Interview with Silent Hill's writer/director and producer
Oct 25 // Sean Walsh @bewilderingtof
A couple weeks ago, at New York Comic-Con, I was lucky enough to sit down with four very important players from Silent Hill: Revelation 3D at two different roundtable interviews at the super-swanky Trump SoHo. The first interview was with the film’s writer/director Michael J. Bassett and delightfully French producer Samuel ‘Sammy’ Hadida.
Read on for their thoughts and insights on what makes horror, Roberto Campanella’s performance as franchise mainstay Pyramid Head, casting the film’s star (the oh-so-beautiful Adelaide Clemens) and love interest (Jon Snow himself, Kit Harington), the necessity of changing certain characters in the adaptation process, and more!
So, Michael, do you enjoy scaring people?
MJB: ‘Cause as a young man I liked scary movies,. And it’s what sticks with you. I remember…when video first came in, VHS cassettes, my dad hired a video machine from his company and we ended up renting some scary movies…and that’s sort of what started me off. I remember cutting school when I was a teenager and just getting big piles of video cassettes with my friends and spending all day watching scary movies. I got caught by my teacher, my head teacher once, and I had to go to his office, and he said to me, ‘What possible use to you is wasting your time with these movies?’ And I remember years later sitting in Wes Craven’s office, telling him the story. I’d cut school to watch The Hills Have Eyes, as a hookie video, and we were talking about doing the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, way back when, …and he was like, ‘Yeah, that was pretty useful.’
What movie was it your father was showing you, and how old were you?
MJB: I was young. The movie I wanted to see more than anything was Alien, because I was completely obsessed with Alien and I was too young to watch it. The movie we ended up getting out was The Exorcist.
You were how old?
MJB: Too young. Too young. It was one of those ones, where you just put it in, and you sat there watching it…kind of going, ‘…Woah.’
SH: I saw it in London and I was watching in the theater, and something happened in the balcony, and everybody, ‘Somebody has been thrown out from the balcony,’ There was just this, ‘Oh my God,’ so it was like very scary inside during the shoot…it’s a movie that I cannot see, and I don’t know why. It’s because maybe of this experience in the theater that something happened and somebody throwing themselves from the balcony and I say, maybe there is something there.
Is there a secret to scaring people? Is there certain things that really scare them more than others?
MJB: It depends what audience you’re going for, because, I think if you stop and think about horror, what horrifies you changes as your age changes as well, as your cultural values change. As a kid, I was really obsessed with Cronenberg’s stuff, because it’s all body horror, it’s how you are changing. Werewolf movies, it’s about how things change from one thing to another. I think it’s a mainstay of teen horror. Then as you get a little bit older, property threats, and threats to family…The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is horror to some people, it’s a thriller to others. It depends. You look at Paranormal Activity, a sort of home invasion concept in a way, it’s a domestic environment, nothing much happens, and yet you are threatened, and that’s, that’s horror. So I think there’s no key across the board, because horror is too big a genre, y’know, it’s not like sci-fi, it’s actually a framework in which you tell stories. What’s horror to some people isn’t horror to others. You’re not horrified by my movie, it’s not horror to you. So I think it really is about what it is you’re trying to do. With Silent Hill, that horror is a very specific kind of horror. It’s a horror of the mind to a certain extent. It’s body horror, so it fits into that Clive Barker/Cronenberg vibe of the metamorphosis and corruption of flesh. That’s one kind of horror. Now to some people, that’s kind of just silly monster horror, to others it’s very frightening because it speaks to what they are and how they feel about themselves. So I think to try and find what is the key to horror is too hard to get into in this specific environment but…well, there are things to not knowing what’s around the corner. Horror’s about not knowing.
I was curious, given your early collaboration with Andy Serkis, I mean you could so see Andy fitting in, prosthetic-wise, into any of those creatures. Was it a discussion you had?
MJB: No, Andy’s off doing Peter Jackson’s stuff all the time so he’s, getting his availability is the last thing in the world, BUT that physicality that you want, the nature, for the performance to come through the costume, is very, very hard to find. I mean, Roberto, who plays Pyramid Head in this, he’s a dancer, he’s a movement guy, and he, he’s like Andy Serkis. I mean, Andy’s an actor, I mean he can act, a fantastic actor, you put him on screen and it’s him, he’s brilliant. Roberto’s all about movement and he, across the board, he dealt with the nurse movements for us, and the other monster movements. You’d just come up to him and say, ‘Show this person how to move,’ and he would say, ‘Okay, now I’m gonna be the brain monster guy, this is how you should move.’ Now, he’s a big, built guy, so Roberto couldn’t do it, but he would show that performance and give the creature a character. I think that’s hugely important…and it’s really an underappreciated art, creature performance.
