Don’t Breathe Set Visit Report – Part 2: Stars Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minnette and Production Designer Namaan Marshall
Last week we brought you Part 1 of our set visit report for Fede Alvarez’s upcoming Don’t Breathe, which included two of the stars of the film, Jane Levy and Stephen Lang, plus Alvarez himself; and now we’re back with Part 2. Wrapping things up for us are co-stars Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minnette plus production designer Namaan Marshall.
The story centers on a trio of young people who execute perfectly planned burglaries, thanks to an inside track at the local alarm installation company. When they break into the home of an antisocial blind man for their biggest and best heist, things go from bad to worse when it turns out the man is not only home, but he is a psychopath determined to keep his dark secrets from coming to light.
We begin with Zovatto, who plays a shady character named “Money.”
Dread Central: What can you tell us about Money just as a guy in the setup to the movie?
Daniel Zovatto: I’m outta breath.
DC: Did you run here?
DZ: Yeah, man. I was so excited.
DC: We just saw a scene. Were you being dragged in that scene, or was it somebody else?
DZ: That was me.
DC: Are you okay?
DZ: I’m all right. Slang is amazing… Slang. Stephen Lang. He is. He’s really cool. He takes everything super seriously. And he’s always going for it. And I love that because it feels real. Money is… I think he’s a kid who is kinda like… the reason why I really wanted to play Money was I read him and on the page it just seemed like he had so many different layers. He didn’t seem like the typical gangster kid that you see in the movies that doesn’t really portray who he really is. He’s not a cold-blooded killer. He doesn’t have that in him. He’s kind of just… a little bit impressionable at the age where he’s at. He’s kinda lost. He’s been around this environment for all his life. His brother is probably in prison and his cousin is the guy that I sell the stuff to. So I think he’s just surrounded by these people. He’s kinda lost and he kinda just sees no other alternative. I don’t know if you guys have been to Detroit, but it’s pretty fucking insane.
I love Detroit. Don’t take me wrong. It’s a great city. It’s just like it’s a ghost town. It really is. So I think for him it’s just making money and surviving and going for it.
DC: He seeks money generally? He doesn’t need the money for specific things?
DZ: Yeah. The other characters do. They have kind of a reason for it. For me, I think it’s just street cred. Who doesn’t want to be like, “I fucking stole $600,000. That’s pretty fucking cool.” So yeah, he doesn’t really have a reason. He doesn’t want to get out. I don’t think he’s able to understand the world how Rocky and Alex do. I think for him it’s just… kind of like, “This is what I’ve been dealt. Let’s make the best out of what we have here.” So yeah. That’s kind of who he is.
DC: We’ve heard different things about the relationships between the young characters. We’ve heard that maybe they’re just using each other, but also there’s something romantic, a love triangle. How would you describe it?
DZ: I think that for Money, he is a smart kid and he knows Alex likes Rocky. He is a younger kid than me. I kind of have that… I basically can dictate what I want to do with you. He doesn’t feel any fear from Alex. I think he does like Rocky. He cares for her. But he’s not in love with her. He’s kind of like, “We have a perfect scenario here. You tell him what to do because he kinda likes you. I tell you what to do. We go to this house. And we can all get money from this. You can go to college if you want. You can go to California and I get money. It all works out.”
So I think there is a dynamic of interest and feelings. I think the feelings are more between them two. I mean, I like the girl, but if another girl shows up, I’ll probably take her. So there is that. I don’t know if that answers your question.
DC: Yeah, absolutely. So is Money kind of the leader of the group?
DZ: He thinks so. I mean, I think so. I think he likes to pride himself as being the alpha. You know, “I bring the jobs to the table. I brought the blind man.” So I feel like he has that, “You do what I tell you to do.” But, at the same time, I hope that it reads like he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing. He tries to pretend like he does, but I’m new to this as well.
DC: How do all the characters know each other? It sounds like they’ve all got fairly different backgrounds. Alex’s dad is a cop. Rocky lives in a trailer park. How do they meet? Are they high school friends?
DZ: I think that Money was probably someone else two years ago. He probably didn’t have his tattoo and he probably didn’t have his finger tattoos. He’s just putting up a façade. I think maybe we went to the same high school. I mean, that’s a question that Fede could tell you more. I have my own idea why I relate to these guys. I would never picture myself being friends with Alex, for instance, in real life. I mean in their life, not real life.
DZ: I love Dylan!
DC: It’s okay. He said the same thing about you in his interview.
DZ: I just mean they probably wouldn’t be friends, but there’s this thing… like you asked me, there’s an interest, so obviously we’re all going to play the game. That’s more of maybe Fede…I have my own ideas, but then I’ll probably get in trouble.
DC: What do you make of Slang’s character?
DZ: I fucking love him so much. It’s so cool for me. I’ve always worked with people around my age. For me just to be able to… I really don’t work that much with him in the movie. There’s a few scenes that I have with him. But I don’t know. It’s just been so cool to sit down with him and pick his brain and kinda understand… He tells you advice before you start doing a scene. It’s not advice, it’s just like one little comment and you are like, “Oh. That makes sense.” And then you try it and it’s… For me, I’m so young and I’m starting off, so it’s just like really cool to have someone who is able to… The first day I remember he talked to me throughout the whole day with his eyes closed. I was like…
DZ: “What are you doing?” Then I was like, “Oh, fuck. The guy’s blind. That makes sense.” But I didn’t know if it was because it was dark. I didn’t know. He does stuff like that. He like does pushups before a take. He spins himself. I don’t know. He’s so scary, man. He really is. Like the way he moves and all that crap. It’s cool to just see him…He comes from the Actor’s Studio. He’s the real deal.
DC: We have to ask about Money’s look. Where did it come from and will you keep it?
DZ: Actually, that was one of the things that I really wanted to… the stuff that I’ve done before, it’s been closer to who I am. I mean, yeah, it’s a character, but… Money is someone I read on the page and I’m like, “This guy has to, again, put on a persona.” If I put tattoos on my neck… and I’ve done this in Budapest; I’ve walked around with my tats. I’ve gone up to kids and just stared at them. It freaks them out. That’s me doing that just to see how it feels. I just wanted… it took a lot to get to this. I came up with the look and the sense of… I fucking did so much research on my hairstyles…
There’s this fighter called… I’m blanking out right now. He’s an MMA fighter. He’s Irish. Maybe you know him?
