Cabin in the Woods: Joss & Drew on casting and dactyls


[For the next few days, we’ll be looking at The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion from Titan Books. It features an in-depth interview with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the film’s complete screenplay, cast interviews, and hundreds of full-color photos and pieces of production art. The book comes out April 17th.]

Surprises are an essential part of The Cabin in the Woods. We mentioned that in our review of the film, and touched on it in our earlier look at the official visual companion. I should say again, be sure to avoid flipping through the visual companion until after you see the movie. Practically all of the secrets are spoiled in the book.

There’s a lot that filmmakers can do to prevent spoilers or other kinds of leaks. Sometimes scripts are printed on colored paper to avoid copying (it can also prevent easy reading for the actors). Other times actors and crew are only given bits of the script to work from, never having the full thing in their hands at any one time. And of course there are false production names that will throw off snoops — The Cabin in the Woods went by Mordecai and Northern Practice, among other generic names.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard tried to maintain the element of surprise way back at the beginning. They gave the script to people they trusted at first, and then went to some interesting lengths to keep secrets during the casting process. Most importantly, it involved pterodactyls.

I’ve excerpted that bit from The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion after the cut.

From The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion:

How did you find your cast?

GODDARD: We have great casting agents in Amy Britt and Anya Coloff, who did a lot of Joss’s shows — they worked on Buffy and Angel — and they started scouring and then putting people in front of us. We wanted to have some fresh faces in there, just so it would make the experience better, but we didn’t limit ourselves — we looked at everyone. It’s weird. It’s like alchemy. You have to roll your sleeves up and just start auditioning people and start mixing people together and see who’s going to fit and who’s not.

WHEDON: It was enormously painstaking. We went not only through dozens and hundreds of kids, but we also went through an entire casting director. We hired someone with no simpatico at all and we had to bring in Amy Britt and Anya Coloff, who’ve worked so well with me on so many things. So for a long while, we were panicking. Because Drew and I are both very strong believers in finding the people who can do the job right, who not only pop off the screen but just really bring the work and the craft and the ridiculous, as well as being charismatic. Drew saw Kristen [Connolly] before I did. The moment I saw Kristen, I lost it: “This is absolutely the girl.” She had the courage. I was really happy that everybody else agreed with me, because I got that sick feeling you get when you just feel something strongly and you’re like, “Now I have a lot of other people to approve, including my collaborator.” But nobody didn’t see it. Fran [Kanz] was probably the first that we had in our pocket that we both agreed was the guy. You also are looking for an ensemble, so you don’t want to cast one until you have enough of the others together. Plus, for the auditions, we had written scenes for movies that didn’t exist for all of them. We had someone actually turn down the role of Truman when he finally saw the script, because he had thought it was a different movie, because he thought he was reading a different script. There isn’t a fake script; there are only fake sides [audition scenes]. We wrote fake sides for all of the principals. In Curt’s case, it was a pterodactyl movie; in Holden and Jules’s scene, about tentacles in a Jacuzzi; Marty had a monologue about something made entirely of claws. So basically, it was take the exact character that you’re looking for and then put them in a different movie. This was to keep it secret so the script didn’t go out to every casting agent person — you know, trying to keep it under wraps, but still seeing what there was to see from actors.

If anyone knows where we can get a copy of that pterodactyl side, we would be infinitely grateful.


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Don’t forget that you have a chance to win the Mondo poster for The Cabin in the Woods. The Escher-ific limited-edition poster (pictured below) is completely sold out, so this is your chance to actually get one.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.