Producer/Director Mark Waters is perhaps best known for helming a pair of Lindsay Lohan movies (you know, the ones that made us love her in the first place): the 2003 version of Freaky Friday (with Jamie Lee Curtis) and 2004's Mean Girls. That deep experience with child stars will serve him well on the set of his latest film, the big screen adaptation of the massively successful Spiderwick Chronicles books. Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down with Mark to talk child actors, goblins and putting a book on steroids.
Emmanuel Itier: By the images we can see so far, the movie looks darker than the book.
Mark Waters: Well, the books came out, like, seven or eight years ago, which means that the ten-year-old who read the books are, like, 17 or 18 today, so we decided to make the film edgier than the book, I think. We put the books on “steroids” in a way! We wanted to make it scarier and funnier as well.
For example, in a scene in the book where they go into town in a car and are chased by goblins, we now make them run by foot and be chased by goblins, and it is suddenly scarier and more dangerous. They barely make it alive. On the humor level, it’s also much darker. We go all the way. Also, the actors dubbing the goblins let their inner wildness out during the recording. You have to let them run free-style in order to get something outrageous and funny.
EI: How was the casting of the kids?
MW: Tough, really tough. Other than for Dakota Fanning or Haley Joel Osment, there aren’t so many recognizable names out there for kids. It’s funny today because kids are so mature and you feel like you’re dealing with a very old and wise soul when you work with a 10- or 12-year-old kid today. They also are so experienced, acting-wise.
Freddie Highmore, who was in Arthur and the Invisibles, is truly amazing. He is from the UK, but he can do a real American accent without any trace of British tone. Also, he plays the two brothers in this movie, and he can change his style and accent at ease. He is truly so talented, and we got lucky to get him.
EI: How does a guy into “female comedies” end up doing such a wild children’s fantasy?
MW: It’s funny because they (Paramount Studios) gave me the book while I was shooting Mean Girls. I got immediately hooked to it because of the way they treated the fantasy world. I felt scared, I felt the presence of these goblins, and it felt very present and haunting. By the fourth book, and because it feels so real, I was totally into that universe and I told them I would love to direct a screen adaptation of these books. I think you all will believe that what you see if for real, and you’ll look for goblins in the house after watching this film.
EI: Did you believe in goblins when you were a kid?
MW: Well, I never believed there were creatures, but I believed there was some sense of magical force around me. I always thought there was more than heaven and earth. There are other things out there that we don’t see. And religion even more re-enforced this belief, and then I stopped believing and then on again lately…
EI: How do you compare your film to other fantasy films out there?
MW: I don’t! Truly, I don’t because I think ours is so different and it stands on its own. Also, if you look at other fantasy films, you are immediately put into a fantasy world, whether its Middle Earth or the world of Harry Potter. Here you are really surprised because you don’t enter this magical world immediately. This is why it’s so different and why I’m so excited about it.
Also, this is a very edgy and dark, at times, film, and the writers are excited because it’s not totally what was written in the pages but elevated to a more mature audience.
'The Spiderwick Chronicles' will be released by Paramount Pictures in February 2008.