DZ: McGregor! Yeah! What’s his first name…? …whatever. McGregor. He is so fucking cool. He’s arrogant as fuck. He’s like cocky as he could be. But he’s the best fighter. I saw him and he had this shaved head and this thing with kind of cornrows but not really. He talks about money and whooping ass. That’s all he talks about. I’m like, “Yeah, dude. Fuck yeah.”
I went through so many looks and everything. Finally, I told Fede, “I think I know exactly what I want.” He’s like, “What is it?” And I told him and he’s like, “Yeah, okay…” And then we put it on and he saw it on camera and he was just like, “Dude, you look like a fucking reptile.” It does. It looks like a fucking reptile. I looked at myself in the mirror the first fucking couple days and I was just like, “Whaaa…?” But I… think it’s important for him to feel like he has…
I’m talking too much. But I think inside Money doesn’t really feel very powerful. So if he puts something outside he can trick people into believing that he is powerful. So that’s kinda where the look came from.
DC: Can you talk a little bit about following up It Follows with another sort of horror type movie? Are you at all worried about sort of getting pigeonholed in the genre?
DZ: No. I’m not worried. I think It Follows is probably… I mean I’m so proud of that movie.
DC: You should be.
DZ: Thank you so much. I mean, it’s just unreal. I’ll tell you this. Doing the movie, my part is not really that big. And I got to see a lot of [It Follows director] David [Robert Mitchell] working with Maika [Monroe] and with Keir [Gilchrist] and with everyone else. I just knew it was something really special. I just had an amazing feeling. I didn’t think it was going to happen the way it happened, but I knew it was different and unique. And it was a good group of people. And I have the same feeling about this one. Everyone is so cool and… the look of it… it’s unique. I don’t know how to describe this movie. I don’t even know if it’s horror. I mean, yeah, it has horror qualities to it. There’s a blind man with… I can’t say anything. Stop myself. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on… but, hey, look. If I have two cool horror movies in my résumé, I’ll be the happiest because I love horror movies. Hopefully this will be a cool movie.
DC: This is my question to everybody today about horror films. Is there one you feel like you saw when you were too young and one that haunts you still that you are just like, “Man, that is the scariest thing”?
DZ: There’s a few. I saw The Shining when I was too young with my dad in San Francisco in the hotel room. My dad is a really cool guy, but throughout my life he… For example, once he told me, “Hey, eat this,” and it was like wasabi. And he told me it was avocado. “Oh, okay!” I was like, “Holy shit!” He did that type of thing. So he showed me The Shining and we were in a hotel room. I was like, “Hey, dad. I’m thirsty. Let’s go get a Coke.” So we went to the vending machine and he like hid… and I turned back and I was like, “Dad? Dad?” And the elevator scene came to my mind. So that movie… I still watch it all the time. I love The Shining. Kubrick is pretty amazing. Halloween I also saw really young. I love horror movies. I really do. So being part of them now is kinda like surreal.
DC: Do you think kids should be sheltered from horror movies or do you think it’s good for them…?
DZ: No. It’s a funny question because my sisters, one has three kids and the other has four. And they are all like from 3 to 10. I started watching horror movies when I was like 9, 10. I always tell them, “Hey, you should show them It Follows or something so they know their uncle is there.” And my sisters refuse to do that. They’re religious, so I get it. But, yeah. I don’t know. I love horror movies and I’ve always seen them.
DC: Speaking with Jane, Dylan, Stephen, they all are pretty adamant that you can sympathize with their characters, that they each have their own issues with the world that, therefore, no one is a hero, no one is a villain at this point. No offense, but how you’ve described your character so far, you are the least relatable person that I can hear in the movie. Sorry. Sorry. Even 30 minutes from Detroit, I’m sorry.
DZ: You will see… No, I think he is relatable. Maybe I’m not expressing my character the right way. But I think he… Hmm, again, he’s a guy who’s lost. I bet you’ve all been lost because I’m lost right now. In my life I’m still trying to realize who I am, what makes me, what doesn’t make me. I think we all go through that stage in our life where you are completely different who you are now from what you were 10, 15 years ago, because you were constantly changing. That’s what I mean by in this moment he’s kinda lost. But that doesn’t mean that you still don’t have qualities when you are a kid or, “What am I going to be in the future?”
So I think that for him, he is lost and probably if he was a little bit more mature he wouldn’t be doing this, and he’d be like, “You know what? I’m going to go work at McDonald’s. Then after McDonald’s, Walmart and kinda be not doing this.” But because he’s surrounded by it and he doesn’t have anything else, he’s like, “All right. Fine. This is what I have to do.” Maybe he gets the money and decides to make something better out of his life. But I think that because the movie happens in the matter of a couple weeks, you can only show where they are in that couple weeks.
I hope that he is relatable. I hope when Money goes…. today; that’s not a spoiler… that people are actually like, “Fuck.” Yeah, he is kind of impulsive and stupid and loud and annoying. Yeah. But don’t we all have friends like that? So I think that there will be people who hate me and there will be people who love me. And I think that’s cool. You don’t always want to be loved or hated. You wanted to be mixed.
DC: To what extent is the city of Detroit a character in the movie? Obviously you are shooting most of it over here [in Budapest] before you actually head out to Detroit. How much does the fact that it’s set into Detroit play into the film?
DZ: I think the essence of the story plays… I don’t think that kids… I mean, maybe in Pittsburgh they’ll be doing this. Memphis I heard is pretty tough there. But, I don’t know. I think that… For example, in It Follows, Detroit was a huge character. I think the way that they portrayed the city, it was a huge character in the movie. I think here it’s more of the circumstances that lead to what is going on in the story that makes Detroit a big part of it. We haven’t been in Detroit. We’re going to be there after this. So maybe you all can ask…
DC: Have you enjoyed filming in Budapest?
DZ: It’s been a lot of fun. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into because it was like, “Budapest. Eastern Europe…” I’ve never been to Eastern Europe. I’ve been to Europe before. How long have you guys been here?
DC: A day.
DZ: Are you guys staying for longer?
DC: Just till tomorrow.
