Evil Dead Set Visit Report Part Three: Meet the Tortured Souls of the New Evil Dead!
One thing clearly evident from our visit to the set of the new Evil Dead in Auckland is that filmmaker Fede Alvarez made his up-and-coming cast suffer for the sake of pushing the remake into some dark and unexpectedly twisted places.
His goal is to deliver an extremely visceral movie-going experience for fans of the series. Need proof? Then look no further than the wickedly gory red band trailer released last week!
Much like he did with his original 1981 cult classic, Sam Raimi handpicked a group of relatively unknown 20-something actors for this version of Evil Dead, but this time he had help from franchise hero and fellow producer Bruce Campbell. And as anyone who has researched what went into making the original Evil Dead flicks knows, "The Chin" also suffered greatly at the hand of Raimi throughout that trio of productions.
So before production was under way last year, Raimi and Campbell set out on a search for their newest stars (or victims) and found them in five rising talents in Hollywood including Jane Levy ("Suburgatory"), Shiloh Fernandez (Deadgirl), Lou Pucci (Carriers), Elizabeth Blackmore ("Legend of the Seeker") and Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield).
In the film Levy and Fernandez play a sister and brother duo who head out to a cabin in the middle of the woods so that Levy's character, Mia, can kick her nasty drug habit. Of course, that plan begins to go straight to hell once a demonic force is unleashed through a copy of the Book of Dead discovered inside the cabin's basement, and soon the five friends must figure out a way to stop the deadly force before it swallows all their souls (a promise that the demonic force intends to make good on and is ever so fond of reminding its intended victims about through that creepy ass voice).
On Day Two we arrived at the cabin soundstage located at the production's studio, where they were filming some interior shots, which also ended up being our introduction to a few of the characters from the new Evil Dead including Mia and her brother, David (Fernandez), as well as Pucci's character, Eric; and judging by the looks of things… well, the word INTENSE certainly comes to mind. Let's just say that Eric's seen better days, and both Mia and David look like their day went into the crapper a long, long time ago.
So my curiosity was certainly piqued about their characters and what fate awaits all of them in Evil Dead. During our hour-long roundtable interview with cast members Levy, Fernandez, Pucci and Blackmore as well as Alvarez and producers Rob Tapert and J.R. Young, we left no proverbial stone unturned when it came to finding out more about the poor unfortunate souls being tortured throughout the flick.
During our roundtable interviews, we confirmed that Levy's Mia is looking to pick up the franchise hero mantle from Campbell's iconic character of Ash but of course will in no way ever take away from that character's legacy in the franchise either. We also learned that each of the actors were able to give Alvarez input into the creation of their Deadite selves and heard more about the grueling production experience which is par for the course when it comes to the Evil Dead movies, baby!
Here are some of the interview highlights with the cast of the new Evil Dead:
Journalist: How much are you guys influenced by the original's performances, if at all? Like you were saying, not a lot of people who will see this for the first time have seen the original so are you taking anything from that into this?
Shiloh Fernandez: This is pretty unique; I talked to Fede and we both had ideas we sort of matched up as to who this person was, I think. That's sort of the way I'm basing my character; it's something that Fede wrote, and when I came to him and was like, "Is it this?", he was like, "Yeah, that's it."
Journalist: You guys play a group of friends who are coming together to help someone kick heroin; did you have a lot of rehearsal time to hang out beforehand?
Lou Pucci: We organized a little vacation day before we started shooting; it was a good three-day trip where we took Easter vacation out to Coromandel, this beach. I drove everybody, and I had just learned to drive on the left side of the road like two days before so I almost killed everybody. But we really did actually get to hang out with each other for a good amount of time. Fede gave us like a week or more together because Jessica [Lucas] had a week with us, but we were here for two weeks, and I actually didn't get to meet and talk with Fede for the first week, really. That was all us; it was just us hanging out, and then we started working about a week before we started.
Also, to go with what Shiloh was just talking about, Bruce Campbell gave us an email that was just kind of like, "Don't worry about trying to copy anything that we did or trying to make it anything like what we did because what we did worked for a totally different reason than what you guys are trying to do." So I thought that was kind of cool; everybody is on the same page about us making our own characters that has nothing to do with the original characters.
Journalist: You have the prosthetics on, and I think you all have to go through that – is that the least fun part of the job, or…?
Jane Levy: It's the worst!
Lou Pucci: Yesterday... I think that was my worst day ever (laughs). And it's because I had to do all day what I'm doing just for a little bit of the day today. But it's the exact same thing: I'm covered in water right now and wearing mesh under this and knee pads and shit that doesn't let water out. And I was just sleeping, but that's usually not, well, enjoyed because I have these fucking contacts in that are– you can't even see. It's the worst thing in the world.
Jane Levy: I was saying before, though, in a way it's like… I wouldn't call it a good thing, but sometimes I don't really have to act. I'm actually freezing cold, and I'm so tired that I'm crying because I'm so cold and I want to go home. Really, just like my character, so you know, it makes the job easier sometimes, a little bit more real.
