Evil Dead Set Visit Report Part Two: Filmmaker Fede Alvarez, Producer Rob Tapert and More on Everything Fans Want to Know About the Remake
For the second part of our Evil Dead set visit in Auckland, New Zealand, we had a busy but incredible day in store for us where we spent most of our time on a particular soundstage.
What we ended up watching was some of the events in Evil Dead's insane third act going down, which included one character repeatedly saying "One More Soul to Rise…" for each take and eventually being set on fire (cool!), which got us wondering- Just who in the hell is still left to rise beyond these poor kids trapped inside this cabin? We needed answers, and thankfully writer/director Fede Alvarez and producer Robert Tapert (who's been connected to the franchise since Sam Raimi's 1981 original) were on hand to answer those questions and more for us.
But before we sat down for several hour-long roundtable interviews with the filmmakers and cast (more from them tomorrow!), we were also treated to an extensive tour of the soundstage cabin with Alvarez, which essentially was like listening to a proud dad show off about his kids- there's absolutely no doubting the up-and-coming filmmaker's passion and enthusiasm for the Evil Dead. Alvarez proudly wears his passion on his sleeve, and after chatting with him for a few hours, let's just say this journalist was finally convinced that the new Evil Dead was absolutely in the right hands.
Getting back to the cabin tour- as Alvarez walked us through the upstairs and the basement, he was careful to point out all the blood splatter that could be found here and there inside each of the cabin's room and gleefully went over all the demented ways he was going to torture each of his characters in his far darker and more serious take on the Evil Dead universe.
Die-hard fans out there might also be interested to learn that during the tour Alvarez also mentioned that there would be an iconic poster in his basement as an homage to what Raimi did in the original flick…oh, and all those dead cats we mentioned in part one of our set visit report? Those suckers are swinging from the rafters in the basement from barbed wire nooses. Yikes.
Other things we learned during our tour at the studio was that the final showdown sequence will involve Jane Levy's character, Mia, facing off against some sort of a 'big bad' (perhaps the entity that only needed 'one more soul to rise?' - no one would confirm so we'll just have to wait until April to see) and a raining blood sequence that involved about 50,000 gallons of the fun stuff being pumped from a tanker truck.
After our tour we headed upstairs to a conference room, where we sat down for an extensive and informative roundtable with all the key Evil Dead players and cast members; because we were given SO MUCH information over the several hours we spent chatting with everyone, I've decided to break it up into two parts- filmmakers and cast.
Below are the highlights from Alvarez and Tapert as well as a few tidbits from executive producer J.R. Young, who discuss everything from updating the Evil Dead story to the tone to losing the humor to the over-the-top violence to the Evil Dead 4 lawsuit and whether or not Bruce Campbell will be making an appearance - so like I said, everyone gave us a lot of great stuff so just bear with the long read, fiends. If you're dying to know more about the Evil Dead remake, this is absolutely everything you'd want to know and more.
And make sure to check back here tomorrow for our final installment in our Evil Dead Set Visit Report series and get to know the new tortured souls of this iconic franchise.
Journalist: I want to start off on the tone, because we know the first film was much more horror-centric and it seems like you guys are sticking to that. Could you talk about developing the tone, both in the writing and in the performances?
Fede Alvarez: One day I was at a place and I get a call saying, "Hey, it seems like Sam [Raimi] wants you to remake Evil Dead for him." [slaps hand on table] "What?!" I tried to figure out what to do. And on the same day I talked to Sam and I was like, "Do you have a script? Do you have an idea?" And he was like, "Hell no. Do you?" And I said, "Well how about this?" and we pitched something to him, right? It wasn't exactly the story we have now but the tone was there.
But I was trying to make the movie I saw when I was 12. I watched Evil Dead when I was 12 years old. I went to the video store and I asked for the scariest movie they could give me. The guy looked around and said, "Here, take this" and he gave me The Evil Dead. And I was like, "What? It looks like a porn movie." It wasn't a very fancy edition of the movie (laughs).
But we were talking about this the other day and when we got to that moment it kind of happened in a similar way. We had to do a Deadite in the cellar and it was kind of a flashback to then, remembering what it was like to see that face for the first time and to try to make something scarier when remaking it. That was the biggest challenge; basically what we pitched to Raimi was doing a movie in the same tone, with the same horror that I personally experienced when I watched it for the first time because of course when you're 12, it's scary.
