Though most people probably know him as Matt from the show “7th Heaven,” Barry Watson is stretching his acting chops as of late, and this weekend his first horror film (sorry, I don’t count Teaching Mrs. Tingle) opened #1 at the box office. I speak, of course, of Barry Watson, who took some time during the junket for Boogeyman with the film’s director, Stephen Kay, to discuss the movie with us and reveal what gives Barry nightmares…
Question: Stephen, what’s it like working with Ghost House? Do you have a good creative atmosphere?
Stephen Kay: They’re great. I mean, they’re filmmakers, so it’s collaboration. They’re not going to say, “Here. We’ll see you in six months.” They’re filmmakers.
Q: How did you get the job?
SK: I honestly didn’t have to sell myself. I knew Sam; I knew one of the other producers. They called me and said, “Any interest?” I’m a big fan of the genre, and liked the opportunity to work with those guys. It was fairly graceful in that respect. There wasn’t a lot of, “Look, I can do it! I never done anything even similar to it, but I can do it!” It wasn’t that. I think that’s part of their relationship as filmmakers, they just go, “If you can tell a story, you can tell a story, now just need to learn the tools of this particular genre.”
Q: How hands-on are they?
SK: Very hands-on. Sam was doing Spider-Man 2, so he wasn’t around much, but at the end of it he was very, very active. And Rob (Tapert, producer) is completely hands-on. Rob’s there every day, every second.
Q: What are some of your influences as far as directing in this genre?
SK: Obviously I love the Japanese stuff, which I think is just incredibly compelling. I’m not a big slasher cat, so the Japanese stuff is great because it gives a little bit of distance, a little bit of silence and plays on that stuff, the psychological side of it more than it plays on the gore of it. I love all the late 60s/early 70s horror stuff. Obviously, you get into The Exorcist and The Omen and all that stuff, which I think are just phenomenal because they are character piece. You watch those movies and you go, “This is just a movie about parenting, really. And it’s just twisted.” That’s my world.
Q: How do you find kids that have to act scared like that and how do you get them to do it??
Barry Watson: Beat them (laughs).
SK: And raw meat actually, oddly enough works incredibly well (laughs). You know, kids are…I mean, the little girl in this movie, Skye (McCole Bartusiak) is just a straight-up actor. In dealing with her, she is just as sophisticated as in dealing with any actor.
BW: Yeah. She’s probably the best actor I’ve worked with. Forget Helen Mirren! (Laughs) No, really she is unbelievable. In the movie there’s that scene where you finally realize that she’s a ghost and I still get tears in my eyes every time I look at her. I’ll look at it and I’ll just start welling up. All my favorite stuff in the movie is all the stuff with Franny (Skye’s character).
Q: There’s so much of you in this movie…
BW: I know. Aren’t you sick of it? “I wish he’d just go away! Let it go!”
Q: …So when you read the script were you concerned about that, or did you look at it as an exciting challenge?
BW: It was a really exciting challenge for me. When I read it, I was like, “Well, OK. There’s some things that might not quite work.” But I knew Stephen was doing the film, and you know Sam and Rob were on board. I knew the communication was going to be there if we needed to talk about anything. That really was with Stephen and I, I’ve never really had that before with anybody I’ve worked with, even other actors. The communication was just unbelievable, so even before we started shooting we went over everything to make sure we were all on the same page.
Q: What parts creeped you out while shooting?
BW: Probably just having to put myself in such a dark place that I just wanted to get away from it.
SK: You had bad dreams.
BW: Yeah, that’s right. I totally forgot about that. I starting having these horrible dreams, like in the first month of shooting. I’d show up every day going, “I woke up, gasping for breath.”
Q: Do you remember what the dreams were about?
BW: They were probably just silly things. Little bunny rabbits hopping around (laughs).
SK: They were scary bunny rabbits!
BW: No, I can’t say. I don’t remember them at all.
SW: I just remember him coming in and going, “My god. I couldn’t breathe. It was like something was sitting on my chest.”
BW: Yeah, and I’ve never had anything like that. But it’s like, you know, isolating myself and trying to get myself in a dark place. Not through the whole film, because that wouldn’t be any fun to watch if you just saw this guy freaking out constantly. Well, he pretty much does, I guess (laughs)! That was really kind of the scariest thing for me is just being in that dark place. It wasn’t so much stuff happening on set because it was basically me just on my own.
Q: Were you actually closeted in, in some of those scenes?
BW: The beautiful thing about is the way Stephen shot it, he makes the scenes look so tight. It’s so claustrophobic with these extreme close ups and everything and I think that’s what makes it so uncomfortable to watch. That’s what’s makes it so great. Instead of doing these really wide shots, Stephen really kept it tight. Obviously, I wasn’t in these really, really closed-in spaces except for when I’m climbing out of the bed.
SK: And that one night.