Elizabeth Blackmore: I think I almost still don't know; it's so different being in it, having it as a concept and then understanding what it actually looks like. It's so much blood, and it's so much stuff going on, that you just kind of... I have no idea what it's going to look like. I have no idea.
Lou Pucci: The level of violence is going to have so much to do with how you like the characters, or see the characters, whether you want them to die or want them to live, because it'll be way more scary if you like them, and that's kind of what I think we're going for.
Jane Levy: But this is also an extremely physical job, and just like what Fede was saying, we're doing everything that you see. I don't know how much I'm allowed to give away, but at one point I vomit all over somebody. A lot of vomit. Like, a shit-ton of fluid. I had a tube practically down my throat, and I'm on top of this girl and vomiting all over her. When you actually do something like that – I don't think I can actually describe the sensation – but I actually went to the corner and cried. I'm really sensitive. But I felt like I was really drowning my friend Jessica; it felt so bad. I was shaking.
Lou Pucci: Jessica took it like a champion.
Jane Levy: It got up her nose, it was coming out of everywhere, and she stood right up and was like, "Yep, let's do it again!" And I was in the corner crying. It's really violent. When we were in the audition room, Bruce especially was like, "Do you know what it's like to be buried alive? Do you know what it feels like?" And, of course, I wanted the job so I was like, "Yeah yeah yeah, bring it on!" And then you do it. It's hard, but like I said, you'll see it in the movie. I think it'll reflect on our performances. It's as real as you can get without actually hurting each other.
Journalist: What were your thoughts when you first took a look at the script?
Lou Pucci: I think I personally went to that first audition… I didn't even read the whole thing because, I mean, I knew Evil Dead. It's one of my favorite movies. So I was a little freaked out about remaking that. But part of it also had to do with finding out that they were trying to do it practically. Like, doing it with prosthetics. I thought that was the coolest idea in the entire world. And so that brought me to the next part of it, where really, I went to that second audition and I was like, "Oh my god, even if I don't get this, which I'm not really planning on, I get to meet Bruce Campbell!"
So I went in there and had the best audition, just hanging out with him. It was so cool. He made me feel really comfortable and all that kind of stuff, which was nice. But my original idea from the script was, "I don't know how the fuck they're going to do this. I don't know what it's going to look like. I don't know how campy it'll look or seem or be, or whether it be campy at all or just real." So honestly, from what it is now, I could never have expected what it is and what it would have been.
Journalist: How do you think the fanbase of the original film is going to react to the remake?
Lou Pucci: I think half of them are going to love it and half of them are going to hate it, and so they'll talk about it. Because I mean, really, it takes some of the best things from the old one, but it also gives some totally new ideas on it. I mean, you don't care anything about those original characters at all. Some people love that you don't, though, and some people would rather follow an actual story. And that's what this is. So I mean, it's going to have something for a very new audience and something for the old audience.
Journalist: What are your takes on your characters?
Jane Levy: Mia is trying to survive. She's like a damaged young girl who's trying to kick an addiction and trying to survive that. And then it turns into trying to survive some other things, and this is like her time to do it.
Journalist: Did you do any research into addicts for this?
Jane Levy: I did… I did, yeah. But I think that part of the story is actually kind of small. Like that gets you there, that gets you into this environment, and I think from the very beginning Mia has made the decision that she's going to be healthy so she's not using drugs at all in this movie. It's like, withdrawal starts the minute the movie starts, and then she has to live.
Journalist: Do you think her wanting to kick the drug habit ties in to her wanting to survive so badly?
Jane Levy: Totally. Totally. And the demons might be her own demons; you know, there's a play on that in the movie, and that's what it's about for her.
Journalist: What is the most taxing scene that your character had to endure? Or that you have had to endure for your character?
Jane Levy: I could name ten of the most horrible things that could ever happen to you in your whole life, and all of those ten things happen to this character. It's like a horror of all horror films. It is extreme, and that's a lot of the reason I took this project on. I thought why not do the most extreme movie possible? And the farthest from what I've been doing for the past year.
Journalist: What was one scene that was most challenging for you as an actress?
Jane Levy: Probably… honestly, it's different. There's physical and emotional, and that's what makes this part also so crazy… not only am I… I don't want to give too much away, but not only am I emotionally going through withdrawals, heroin withdrawal, which is really intense, I'm also being attacked by evil spirits. I think the hardest was actually just the dramatic stuff, which was emotional. And then physically, you know, I'm in prosthetics for six hours, and I have blood dripped all over my head, in my underwear. I'm literally wearing my underwear in the freezing cold rain and barfing on people and… you know, lots of stuff. I don't want to give anything away.
Journalist: Have you done the 'swallow this' scene yet?
Jane Levy: No. That's all coming up. In the next three weeks we're doing night shoots, and it will be raining blood the whole time, and we will be outside in the middle of the night, and I'm going to kick some ass.
Journalist: Was there some pressure on you to deliver that line? Since it's such a big line.
Jane Levy: Which one?
Journalist: 'Swallow this, motherfucker.'