So basically what we pitched to Sam then was the story and that same tone. We thought it was violent, it was horrific and it was pretty cool at the same time because you're watching something you're not supposed to watch. Basically that was it and Sam said yes right away, right?
Rob Tapert: Yeah and Evil Dead 2 and Army Of Darkness, we loved them, but they never really worked for a wider audience. DVD-wise, download-wise, Evil Dead 1 still outpaces those movies in terms of people who watch it. So even though Drag Me To Hell was its own thing and had that borderline tone at times, I think the audience never knew exactly how to react. And I think straightforward horror works; I mean the comedic elements can play for film fans, but The Cabin in the Woods didn't translate into a huge audience at the end of the day. We wanted straightforward horror and that's what this guy did.
Fede Alvarez: That kind of horror comedy is definitely Sam's thing; I would never even try to do something like that. If I go, "Oh, Evil Dead? I've got to have some jokes here!" I would feel miserable with my life. It's his style definitely. So right away we agreed that we wanted to make a more serious movie and Mr. Bruce Campbell was like, "Okay this is a new set of characters." We didn't want to remake the old characters and in particular, we don't want to remake Ash. I've been a fan of this forever and I'm not going to touch Ash. That's something you don't do.
Rob Tapert: We needed somebody who was a good actor. [Everyone laughs].
Journalist: Did the possibility ever exist that what you're making might not be able to be released as an R-rated movie?
Fede Alvarez: It will be an R-rated movie no matter what. When we wrote the script we delivered it and they were like "Oh, this is amazing." Rob and Sam have been more like good cop, bad cop and Bruce [Campbell] is always excited about everything. So for me it was such a dream to have those three guys talking about the movie, it was awesome. But the voices were like—basically Tapert, being a little more realistic was like "That's an NC-17 movie right there, the way it was written."
But there are people at Sony that take care of that, a liaison with the MPAA, and they read it and go "Oh, I think that will be an R because of the supernatural aspects of it." You know you Americans are crazy, right? The whole ratings system is like "Cuckoo!" because there's not much sex, actually, but there is…in a way. But not in the "Oh look, a boob" or "Oh, they have some sex now" ways- not that kind of sex. So that's all right, all the mutilation and all that, that's all cool for kids. It's great. (laughs)
Journalist: Are you planning on multiple cuts of this film, ratings-wise?
Rob Tapert: Yes…I have always been exceedingly concerned about getting an NC-17. The woman who guided The Grudge through to get a PG-13 assured us that, "Oh no, nothing in this is going to get you an NC-17" but I keep bumping up against that self-mutilation thing. And because they swing so much as to what they decide on a weekly basis is an NC-17 or an R or a PG-13, I just don't know. But FilmDistrict, who bought this, Peter Schlessel's company and they all said, "We want this the hardest R you guys can give us" and so we're certainly shooting that.
I suspect there'll be pushback because Evil Dead and Evil Dead II both went out unrated so the film board never forgot that, it's like passed down as part of the package…whenever The Evil Dead or these guys come in with a project, it's hit 'em hard because they-
Journalist: If you have to cut for theatrical, would you release the uncut on Blu-ray?
Rob Tapert: Absolutely. Yes.
Journalist: Regarding the NC-17 issue- is the sexual violence of the tree rape, is that especially difficult?
Rob Tapert: You know what, you're going to have to pay your money to find out. You know, Sam has tried to distance himself from that saying, "Oh, it was all Rob's idea" or "I didn't know what I was doing, I'd been drinking moonshine and Mountain Dew…" But it is something and so we were working on our version of it. I'd hate to deliver that for the fans and not at least skirt around it…or address it straight on so that's one I don't want to give away.
Journalist: But you guys are still willing to go over the top a little bit, as you said, because it wouldn't be an Evil Dead movie if you weren't willing to cross that line, right?
Fede Alvarez: Exactly. There are a lot of things. The violence is over the top. The showdown in the finale, you can see right there that is raining blood so you can imagine that it's going get to quite outrageous with over the top, chainsaw action, raining blood…it just goes crazy, right?
So on that side, things are super over the top but the thing is that for me the realistic aspect is the characters, how they deal with it, as if it happened in real life. They're not doing funny one-liners and stuff like that. That would, for me as the audience, would take me out of it. For the kind of horror movies that I like, if you start going too much to the left the fear just dissipates a little bit, you know? That's why I choose 100% horror.
