David Guy Levy’s wonderfully twisted thriller Would You Rather (review here) is now in select theaters and available on VOD. With his Clue, Saw and House on Haunted Hill mash-up, Levy has conjured up an unforgettable and often uncomfortable affair.
Dread Central recently chatted with Levy about his indie project and heard more on how he got involved with this sick and twisted (albeit entertaining) game of Would You Rather with screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen, why Jeffrey Combs would be the best game show host ever, their plans for a potential sequel and much more.
Dread Central: Congrats on making one of the more uncomfortable movies I’ve had to sit through in a while- which I mean as a compliment of course (laughs).
David Guy Levy: Thanks! That’s what we were aiming for so I’m glad to hear the movie worked for you (laughs).
Dread Central: Can you talk about what attracted you to the project and how you got involved?
David Guy Levy: Oh sure; well, Steffen (Schlachtenhaufen) approached me with a very simple pitch- he said, “What if we made a movie about a game of Would You Rather, but in our version, people had to choose whether or not to do awful things to themselves or each other?” So we took that idea and thought about all the movies we loved and figured out how we could tell this story the best way possible on a very small budget but still tell it the way we wanted to.
We wanted to approach the concept very realistically because I think seeing how playing this game affects ‘real’ people makes it all the more terrifying. We needed real characters and a real story to this, or we would have just ended up making an entirely different kind of horror movie altogether. We didn’t want to make anything too gratuitous either- for both Steffen and myself, Would You Rather was all about creating that tension and holding it from beginning to end.
So I had this idea for a dinner party, much like you see in Clue, where there’s this really disturbing mystery that’s unfolding, all led by this man who is just untouchable. I remember seeing this movie once about a roofer who’s doing a job at a mansion and overhears his employer getting a special invitation to an exclusive event. The guy dies so the roofer doesn’t think anyone would notice if he stole the invitation so he does; and when he shows up, it’s actually this high-stakes tournament of Russian Roulette that you aren’t allowed to leave once you arrive so he gets thrown into something far more sinister than he could have imagined. That’s the kind of tension we were going for.
Dread Central: Can you talk about bringing on Brittany (Snow) and why she was perfect for the role of Iris?
David Guy Levy: You know, she was one of the very first people that popped into my head when we were developing this story; I had a friend of mine, Adam Scott, reach out to her for us, and she agreed to meet with me for lunch to talk about the project. She really loved the story but was of course concerned like we were about Would You Rather turning into a torture porn movie, but I just convinced her that what we were going for was a far more ‘refined’ approach and asked her to trust me. Thankfully she did, and she was absolutely wonderful to work with.
Dread Central: And how about Jeffrey Combs- Lambrick just seemed like a role tailor-made for him.
David Guy Levy: When we were creating Lambrick, I sort of had Christoph Waltz’s character from Inglourious Basterds in the back of my mind. I wanted him to have that kind of flourish to him since Lambrick is essentially a very twisted version of a game show host; so one day Steffen showed me Jeffrey’s reel and I knew immediately that this was the guy. He just had that sensibility to him where I could picture Jeffrey being at the head of this really messed up ‘game show’- it’s all that charisma. Jeffrey would make a perfect game show host if he wasn’t already such a brilliant actor.
So we sent him the script, and one day later he sent back not an acceptance letter but a thank you note, which I thought was really special. And Jeffrey really brought this amazing energy with him to set each and every day, which ended up being somewhat infectious because I could see everyone from the cast to the crew really feeding off of and responding to that, which was just amazing.
There was this really great moment with John Heard’s character, a recovering alcoholic, who has to drink a full decanter of brandy. Originally it was supposed to be a bottle of wine, in reference to John’s glass of wine he refused to drink, but Jeffrey saw that a bottle of wine wasn’t really that much of a threat so he suggested upping the ante and making it a decanter of booze since that will really mess someone up. That was just brilliant, something I hadn’t really considered, and so it was little things like that from Jeffrey that really elevated Would You Rather and also encouraged the other actors to find their own little moments to improve upon, which just made the movie that much stronger.
Dread Central: So what’s coming up next for you then? Are you planning on working in the horror genre again?
David Guy Levy: People always like to say that they don’t like to label themselves- well, I don’t like to unlabel myself if that makes any sense so I’d love to come back and do more horror and even do another Would You Rather movie, too. Steffen and I are working on writing a potential sequel now so we’ll see where that goes. Right now I’m just focused on getting my new comic book out called “Back to Back to the Future,” which is about what would have happened had Eric Stoltz had never been replaced by Michael J. Fox. I originally wrote the story for a class thesis when I was in college and just developed it from there. I knew I could never get it made as a movie so I thought a comic book would be a great treatment for this story.
In the wake of her parent’s death, Iris struggles to make ends meet while caring for her terminally ill younger brother. Shepard Lambrick, a seemingly philanthropic aristocrat, expresses an interest in helping them. When he invites her to an exclusive dinner party, she accepts. Also attending the dinner party are seven more desperate individuals. They soon find themselves trapped in Lambrick’s mansion and forced to play a sadistic game of Would You Rather, where the winner will be awarded untold amounts of money. As the game progresses, the dilemmas Iris and the other players face grow increasingly deadly.
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