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“Thirteen Ghosts” Cast Interview

Take a grieving family, a manic psychic and a wealthy eccentric with a taste for stalking the undead, put them in a mansion that opens into hell, add 12 angry ghosts, and you’ve got the makings of a classic horror flick in Thirteen Ghosts.

But despite the title, the baker’s dozen of wandering spirits isn’t the real star of the movie (although Ghosts‘s array of wraiths is certainly impressive), but rather the haunted mansion inside which the bulk of the film takes place. It’s a huge, aesthetically unique, postmodern home made almost entirely of glass.

We’ve certainly seen haunted houses before, but the sleek, architecturally complex dwelling of Thirteen Ghosts is hardly what we’ve come to expect. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t deliver the same old Gothic Victorian piece of work,” explains the film’s first-time director, special effects whiz Steve Beck. “The idea of this house being completely transparent had never been done before. [It’s] like a jewelry box or a Venus Flytrap, it lures people in and then it closes the lid.”

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But never fear, Ghosts makes plenty of concessions to horror film tradition. Moviegoers can still expect old familiar standbys such as the sultry damsel in distress, an ancient and crumbling manuscript rife with magic spells and more than a few very irritable banshees.

Thirteen Ghosts follows the tightly knit Kriticos family, dad Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), and kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts), who are mourning the recent loss of the family’s mother in a fire that left them homeless. In a pinch, Arthur suddenly inherits a glass mansion from his mysterious, recently deceased Uncle Cyrus (played with high-camp gusto by F. Murray Abraham)–but the family discovers that they may have gotten more than they bargained for in their fantastic new abode. When Cyrus’s psychic pal Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) arrives to inform them that there are a dozen angry ghosts lurking in the basement, things begin to get hairy. After donning special spectacles which allow them to see spirits, Rafkin and the gang struggle to find their way out of their gleaming glass maze of a home before they become ghost meat.

“The great thing about this film is that you sit down in the dark, in a theater, and you get taken away,” explains Lillard. “It’s like a ride. You get plugged in and the adrenaline starts kicking.”

Lillard knows all about that adrenaline kick thanks to his role as the quirky, socially inept psychic Rafkin, which required the actor to spend nearly the entire film in hyper-kinetic high gear. “The thing about this kind of film is that you’re running all the time. You’re terrified 15 hours a day,” he laughs. “I mean, you’re not digging ditches every day, but it is pretty exhausting.”


Elizabeth concurs. “I love watching horror movies. There’s that adrenaline rush. You want to be scared. You’re asking for it, almost, ’cause it’s fun to be scared.” Coming off her recent success in American Pie 2, the actress was drawn to the role of Kathy in part because it gave her the opportunity to flex her horror movie muscles seriously this time. Her last horror movie experience was a starring role in 2000’s hugely successful spoof Scary Movie.

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“I wanted to do something that wasn’t comedy,” she says, “so that’s why I was drawn to it initially. And I knew the effects would be awesome. It just seemed like the pieces of the puzzle fit.”

Lillard also wanted try something different with this film, and approached the role with some trepidation over being typecast–a fear he has with his next film after Ghosts, the hotly anticipated Scooby-Doo, in which he plays Shaggy. “After Scream I’d walk into a bar and everyone would be like, ‘Look, it’s that guy from Scream!’ So I’m a little terrified now that for the rest of my life I’m gonna be Shaggy, but I’m ready!”

Thirteen Ghosts also marks the screen debut for popular rap star Rah Digga, who steals the show as Maggie, the Kriticos’ well-loved, trash-talking nanny. ” I’m just glad to be given the chance to show that I can do this,” Digga says. ” I told my friends, ‘I got me a real Hollywood role! This isn’t the stereotypical ‘rapper in a movie’ role.’ Everybody was like, “Yeah, but you’re playing a nanny!’ And I was like, ‘But I’m not your ordinary nanny! I’m the nanny that don’t do windows. I’m the nanny that doesn’t cook. I’m the nanny that doesn’t want to get my nails messed up. I’m the nanny that doesn’t even watch the kids!”

As the family’s beleaguered father, Shalhoub might appear to be an unlikely choice for a film like Ghosts, but that is precisely what drew the highly respected veteran character actor to the role. “I liked the character,” he says, “and I’ve never worked in this genre before. It’s always fun to try new territory.”

Unused to working with ghouls and ghosts, Shalhoub ending up unwittingly taking his work home with him. “You go home and you close your eyes and there’s that ghost you’ve been looking at all day,” he laughs. “Good luck trying to sleep!”

“Its trying its damnedest to scare you,” Lillard adds proudly. “It’s definitely working hard to do that. And it’s a guaranteed good time if you’re willing to buckle in for the ride.”

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Thirteen Ghosts opens Oct. 26.

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