Rob Tapert: There's some stuff that will make you guys kind of chuckle but the average person on the street probably won't. This not like Evil Dead II and not like Army of Darkness. Tonally…yet [it] reaches that point of the "Swallow this!" line and we'll see if it lives to get on the screen. You never know what's going to live through the edit and live through the previews.
Journalist: Do you have any idea of the amount of gallons of blood you've used on this thing?
Fede Alvarez: I know we ordered a truck the other day that was…50,000 gallons? Just for one scene.
Journalist: Can you talk about how involved Sam, Rob and Bruce have been with production? I'm especially curious about Bruce- are you getting feedback from them every day, every other day?
Fede Alvarez: Oh they were very involved in pre-production. I actually had the chance to spend a week with Bruce in his house in Miami. I lost a flight connection and I knew he lived there, we were already in contact because of the movie and he invited me over, so I had the crazy awesome chance to spend the week with the team.
On pre-production we had a lot of time together, talked a lot about the movie and what we were going to do. But then Sam Raimi said to me, "Once the ship has sailed, it's gone. Once you start shooting, I cannot be the guy screaming 'Go the other way! Go the other way!'" Now it's about us, the people that are down here and they send their feedback here and there saying, "It's looking great, keep going. Awesome. Take care of that. Watch this thing." Those kinds of things, but not "in control" of the thing. I guess, in my mind at least, this is not the remake you do every day, for many reasons.
Most of those remakes like The Thing premake or even Nightmare on Elm Street, I'm not judging on if you like them or not- it's not that. It's just that those properties are not owned by a man, right. Wes Craven doesn't own Nightmare; he didn't even own the original. He created the whole thing, but it was owned by the studios, so all those big franchises are owned by studios and then the remake is created by a studio. This is a totally different ballgame because this is one of those rare big names in horror movies that are just owned by these guys; it's just Tapert, Bruce and Sam and that dentist that we all know about- the people that gave them money originally.
Journalist: Rob, can you discuss why you brought Fede on board?
Rob Tapert: You know what was interesting? As you probably saw in the press announced years ago that we were considering making Evil Dead. It was interesting that it was Sam [Raimi] who was most for it, I was relatively indifferent and Bruce was kind of dead-set against it. That kind of drifted on for a number of years and we were working with Fede on another project called Panic Attack. As it became very apparent that there were other movies that had similar storylines that were going to get to theaters beforehand.
We really like Fede and he's a smart guy so we had a conversation and we said, "You know what, maybe we should see what he has to say about Evil Dead." And the beauty of that pitch and what got Bruce aboard was there was no Ash character. Up until that time, that was the tripping point; everyone else we spoke to had talked about this or "Oh, let's make Ash into this or do that." None of those were the right thing that were going to get it made and it was that Fede actually who brought that linchpin to getting the project made and of saying, "We're not going to deal with that, we're going to go in a different direction."
Journalist: Why was Sam always so pro remaking it?
Rob Tapert: Because he thought it was a great chance for a young filmmaker, a new filmmaker, to have the tools to go and remake something. In terms of entertainment, he said, "Nobody saw the movie as we intended people to see it" which was in a theater or in a drive-in. The first movie was meant to be a drive-in movie. So he said that it was a title that a young filmmaker should be able to take, improve upon with everything they have available today, give it a story, give the characters last names if we have to (laughs). But he always wanted to see it remade and brought to a theater as a real movie.
Journalist: Other than, of course, the original Evil Dead, what inspirations did you draw from when writing this script?
Fede Alvarez: It is a remake of course so you have to remake some elements of the original but you want to do your own movie. For me, every time I read about a remake of a classic, I'm the guy…I'm not a troll, but I have a user account at most of your sites, you can check it, and you'll find my same user name I have on my YouTube video "Panic Attack" as the same user on most of your sites and I've logged there like forever. You'll find my commentaries on old movies saying like "That sucks! Why are they fucking going to do that!" So then it happened to me and I'm doing it and I read all these people saying "What the fuck are they doing?" and all of that, it's kind of bizarre and weird.
