressure.

On inspirations drawn on while making The Evil Dead:
Fede:  Well Sam was really pushy with the fact that he wanted me to make my own film.  Even when I was trying to bring more elements from the original film he was very insistant with that idea.  He was like "Fede, I want you to make your film, this has to be your film, you don't need us.  You don't want to depend on us."  He was really pushy which was awesome.  He wanted me to have my own film so he really gave us all the freedom to do it, he never forced me to do something that I didn't want.

He never really forced me to put something that I didn't want to.  They never made me shoot something I didn't believe in.  They were the best producers you could ask for because of all of that freedom.  Everything goes down to the fact that he wanted this to be another film.  He wanted this film to come from the writer/director that will have all the freedom to work and to do whatever they wanted, because that's the spirit of the original film; and he wanted to make sure that translated to this one.

We took a lot from The Exorcist.  I think it's just a quintessential possession movie and it has some of the best ideas.  It's kind of like the bible of the possession movie, so there's a mythology from that movie that is in every possession movie, we took a lot from there.  I think The Omen was a good reference for me as a good story on how to make the audience believe in the supernatural.  You know, you have the character of Mr. Thorn that doesn't believe in anything, that is a politician that would never believe in the occult; and at the end you have a guy ready to kill his son and that's the journey, you're with him all the time, so that's a great example of storytelling; how do you make somebody believe in the supernatural when they don't believe in anything?

On the technique side, I think Bram Stoker's Dracula, the one that Coppola directed.  I think thwat was a great example of how to make a movie with techniques of the times and that's something I wanted to do in this film.  The movie has a lot of old school techniques very old school, but they look amazing.   They make the movie look timeless.  Those movies don't age at all.  You can watch them today and they're still relevant, they're still amazing.  That's why I decided not to use CGI, that's some of the views of films we were taking, that we took inspiration from, then of coarse all the Evil Dead movies.

On Diablo Cody's involvement with the screenplay
Fede:  Yeah, she did a great job.  When I finished my last draft with Rodo we asked for an American writer to come in and do a pass on some dialogue because we thought there was no way we were ever going to created realistic American dialogue just because it's not our first language   So she was a big help.  She polished some dialogue a bit but without changing the scenes, without changing the characters or the plot.  And just naturally I think, at the end we ended up using very little of it, so WGA, you know, they have a jury and they kind of decided on that and she didn't get a credit, we just didn't use enough of her job.

On Issues with the gore and the rating board
Fede: They were helpful ironically, they were very helpful.  Sometimes NPA can drive you crazy by not telling you why the movie is getting a bad rating or the rating you do not want, and sometimes they're very precise.  In this case they were precise with us.  They said like there was this, and that and that.  They gave us five notes on the first cut and thank God we didn't have to get rid of those.  We just had to get rid of five frames, ten frames in some moments.  Honestly, I think they helped us make a better movie because they they tell you, okay, you can show this for 25 frames, as a director working with my editor, you want to make sure those 25 frames you see are the best ones you have.  so they end up wanting us to have a sharper cut in a way.  So I don't think the movie bleeds at all for the cut down, it's still the same movie that we had before.

On what he feared more, the producers or the horror community
Fede: I'd say neither, I would say myself.  I'm pretty demanding with myself and my work, and I always put a lot of pressure on myself.  I try to do the best job I can every time.  I'm quite obsessive with my work as a director, writer, and everything.  So really during the whole process I was the toughest to please on many levels.

So at the end of the day I knew that if I was pleasing myself, if I was making a movie that I would love, I knew people out there were going to love it.  Something that was the best advice Same gave me in the beginning was "you have to make the movie you want to see in theaters, don't try and make the movie you think I want to see, don't try to make the movie that you think the audience wants to see, you have to make the movie you want to go and see in a theater."

On the most difficult scene to shoot
Fede:  I guess a lot of things were tough in this movie.  Probably I would say everything in the cellar with Natalie and Mia on top of her.  The kind of the tongue, the blocked kiss, all the things, they were so tough for the actors.  and also you know like as the director, you try and convince everybody that the way you want to do this is the right way.

That was one of those days where my idea of going 100% practical was kind of falling apart a little bit because what we were shooting was looking so bad.  I remember the first time we did a shot with the tongue coming out and we're puppeteering this fake tongue and everything, it looked embarrassing on the set.  And then you have to be courageous and keep going and keep going because everybody is like "I told you, we should have gone with the CG tongue" and you have to believe in your vision.  Thank God we managed to pull it off and then on the edit team, we end up cutting away and it ended up looking great.  But it was something, it was one of those that was really a job to make the moments look real.

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