DZ: Then go out tonight. It’s really fun. People are, I guess, different, like all cultures are. They are probably a little bit more reserved than other cultures. But they love to drink beer and they like to have fun. It’s been a really… the crew is amazing here and everyone. It’s been like a family. And that’s always cool when you are working with people that you want to be working with and you are not like, “Fuck. I gotta go…” It’s been a blast being here. Everyone in the cast is amazing as well. So it’s been like a really cool experience.
DC: David is a very different filmmaker from Fede. He comes from a very indie background, whereas Fede’s first movie was like a big studio movie. Can you sort of compare the two sets, what they’re like?
DZ: They’re both super different, yes. They are both really smart people in different ways. David is much more…I always describe him like having this little beanie hat that he had, like a little thing like that. He was on the screen like studying the screen. I worked with him on It Follows, and when you see It Follows several times, you start to notice things that you didn’t know the first time, like the movements and everything. And that’s not just luck. The guy is behind making sure that this guy moves here…And you could do 35 takes of that until it’s perfect. And by 27 you are like, “Why are we doing this again?” And then when you see the last one you are like, “Oh. That makes sense.” So he’s very meticulous, very precise. Maybe it was because the movie required that. But David is really interesting. And he’s really quiet. And he comes to you and talks to you.
And then Fede, like you said, it’s two different animals. He’s making big movies. Not that It Follows is not a big movie. But bigger budget and all that stuff. Fede is just…both directors, too. Fede kinda like sits down with you and tells you…When I first met him and we talked about Money, he told me everything that he thought about it, step by step this, this, this. And then he’s like, “What do you think? What do you want?” So both directors have like an open communication. I think Fede is just…he loves cinema. He’s always quoting directors, and movies, and references: “But this director did it this way in this shot…” He knows a lot. He’s super knowledgeable. And he plays the fucking piano like Mozart. He’s that type of guy. He never stops. His concentration level is unreal. He’s always doing something. If he’s not playing the piano, doing music, doing a trailer, doing this. He’s always doing something. I can’t do that. I’m so everywhere. So it’s cool…I mean they’re both…I think they’re going to be huge. I really think their careers are going to go.
DC: What are some of the references that stuck in your mind that he’s given on this?
DZ: I asked him before we started shooting about movies that inspired him to do this movie. I remember him saying Leon the Professional, which Gary Oldman in that movie is… Gary Oldman is always amazing, but his character there is something that I saw and I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool if Money had a little bit of that.” So I kinda got that from there. You know, Fight Club and Cape Fear, I had never seen before. Such an amazing movie. What else?
He’s always just… one thing I didn’t say about Fede, Fede likes to push the envelope in the sense he just likes to create stuff that has never been created. I can’t give you the spoiler, but when you see the movie, you are going to come out of that movie and you are going to be like, “Holy shit. What the fuck is this? That scene, dude. I’ve never seen that before.” That’s going to happen. He does that because he admires people who’ve done that before and he wants to do that. And that’s fucking cool when the director wants to do something that you’ve never done before. So people are going to be like, “What the fuck?” And then other people are going to praise it. Those are some of the references.
DC: With him pushing boundaries so much and with him pushing the envelope as you are saying, did he push you to do things that you didn’t think you were capable of or that you may have felt uncomfortable doing but ended up working out very well?
DZ: Yeah. He makes you feel really comfortable. For me this has been a huge growth. I didn’t think I could pull this off. I was freaking out before I started. I’m like, “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. Why did I sign up for this? This is bad, this is bad.” And he kinda just sat you down and he’s like, “There’s a reason why you’re here, dude, so stop questioning that.” He’s just a good guy, dude. You know, like weird. But I like weird. There’s definitely a few scenes where I would finish it and I’d be like, “Fede, no.” No, seriously. No joke. I’m like, “No.” And then he was like, “No, no. trust me. Yes.” And I was like, “Can I see dailies?” And then he showed me a few and I was like, “All right. Fine whatever.” I trust him. And if you trust someone, I think that’s half of our job, trusting what your captain, or whatever you want to call it, director is doing. Yeah, he surprised me in a lot of things that I was like, “Oh, shit…”
DC: When it gets to the point where a film that you’ve worked on is just about to come out, what’s that experience like?
DZ: It Follows was really different because it went to Cannes like a year before it came out. And then it went to Toronto and all the festivals. So it took a long ass time before it came out. For me it was kinda like, “All right. Critics love it. What are people going to say about it?” And people loved it and people hated it. And like I said before, I think that’s good. If people hate something and love it at the same time, then you are doing something good.
So, for me It Follows was just kind of I just wanted it to come out, like, “Come out! Come out!” I’m from Costa Rica, so now that it’s coming out in Mexico, Argentina, and all these countries where… Dude, I can’t believe that it’s there. It’s been a journey that’s taken forever. Literally, it grows and it keeps going growing. I don’t know. I guess it’s always nerve-racking because everyone is going to see it. Not everyone, but people who like horrors are going to watch it. I think horror fans are really…I mean you guys are all horror fans. It can get really intense and people can be like, “This sucks” and all this crap. “I’ve seen better” and, “It’s like this movie. it’s a rip-off.” So hopefully you just want to make something that is not a rip-off and it’s not something that people have seen. It will kind of stay forever.
DC: That movie got paired with The Babadook in a lot of ways because they were both horror movies that had crossover appeal to people who didn’t normally go to see horror movies. What would you say would be the appeal for a non-horror fan coming to see this movie?
DZ: I feel like I’m in college right now. I think, again, Fede is a genius. I think that Evil Dead was something that had already a following, and it was something that had already been made, Sam Raimi and all this crap. I shouldn’t have said that; all this stuff.
And he killed it. I mean that movie is fucking brilliant. I’m not a huge fan of gory stuff, but he made me enjoy that movie a lot. And I think that this is kind of his baby, where he wrote it. He’s the dude who owns it and everything, and he directs it. So I feel like this is going to be a different side that people haven’t seen of his. I mean it’s so beautiful, man. I’m letting you guys know. It’s some beautiful shots. We’ve been able to kind of see a few things that he’s shown us. I don’t know where to put this movie. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when it’s done. I think a lot of horror movies lately have been really shitty, if I’m honest with you. They’re just bad. I don’t want to say names, but some really bad stuff.
