Don’t Breathe – Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues and Sam Raimi Interview
Don’t Breathe is Rated R for “terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.” Yep, that’s our kind of movie! Better yet, it’s smartly written, deftly directed, well-acted and beautifully shot. After a super-successful theatrical run, Don’t Breathe is now streaming and will soon be available on Blu-ray with a bunch of extras and deleted scenes.
In anticipation of its release on home video, select members of the genre press were invited to spend their lunch break with the filmmakers: Producer Sam Raimi, co-writer Rodo Sayagues, and co-writer and director Fede Alvarez. The atmosphere was fun, relaxed, and the stories flowed freely. At one point, Sam said to Fede, “Yeah, that’s happened to me too: but I don’t tell the press about it!” Read on to find out exactly what that was all about.
In case you’ve been holed up in a remote cabin writing your manifesto for the past few years, here’s the lowdown: Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures production company became aware of a then-unknown filmmaker from Uruguay, Fede Alvarez, because Fede made a short film called Panic Attack, uploaded it to YouTube. Ghost House reached out to him, and the Hollywood dream soon fell into place for him and his writing partner Rodo Sayagues.
Although Ghost House ultimately decided not to make Panic Attack into a feature, the trio collaborated on the remake of Sam’s seminal 1981 horror hit, The Evil Dead. The new movie came out in 2013. Three years later, Don’t Breathe was released and made 152.1 million at the U.S. box office (it cost only a fraction of that to make). I took that to mean it was probably OK to order dessert at the restaurant.
Fede wasn’t surprised about the success of Don’t Breathe but he was amazed in the sense that critics, audience, fans, and box office all aligned. Sam said he was impressed by the craftsmanship of the screenplay and when the dailies came in, “It was elevated to the next level.” Even though the movie is not in a very high-regarded arena, “it’s actually a work of art.”
Fede said, “You do have an audience who will go see a horror movie in wide release. But if it was that easy, then every horror movie would be a hit.” He attributes the anticipation and whet appetites to the success of the trailer. The movie was immediately compared to some classics, before it even came out. But Fede said he did not see Wait Until Dark or The People Under the Stairs prior to making Don’t Breathe, but he was not worried about retreading any ground. “This is a story for the current generation.”
The current generation is very outspoken online. But Fede said will never complain about scrutiny, especially on the Evil Dead remake. He’d read the comments after the announcement was made that he would be writing and directing it: YOUR MOVIE IS GOING TO SUCK! And he’d smile and think himself, ‘my movie… I’m making a movie! I’m so excited!’ He said he’d see hundreds and hundreds of bad comments and think, ‘Wow, all those people are all talking about the movie I’m going to be making!’ “The excitement of making your first movie overtakes everything, if you really love what you are doing.” He admits, “It got to be a little annoying after a while because they were so wrong.” But it also made him not worry and to feel like he had an ace up his sleeve, because when the naysayers were bitching about their certainty it was going to be a watered-down PG13 movie, he knew different.
He made the movie he wanted to make, and others loved it. Fede said, “People ask me: ‘Do you always want to be a genre filmmaker?’ And I don’t understand the question. They say it like it’s a bad thing. For us, Rodo and me, it’s a great honor.” He added that they come from the era of 1980s horror movies, when the genre was tops at the box office, and so does much of the audience of the movies he’s making. “We treat what we are doing with love and respect. Our movies are not just something crapped out by the studios just because they can.”
Sam said he feels that studios over the past several years have been hiring journeyman directors to helm remakes and to capitalize on trends. “But right now, it seems like passionate independents are making the great ones.” He cited a return to the feel of 1960s arty horror films like Rosemary’s Baby but he added that horror is in the mainstream for perhaps the first time ever. When he made the Evil Dead movies, “Genre was outside the mainstream, just like superheroes were. In my day, it was just the fringe drive-in crowd who loved horror movies. Then those kids grew up and started making movies of their own. That’s what we’re seeing now.”
The next movie in the pipeline for Fede and Rodo is an adaptation of Stieg Larsen’s novel “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” which is the long-awaited sequel to the 2011 David Fincher film The Girl With Dragon Tattoo. They haven’t started casting or shooting yet. “We’re putting together the story right now. Obviously, there’s a book, and there’s a script that’s great. Because we write everything I direct,” Fede said, “We’re working on that part right now to make it our own and put our imprint in it so it feels like it’s part of our filmography.”
