Recently we had the opportunity to sit in on a roundtable discussion pertaining to the film with its star Rachael Taylor. The following is a transcript of the event.
Q: Could you talk about your experience in Japan?
RT: Sure we were there for three and a half months, and it was incredible. Tokyo is very contemporary, very urban. I was very aesthetically inspired by Tokyo, the architecture, the fashion, and the art are all incredible, but at the same time, shooting a film in Tokyo for three and a half months was difficult.
Q: Why was it important that your character was American, would it be so much different than if they had used Japanese characters?
RT: Well, potentially not, but it’s what the producers and writers decided to do, and I think it helps emphasize the solidarity of the two of them as a couple, which is very important if we want to believe they are this idyllic, blissfully married state in the beginning of the movie, and then of course it all goes awry.
Q: What was it like to be in a horror film?
RT: Obviously you’re dealing with fairly complex issues, and the spectrum of emotions you play are potentially wide. You have ideas of revenge, death, deceit, and betrayal and all that stuff. I find that sort of pleasurable as an actor. It gives you more to play with, and you’re exploring things that you don’t really get to explore on a daily basis. You don’t normally get to explore the idea of the supernatural…
Q: Given that so much of the horror is added later on in post production, does that make it more difficult to react to what we’re seeing on screen?
RT: A little bit, but there really was very little CGI, which was great. Most of it was kept in the camera. There was real trickery rather than CGI stuff. There was a little of that, but, in a way it’s kind of fun too. It’s like being six years and playing make believe again. You just have to use your imagination and go with it.
Q: What did you think about the idea of ghost photographs?
RT: I think it’s really interesting. It’s a real phenomenon, which is cool; there actually are photographs which have inexplicable images in them. Whether you want to consider them supernatural images is up to you. But there are photographs that you can’t explain, like this element in the picture that isn’t a watermark, or a technical problem, so it’s fascinating. I like what it represents. It’s a lot about how a supernatural being can’t articulate something they really need to as they’re not strong enough, and it’s about them finding a way to get the message across to us.
Q: Have you yourself ever seen something that no one else believed?
RT: No, but I think we all can relate to the experience of walking into a house or a place where something is a bit off, a bit creepy, or alternatively a really warm feeling you might get in a particular place. Sometimes other people feel it, and other times they don’t. I think that just depends on how much you’re willing to believe.
Q: What about a haunted set?
RT: A haunted set? Well, I’ve never been on one exactly. But there were certainly places where we shot that were kind of creepy, like we shot in an old abandoned hospital, and that was distracting. We shot in old Japanese style houses that were empty, and had been empty for a number of years, so there were certainly creepy moments.
RT: A little bit harder on this film, just because it was filmed in Tokyo. The last movie I shot was in California, so that was easy. You try to be respectful. I’m Australian and there’s plenty of jabs at Americans or other people playing Australians, and their accents only being moderately successful, so you try to be sensitive and work as hard as you can.
Q: Has someone ever close to you ever revealed something that, well certainly not as bad as the experience in Shutter, but something that was just shocking to find out?
RT: Well, sure! I don’t want to elaborate, or they would be irritated with me. But I think what is interesting in this film is, even though it has the supernatural element to it, the rest of the drama is human drama, it is relationship drama. It’s the question of how well do we really know a person. What lives did they lead before their life met yours. Women go through that on a daily basis, some have partners that they thought were one person but ended up being someone really different. Men, too.
Q: Had you seen the original film?
RT: Absolutely, I’m a big fan of the original.
Q: Did you use it as a guide or reference at all?
RT: Not in terms of performance, but it was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this movie. I just adored the original. It’s a Thai film, it’s very different, it’s an excellent movie and it’s a great jumping off point. Our version is different. It’s more of a reinterpretation. We change the perspective. The original is shot more from the perspective of the male character, and this version is probably less about the male character trying to run away from his past. This version is more about the female character. So it’s quite different in perspective, but I’m an enormous fan of the original film.
Q: Were you instrumental in any of these changes?
RT: I would like to think I was instrumental in the change of perspective, though really the writer was the one in charge of that. But I think what I was able to bring to it, was my inner struggle to the female story. I’m rather tired of, and not interested in the old story of the blond girl in the ghost house having horrible things happen to her. What I want this story to be about and what I really wanted to occur is that she would be really proactive, and be active and strong female character, and try to figure out this mystery and interpret these supernatural events rather than just things happening to her.
Q: This was Masayuki Ochiai’s first American film. Could you talk about your experience in working with him?
RT: Well, obviously it was a challenge as he could not speak English, so of course that affects the kind of relationship we had with the director. But it was really fascinating the way I could communicate with him in ways that were non-verbal so that we really had an understanding by the end of the movie. He’s really very good at building tension. He really understands what creepy is, and he doesn’t like movies that are too overt in their scariness. He wanted this movie to be very covert, very sensitive, and I think he did a great job.
Q: Were you a fan of Joshua’s work, such as Dawson’s Creek?
RT: Well, of course I knew of him, but one of the things that was so important to me in this story was making sure the relationship was a really solid one, and that there was a really tangible chemistry between the two of us, and that we looked like a young newlywed couple that are in love. I felt that had to be the starting point of the movie, and that if we didn’t have that no one would buy the degradation of the relationship. He was the perfect person to achieve that with, because he’s so open and such a generous person, and he’s a very talented actor.
Q: What was the strongest memory you’ll take from this film?
RT: Probably the car accident at Mount Fuji, it was 3 o’clock in the morning and it started to snow. It was beautiful. It was beautiful, and it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t wet. It was the first time I’d seen falling snow. It was just this lush beautiful, snow on the eyelashes stuff. It was gorgeous.
Q: So the snow in that scene wasn’t in the script?
RT: No, no. It just happened. We were doing that car accident sequence, and suddenly the snow just came down, and we went well, we’re going to have to use it. And then it just really came down.
Q: It was effective in showing the passage of time…
RT: Yeah, I’m glad it did that. Otherwise it would have been unclear, like, what, did she get up? Did she move? It was effective for that, so thank you Mother Nature.
Shutter opens everywhere March 21st, 2008.