DC: Please say names…
DZ: And most of the stuff is like… How do you put it? Most of the stuff is you are praying for these characters to die. I’ve been in movies where people are like, “Please, Danny, die, die, die.” And that’s usually what it is. And I think with this one, people are going to see it and be rooting for the blind man, rooting for Jane/Rocky, rooting for Alex, maybe even rooting for me. But you probably be rooting for me.
DZ: But I think people are going to feel like there’s a story behind the horror of what’s going to be portrayed on screen. I think that’s what’s going to attract people. And then, again, visually it’s going to be really nice. Some of the stuff that they’re doing with the camera is really cool.
DC: Is there a subtext to the film?
DZ: Like when people say that It Follows is an STD movie?
DC: Is this an STD movie?
DZ: This is a sequel! I don’t know, man. Is there subtext to the movie? It goes beyond me.
DC: It’s just a ride.
DZ: Yeah. It’s kids doing heists and shit hits the fan.
DC: Have you got to spend any time with Sam Raimi? Has he been around?
DZ: No. I wish. He’s not around. He wasn’t around for Evil Dead either, I don’t think so. I just think he lets… which I think is cool, actually. I think Fede and him have a really cool relationship. I mean, you guys know how Fede started. That’s pretty crazy. It doesn’t happen to anyone and it happened to him. And I feel like Sam has a lot of respect and admiration for him and part of the reason why Fede is doing this and Evil Dead and everything else. So I feel like because he’s a director, he doesn’t want to interfere and all that crap. So I think that he just lets him be. But I wish I could meet him.
DC: Maybe on the press junket when you do the tour for this film.
DZ: Maybe. Yeah.
DC: Do you know what you’re doing after this?
DZ: Probably waitering.
DZ: Yeah, probably waitering. No. I still don’t know.
DC: A lot of times when people go to a horror movie, they go there knowing what they are going to get out of it. If I’m going to Freddy vs. Jason, I’m going to see two horror icons beat the crap out of each other and just have fun. Or when you go see Paranormal Activity, you expect to be scared. How do you think horror fans are going to walk into this film? Do you think they are going to leave surprised?
DZ: They are going to leave like, “Holy fuck!” I swear to you, man. Some of the stuff that Fede does and the reason why I’m saying he pushes the envelope is… it’s just like… it’s crazy. I wish I could say it…
We wish he could say it, too, but moving on… up next is Daniel’s partner in crime, Dylan Minnette.
Dread Central: Did you get to have a lot of scenes in this room? [the basement]
Dylan Minnette: Yeah. I had a couple days in here. A couple days. And it’s very, very dark down here.
DC: So they lit it for us.
DM: It’s lit right now. The lights go on and off. But it’s pretty cool. It can get pretty dark. When all the doors are closed in here and there’s no lights on, you cannot see at all. It’s just completely black. So if they turned these lights off, you guys would have trouble finding your way out of here.
DC: What happened to you down here?
DM: I don’t know, man…
DM: I guess right into it. I’m still figuring that out myself.
DC: What happens at the end of the movie?
DM: That I can tell you. No, it’s definitely exciting. I can tell you that much, what happens down here.
DC: Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
DM: Yeah. I play Alex. Alex lives alone with his dad in Detroit. I think his mom is passed away. He and his dad have kind of a rough relationship just because they don’t really know how to speak to each other. His dad doesn’t really get Alex. And all he wants is to be able to do what he wants, and he wants to be able to go to law school and become a lawyer in the future, but he doesn’t have the money for it or the means, and his dad can’t support him on that. And his dad wants him to be a cop. So his ultimate goal is just to do what he wants. And eventually he decides that leaving Detroit would be the best scenario for him.
And then he knows this girl named Rocky and this guy named Money who… Sorry. I’m just getting used to describing the story to everyone. Alex’s dad works for a security company. And Alex’s dad has all the keys to the homes that the company [works for]. So they are robbing a couple homes. And they decide there’s one house where this man has a big settlement of money because of something that happened to his daughter. Money and Rocky want to go get this money. When Alex decides that it’s best to leave Detroit and go to California, he decides the best way to do that is to have this money. So he decides to do it. That is driven by his affection for Rocky. Alex is very passionate for her and will, at the end of the day, do whatever she wants. Not in a bad way, but he just will follow her. And that’s kinda what drives him into this house. That’s where things take off from there.
DC: Does Rocky feel the same way about him?
DM: I don’t think so. Rocky and Money are a little bit of a pair, but Alex can see that they’re not meant for each other. He doesn’t deserve her is what he thinks.
DC: It’s quite the polar opposite becoming a cop–breaking into people’s houses. Is that deliberate?
DM: Definitely ironic. But the thing about Alex, what he’s doing, he thinks it’s justified, because what they’re doing, they’re only stealing items…He makes sure that they’re only stealing items that are insurance claimable and that the people will get new items for the things that are stolen. So he has all these reasons for why and all these things about the law for the reasons that are legal. So he kinda justifies it himself.
So he’s a good guy. He means well. I don’t think he can figure out what he wants or how to go about it the right way. I think he’s a little blinded by his love for Rocky and everything. So yeah, it’s very ironic.
DC: When we talked to Jane, she said that audience members may have sympathy for all sorts of different characters in the movie and not just one person in particular. But your character sounds like the most sympathetic one we’ve talked to so far? Is he the hero? Is he who we’re supposed to be rooting for in the movie?
DM: I think who you are rooting for in the movie is going to vary throughout the entire thing. I think you would be rooting for some people at times you wouldn’t expect to be rooting for. I don’t think you are going to know who to root for until you are done with the movie and you decide, “OK. I get who I was rooting for in that movie.” I think your mind is going to change a lot. I think out of the three characters, I don’t think you are rooting for one…out of the three kids, I don’t think you are rooting for one more than the other. But I guess it kinda depends on where your opinion lies. Each character really has their own reason for why they are doing it and why they think they shouldn’t. By that point, the audience understands why they are doing it. So I think that it’s kind of up to you on which character you agree with.
I understand why Alex is doing it. I get it. And I also understand why Rocky and Money are doing it. So it’s just kind of up to you, really, who you want to root for.
