Eric Heisserer is making a big switch. He originally was a screenwriter, penning the scripts for the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, the prequel to The Thing and Final Destination 5. He then moved to the directorial side with Hours, a tale of a father trying to keep his premature-born child alive during Hurricane Katrina. (Note: This interview was conducted before Hours star Paul Walker's tragic death on Nov. 30.)
What made you decide to go from writing to directing? How did this all get put together?
This movie stuck with me more than anything I'd written in the previous five years. It was an original story of mine, and it came from an emotional place. I could see the scenes in my head as I wrote them. By the time I finished the script, I think I'd come to the realization that I had to direct this, or else I'd never forgive myself.
Of course the hard part was convincing others I could pull it off, as a first-time director. But I was fortunate enough to meet producer Peter Safran, whose faith in me was as strong as his passion for the material.
What was it like being behind the camera? Was it easier to fulfill your vision since you also wrote both the story and the screenplay?
I think there is a distinct advantage for the director who is also the writer, because you have a history with the story, and you know the reasons why a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a wardrobe choice is on the page. I learned very quickly that being a director requires the ability to answer ten thousand questions a day. I knew the answers to more of them because I could recall why a choice was made during writing. Of course, I often overruled my own writing in favor of a newer, smarter choice in the moment. I often told members of the crew, "Don't worry, I fired the writer." There is a point at which you have to let go of the way the movie was written and embrace what tools and settings you have to shoot it.
How was directing Paul Walker, who is a pretty well-known name in movies?
Paul was a real blessing. Hollywood forgot to tell him stars have egos. He's a hard worker, he's humble, he's earnest and polite -- it's just infuriating, really, because he's so damn handsome you kind of want him to be a jerk in real life.
But what I appreciated most from my time with Paul was his patience. This film was on a brutal schedule and required insanely long days where he had to exhaust himself again and again, and he never complained. He was his own harshest critic, too. Often I'd get a subtle but strong performance out of him in one take and yet he'd ask to go again because he felt he could do better. And we would, because now and then he'd blow us away with a different performance.
Did you have any directors that you modeled yourself after in terms of setting up shots?
I pulled from at least twenty directors' films as references when building the shots to HOURS. But really, when it came time to sit down with Jaron (my DP) and build the movie, shot by shot, we got in a groove where I'd talk about the way I wanted to feel in the moment, the things I wanted to emphasize or ignore or make dramatic, and Jaron would talk about how we could pull it off. He was a lifesaver by telling me, "Don't focus on the 'how' of the shot or the technical details -- that's why I'm here. Just tell me what you want this scene to do."
What was your biggest learning experience doing this?
Directing is the most exhausting thing I've ever done. I'm still not sure how I survived it. I don't know how anyone does, really. I saw a photo of James Wan on the set of Fast 7 looking bone tired, and I realized the man has another fifty-plus more shooting days on the schedule. My theory is that it's one of those jobs that's both physically and mentally draining, so by the end of the day you feel like you ran a marathon and then had to take a MENSA exam in a cage over a pool of sharks. Your body and your brain are both wrecked, and then some sadistic voice reminds you, "Do it all again tomorrow."
Were there any setbacks during the filming? What was the biggest challenge?
Oh god. The setbacks. All the time. They're all a blur to me now. I'd say the biggest monster we had to deal with was the eighteen-day schedule. This was a movie that, in the strictest budget, was a twenty-four day shoot. We lost six shooting days due to a variety of obstacles, and so we had to get creative on the fly. I think the thing that saved my sanity the most was my ignorance of what couldn't be pulled off. I went into some of those days telling everyone, "This will work, we can make it work, I know it." And then halfway through the day I was thinking, "Holy crap, now I know why they were telling me this is a three-day scene!"
Do you want to keep directing/screenwriting or returning to screenwriting?
I will always be picky about the projects I direct versus ones I merely write, but I do feel like I've learned so much from the first time, I want to continue to hone my craft as a filmmaker and find my next project. But that won't stop me from working purely as a screenwriter on other features.
When it came to the film crew, did you use contacts from previous films you had written or did Peter Safran have input on who would be helping out, doing casting, etc?
For the key members of the film crew, I leaned on both my producer Peter as well as producer Dan Clifton and my director of photography Jaron Presant. I'm friends with Rian Johnson, who'd directed Looper in New Orleans, and I set out to gather as much of his crew as possible, since I'd heard stellar things about their teamwork and attitude. And I was fortunate enough to get quite a few of them.
What advice could you give to aspiring directors?
My advice to aspiring directors: Write something. Just as my advice to aspiring writers is: Direct something. Learning firsthand what both of those jobs feels like will help you get so much better at both.