BW: Oh, yeah. That one night. Let’s not talk about that (laughs).
Q: Sam Raimi said what creeped him out was the kids crowding around you.
BW: Oh, yeah? Well, that was an interesting scene to do because it was like you’ve got all these kids and not all of them are actors. So there was some giggling going on at first, and then it was like, “All right, guys. You’ve got to settle down, let’s get this done and let’s put on those faces.” It was actually kind of fun because it got me laughing so much, until like, Take 10 (laughs). Then I was like… “All right guys let’s stop messing around and just do this.” That wasn’t the creepiest part for me, but I guess it is scary. It’s hard to take yourself away, out of working on it, and then you wait till a year later when you see the final cut. It’s interesting because even I got scared a little bit, I screened it a couple of days ago. The hairs on the back my neck stood up. I was actually surprised that that happened. But it’s beautiful once you get all the stuff in post, with the sound and everything. I think it’s great. I’m really excited for it.
Q: How do you convey your character’s different states of mind in all of those scenes that you are alone and don’t have other actors to play off of?
BW: I actually thought that was going to be the most difficult part of this movie, but I got to the point to where I was alone for so long that I actually really enjoyed working by myself. Then Stephen would be like, “Guess what? You’re working with another actor today!” I’d be like, “What do I do?”
SK: Barry doesn’t like to listen to other actors, so it’s better to not have them (laughs).
BW: It’s like I was doing a silent movie for a period of time, with so much of it on my own. Just getting to those places, like going from dark to light and the little things you do to prepare as an actor that most people wouldn’t understand. Some of the stuff that you think about has nothing to do with being afraid or anything like that. When you’re in the moment, sometimes you’re thinking about something that could be the funniest thing in the world, but for some reason you need to get to that point to make what you’re doing work. I know that doesn’t make sense at all, but it sure does to me (laughs).
Q: I liked the scenes with Lucy Lawless. Can you talk about working with her?
BW: Lucy is a blast to work with. She is such a sweet person. I didn’t have that many scenes with her, but she was absolutely wonderful. There are a couple of things that got cut out, some flashback scenes that she was in that I wish still could have made it in the film. She is a total pro and I just had a blast working with her. She’s kind of like me in a way, where we’d goof off and little bit before shooting and we’d hop right into it. I had a great time working with her. And I used to go in every morning and do the Xena call to her (impersonates). She was a total delight to work with.
SK: I hated Lucy (laughs).
BW: Yeah, I know.
SK: No, I thought she was a blast. She was a genuine blast. The only sad part for me is the scenes that I think she is really amazing in didn’t make it in the movie.
Q: Might they wind up on the DVD?
SK: They’ll be on the DVD, yeah. She is genuinely funny and she is honestly one of these people who you don’t expect to be as complicated and interesting as she is and every time you see her she’s more interesting.
Q: How was she cast?
SK: She’s sleeping with the producer (laughs). No, the part sort grew in significance and so I said to Rob one day, “Could Lucy play the mom in this?” This was after we all had diner and I expected Lucy to show up with a spear and a shield and stuff (laughs). I asked her if she wanted to play Barry’s drug-addled mom, and she was like, “Yeah, yeah.”
Q: What is that loud, piercing noise in the soundtrack?
SK: It’s actually Barry.
BW: It’s gas. Too much fiber.
SK: It’s um, it’s an instrument. It’s playing, I believe, and I’m not positive but I believe it was seven different things. But the main instrument is a violin played backwards, and then just mushed. I think. But what was fun about the sound design of the movie was the guys down in New Zealand did a great job. They were the shit. The stuff they were trying and the layers and layers of sounds that you’re not even aware you’re hearing. We were listening in one of the huge, tricked-out rooms and they just cranked the shit up and your ears are going, “Wait. I’ve never heard that. That’s insane. What is that?” Sam felt very strongly that horror movies should have score and not songs in them. The more I watched the movie, the more I believed it should almost be tonal as opposed to musical.
Q: What are some scary stories you guys heard as kids that stuck with you?
BW: I can’t think of anything off-hand. I should be prepared for that question (laughs). That’s the first time anyone’s ever asked me that.
SK: You saw Bigfoot.
BW: I did. I did see Bigfoot when I was a kid and I still believe it to this day. I saw a big furry man outside my window (all laugh). It’s not funny! It was real.
SK: We’re not going to go anywhere near that!
BW: Hey, it was in Michigan on the Northern Border of Canada. It could have happened.
Q: What about movies?
BW: We didn’t talk about that much. Stephen would throw out a movie every once in awhile, like, “Have you seen that?” He gave me The Eye, which is like my favorite horror film now.
SW: We talked about anything other than what scares you.
BW: Exactly. Save it all for when we’re shooting.
Q: Did you like horror movies when you were a kid?