DC: In the scene that we just saw you film, neither of you two seemed particularly distressed about what’s happening to Money. Can you talk about that scene and kind of what is happening within the dynamics of the characters at that point?
DM: I can say that there’s never going to be moments where the characters aren’t distressed, because in a house where a blind man lives, you need to be silent. And a lot of that requires holding your breath and standing still and just making sure that you make zero movements. So it’s kinda tough, because things are going to happen where you need to react big, but you have to just keep it inside. That’s why the movie is very tense. There’s going to be moments where you are locked into your seat because you just have to be still, the characters at least. So it could seem that way seeing it out of context here, but in the movie you are going to understand. It’s crazy even though it’s so subtle. You’ll see.
DC: What does Alex know? Stephen said that his character is kind of like a local urban legend. How much does Alex know about this guy before he enters the house?
DM: He knows what is online. He looks up this guy’s story and…The day they go to the house is the day that he finds out that he man is blind. I don’t think they know before they go in…There’s not really a plan until the day of. And it’s not really a plan to go in there while he’s there. But I think they study the house. They put cameras outside. And they learn what he does. So I think it’s just he reads what happened to him in the press online and then finds out he’s blind and they still go for it.
DC: Jane has said that this is a horror movie. Stephen says that it’s a thriller. What do you think it is?
DM: I’m a big horror fan. I would say it’s a thriller for me, but definitely with some horror elements. You are definitely not going to not be scared. Is that the right way to say it? You are definitely going to… I’ll just reword that. You are definitely going to be scared at times. But to me it’s… I don’t know. You have to decide that yourself, I guess. I guess I’ll see how it ends up in the end. But I think it’s definitely a thriller, just a really intense thriller.
I like this because I like knowing what’s going on and having to around it. It’s kinda fun. I feel like I know a lot more than I do, but I really don’t. I just know what happens in the script.
DC: I got to talk to you at Book-Con for Goosebumps. You dropped some mad Goosebumps knowledge on me. That movie, while being a “horror” movie, is definitely more of a goof, where this one it seems like there’s a lot of real high stakes here. Can you talk about sort of playing those two sides, like playing for laughs and playing for keeps?
DM: I definitely have enjoyed some roles that I’ve done that are more along the lines of this movie. I did a movie called Prisoners which, when I was doing it, I knew it was going to be great. And I’m super proud of it now. After that I’ve done two family films—Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Goosebumps. So after Goosebumps I really wanted to make sure what happened next just made sense. I didn’t want to get on a streak of things. I just wanted to be very particular. I think that now having filmed most of this movie, I really feel like I’ve landed exactly what I wanted after that. It definitely is bringing back some Prisoners vibes for me, like, “Oh, this movie is going to be great. This is really exciting. This is really dark and I like doing this.” I think it was the right… For me, now I realize it was very much the right thing to do next. And I’m super excited about it.
DC: Has it asked a lot of you of stuff you haven’t done before?
DM: I think so. Whenever I’d been in something like this, I’ve always kind of been more of a secondary character and the big problems in the films were happening to older actors or bigger names or whatever you want to…however you want to word that. In this, it really just follows these three kids going into this house. There’s a lot at stake for me and my character in this movie that I’m realizing now doing this, like, “Wow. A lot of this rests on my shoulders and this sequence is going to all be me.” So it does and it’s exciting, especially when you have somebody like Fede making it who is going to make it amazing. It is exciting. It’s cool.
DC: How did you become involved? We heard from Jane she was hired like five days before she flew out here. How early in the process were you cast?
DM: I had been signed on to this for about a month before Jane did. Danny and I were signing on for this at the same time. And I’ve known Danny for a couple of years. We did an episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” together. When we were both casted for it, we were excited because we had read together, but I didn’t think they would pair us together. But they did and we were excited. So there was a month of like, “Man. Who’s going to be cast in this movie?” We would read with people. And like the week of leaving to Budapest we’re like, “Who is going to play Rocky? What is going on? Who is the blind man?” And then finally that week we knew. And I think the last was landed at the perfect place. It really is. Everyone is great. So yeah, we had known for about a month and we were with each other along the way reading with people and whatnot.
DC: Does it help that all three of you guys have that background in television?
DM: I’m not sure. I think there’s definitely different pacing in movies and television. So I think having experienced both, you can deal with anything and be used to anything. With movies you can really take your time. Sometimes you are sitting around and you are like, “Wow. When am I going to shoot?” But when you’re on TV you’re just going and going. So yeah, I think it’s good to have experience in both for all of us.
DC: So you say you are a fan of horror as well. What’s your favorite horror movie?
DM: Oh, man.
DC: That’s a tough one.
DM: Yeah. It’s such a rough question. There is just like the classic just Halloween. Michael Myers is just such an iconic character. I real feel some type of way every time I watch that movie, especially in October, my favorite month. I don’t know. There’s just certain things that really get me going. That’s too tough of a question.
DC: What horror movies did you see too young or do you feel like has haunted you or really scared you?
DM: I watched Child’s Play and those movies starting at four years old. That was all thanks to my dad. I think that that set me up for horror. He would bring me to these haunted houses at like five, six years old… haunted houses in Indiana where I’m from, where people are using like chains on the chainsaws, like crazy. So I think all of that I was doing at a young age and I got scared of it for a while. But now I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I don’t know if you guys know Halloween Horror Nights in LA. I go at least like six, seven times a year, eight times. I’m not kidding or exaggerating.
I am such a fan of that event that I am now friends with the director of marketing there and the creative director. And I keep putting in talks. I’m like, “This movie is made for a maze…” It’s like, “You guys have worked together before. Evil Dead maze, you guys have done it.” I keep trying to get everyone talking. So we’ll see what happens.
DC: So your dad was crazy into horror?
DM: I guess so, or he just liked showing me them. I was also watching “South Park” at a pretty young age. I don’t know. I like it. I’m glad that I’m into horror now.
DC: Were you a child of the Goosebumps generation as well?
DM: Yes. Goosebumps was a very big part of my childhood. That’s kind of what also inspired me to be into horror, especially because it was kid-friendly and it dared you to read the books alone. So being a part of that was super nostalgic and crazy for me.
