Wong, James (Final Destination 3)
James Wong and his producing/writing/directing partner Glen Morgan have been dabbling in our genre off and on for years now, most recently with their bigger-budgeted remake Willard starring Crispin Glover. When word came down that the duo would be returning to the franchise that made us all love ‘em, namely Final Destination, most fans couldn''t have been happier.
As a part of the press junket held for the film’s promotion, we got to sit down with Mr. Wong for some Q&A and found him to be gracious and friendly with all of the journalists present. The results follow; hope you enjoy!
Question: You guys went back and re-shot the ending of the film, can you talk a little bit about that?
James Wong: We tested the movie and I really thought that the audience were totally with us until the very end...I actually even heard a couple of people go, "Oh". (Laughs) You know that''s no good. But even before we tested it as I was cutting the movie with Glen and Craig we knew that it wasn’t working. It was just too abrupt. You didn’t know if they actually escaped death or what was happening. It didn’t have closure.
So before we went to the test the three of us had a meeting and talked about what we were going to do. Craig had an idea where he wanted to bring in the FD2 guys. I had an idea, which came to me when I was in bed with my wife and I said, "Hey you know what we should do?" (laughs) and she is going,"“Will you please go to sleep!" (laughs) I had an idea about the subway sequence. So Craig pitched his idea and I pitched my idea and we talked about it and decided that the subway sequence would work.
In one incarnation of the subway sequence the FD2 guys were also in the subway, and they would overhear Ryan and Mary talking, so we had that kind of thing going but ultimately their schedules didn’t work. After that meeting we tested the movie and we knew the ending needed to be changed, so the next morning we went and met with New Line and they asked us what we wanted to do now and we told them. Bob and Toby seemed to be agreeable and they said, "Okay, write it up and let’s see the budget." They were great. They gave us all of the resources we needed to shoot it and it wasn’t cheap. They were really behind us.
Q: What is the story behind Tony Todd’s character not appearing in the film with the exception of his voice?
JW: We knew that Tony wanted to do it and we thought about how we could do it, but in some ways we wanted to break from the first two to see if the franchise could go on as this one does; new characters facing similar situations. Because we wanted to do that we didn’t feel that injecting Tony in it would work because he is supposed to be from a different place. So we decided early not have him in the movie. As we were in the post process we really missed his presence and Jay our post supervisor said, "You know we should just have him be the voice of the devil. He would be so great as the voice of the devil." We called his people and he was really gracious in wanting to help us and he was great. Once you hear his voice you can’t get it out of your head.
Q: Isn’t he also the voice of the subway announcer?
Q: Was all of this added during the re-shoot?
JW: Well, we put Tony in after the whole thing so we thought the devil and the subway announcer would be perfect.
Q: Did he try calling you during filming wondering why he wasn’t involved?
JW: He didn’t call, but we were given notice that he was totally into doing it, and we love him. We wanted to cast him for one of our TV shows way back when and he was in "X-Files". If we thought it could work out then we would have definitely used him.
Q: You and Glen had said you would never do another Final Destination movie and here you are again. Are you now willing to do part four or five?
JW: I guess I should never say never (laughs). I don’t remember saying I would never do one; if I did I was mistaken. I had a lot of fun doing this one. I think I was doing The One and I was going up the escalator in Woodland Hills at the theaters there, and that was the first time I had seen an FD2 poster and it was sort of like a shot where the camera is craning up and I am riding up and I see this poster come up into my view, so I walk up to it and looked at all of the names on the credits and that’s when I really felt like, “Ah shit.”, (laughs).
Q: Kind of like seeing an ex-girlfriend with another guy?
JW: Exactly. But I’ve never had that feeling before (laughs). So I felt a little bit of a pain right there. I was really lucky that they called and asked us to do this one.
Q: What did you think of the second one?
JW: I liked it. It’s good. David did a great job; he''s a great guy.
Q: What is your favorite of the three big opening sequences in the Final Destination trilogy?
JW: I think for me the roller coaster was the most challenging one to shoot. It was the hardest to create. So in that way I think it is my favorite in the challenge of it that is my favorite. The car crash was pretty darn good.
Q: What else are you working on?
JW: I’m just chillin’ (laughs). I’m producing Black Christmas so I’m working on that. As for the next thing I’m still looking.
Q: Is there any more TV in your future?
JW: I’m actually researching for a TV show. It is a medical show. It’s not in the horror or sci-fi genre.
Q: So are you sick of working with Glen?