If Evil Dead was about shock and Don’t Breathe was about tension, what’s going to be the feel of feature #3? “Sordid thrills,” Rodo and Fede said. Fede added, “It’s more complex than the other movies. Obviously, you have to honor the novel. But in simple terms to that question: Can we make it our film? If we have one single fan who loves our first two movies, is he going to be happy with this one too?”
When asked if Jane Levy, who starred as Mia in Evil Dead and as Rocky in Don’t Breathe , would be playing Lisabeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Fede said he has his doubts. “We’re not there yet [casting] but she doesn’t like me. You’re laughing but I am being totally serious right now. She doesn’t like me. And she doesn’t have to.” He went on to explain he really pushed her beyond what she thought were her limits as an actor and he is very tough. She fought back. Sam stepped in and said, “All I know is, the greatest work comes out of their collaboration. And I’m not surprised it’s antagonistic.”
Fede said to Sam, “It’s happened to you before.” Sam nodded. “It happens to me all the time. But I don’t talk about it to the press!” he chuckled. “But really, this is super, super common and what he’s not saying is, there’s tremendous amounts of laughter and sharing of ideas. It’s like McCartney and Lennon – they didn’t have the sweetest relationship but they made great music together. So, I hope Fede and Jane will clash again.”
As for a Don’t Breathe sequel, Fede and Rodo are tossing around a few ideas. They know they want to focus more on The Blind Man, who was played by Stephen Lang and was an awesome villain. In fact, you know you’ve arrived as a creator when folks are dressing up for Halloween as one of your characters. “There were Blind Men in blood wife-beaters, chasing people around with turkey-basters!” If you don’t know that scene…well, you just have to see the Blu-ray when it, um, comes out. Fede said in terms of a sequel, “We just started thinking about it, but we know exactly where it goes. We won’t tell you right now. But there will be more Don’t Breathe for sure.”
They’re happy to talk about the Blu-ray for Don’t Breathe, because in a world of barebones, stripped-down releases, theirs is packed with extras, including a bunch of deleted scenes. “For theatrical,” Fede said, “we had to cut a lot to make the movie leaner and meaner. But with the added scenes, you learn a lot more about the characters. And you find out The Blind Man’s backstory – he talks a lot more. But for the big screen release, we realized the more he talked, the less scary he was. But if you already know the movie and are seeing it again, those talking scenes are going to be really entertaining.”
Don’t Breathe Release Details:
From director Fede Alvarez and the twisted minds behind Evil Dead comes the terrifying, critically acclaimed DON’T BREATHE, debuting on digital November 8 and Blu-ray and DVD November 29 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Hailed as “the best American horror film in twenty years” (Jim Hemphill, Filmmaker Magazine) and Certified Fresh (87%) on Rotten Tomatoes, the film debuted at #1 at the box office and remained in the top spot for two weekends in a row. Starring Jane Levy (Evil Dead), Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps), Daniel Zovatto (It Follows), and Stephen Lang (Avatar), the film follows a group of thieves who break into a blind man’s home thinking they’ll get away with the perfect crime. When the blind man reveals a dark side, the trio quickly discovers they were dead wrong.
The Blu-ray, DVD, and digital releases come loaded with bonus content that takes viewers behind the scenes of the filmmaking experience alongside the cast and crew. Director Fede Alvarez takes fans through five featurettes, including “No Escape,” “Creating the Creepy House,” “Meet the Cast,” “Man in the Dark,” and “The Sounds of Horror.” In addition, the releases include eight deleted scenes with optional Director’s Commentary and full feature commentary with Director Fede Alvarez, Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues, and Actor Stephen Lang.
Also from director Alvarez, EVIL DEAD UNRATED is now available on digital platforms. Fans will be able to see Fede’s unedited vision for the film with five additional minutes that were too intense for theaters. This also marks the first time Digital Extras will be available on Evil Dead.
Directed by Fede Alvarez and written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, DON’T BREATHE was produced by Sam Rami, Rob Tapert, and Fede Alvarez. The film was executive produced by Nathan Kahane, Joe Drake, Erin Westerman, J.R. Young, and Mathew Hart.
From the twisted minds behind Evil Dead comes a new terrifying experience. Three young thieves (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto) fight for their lives after breaking into the home of a blind man (Stephen Lang) who has a dark side.
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary
- Commentary with Director Fede Alvarez, Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues, and Actor Stephen Lang
- Five Featurettes:
- “No Escape”
- “Creating the Creepy”
- “Meet the Cast”
- “Man in the Dark”
- “The Sounds of Horror”