DM: So I should know my facts before I go. That’s why it’s cool to be doing this. It’s like, “Wow. New questions for a new movie.”
DC: You’re going to get a lot of: What’s it like working with Stephen?
DM: Oh, man. That is going to be a big question. Stephen is a very nice guy. He is super professional. He’s worked a ton. And he just knows what he’s doing. But he’s also very intimidating, which is appropriate for this part. I genuinely find myself scared in some of the scenes we’re filming. We’ll be rehearsing a scene and I’ll start laughing simply because of how scary it is. I’m like, “This is so scary!” He’s just very intimidating and he goes for it. But I like that. It really demands you as an actor, too. And you don’t want to…You don’t really want to mess up and you don’t want to act like a wuss. So I’m learning a lot on how to be professional in these crazy situations.
DC: But he’s not method…?
DM: Before a take he’ll just sit with his eyes closed and get into the space of, I guess, not being able to see anything. But it’s definitely not method. He’ll joke with you and talk with you in between takes. If it were method I’d probably be ready for this to be over with. So, thank god he’s not method.
DC: It was funny watching the scene because he’s putting the plastic bag over Daniel’s head. And he was pulling the body. And then when the take was over, he just kind of very gently took the bag off of his head, made sure he was okay.
DM: No matter what he’s doing in any scene, if he has to touch someone in any kind of violent of physical way, he always says, “Are you okay?” He definitely makes sure that everyone is good with what he is doing.
DC: Do you want to do more horror after this or do you feel kind of pressured to do different genres, different stuff?
DM: I guess it depends. I’ll always do a horror film if it’s actually good. It’s very rare nowadays that you’ll come across a horror movie like, “Oh, this is going to be really special. This is going to be great.” The last one that I saw that was amazing was It Follows, which is actually one of my favorite horror movies. People like to call it a horror film. I think it’s really scary. That’s why I don’t blame Danny for doing that and this, because these are both…but this is going to be a great film and that is a great film. It all depends, I guess. If it’s like #6 of a series that’s…I would not do that. It just depends, really. Goosebumps I wouldn’t consider horror because it’s a family movie and it’s fun, and it’s a comedy. So I guess it just depends what comes along.
DC: I asked Jane this and she wasn’t able to come up with an answer, but maybe you as a horror fan can. With this film, can you think of any other horror or thrillers that you would use as a comparison?
DM: I don’t know. I think I’ve gotten asked that before. To me this is very unique. I actually can’t think of anything. I really can’t. Maybe I don’t know enough movies or maybe this is just a really unique movie, or both. I could try really hard and might come up with an answer that sort of fits it. But, off the top of my head I really can’t, because it’s really particular. Once it gets in the house, it’s kind of up to you if you even consider it a horror movie or not. I need to see it first to understand what to compare it to. But filming it I just have no idea. I haven’t seen anything like this.
DC: You should see Wait Until Dark. It’s literally like a complete role reversal, because it’s a female blind woman who is the victim, and then there’s three people who are trying to break in. so it’s the opposite.
DM: Oh, wow. Compare that to that flipped over completely, and then…[laughs] That’s probably the right thing to compare it to. And I loved Evil Dead, which Fede did last. So that was very…I knew reading the script and seeing this being made that this is his next movie made me very excited, because I love horror and I loved Evil Dead. I’m excited. I’m just excited to be a part of it, especially now having seen footage and stuff. I’m stoked. I’m really, really excited.
DC: We’ve heard that a lot of it is filmed not necessarily in complete darkness, but it’s a quite dark film. How does that work on camera? Obviously if you are making a film you need some light. Otherwise it’s just a black screen.
DM: Whenever we’re filming a scene in the dark, there’s no lights. There’s like a light kind of on the ring of the camera, a light around the camera that kind of gives it this infrared effect. But it’s not infrared. It’s just a unique way that I haven’t seen been done for doing a scene in the dark. It’s really cool too, like I said…it gets dark. It really does. But I wish… like I actually couldn’t see, because then you have to pretend to not be able to see…
DC: You could borrow Stephen’s contact lenses.
DM: Exactly. I think those obscure his vision a little bit. I’m pretty sure.
DC: They do.
DM: They do? Yeah. So it’d be nice to do that. Luckily, there’s not too many scenes where I have to pretend to not see anything.
DC: Is that one of the themes of the film? Obviously they are coming into his world and his world is quite dark because he doesn’t need any lights.
DM: There’s definitely a point in the movie where the tables turn. I’m not saying the whole movie, but there’s definitely points where the tables turn, where he becomes in control because of his senses and everything and you don’t have that. So if you are in the dark and he is in the dark at the same time coming after you, you are kinda screwed. Yeah, the tables turn at certain points.
DC: One of the things that I really like in horror films is when you see characters grow. Like Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street where she starts off very pure an innocent and, in the end, booby traps her entire house and kicks the crap out of Freddy. Does your character grow?
DM: Does he grow as a character or…? Well, yeah. My character I think grows a lot. He goes through a lot on how he acts around Rocky and how he becomes a man. There’s a lot that happens to my character once he gets in this house, especially because he didn’t want to come in the first place. Once he gets in here, everything changes.
That’s also what’s exciting about this, too, is that I really feel like these characters, by the time you are in the house you really know exactly what’s going on with them and you care about them, and you know why they are doing it, and you know why they want to get out. So by the time they are in the house, you are going to feel something for them whether you want them to get out, or whether you want them to do this, or go for the money.
What I like is that the characters are very fleshed out and that once you are in the movie you know exactly who they are. I think in some horror movies you don’t have that.
DC: From what we’ve been hearing about these characters…we’ve asked who the villain is, who the hero is. The answer is that it’s often very ambiguous. Even as you said, the tables turn a few times where who is in control, somebody loses it. I guess the question is for the audiences: how are we going to find a way to care about these people if they are not villains but they are not heroes and things turn so much?
DM: You will care. The thing about the tables turning is more about who has the upper hand, which, at that point, you’ll know who you are rooting for. When that happens, you are going to know. But I think there’s going to be times in the movie where you think you know…it’s so hard to say. It’s so hard to do.
