Death Note: L’s the Name: Exclusive Interview with Lakeith Stanfield - Dread Central
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Death Note: L’s the Name: Exclusive Interview with Lakeith Stanfield

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Lakeith Stanfield

After springing to life as a manga (created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata), anime and four Japanese live-action movies in its native Japan, Death Note has now been transformed into a US-production by Asian remake master Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, etc.).

The new movie follows a Washington high school student named Light (Nat Wolff) who finds a supernatural notebook with a most unusual power; if the owner writes someone’s name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Egging the teen on is fearsome death god Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe) and girlfriend Mia (Margaret Qualley of “The Leftovers”). With a body count passing the 400 mark(!), you could say Light gets a bit carried away, which attracts the attention of brilliant but eccentric crimestopper L (Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield). Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next) directed the Vancouver-lensed film, which boasts some nasty splatter FX by “Supernatural’s” Toby Lindala. Dread Central spoke with busy 26-year-old actor Stanfield, who loved playing the enigmatic and quirky L. Death Note drops this Friday on Netflix and opens in select LA and New York theaters.

Tony Timpone: What attracted you to the character of L?

Lakeith Stanfield: He is a very cute, cuddly character. I almost instantly fell in love with him. I thought the character would be interesting to explore and investigate within the confines of this story, which was new to my awareness. I never heard of Death Note prior, and I was really happy with the idea that I might get to play this character.

Lakeith Stanfield

TT: Did you watch the previous movies and anime in crafting your interpretation of the character?

LS: I did. It was fun homework. It is such a great series. I read three volumes of the manga and watched both the Japanese version and the dubbed anime series to get a reference for L’s voice. And then I watched all three live action Japanese movies. And it was great. Gave me a wealth of knowledge.

TT: What did you strive to bring to the character that may not have been there before?

LS: L’s social awkwardness and his high intelligence level appealed to me. I wanted to maintain those critical faculties. Also the fact that he’s lazy looking, but not lazy at all. I wanted that to come across as well. Plus the fact he loves sweets so much. I kept asking them for more candy. It was a lot of candy!

TT: I love how you copied L’s unique body language and odd tics from previous incarnations…

LS: Yes, that was something I wanted to pay attention to. I also liked how particular he was with his movement, almost like a ninja. Every move of his was methodical. That was fun to play with.

TT: Anything else specifically that you brought to your interpretation of the character?

LS: I liked the way he grabbed things. I did a lot of that, but less wound up in the actual movie. I wanted to put that in there. And also I wanted to add a level of physicality that I didn’t see in the anime, like the way he might move when he was running or pursuing someone. So I made sure his running style was very deliberate and opposite of how you would think a person may move. In order to do what he does he has to be in great shape; I know he eats a lot of crazy candy and stays up for long hours, but he must work out and run in order to stay healthy.

TT: Why does Death Note have such a strong international following?

LS: The question of morality, and mortality, is as old as time itself. And how that applies to life and death and who has the right to determine life and death. And also the magical nature; at some point, everyone can imagine, “What if I had a book where I could just right down the names of people I hate and they would disappear?” People have been finding that attractive ever since the Death Note manga, the anime and now the live action version.

TT: What does Adam Wingard’s film get right that previous Asian remakes got wrong?

LS: What’s interesting to me about these adaptations is that they are interpretations. And by virtue of that, I don’t think they can get things right and wrong. It’s up to the audience to decide what they feel is right and wrong. The artists, the filmmakers, the cinematographers, the actors…we just come in and interpret what has already been there.

TT: Were you a fan of Wingard’s previous films?

LS: Yes, I do like his films a lot. I love how he executes, and I do use that word meaning both, his stories and the way he kills people. He makes his movies quite fun to watch.

TT: Do you think the story will appeal to a mainstream audience unfamiliar with the Death Note legacy?

LS: Yes. I hope the teenagers come out and watch it, provided their parents will allow them. It will be a really good time for them.

TT: Were you ever concerned that the new movie strayed too far from the source material?