Paul Walker has traded his usual multi-million franchise blockbusters for a shoestring budget indie — and sorry Hollywood standards — but he couldn't be happier about it. Walker appears in Hours, a drama about a new father who struggles to keep his newborn daughter alive as Hurricane Katrina unleashes down on New Orleans and leaves him stranded with no power for days in an abandoned hospital.
Hollywood.com spoke to the actor, alongside Hours writer/director Eric Heisserer, before the film had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival over the weekend. Walker described the experience of working on something with no car explosions or chases, but instead a small, labor of love project as "a breath of fresh air....It was stripped down and more honest... it's nice being able to step away and just tell the truth and work with people that are there because they want to be there."
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"[Working] in an industry where there's a ton of money to be made, it's so hard navigating through the nonsense and finding people that have any substance." Walker continued, "This wasn't one of those movies because they wanted me because they know they're gonna get the financing, I liked that. I met up with [Eric] and I see a genuine guy and what he sees in it. I walked away and I was like, 'Oh f**k man, I liked him, I hope he liked me' and then I get the phone call, 'He really wants you to make the movie, he thinks you're the guy. Immediately it's a huge compliment and then I'm like, 'S**t, I can't screw this up'."
Because while working with Heisserer on Hours (who calls the film "a love letter to parents") was a no-brainer for Walker, the actor said he did feel pressure with the film when it came to his performance, as he spends a majority of his running time of the film acting alone, and it's more intimate than anything we've ever seen him do before. I'm used to being just one of the guys on set and f**king around and having fun, but now I've gotta be vulnerable."
But Walker said that Heisserer's research on the project ("I've never sat down with anybody who was more over- prepared than him") and "the fact that I have a daughter" erased his fears of taking on such a stripped-down performance. Walker added, "I did the best I could and if people don't like my performance... they just don't like me. That's the fact."
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Both Walker and Heisserer both cited each other's hard work on the film for the end product, but both men gave the highest regard to the New Orleans crew and extras they had on set. Filmed in New Orleans over the course of just 18 days, everyone wanted to make sure the story of Walker's character and his daughter struggling to stay alive through Hurricane Katrina (Heisserer described the film as a "mitosis of a whole bunch of true stories" from Katrina), rang as truthfully as possible.
"We had that extra measure of accountability, the bulls**t police were there," Walker said of the New Orleans crew who worked on the film and consulted them about how things really were. "You can feel they all had a real investment in it, you can tell they weren't just there to show up...it felt like a genuine collective, effort. I think that's why it came out the way it did."
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In fact, the tight-knit cast and crew have still stayed bonded since the experience. Both Heisserer (who said that filmmakers who have made movies about Katrina have all "had that same feeling of wanting to give back" to the community) and Walker said they keep in touch with people who worked on and dedicated themselves to the film. In fact, Walker said he received one from a crew member that simply read: "We're at SXSW!"
[Photo credit: SXSW]
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In The Thing a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name a team of paleontologists Norwegian diggers and rugged helicopter pilots unearth an alien creature with the ability to disguise itself as the organic material surrounding it i.e. feeble humans. Ironically the movie itself also a deceptive shapeshifter impersonating its chilling horror predecessor with the same beats same characters and same scares—but completely void of soul.
A great remake brings something new to the table either in the form of plot twists design or fresh performances but The Thing begs to be compared to the original by cowering in the face of innovation. The movie forgoes character building wasting no time flying us to the familiar Antarctic setting: Girl-who-examines-unfrozen-animal-corpses Kate (played by the movie's saving grace Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced by her friend Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to sinister scientist Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who quickly convinces her to throw away her life for a trip to the icy continent. When she arrives Halvorson reveals his team has discovered an alien life form trapped inside a block of ice and he needs Kate to watch him thaw it out.
Anyone with knowledge of the 1982 Thing (or horror movies in general) knows that the beast is far from dead and what unfolds is a flaccid translation of the first film's monster mayhem. Yes the movie has plenty of jump scares insane flesh effects and an increasing sense of paranoia throughout the group—but only because the first movie dictates that it must. Thanks to the charm of Winstead and her Kurt Russell-esque co-star Joel Edgerton the copy/paste script occasionally entertains (who doesn't love a gal who can wield a flamethrower?) but without characters to invest in the alien's rampage of violence is mostly a bore. By the time the group points fingers attempting to sift the real persons from the fakes by checking their teeth (their foe can't recreate metallic material so everyone with fillings is safe!) the movie's floundered its chance to get you to care.
If the titular "thing" was slick enough in its bloodthirsty frenzy perhaps The Thing could redeem itself as a creepy popcorn flick but sloppy CG creature effects end up separating the beast from his prey and obliterating any sense of danger. If they could pull off a guy's head erupting with tentacles using puppetry and prosthetics back in 1982 why not in 2011? When the movie does employ practical effects the results are terrifying—but the moments are few and far between. That speaks to the bigger picture: director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. attempts to mix the original Thing's slow burn terror with modern filmmaking and intriguing sci-fi concepts but can't seamlessly weave them together. Every time Heijningen Jr's Thing defaults to mimicking the previous version the movie craps out.