If you think about it, kids breaking into a home—that’s a scary thought. A scary thought is someone breaking into your home and someone being inside your house. So I think naturally after that you are going to feel for this man who is in the house. Kids are breaking into his house. Why would you be rooting…? Even though you know what’s going on with the character, why would you be rooting for them right off the bat? So I think that’s more the thing of…at times you are going to find yourself on someone’s side and then you are going to find yourself not. But I don’t think back and forth. I think once you know, you know. It will make more sense once you see it. But it’s kind of…Just think about it, people breaking into a house. Why would you root for them? Why would you initially root for them?
DC: The fact that money is a motivator, I think that happens a lot in movies because if you’ve got a theater full of an audience, 99.9% of the people in that audience will have had money troubles at some point. How badly do the characters need this money from this guy? Is it just like a teenage thing or do they seriously need it?
DM: I think it’s a personal thing. For Rocky it’s driven by family and her sister and wanting to be able to support her, because she comes from a trailer park and she wants to be able to take care of her sister and get her out of there. And she wants to go to California. And Money is like a tough gangster type dude on the surface, but you can tell on the inside he’s not. He’s never killed anyone. He’s never held a gun. He’s just all talk. And it’s just who he’s around or who he’s brought up with. He wants to escape to go to California, get a bunch of money. But I think it’s also to escape his fears and the people that leave him here at home. And Alex, he does not want to, but he loves Rocky. And also, he’s not going to get what he wants being here with his dad. He doesn’t want to leave his dad, but then he decides, “Well, they are getting this money and they are going to California. I’m going to do it, too.” It takes him a second, but he ultimately decides to.
DC: Do the kids know before they go into the house that he’s…do they think he’s there or do they think he isn’t in the house?
DM: They do know that he’s there, because when they go and they sit outside the house that day…A few days before I think Money sets up some Go-Pro cameras kind of as a time lapse of the house. And they realize that he does not leave. And then they find out that he’s blind. And they decide, “Okay, tonight he’s going to be sleeping. We’re going to go in there and get it silently.” And they’ve never done that. They’ve never done something with someone in the house. So they know.
DC: Is there a dog? We heard about a dog in the house.
DM: There is a dog. It’s a vicious Poodle. No, there is a big dog in the house. They see the dog when they are sitting outside the day of. But they also come with a plan for that, too. So they have it all planned out. They just don’t know who this guy is or what’s going on inside the house, which is where things really turn.
DC: Is it scary filming with a big Rottweiler?
DM: I think they have a nice dog and a mean dog. They have one that you have to train to bite and one that you have to train not to bite. So it depends on which dog you are working with, I think. I haven’t had to work that much with the dog yet. The couple times that I have, though, it’s intimidating. This dog is like right over here.
DC: What’s going on with your band, The Narwhals?
DM: Oh, cool! Well, as I’m here, they are back at home in LA. I think right now they are just kinda hanging out. This time we decided, “Let’s just meet back up when I’m back.” We’re potentially changing our name, which I think we will, and we’re going to record some demos on tape and…it’s the second time changing our name, but it’s the last time. I don’t know. We feel like if we’re going to change now, now’s the time to figure it out. But we’re writing our best songs right now. So I’m very excited about that.
Guys, [it’s been] really good to see you. Did you guys all get flown in here from somewhere?
DM: Wow. Cool. Well, have a great time in Budapest. I’m so glad you guys got to come.
We were pretty glad we got to come, too! And with that said, let’s close things out with Namaan Marshall, the film’s production designer.
Dread Central: How did you find your primary location for Don’t Breathe? It’s such an integral part of the film.
Namaan Marshall: We scouted Detroit, found a house on a street. And then what I’ve done is built the front yard up until the sidewalk and the side yard.
DC: The street you found, what sort of state was that street in? Was it very lived in? Was it derelict?
NM: Pretty derelict. Pretty Detroit.
DC: What piece of Detroit?
NM: Linwood. Linwood is this little neighborhood outside of downtown. This [set] is pretty much a dead match with a few cheats to make it a little bit bigger. The interior is completely different than what we did or what we found. The house that we found, actually, it’s like a dual-living upstairs/downstairs. So we’ve kind of combined the front.
DC: Was it a sense that the area was a slum?
NM: Detroit in general has that feeling. Any one of us would live in that neighborhood back in the day. But now, I mean this house…the house that we chose actually has people living in it, a mom and son. She lives upstairs, Ms. Mary, and downstairs her son lives there. And they’ve been there 40-something years. So when you ask them about what happened in the neighborhood…because they are one of three houses that are occupied on the street. And when you ask them about, like, “What happened to the house across the street? What happened to the house next to you?” It’s such a gradual progression that they really don’t know. It’s like, “Oh, yeah. That one went after that one and then they moved out.” It’s just eerie.
It’s full shellshock. Absolutely shellshock when you drive through there. And it’s not like you drive from one neighborhood to the next. It’s like you are amongst it all and you actually pass into a neighborhood that’s being lived in. It’s opposite. Normally you are looking for the dilapidated. This one, you’re like four streets and then a full street full of cars, full of people. It’s crazy.
DC: It’s very depressing.
NM: It’s extremely depressing.
DC: What it was and what it should be.
NM: But it seems like it’s depressing for us when we’re there. A lot of the residents… it happens so slowly that it’s just normal.
DC: Stephen described this house as a “brick shithouse.” Would you say that’s an accurate description of it?
NM: It is now. It has the bones of what used to be a proper house in a proper neighborhood with proper families. The basements are big. The house next to it is definitely a brick shithouse. The one next to it has boarded up windows. You go into some of these houses that we were scouting and you see children’s toys and just remnants of what used to be. Or you could imagine the family saying, “Go grab what you want out of your room before we…” Or, “This is it!” And then kids just leave stuff behind. We’ve found it all over the place.
DC: It’s The Grapes of Wrath, isn’t it?
NM: A little bit. So this is the side yard. We just thought we’d give him a story, like he has something that he likes to tend to. This was a nice something that had some growth and life.
DC: But not tend too well to it.
NM: Well, no. no. he’s definitely blind.
NM: Which we’ve been fighting the whole…My world, it’s like, “Well what would you put next to his nightstand?” It’s like, “Put a magazine. Put a book.” And it’s like, “No. Poo idea.”
DC: One thing we noticed about the basement where we were doing the interviews is that it’s quite a blind person unfriendly place. Does he go down into the basement a lot during…?