LS: I was concerned about being true to the original content. I was a fan, so I wanted to makes sure we paid homage and nods to what came before and I wanted to do that with L as well. I did realize we were making a whole other story based on Death Note. It was not a direct translation of the original content. Just me being black made that obvious. I dove into this story without clinging too much to the past, but [other elements] I said, “We’re putting this in.” I kept that in a sacred place.

TT: Get Out was the horror sensation of the year. By comparison, Death Note is kind of flying under the radar with its Netflix release, especially theatrically. Are there any drawbacks to this distribution model?

LS: No, it’s great we’re in this time of technological revolution. The way cinema is consumed is different and changing rapidly. It’s great to be a part of this new movement. Now you get to have all your favorite stuff at your fingertips. If you want to, you can still go to the theater, but you have more options available to you. It’s an awesome thing. Death Note will be ingested in a different way than Get Out.

TT: Not everything is tied up at the end of Death Note. Was there talk of a sequel while you were shooting to resolve the story later?

LS: Not with me. I have no idea where it goes from here. I definitely want to see more.

TT: Were you surprised by the success of Get Out?

LS: Yes, very. It took us all by storm. We were working with a very humble budget. We didn’t expect the film to take off the way it did. And I’m glad it did, because it dealt with issues that black people and I think about a lot. The issue of being in a situation where your consciousness is always directly under attack and how to navigate this world where you are considered a minority and tucked away in the under chambers of society. And then having to face the blanket hypocrisies. That’s a dope conversation to have. Hearing a black person talk about it is different than putting yourself in that position for two hours. It was healthy for the nation.

TT: What’s next for you?

LS: Stay tuned.

Willem Dafoe and Nat Wolff star alongside Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield, Paul Nakauchi, and Shea Whigham. Roy Lee (The Ring) and Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes) are producing Death Note with Jason Hoffs and Masi Oka. Jonathan Eirich and John Powers Middleton are executive producing with Miri Yoon and Brendan Ferguson. It was directed by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch).

Death Note will be hitting Netflix on August 25th.

Synopsis:
Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student (Wolff) who comes across a supernatural notebook that gives him the ability to kill anyone by writing their name while picturing their face. Drunk on power, he begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

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Vampire Hunter D: The Series Gets Writer For Pilot Episode

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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard news about “Vampire Hunter D: The Series”, the CG-animated series based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s titular character. However, some new news broke today over at ANN as they’ve reported that Brandon Easton, who is writing the scripts for new Vampire Hunter D comics, has been tapped by Unified Pictures to write the pilot for the series. The pilot will be based on Kikuchi’s “Mysterious Journey to the North Sea” storylines, which make up the 7th and 8th titles in the book series. Unified is making this series in conjunction with Digital Frontier, the Japanese animation studio behind the CG Resident Evil titles.

Easton told the site, “I’ve had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself. This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels.

Meanwhile, the studio has also announced that Ryan Benjamin is taking over as the artist and colorist on the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars series with Richard Friend inking the issues.

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Watching A Quiet Place’s John Krasinski Get Scared by Freddy on Ellen Will Brighten Your Day

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I was just researching the new Platinum Dunes horror-thriller A Quiet Place and stumbled across this video. It features the film’s writer-director and star John Krasinski getting scared by a man dressed as Freddy Krueger on “Ellen.”

It’s as much fun as it sounds, and I’m sure it will make your day. It sure as hell just brightened mine.

Give it a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

John Krasinski directs the film, which will be the opening night entry at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX. Emily Blunt stars alongside Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

A Quiet Place will then open wide on April 6.

Synopsis:
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threatens their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

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Interview: Director Jeff Burr Revisits Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

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Director Jeff Burr was gracious enough to give us here at Dread Central a few minutes of his time to discuss the Blu-ray release of his 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Recently dropped on 2/13, the movie has undergone the white-glove treatment, and he was all-too-happy to bring us back to when the film was being shot…and eventually diced thanks to the MPAA – so settle in, grab a cold slice of bloody meat, read on and enjoy!

DC: First off – congrats on seeing the film get the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray – you excited about it?

JB: Yeah, I’m really happy that it’s coming out on Blu-ray, especially since so many people bitch and moan about the death of physical media, and this thing made the cut, and it’s great for people to be able to see probably the best-looking version of it since we saw it in the lab back in 1989.