BW: Yeah. I think most people, even if they say they hate horror movies, there’s that feeling you get inside that makes you scared… I mean, I love it. I love to have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or get that chill up my spine. Obviously the Exorcist is probably on everybody’s list but The Omen was definitely one of my favorites, as was John Carpenter’s The Fog.
Q: The design of the house in the film is very similar to the one in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Was that a conscious thing?
SK: We actually came upon an existing house and sort of based everything around that house. That’s one of those movies that you study when you’re trying to figure out how you want to tell a horror story. I mean, that movie’s got to be in the top four that you look at. And I think subconsciously you can’t help but go, “That was cool…how they had to go from here to here…and they got stuck here.” The fun of that house to me is that it is this odd, creepy maze and it does take on a life of its own. It’s like the original Haunting, the house is a character. You never quite feel comfortable in the house, which I liked. Even though Tim grew up here, he walks in and there’s definitely a familiarity. But as the night goes on he becomes a stranger in the house. I thought the production designer did a beautiful job with the crazy things we could do in it. You know, the exterior of the house was one we found in the middle of nowhere. We should have actually shot inside that house! They picked up the house and moved it, and the production designer was living in the kitchen with no running water or anything while he fixed it up for shooting. It was freaky as hell. The things he allowed us to do in there, in terms of moving walls and things that…I wanted a lot of sheen and a lot of darkness.
Q: You had some interesting perspective shots from inside the closet.
SK: Yeah. I actually wanted more of that than there is. But there’s always going to be people going, “But that’s a subjective point of view.” Because it happens even in movies where there isn’t a boogeyman; there’s something really creepy about there being the other eye in the room. And we had the perfect excuse.
Q: Was there any thought of making it all psychological, like it’s all in his mind?
BW: Wait, isn’t that the movie?
SK: Yes, absolutely.
Q: Was that your decision to change?
BW: There was plenty of talk about it all being in his head.
Q: So when he goes between the motel and the houses, is that psychological or supernatural?
BW: No. It’s like Being John Malkovich, but scary (laughs).
SK: Yes! No, for me it was always the idea of someone…when Kate comes into the house and he’s bursting out of the closet, he’s been sitting in that frickin’ closet, freaking out and then he goes back there and these are all sort of brain hiccups. I had an odd period in my life where I was having these anxiety attacks and that’s what this is for me. It’s just that thing going, “Fuck, I can’t breathe.” Rationally I understand that there is nothing in that closet and I should just pull it open and nothing’s going to be there, but instead I pick up a frickin’ hammer and I go to the closet, and oh god…It’s a coat! No, it’s a hand! No, it’s…And you know, to me that is what’s interesting about the movie.
Q: So you chose to leave some of it ambiguous?
SK: Yes. That’s the fun of it. That’s the fun of this kind of a ride.
Q: How much control did you end up having over what the final product ended up being?
SK: Well, it’s always tricky. There are probably five directors in the world that can go, “This is my movie.” There are people who put up a lot of money to have their opinions. You try to keep the theme clear. No matter what happens with the window dressings and that, you go, “It’s still a movie about a guy facing his fear.” If you don’t face your fear, it will kill you. It will paralyze you. So you go, “All right. That’s what the movie is. That’s what I can hold onto no matter what else.”
BW: We did win Franny being a ghost.
SK: Yes, we absolutely did.
Q: Are you happy with the final product?
SK: I don’t think I have ever done a movie where I haven’t gone, “Oh, I wish I’d done this, or that.” And that’s not only because other people do it, it’s because you take a step away and you get a little perspective and all of a sudden you go, “Oh, fuck! That’s what the scenes supposed to be!” There are beats in this movie that I literally was like, “Oh my god. How cool would it have been if…” And you know it’s got nothing to do with anyone sort of bullying me. And I think probably 90% of the directors you talk to will agree that with perspective comes wisdom.
Q: What are you working on for the DVD right now?
SK: We’re timing it and they were talking about the new scenes they want added and the deleted scenes. There are some crazy storyboards and stuff like that. It should be fun. There are enough bonus features that hopefully people who have seen the movie will also want the DVD.
Q: Will there be any bloopers?
SK: I wish they would let us do bloopers. I think because it’s a horror movie, people are like, “Oh, you can’t do a lot of goofy stuff.” (Laughs) I told them yesterday that I would like to do the goofy commentary. I’ll do a serious one, but I also want to do one where I can make fun of moments in the movie.
BW: Yeah, those serious commentaries are no fun to watch unless you can make fun of yourself.
SK: We have a lot of interesting stuff. There will be a making-of documentary and all that stuff. That’s why I buy DVDs.
Big thanks to Sony for allowing us to take part in the Boogeyman junket, and especially to Messrs. Watson and Kay for taking their time with us. Boogeyman is now in theaters, so check it out and see if it’ll scare you as much as it did them!
Discuss Boogeyman in our forums!