JW: (Laughs) I’m not sick of working with Glen. It’s the most amazing thing. I think back on it and realize that we''ve known each other since high school. We’ve had our ups and downs as partners do, but it’s great. It’s great to have someone there that you can trust and is watching your back and I do for him and he does for me and it’s like someone you can really count on; that’s hard to find.
Q: Your actors say that the two of you couldn’t be more different from one another. How do you think you complement each other?
JW: I guess we have found a way. That is the great thing about this partnership, especially in this business, is that when one of us is really down the other can recognize that and pick you up. We’ve both been at those places. I think we do complement each other in that he is interested in this one thing and I am interested in something else and together we can sort of meld the project into hopefully the best that we can do. It’s great.
Q: This third installment seems to have much more nudity than the second one. Why did you decide to go in that direction?
JW: I’m getting older (laughs). The real reason is that in a tanning booth I really felt that the characters would be much more vulnerable. I like that scene a lot because when you start it there are these really attractive girls with their clothes off and the audience goes, "Woo-hoo!" There is a little bit of that feeling, and it changes pretty quickly once bad things start to happen. I think the reason why you are titillated is the same reason you are horrified; because you are so much more vulnerable when you have no clothes on. I think that adds so much more to that scene. You can imagine your skin being burnt so you can almost feel your skin percolating because they''re naked. I just liked that switch of feeling a bit naughty and titillated to being horrified. It really worked for the scene not just because I wanted to see naked breasts (laughs).
Q: There have been some really bad remakes lately; The Fog comes to mind right now...
JW: You know the original Fog wasn’t even that great when it came out.
Q: When you''re ten years old, it was pretty cool (laughs).
JW: I remember going to see that and I was so scared going to see it when I was a kid. I walked into the theater and I was really ready to be scared, but when I came out I remember being pretty disappointed with it.
Q: But how can you take a bad movie and make it worse?
JW: Well there you go.
Q: I guess you’ll have to ask Mr. Wainwright. How do you make Black Christmas fresh after the remake of When a Stranger Calls comes out, which originally was a rip-off of the original Black Christmas?
JW: I know, I know. We didn’t know they were remaking it. Glen is actually shooting Black Christmas right now in Canada, so that''s why he couldn’t be here unfortunately. I feel a little naked without him here. The structure of the new version of Black Christmas, without giving too much away, is going to show more of how Billy became Billy. There''s going to be a twist as to... the whole killer thing is different. There are elements of the new version that are not even touched upon in the old one. So I think there''s some new stuff that is not only intelligent but creepy and scary, I just don’t want to give away too much. I don’t think you will be disappointed. [Editor''s note: BC remake star Katie Cassidy gave away plenty, read it here if you''re interested...]
Q: So the character’s name is still going to be Billy?
JW: Yes, the killer’s name is going to be Billy but we don’t even know if that is the real Billy.
Q: Was there ever any talk of filming in the original location in Toronto?
JW: I don’t know if that house exists.
Q: It’s still there.
JW: There wasn’t any talk about it because are crew is basically a Vancouver crew. We talked to Bob Clark and we do have Andrea Martin coming back. She’s going to play the housemother.
Q: Any other cameos?
JW: No that’s it. It was going to be either Andrea or Margot for the housemother. I think we have a great cast.
Q: What kind of involvement does Bob Clark have in the Black Christmas remake?
JW: He’s one of I think eleven producers (laughs). We have so many producers I can’t even imagine how the credit are going to run. We didn’t want to do it if he didn’t give us his blessing, so we met with him and his partners before there was a script or anything and he knew of our work. Glen basically did all of the talking but we told him what we wanted to do and how we thought we could update it a little bit. Then Bob says, "Well I have an idea about Agnes." It was a really good conversation. His thing was that he didn’t want to be too involved, he just wanted to leave you alone and do your thing. He really hated it when people put their fingers all over his projects and he didn’t want to be that person. So he was very gracious and open. We later gave him the script and he really loved it. He was actually in Vancouver when we were finishing Final Destination 3. So I saw him a couple of times. He wanted to cast Mary in his movie he is shooting now and I guess Mary read the script and she would have to be topless most of the time so she said no (laughs).
Q: How hard was it to make a modern version of Black Christmas with all of today’s technology?
JW: Okay I’ll give you a little bit. The phone calls, when you look at the caller ID, are coming from the last victim’s cell phone. So I think it actually enhances it a bit.
Special thanks to New Line for allowing us to take part in the junket and to Mr. Wong for being so gracious with his time for us, despite his apparent vunerability without Mr. Morgan around. Final Destination 3 opens everywhere on Friday, February 10th, so be sure to get your asses out there and see it!
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