DC: Take us back to when you’d first gotten the news that you were tabbed to be the man to direct the third installment in this franchise – what was your first order of business?

JB: It was fairly condensed pre-production for me, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about the import or the greatness of it – it was basically just roll up your sleeves and go. It was a bit disappointing because a lot of times in pre-production you have the opportunity to dream what could be – casting had already been done, but certain decisions hadn’t been made yet. A very condensed pre-production, but exciting as hell, for sure! (laughs)

DC: R.A. Mihailoff in the role of Leatherface – was it the decision from the get-go to have him play the lead role?

JB: No – I totally had someone else in mind, even though R.A. had done a role in my student film about 7 years earlier, and we’d kept in touch, and I’d felt strongly because I’d gotten to know him a bit that Gunnar Hansen should have come back and played Leatherface, which would have given a bit more legitimacy to this third movie. He and I talked, and he had some issues with the direction that it was going – he really wanted to be involved, and it ended up boiling down to a financial thing, and it wasn’t outrageous at all – it wasn’t like he asked for the moon, but the problem was that New Line refused to pay it, categorically. I think the line producer at the time was more adamant about it than anyone, and Mike DeLuca was one of the executives on the movie, and he was really the guy that was running this, in a creative sense. I made my case for Gunner to both he and the line producer, and they flat out refused to pay him what he was asking, so after that was a done “no deal” I decided that R.A would be the right guy to step into the role. Since New Line was the arbiter of the film, he had to come in and audition for the part, and he impressed everyone and got the part. He did an absolutely fantastic job – such a joy to work with, and he was completely enthusiastic about everything.

DC: Let’s talk about Viggo Mortenson, and with this being one of his earliest roles – did you know you had something special with this guy on your set?

JB: Here’s the thing – you knew he was talented, and I’d seen him in the movie Prison way back in the early stages of development and was very impressed with him, and he was one of those guys that I think we were really lucky to get him on board with us. I really believe that The Indian Runner with he and directed by Sean Penn was the movie that truly made people stand up and notice his work. Every person in this cast was one hundred percent into this film and jumped in no questions asked when it was time to roll around in the body pits.

DC: It’s no secret about the amount of shit that the MPAA put you through in order to get this film released – can you expound on that for a minute?

JB: At the time, I believe it was a record amount of times we had to go back to the MPAA after re-cutting the film – I think it was 11 times that we went back. What a lot of people don’t realize is after Bob Shaye (President of New Line) had come into the editing room and he thought that it was very disturbing, and cut out some stuff himself. He thought that it would have been banned in every country, and it was banned in a lot of countries but so were the previous two. It was definitely on the verge of being emasculated before even being submitted to the MPAA, and I would have thought just a few adjustments here and there – maybe a couple of times to go back…but eleven? It was front-page news in the trade papers then, and I think that the overall tone of the film was looked at as being nasty. The previous film (Chainsaw 2) had actually gone out unrated, and with the first film being so notorious, I think it was a combination of all of that, and now even the most unrated version of this would be rated R – that’s how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

DC: Looking back at the film after all this time – what would be one thing that you’d change about the movie?

JB: Oh god – any film director worth his salt would look back at any of their films and want to change stuff up, and with this being 28 years old, I can look back and say “oh yeah, I’d change this, this and this!” You grow and learn over the course of your time directing, and this was my third movie and my first without producers that I had known, so the main thing that I’d do today would be to make it a bit more politically savvy. I had always thought that they wanted me to put my vision on this film, and that wasn’t necessarily the case, so maybe I’d navigate those political waters a little better.

DC: Last thing, Jeff – what’s keeping you busy these days? Any projects to speak of?

JB: Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of movies that I’m working on – I’m prepping a horror movie right now, and then I’ve got a comedy film that I’m doing after that. You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ve had a real up and down (mostly down) career, but I still love it – it’s what I love to do, and it’s still great that after 28 years people still want to talk about this movie, and are still watching it – that’s the greatest gift you can get, and I thank everyone that’s seen it and talked about it over all these years.

BUY IT NOW!

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