NM: I don’t know that he goes down there a lot, but he definitely knows his way around. And even in the house it was telling the story…just doing research and all of that, they definitely have their paths and what they’re comfortable with. You’d be surprised at how well they live and get around, especially if it’s just your house. He does have his haves and his hotspots.
DC: He was telling us about the marks on the wall where he’d drag his hand across the wallpaper.
NM: Exactly. It’s just one of these. It was nice to tell a story of how much the house has been used.
DC: But is that difficult for you designing a house where the person lives and doesn’t normally see? Do you have to have an awareness of he doesn’t see stuff like this painting?
NM: Exactly. It’s this or it’s constantly doing this to stuff and letting it settle, as all of our houses do, and it usually takes someone coming in and saying, “Hey, do you mind if I straighten this…” It’s been fun in that sense because you have to put yourself in a different light. Just the idea of the way you would typically dress a set is very lived in and you can give moments of wherever someone is at. Or you sit at a desk and you sketch on a pad of paper or write notes or do that stuff for an hour and then it starts feeling lived in. this is kinda like I don’t even know. So it’s finding what he’s into.
DC: So like the skylights in the kitchen, was that something you were working with Fede to make sure there’s more light in a place where there’d be a blind guy who wouldn’t have lights on?
NM: Exactly. You are exactly right. The lights in the house, when they come in it’s all dark because there’s no need. But as lights get turned no, he doesn’t know that the lights are on or can’t sense it. I guess he could if he felt the light switch and it was up. But if you are not ever used to using light switches…
DC: So he lived here before he became blind, the character. Do you kind of work that in as well, the fact that up to a certain point the house was decorated for people who have sight?
NM: Yeah, exactly. And then I just went with the theory that you would start stripping stuff back. If that keeps getting in your way and you don’t use it, it’s like, “You know what? Let’s just stash that way. Let’s just put that…make it easy.”
DC: What for you was the most exciting part of building this house?
NM: I think it’s the idea of being able to build the whole house in the entirety with the outside, be able to shoot through the windows, working with Pedro lighting it and being able to completely create something from scratch. This inside has no fallback to the real house. So we were able to base it on the script and figure out what works for all of us.
DC: I have to ask, there are footprints on the skylight and handprints. How sturdy is that glass?
NM: Pretty sturdy. It’s like an aquarium.
DC: Well, I’m not going to ask why…
NM: I can’t tell you about the wallpaper. I can’t tell you about the paint colors…
NM: A lot of this house has been shot already. What you are looking at is a complete mess of what my set dressers do to make room for cameras and all that. So, some of the furniture and all of that in here is not positioned.
DC: Does it play?
NM: Yes. It’s completely out of tune.
DC: So to what extent were you able to get the character of Detroit into the house? Obviously you have Detroit architecture. But in terms of the interior.
NM: That was the fun part of being able to find a house…I shot a lot of details of the houses that were in Detroit. And then it’s really kind of picking and choosing what works, what doesn’t work, playing with the lighting and the colors and how dark is it going to be in this room as opposed to that room? That’s the fun stuff.
DC: What kind of details should audiences look out for in terms of Stephen said the house has been jerry-rigged for a blind person. So there’s been adjustments made…
NM: Well, like this, for instance. If you were blind and you had the rugs, you would duct tape the corners down. The furniture—this isn’t far off from the way we have it dressed right now. The furniture is pushed against the fireplace. He doesn’t use the fire. And then he just left himself this grand space, as opposed to what we would all live in.
DC: But, at the same time, it wasn’t originally designed as a special needs house.
NM: No. But, you know, being blind, they live very much like we do. Very much. Even doing research, my set dressers went to a couple who were blind here in Hungary and went through their house. It’s very much like you or I would walk in and sit and have a cup of tea at the couch with the end tables and the coffee table.
DC: The set is obviously a bit dusty and not that well-kept. Is that more reflection on the character and his situation and the fact that he’s blind?
NM: Yeah, exactly. You don’t necessarily…The only reason you think to dust is because it’s dusty. If you were to dust in here, you can only imagine how crazy it would be…
DC: Dare we ask about the mess on the wall?
NM: I would not.
DC: Does Stephen’s character like to eat sunflower seeds?
NM: No. Just an interesting package. These sets are all built with wild walls, so that wall right there can wild, that can wild. The fireplace can go. The ceilings can all go. Certain doors fly. You never know where they are going to want to fit camera.
DC: The chair is facing the window…
NM: We just kinda gave him a spot next to the window where this is his little world. This is where he gets up in the morning. He comes and spends his time here. The warmth from the sun, the heater here. This is like…he doesn’t need much more than this.
DC: It’s his little womb?
DC: Does the furniture date wise ever go up to a certain period? Did he stop acquiring it at a certain time or has he just got…just a bunch of old random…?
NM: Just old random stuff. You can imagine the challenges of finding American in Budapest. The stove in the kitchen, for instance, was brought in from Prague. My wife bought all the light fixtures in Los Angeles and had them shipped here. So it’s the little details which you don’t think about until you are here and you are like, “Oh my god.”
The food. All the food is like…I had an army of people saving Jiffy boxes and cereal and then flat packing them and sending them over here. And that’s not just this house. We had a mobile home that we did and had to have kind of that mobile home type food.
My thing with dressing is it’s the little stuff. I love that you noticed that, because that’s the little stuff where you kinda sit down and you go, “Oh, what kind of cigar does he smoke?”
DC: We noticed the Camaro right away.
NM: Yeah. Like, you know, the front porch and the concrete is complete…I have photos of the house. This is like 100% you could shoot that photograph there or you could shoot it there.
DC: Has filming in Detroit happened already or did you just go there as a location?
NM: No. Just location.
DC: Did you shoot a second unit somewhere else?
And with that, we wrap up our Don’t Breathe set visit report. We hope it’s made you even more excited to check out the film when it arrives August 26th via Sony Pictures Entertainment. The cast includes Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang.
Fede Alvarez directed and wrote the screenplay with Rodo Sayagues. Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert produce for Ghost House Pictures. J.R. Young, Nathan Kahane, Joe Drake and Erin Westerman executive produce.
A trio of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.