They definitely translate incredibly well from the video game. Anybody who’s a fan will watch this and see Pyramid Head and completely appreciate what you guys are doing.
MJB: I hope so, I hope so. It’s the weight, y’know, because he’s carrying this…it’s a big sword.
MJB: It’s not a real metal sword, you can move it around, but he plays that weight, and he plays the pain, and I remember, he’s on the set, it was maybe the first couple days we were working with Roberto, and we’d done the first movie five years ago, and I wasn’t involved and that was Sammy, Sammy was there, and I saw Sammy scuttling onto the set, and saying to him, ‘More pain, more pain!’ Seriously, and just to play that and suddenly it’s like he remembered what it was and he just dropped and he played the pain of being that creature again. It’s fun.
Adelaide is such a wonderful discovery, and I know the story about how you bumped into her at Sundance, but now we see her on the screen…
SH: You know, when I met her, I felt the same physical resemblance with the character of the video game. I was looking to the cover of the…he was casting in LA, and then I went to Sundance because there were lots of agents I cannot meet in LA…and I see this lady and I said, ‘Wow, she looks like the cover.’ …And obviously, I went to see her and I said, ‘Can I show you this picture? Are you coming to LA? Would you go to see my director to be cast to be in the movie?’ And she told me, ‘Yeah, yeah, sure, sure,’ not believing anything I was saying.
MJB: ‘Hey, I’m a film producer.’
SH: But you know, what is important is that she was in a Japanese movie, she was Australian like Radha Mitchell, and she knew the world of Japan, because the video game comes from Japan, and she was speaking French and she lived in France, and I said, ‘There is three areas that we are hitting together,’ plus they look alike, so I said, ‘You should come.’ And she came.
What about Kit?
MJB: Oh well, Kit, we spent a lot of time looks for guys. Kit was one of the very first lads that came in to meet me in London, and from that first day, I said, ‘It’s gonna be Kit.’
Was that before Game of Thrones?
MJB: He’d done Game of Thrones, but it hadn’t been broadcast, so he still, his only real credit was what was on the stage in London. Game of Thrones, ‘Hey I’m looking forward to that, how’s it gonna be?’ ‘I think it’s gonna be fine.’ Quite an understatement. But he…you can tell really, really quickly when an actor walks into a room, you do the full audition, you give them the full time, but I can tell in ten seconds if it’s, if this is the person I’m gonna warm to, like, they’re gonna have the talent to do what I want them to do and Kit had all of those things so I, for me it was very easy, it was just, he stared forefront of my mind through all the other fifty-odd other actors we finally met and it was always Kit. Partly, he’s a very handsome young man, as an actor he’s got real subtlety and flexibility, and the nature of the character that he plays, although it’s Vincent, who is a character from the third game, it’s really a very, very faint similarity between the two of them. I took this Vincent character and did something totally different with him, something some of the fans will obviously be a bit annoyed about, but I needed to get a guy who we liked, this notion of ‘love interest’ has to be played. It doesn’t ever go where you think it’s going to go, but that’s what you’ve got to think the job of his character is to be, and it becomes something different. So, yeah, with Kit, he’s a talented young guy, and clearly he’s a big name now, certainly when you’re walking through Comic-Con with him.
When you met Adelaide, was it the same ten-second reaction you had with Kit?
MJB: Yeah, Sammy had called me and said, ‘Come and meet this girl,’ and again…the physical similarity to me didn’t matter that much, I don’t think the idea of casting based on pixels is necessarily relevant. You’ve got to cast the person who does the job. …With Addie, what was interesting is that she is, she seems so vulnerable, y’know, she’s sort of willowy and slim, has this wonderful radiant skin, and it seems innocent, but you want somebody who’s got strength. This is not a character who is kind of reactive to horror, she plunges deliberately into this world to save her dad. The story of this movie is kind of completely unconnected reasons to the first movie, the first movie is parents looking for their kid, this is kid looking for parent. And I needed a girl who could do that and plausibly feel like she was in danger and was vulnerable, but at the same time we understood that her strength was there enough for her to do what was needed, and of course then, she has to be Dark Alessa as well. So there’s the other side of the character that is this kind of dark version of herself, who she also plays, so she plays against herself in one scene. So you needed to find somebody that could have that sort of…a little bit of inner darkness can be pulled out if need be, and Addie seemed to do all those things.
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