But I know that for me what really kept me going is that it's awesome to do it anyways, without being affected by the "Why the fuck are they going to do that?" It's like, for my generation, there's a lot of movies that we love. I'm 34 so when I watched them back then I didn't know they were a remake. David Cronenberg's The Fly was an awesome movie. I didn't know for a long time it was a remake. And Cronenberg is an amazing filmmaker; he didn't give a fuck about the original, right? So without being too disrespectful to the original, and I'd say this to Sam, I tried to make my own movie. I don't want to try to remake it. That's the mistake. You have to take whatever you think is the best things about the original and do a new one.
But the events are exactly the same that happened in the original, almost in the same order I would say. The sister gets possessed; they don't know what it is. She ends up in the cellar; they don't know what to do with her. Somebody else gets infected; they have two friends trying to deal with that. Trying to work together and deal with this. If you look at it in a certain way, the structure of the story, I would say the first half, is very similar. The reason why they go there is different, but at the end of the say it's still "Five people go to a cabin; they find the book, one of them gets possessed, ends up in the cellar. Another one gets possessed, they don't know whether to kill them, they die, they are shocked because of that. There's still one in the cellar that's possessed." All the structure is still the same idea.
Journalist: You mentioned crafting the tone of the story, and I know you did the first few passes of the script with your writing partner, but at some point Diablo Cody did get involved...
Fede Alvarez: She did, but J.R. can you answer that?
J.R. Young: Fede kind of turned in the script and said, "It would be good to have another writer take a look at it and give some comments, maybe they could take it further." Someone had known that Diablo is a fan of the Evil Dead franchise so they sent her Fede's script and she really responded to it. She was actually like, "I actually think it's really working, but I have some ideas" and she did a polish pass on it. Structurally, it's the exact same script. It was a lot of character ideas or dialogue ideas, and a lot of that stuff has lived through to here, and some things have gone back to where they were. It was more a polish pass than anything else.
Journalist: So we go on a lot of sets where they were doing practical effects and they talk about how they're going to keep these practical effects, it's not going to be CG-enhanced -
Fede Alvarez: And then?
Journalist: And then…well...But in this case, is the difference the fact that Sam and Rob, their names are attached it's their company here, that's going to preserve that purity?
Fede Alvarez: I think Sam was always like, "if we do it, we have to do it that way." We all watched The Thing premake. (laughs)
Journalist: I think the new Deadite design actually really works. Can you talk about your thought process on changing the design?
Fede Alvarez: Yeah, we didn't want makeup to pop up. The story is very…for a supernatural story, it's very grounded; there are no people floating or anything. So basically we designed them in a way that every time they get possessed, like the first stage is like some kind of self-mutilation- particularly the face- so they do something to themselves and they're in some state of hysteria…they'll look fucked up and they'll look very scary.
Journalist: Jane mentioned earlier that she had some input into the Deadite version of her character. Could you talk a little bit about your approach to working with the actors and their looks in the movie?
Fede Alvarez: Since the get go, we knew he had to create these Deadite guys. They're written in a certain way, right? You bring something to the writing of how they are. We don't create them in a generic "Okay, they just turn" kind of way and that's it; it's kind of connected to the characters. They all have traits that come from the character so, they don't move in the same way; they behave in different ways.
And Jane is supposed to be a girl that's kicking a habit and she's going through a withdrawal when she turns so she's kind of a Deadite junkie. She twitches and stuff; she realizes that she's not just possessed but she's also going through withdrawal and it just turns into something super scary to see. Other characters are just very peaceful and cold, just like stone cold killers, because it's more like the characters are, so each one of the actors helped me.
This group of actors, they're really troopers; they're really going for it. I mean, I see them suffer and I enjoy it so much. It has to be that way. If you feel bad for them, if you're like, "Oh no, let's not do another take"…it's more like, "Oh no, fuck no, you go again." And usually they're grateful the next day because they see the last take when they were like, "Fuck, I'm miserable" and they look awesome. It turns into something real and they use it and that's the way it is. That's why Bruce Campbell wrote to them and said, "You have to suffer because movies are easy to make are hard to watch."
Journalist: I'm wondering about references- specifically, from the beginning did you know you had to have that vine sequence? Did you know you wanted to have a chainsaw involved? Did you know someone's going to say, "I'll swallow your soul?" Was it a list of like, "Okay, I've got to have that in, I've got to have that in" or was it more organic?
Fede Alvarez: (laughs) It was organic in a way. Yeah, I mean chainsaw had to be there. But the good thing is that they never asked me for any of those things; like, there was never anything that came down from Sam or Rob or Bruce saying, "Ah, I think we should have this or we should have that."