The Thing's nondescript title once represented the fear of the unknown but for the contemporary rehash it's an indication of a generic lifeless 100 minutes. Buried underneath layers of icy homage is a decent flick but unlike the film's otherworldly opponent it's DOA.
Fast & Furious star Paul Walker has signed on to star in the indie thriller Hours, THR reports. The directorial debut of horror screenwriter Eric Heisserer (The Thing), Hours follows chronicles a young father's efforts to keep his newborn baby alive in a New Orleans hospital left abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Peter Safran will produce under his Safran Company shingle. The filmmakers are aiming to start shooting on location in New Orleans in March, 2012.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Can Paul Walker pull off a New Orleans accent? Or will his character be re-written as a recent Orange County emigre? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, click on the image below to enjoy more pics of the popular young actor:
Though ostensibly successful 2009’s The Final Destination represented to many a horror franchise on its last hackneyed legs. Rote uninspired and humorless it scored a (modest) hit only by virtue of the novelty -- and added ticket price -- of its 3D transfer. Two years later Final Destination 5 arrives with a slightly tweaked formula a beefed-up storyline actors you might actually recognize and genuine honest-to-goodness 3D. It’s still schlock mind you -- but artful schlock and a marked improvement over the preceding entry.
The story begins in familiar fashion with a cursory introduction to the characters followed by a grisly premonition that sees them perish wholesale. An assortment of cubicle-dwellers at a paper factory are being bused to a corporate retreat when one of them Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto perpetually bug-eyed) dreams of a massive bridge collapse in which he and his co-workers are impaled beheaded bisected crushed by cars singed by tar -- however many ways a suspension bridge can kill a person the film’s opening set-piece explores it gruesome detail. Sam awakens duly horrified and demands the bus be evacuated. Seconds later the employees watch in horror from the sidelines as Sam’s vision comes to fruition.
You know what happens next. One-by-one death stalks the survivors who meet their fate in a series of elaborately-staged incidents. Some are relatively straightforward; others involve fiendish head-fakes and red herrings. The range of victims is older and more colorful than in previous Final Destination films in which death preyed exclusively on attractive nubile teenagers but the end result is invariably the same. (Not to give anything away but those considering acupuncture or laser eye surgery would be wise to avoid the film entirely.) As death’s scheme becomes achingly evident Sam his lachrymose girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and his increasingly unhinged buddy Peter (Miles Fisher) become increasingly desperate. Enter the ever-ominous Tony Todd returning to the franchise after (wisely) taking the previous film off offering a potential way out. But is it genuine or just another of death’s cruel tricks?
Director Steven Quale a James Cameron protege hired principally for his 3D expertise takes full advantage of the added dimension delivering some of the most vivid and immersive 3D sequences in recent memory. Unlike The Final Destination which seemed little more than a amalgam of crude one-liners Final Destination 5 feels like a real movie one with a discernible plot an element of suspense and a handful characters who are more than just punchlines. Most of the actors are surprisingly competent save for Fisher a credible doppelganger for Tom Cruise (he parodied him 2008’s Superhero Movie) who imbues every line with couch-jumping intensity.
Final Destination 5 ends with a twist that while genuinely unexpected feels like a Hail Mary for a franchise that can’t forestall its inexorable descent into stale irrelevance despite the best of efforts from Quale. Its trademark formula has simply lost its potency -- a problem no amount of cosmetic upgrades however welcome can fix. That the film is bracketed by two pointless and time-consuming montages -- the first an animated sequence that hurtles various hazardous objects at the audience the second a greatest hits compilation of memorable kills from previous Final Destination films -- is a telltale sign that the saga’s creativity is on life support. Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.
Welp, time for some new faces to die in really, really kickass ways.
The cast for Final Destination 5, a.k.a. 5inal Destination, just added four new members: David Koechner, Nicholas D'Agosto, P.J. Byrne, and Ellen Wroe.
Koechner (The Office, Anchorman) is the biggest name on the list. He's playing a clueless executive (imagine that!), and will probably die from a stapler to the forehead while galloping around the office, screaming "yeehawww!"
D'Agosto (Heroes) plays a guy who doesn't make a fast decision on his own life -- which definitely doesn't sound like it ends well. Byrne (Dinner for Schmucks) will be an obnoxious kleptomaniac (who probably steals from death -- haha! get it?); and Wroe (Huge) plays a snobby gymnast and daughter of a company executive -- so yeah, she'll die pretty quick.
The four new members join Miles Fisher (that dude who looks like Christian Bale). 5inal Destination is penned by Eric Heisserer (A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), The Thing) and produced by Craig Perry. The film starts shooting on September 13 in Vancouver. Source: The Hollywood Reporter