Buzzine has already told you just how tickled pink they are for the release of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s new horror project, The Cabin in the Woods. We were lucky enough to send Emmanuel Itier to speak with the duo behind the film, as well as key members of the cast to find out a little bit more – without spoiling! Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford discussed their character archetypes, working with Whedon and Goddard, and how their fearless leaders turned the genre on its head.
Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison & Kristen Connolly
Tim Wassberg: How does Cabin in the Woods stand on its own? What drew you to playing these characters?
Jesse Williams: For me the film is unique in so many ways and that is really why I really wanted to get involved. To be able to…first of all it is really ambitious. It decides to stare right into the face of classic America horror tropes and stereotypical characters. And instead of spoofing them or pretending like it is not using them, it uses them and uses that energy and pairs itself with the audience to take this ride together. It is not running from any of it. It is, let’s together find a whole new way to tackle this beast. And it does it and it does it really successfully, but it also marries horror with straight up comedy, like really witty layered writing that is comedic and also there is action, but the twist at the end, the monsters, it is a fanboy’s wet dream. It has got all of these things happening at once. I can say that apparently, I asked earlier. But yeah, it is really doing…sometimes projects are excellent or mediocre at everything, but masters of nothing. I think this really has found a way to be masters of several fingers on the hand.
TW: Like you said, each character caters to his or her own stereotype. Can you tell us about what appealed to you about your specific roles?
Anna Hutchison: For me, in New Zealand we watch a lot of American films, so I have kind of grown up with that kind of idea of Jules’ character -- and also all the five stereotypes -- and I like the idea of embracing that and just really gunning for it, and that was so, so much fun. Working with Drew [Goddard] really intimately to create that character and also to go from this point of being, a pre-med student to her journey and where she goes, that was really, really fun.
JW: I think as an actor it was fun to tackle the challenge of taking that stereotype at the beginning, middle or end of or wherever you want to start and letting it evolve or devolve and watching that timeline happen and as an actor, what is that constructed of? You are really kind of unpacking it and then putting it back together and how much of that is within your control, how much of that is from outside forces, how much of that is totally subconscious? And when we witness each other do that, do we notice it, do we observe it, and does it make a difference. So playing off each other was also something that was really fun.
Kristen Connolly: And the characters do not know that they are in a horror movie, but the audience will recognize these archetypes right away. And so that was really fun to, like, [Jesse] said sort of decide how much we were going to play with that. And I think these are all characters that will be very familiar to a horror audience, even to someone who does not watch a lot of horror movies, they will recognize who these people are and all of them have a really amazing history in the horror genre. So I think it is really exciting and really fun.
Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon
Tim Wassberg: You both co-wrote Cabin in the Woods to be an unconventional horror film. What were you looking to create?
Drew Goddard: I mean, we just set out first and foremost to make a fun horror movie, you know? We want audiences to have a good time. We want people to be surprised. And that was really the goal, like we like horror movies ourselves. And so we just wanted to give people that experience where, you come to a theater and you scream and you laugh and you cheer and that is what we tried to do with cabin.
TW: This film has so many layers to it. Were there any challenges with the narrative?
Joss Whedon: Narratively it has such a sealed logic it really laid itself out exactly as it should. That made it easy in some respects, but I think tonally very difficult, because you are always in danger of tipping over when you are doing something this ambitious it is very easy to go wrong and to, you know.
DG: That is the hardest part of directing I would say is, maintaining tone, particularly when we can vacillate, so severely on a movie like this and so it was all about sort of walking that line.
TW: You’ve both had wild success on television, both on separate projects and together. How do you approach a film after working with a different medium for so many years?
JW: You know, they are very different beasts, because TV carries the weight of whatever has come before so much, whereas with a movie what you are doing is scrambling in the time you have to get people to that same emotional connection that they might have walking into an episode of TV. So TV it is really about finding the next place to go and with movies, I always find it is about concentrating it so is harder to gauge the emotional response in a movie. It’s much more liquid going in that longer space of time, with no interruptions and no introduction, and no last episode and no next episode, it is just by itself. It is like taming a sandworm.
TW: Because Cabin in the Woods plays with many different tropes and genres, how do you maintain tone?
DG: Well, yes it is interesting, I feel like, I have been lucky in my career in that, I had the chance to work for guys like Joss and J.J. Abrams who have a very cinematic approach to television and they always felt to always make each episode its own feature. And so we very much tried to sort of keep that mentality of never let the limitations of whatever median you are working in stop you from telling the best possible story. And we definitely had that feeling with The Cabin in the Woods where we are a small movie that, puffed ourselves up to look very big.
TW: What themes appealed to you the most? Which were you aiming to bring to the film?
JW: I am very interested in manipulation and what we expect of people and what intend for them and how we behave and how the way we behave is sort of imposed by society or by narrative.
TW: Switching gears, Joss, your next project is The Avengers. Can you tell us about what audiences can expect?
JW: I think there are going to be some superheroes. With TheAvengersI am trying to do a similar thing to The Cabin in the Woods, which is just really, really put them through the ringer. It is not a neat film we want to get dirty and really make people experience it.
Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford
Tim Wassberg: Can you tell us what makes The Cabin in the Woods unique from other horror films?
Bradley Whitford: It challenges the genre, it conforms to the genre, it upends the genre, it is funnier than any comedy I have ever been in and horrifying, truly horrifying. I have not been in a theater where people were horrified, laughing and had no idea what was going to come next and yet, it is a very coherent piece. It is interesting.
Richard Jenkins: I saw it last night for the first time with twelve hundred people and it was and it was just a ride. It was amazing. But I think it is the kind of movie that, even if you saw alone in your home, it would be great fun. It was great to see it with a lot of fans of this genre who had never seen anything like it before. But…nothing they did not get. They would be gasping and laughing at the same time. It was amazing.
TW: I know the film’s plot has to be kept under wraps, but can you discuss the tone of your characters, and what mindset you put yourself in to portray them?
BW: Well, it is an interesting. I think the metaphor you kind of hit on is, these guys are workmen like a certain way, but have the expertise and arrogance of a surgeon. It is a tough job, but --
RJ: And believing that what they are doing is the most important job in the world, okay. There you go. And it is not a matter of them believing it, it is.
BW: It is kind of like acting. It is kind of like wearing makeup and making faces.
TW: There are so many themes and tropes in this movie, but what specifically appealed to you about doing The Cabin in the Woods?
RJ: That is above my pay grade I think.
BW: I felt like, if somebody like Joss who is fully engaged and writing something that is literally he and Drew asking themselves, what would I write if I could write anything? So they are in a very unique creative place certainly in Hollywood. And then they just go wild. There are all sorts of stuff you could pull from this, but I just wanted to surf on them.
RJ: It’s the way that they put it together, the way they decide to use what they used, when they used it. That is the genius of this. That is the editing of it that, you do what you do while you are there and then they take it and make it better, especially with Bradley’s, because Bradley is really funny in this and I do not remember him being funny at all when we were doing it. That is the hard part of the whole thing. The script was fabulous, but it was better as a movie, which is kind of the way it is supposed to be, it does not happen that often -- it is usually the other way around.
BW: Yes, it is.
RJ: [It was] great in the movie, but it was impressive to see their work in it for me, the way they took our stuff and where they put it and how they got into and how they left it and came back to it and I mean, it was just really cool.
MGM's 'The Cabin in the Woods' is released in theaters on April 13th, 2012.