Journalist: Do you and Sam hope for a new franchise with this?
Rob Tapert: Sure, but you only take it one picture at a time. The audience decides what's going to happen.
Journalist: Are you able to comment at all on the Evil Dead 4 shenanigans?
Rob Tapert: You know, here's what happened… it was totally misreported… well, what shenanigans?
Journalist: Well, the lawsuit.
Rob Tapert: So the lawsuit was the following: We applied for a trademark, cause you can't copyright a title. So we applied for a trademark on Evil Dead and some guy in New York…said "No, I'm remaking an Evil Dead movie" and it was that. We've gone through this long process, spent a lot of money with fancy attorneys in New York, and the guys' company has never made a movie. So in one of his responses, he kept…what he was looking for was to settle it and we just went, "No, we're going to go for legal fees" but I'm sure he doesn't have them. We went to deliver papers and no one had lived at the address forever. And so it was just a guy who saw an opportunity, so it really was a non-event, but it sure pissed off Sam cause he was dragged into the middle of it all.
Journalist: Is Bruce going to be in this at all?
Rob Tapert: If Fede had his druthers, there's a gag that they want to do. I don't see it as having…it won't sell another ticket is what I say.
Journalist: In the nerd community it will.
Rob Tapert: You think so? It's a rip-off…unfortunately it's a rip-off, I think the audience will feel cheated. I think they're going to think somebody's Bruce right away and they're not so they're just going to be hanging out to see when he shows up. But anyway, we'll see what happens.
Journalist: Are you at all surprised by the enduring fanbase for the franchise?
Rob Tapert: Yes, it's crazy and it was somewhere along the line… it was really once we got the movie back from New Line in like 1996 or '97 where we realized it had become a rite of passage for people who like horror; sometime in their mid-teens, everyone saw that movie.
Journalist: What was it about the original franchise that really connected with horror fans, and is that something you're trying to bring to the remake?
Rob Tapert: We took it seriously and there was a motto that we wanted to punish the audience. So there was a punishment…we wanted to scare them. And I think we brought that into the movie as entertainment and scaring the audience and this one has the same straightforward goals. It really is to go for the jugular and as often as we can.
Journalist: Fede, Can you talk about what this experience has been like for you? Basically, this is your first major production, has it been everything you hoped it would be?
Fede Alvarez: Dude, three years ago I was in my house doing commercials just doing stuff; I did a short and suddenly, one week after I uploaded it I was sitting with Sam Rami signing a deal with him to do another movie that didn't happen, but still sitting there. A week after that I was like, "Well, we're going to make a movie- awesome."
And then we had a process with that movie where somebody had to write it and that's why the movie never happened; Sam and I were getting along pretty well and Sam goes, "Well, you want to make Evil Dead?" So we started doing Evil Dead and that's when I asked him, "Please, can I write it this time?" and he said, "Sure."
Maybe he didn't trust it was going to be good, but I'm happy that he liked it. And suddenly I'm here making a movie. But dude, three years ago I was thinking about selling my car and moving back to Uruguay, nothing like Hollywood. I was thinking about just making my movies and making my short stuff. So what can I say dude? It's like the best experience ever. I've been doing this stuff since I was 12, even before I did stop motion movie with clay models when I was seven and suddenly this happened for some reason; I don't know why but it's happened and it's just awesome.
Ghost House Pictures is producing the much anticipated remake of The Evil Dead, the film that effectively launched the careers of Sam Raimi (Spider-Man franchise, Darkman, Drag Me to Hell), Rob Tapert (30 Days of Night), and Bruce Campbell, who played the Ash character and was co-producer of the original. They are now back to produce an Evil Dead for today's audience that's high on the horror, gore, plot twists, and more from a screenplay written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues with Diablo Cody. Executive producers are J.R. Young, Nathan Kahane, Joseph Drake, and Peter Schlessel.
Related Story: Everything About the Evil Dead Remake
A core cast of young, fresh talent includes Jane Levy ("Suburgatory") as Mia; Shiloh Fernandez (Deadgirl, Red Riding Hood) as David; Lou Taylor Pucci (Carriers) as Eric; Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield) as Olivia; and Elizabeth Blackmore (Legend of the Seeker) as Natalie.
Look for the film in theatres on April 12th.
In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.
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