Following its premiere at Sundance, a Q&A was held for Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant’s feature film directorial debut, Hell Baby, and we have a transcript of the festivities right here for you. Read on!
In Attendance: directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
Q: How much of this was scripted and how much was improv?
A: In the final cut I would say it’s about 80% scripted. People really liked the script but I think we could have cut a Peter Jackson 9-hour improv (laughter). The whole last scene was not scripted. Like the whole “White people pass me on the street and don’t even say hello.” I mean why would you EVER put that in the script (laughter). So yeah, that was made up and all the baby scene stuff.
Q: Who came up with the idea of a New Orleans shoot?
A: We’ve always liked New Orleans a lot. We were in the Mardi Gras parade a couple years ago and we sort of fell in love with New Orleans. It was more of an effort to make the movie feel more specific. Originally it was set in L.A. in a house that was called “Murder House”. The same house that “American Horror Story” used, but it came out before the TV show came out. We were there and a tour bus would come by and say, “And there’s the murder house”. Then in the TV show they did exactly that. So we thought to ourselves, “Well I guess we gotta put this somewhere else.” So we found a whole new place in N.O. which would give us whole new flavor and characters and stuff.
Q: What made you decide to do a horror movie?
A: We’ve been talking about doing a horror movie for 25 years. We write comedy and we do comedy, but we watch horror movies. The movies that we talk about are horror movies. Horror movies like to keep people on their toes, and they dramatically shift like every 6 years or so. It’s found footage and now it’s like ghosts, it’s gore…it’s Saw!. It is interesting how they change. We both love good horror movies. We like movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling and The Exorcist so I think we know this stuff kinda backwards and forwards.
Q: How did you do the music for the food scenes?
A: There was actually very little music in that. They made the music with their lips and jaws. Actually in the script it was supposed to be a symphony. We ate Po Boys which are a foot long sandwich with roast beef and gravy. Six of them is like the weight of a 12-year-old boy. The first thing that we shot was our coverage. We are sitting there doing the food symphony and the camera is on us (Lennon and Garant) and off camera Rob Corddry ate 2. So we’re sitting here improving and trying to be funny thinking and by the end he ate 7 (laughter).
Q: What was in the vomit?
A: There were 2 kinds of vomit. We thought the split pea soup would work better, but what ended up working was minestrone.
Q: How long did it take to shoot the devil baby scene?
A: The devil baby scene was the hardest thing to shoot ever. We didn’t want to do any CGI. For one we couldn’t afford it and it would never look good. Even though it looks weird I love the way the baby looks. I am a big Trilogy of Terror fan. I like those kinds of movies. We shot that over 2 days and it was pretty stressful. One thing about all of the silly people in the movie is they are all really good at committing to things no matter how stupid they are. We actually rehearsed that whole scene like a play for like a whole day. So we rehearsed it then filmed it in like 2 days. There were many babies. There was the football baby that we could actually throw around. There was an animatronic baby, and there was biting baby which never worked at all. All of them had hoses in them that squirted blood which also never worked at all. So it was really, really tricky.
Q: With all of the family movies you do, was this a tough sell to get support for?
A: This was a very inexpensive movie. Maybe it’s because of the genre but I think its easier to get a movie like this made or a $200 million movie than anything in the middle. Those are just impossible. This is a genre that has had success so everyone that read the script pretty much wanted to make it.
Q: So the old woman, and I hope to God that it was a body suit. Is it how you originally imagined it or did you want it worse or what?
A: The suit is the worst thing that has ever happened to us in our entire lives. We wanted an old lady like the one from Room 220. We wanted one of those, but then we thought that would really be a bummer to have someone’s grandmother standing around naked all the time. That is actually a guy in that crazy suit. I would love to tell you that is didn’t take 12 hours to get him into it, and he is naked underneath that. When he had to use the bathroom like a gentleman he has to do thru the opening in the suit’s vagina. He literally has to un-Velcro the vagina. This guy is a good friend of ours. The guy who made it said it would take him 3 hours MAX to get him into it, and it took him 12. One day they got the face glued on and they were working on his hands and he dozed off in his makeup chair, and they were listening to Cthulu the musical, when he woke up the entire makeup department was asleep on the floor. So every shot done in that suit was done in the last 2 days of production. Because that suit and the hell baby never worked…EVER!
Moderator: One more..
Q: Was it all shot in Louisiana?
A: It’s amazing 85% of the movie was shot within 1 city block of N.O. The exterior shots are one house; the interior is the directly behind that house. It was like all in 1 block. The church was a little uptown, about 8 blocks. When we talked to the priest at that church we had to pitch everything the movie was about. We said, “It’s like those old time movies about like fighting priests.” So the priest said, “We could use more priests like those” (laughter). Thank you all very much- I hope you liked it.
Hell Baby stars Leslie Bibb, Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Riki Lindhome and Keegan-Michael Key.
A young expectant couple move into New Orleans’ most haunted fixer-upper and calls upon The Vatican’s elite exorcism team to save them from a demonic baby.
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