Final Destination 5 Interview Series Part 2: Dread Central Talks with Cast Members Courtney B. Vance, Arlen Escarpeta and PJ Byrne
In our next set of roundtable interviews for the upcoming Final Destination 5, Dread Central had the opportunity to sit down and talk with three more of the film's victims (or stars) including renowned actor Courtney B. Vance, genre veteran Arlen Escarpeta and eternal funnyman PJ Byrne.
The trio of actors (which talked about their thoughts about coming on board the highly popular Final Destination franchise, working with director Steven Quale and how their characters try cheating Death's rules in this fifth installment.
For Escarpeta (Horrible Bosses, Dinner for Schmucks), he's used to being the guy who bites it very early on in horror movies so he discussed how excited he was when he found out his character wouldn't be initially knocked off early on in the film. "Honestly, it felt great to not be one of the first to get killed off! When I first sat down with the executives and they were telling me where the story’s going to go and how my character would play out in the film, I just got so excited because there is a stigma with horror movies that the black guy always dies first and I don't in this one. So it feels really good and now I feel like I call myself the Barack of horror films now. Or something like that!"
Vance ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "FlashForward"), though, was a different story. He was initially a little nervous about being in a horror movie himself, only because he's not exactly the biggest fan of the genre for a very good reason- they terrify him. He discussed how it was Quale's involvement with Final Destination 5 that piqued his interest from the start.
"Horror films scare me," explained Vance. "So you could say that I’m a little bit of a scaredy-cat. But I wanted to do Final Destination 5 because I'm a fan of Avatar and the work that both James (Cameron) and Steve, our director, did on that film. We knew it was a directorial debut. We knew it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of someone’s beginning. So that's why I wanted to be a part of this movie because I knew it was going to be something special to be involved with and an incredible experience for the fans out there who look forward to these movies."
Byrne (Horrible Bosses, Dinner for Schmucks) added, "I agree! I think that was the thing that we kind of all knew we were going to be getting to work on a dream project with Steven at the helm and real money behind it. I mean, technically this is his first movie, but it’s not his first movie by any stretch of the imagination because he showed up with a lot of talent already in place. Then, we had a great writer and they put together a great cast with David Koechner (Anchorman) in it too, so we’re going to add a little humor and really raise the bar this time around. Also, I want to do it because I’m not that good looking and this might be my best shot being in an action movie and getting to die fantastically in awesome 3D glory.(Laughs)"
Escarpeta went on to give his thoughts on working alongside Quale on Final Destination 5. "Steven was built for this. He told me a lot of stories about just going to school at SC and he was working on the Terminator movie at the same time. That's incredible to me that he's studying for finals while working on a movie like that. And everything he’s done from his younger days up ‘til now, you can see it has been one project leading to the next level of work and it just continues to build."
"I think one of the cool things about the way our movie was shot, and what Steve did, and with the cameras that we worked with, the whole scope of it just seemed to you give you such an incredible depth to the 3D in front of you. For example, Steven has a way to make a shot on a bridge beam 300 feet above the water make you focus more on the depth of the water than the beam right in front of you. That's a gift, right there," added Escarpeta.
With the Final Destination series, actors know going into it that they're going to end up on Death's bad side by the time the credits role. The experience of collaborating with fellow actors for an extended time and knowing you'd have to say good-bye at some point was a bit of an interesting process for both Vance and Byrne to experience for the first time.
"I see Final Destination as a lot like the Ten Little Indians scenario where one by one, everyone gets killed until no one is left standing," explained Vance. "And you spend so much time together at first and then eventually the first person drops and it hits you. Like it's summer camp and you don't want to see them go. But when it's your day, everyone on set knows and you seem to get a little better treatment that day since it's your last. Almost literally."
Byrne added, "Yeah, when it was your day to die, everyone would get kind of sad. But the one cool thing about being a part of number 5 is that because there have been so many movies before this sequel, this one feels kind of unique and I really feel like it is ours."
Part of the uniqueness to Final Destination 5 that Byrne was alluding to involves writer Eric Heisserer's twist on the idea of cheating death: this time around, someone else can take your place and in return, you're granted their lifespan (however long that may be). Escarpeta discussed how this twist in particular affected his character in the film.
"We played with the idea of trading a life with a life a couple different ways because it is a scenario I get faced with in the film," said Escarpeta. "And we had to figure out whether or not if it happens, would it be an accident that I trade lives with someone or would I do it willingly? It was hard to get that balance right because you kind of want to like the guy and sympathize with him because he's been through so much already and he’s already getting beat up verbally from his coworkers on top of that. So there is an ambiguity to what happens when my character is faced with the decision but I think I kind of would have liked to see him make a hard decision one way or the other. Maybe that'll play out in the deleted scenes or something."
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