Jane Levy: No, I'm so excited. Like you said before, how much of the performance are we taking from the originals? And at first my first instinct was to say zero, but that's not true. There's like little moments throughout the movie where that are direct lines, and it's so fun to be able to do it. You know what I took the most from? Watching the Evil Dead outtakes from the original where I hear Rob's voice saying, "Take [number] whatever!" So I took stuff from watching that actually.
Journalist: Can you talk a little bit about the scene you were shooting last night, where Shiloh is telling you to run, and he's locking you in the cabin?
Jane Levy: Yeah, I think a lot of this movie is based on our relationship between the brother and the sister. They've had a broken relationship, they haven't talked for a few years, and you don't know if it was Mia's idea or if it was one of the friends' ideas, but in order to kick this habit, maybe I also have to mend this relationship with my brother. He's the only family I have, and I need him to get through this horrible thing. And again, that expands into the supernatural. But our relationship and healing the wounds there makes it necessary for me to survive.
Journalist: Have you ever done anything like this at all? Anything in the horror genre?
Elizabeth Blackmore: Never. I mainly come from the world of theater so I've been doing Shakespeare and Chekhov, you know, living in a completely different dimension. I'm also from Australia, so working on Australian films is very different. Like, different budget-wise, different… I mean, this is like nothing, nothing I've ever done in my life ever and it's been insane.
And I think we're really lucky that it's not CGI, that it is all this prosthetic stuff. I mean, I wouldn't have said that two weeks ago; I kind of was hating life back then. But getting to cut my arm off, it's amazing. And it can only help your performance. Rather than cutting a green sleeve or something- like I cut my arm off and it was amazing. There was blood everywhere, and when do you get to do that, you know?
Journalist: Is there any self-awareness here?
Elizabeth Blackmore: The world doesn't really exist. It's just like the cabin…
Executive Producer J.R. Young: From the very beginning, Sam always said that you want it to feel timeless. When you made the original, you wanted that one to feel timeless, and that's been the same approach for Fede going into this one to make it work. This could have been 30 years ago, it could be 10 years from now.
Elizabeth Blackmore: There's no iPhones or laptops or anything like that.
Journalist: Talk about the differences in your performance when you're a person or a Deadite.
Jane Levy: Well, it's something I spent a lot of time thinking about. It's something I still think about and stress over because we've seen possessed people a lot of times in movies, and as an actor you're always interested in trying something new. I didn't want to mimic anything and I really wanted to be fucking scary.
And thinking about being scary is as daunting as thinking about being funny; those are things that you shouldn't be thinking about. You can't be aware of it, or it's not going to work. So we had a couple of sessions with a movement coach who talked about body stuff and doing certain things with your body and…[laughs] no yeah, it was great and just gave us ideas to work with. But I actually chose to humanize my Deadite a little bit, and I hope that turns out to be scary. I tried not to do much of spider crawling up wall, psycho body contortion just because I wanted… I guess I wanted to try something new, and I also thought, and Fede thinks, that the idea of there being a human quality is almost scarier. I have yet to see it so I hope it works.
Journalist: How does that thought process work into the scenes where you play against yourself?
Jane Levy: Well, I haven't done that yet- playing against myself. But I've always tried to add a little bit of a quality like Mia's sort of aware, like somehow deep inside Mia's inside watching own self torture people, which seems like a really fucked up thought. And I guess… I don't know, I don't know how to answer about playing against yourself…
Journalist: Well, you were talking about how she's a drug addict; is that similar to how drug addicts look at themselves in a mirror? Is that kind of what those scenes represent?
Jane Levy: I think so, yeah, definitely. Again, I haven't shot them yet, but you know, films are crazy. Like you're looking at a wall and you're imagining… it's a green screen and you're imagining the world exploding or something. I don't know yet how it's going to be fighting my own demon (laughs).
After we wrapped up our interviews, we spent the remainder of our set visit back at the soundstage for more chaos in the cabin and then eventually headed off, back to our hotels, which concluded my time on the Evil Dead set. I was fortunate enough to spend another 22 hours in Auckland, which allowed me some time to go sightseeing with two of my fellow journalists who were kind enough to let me tag along. We roamed the streets of Auckland, visited the waterfront, spent some time checking out the almost 200-year-old headstones in this great little cemetery in the center of town and capped the whole thing off drinking homemade rum at a local bar/liquor store.
Honestly, it was probably one of the coolest things I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of, and that's not just the trip to New Zealand I'm talking about here. As a journalist, you see a lot of 'razzle dazzle' on set visits where you can tell everyone's on their best behavior because press was in the room, but this was different. This was all unabashed passion to make a great horror movie for the fans. There was no sales pitch; it was all heart with this crew, and seeing that kind of passion was a rather incredible experience- and that's why I really feel grateful for this experience. I do this job as a fan of filmmaking first and foremost so when I see the right people making the right movie for the right reasons, it gives me a lot of enthusiasm so I hope that has showed in my coverage from the set.
And here's hoping everyone involved with Evil Dead can live up to their promises- I know I'm downright giddy with anticipation to see what they can deliver this April based on everything I've seen so far!
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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