Interview: Shiloh Fernandez and Jane Levy (Evil Dead)


[This interview was originally posted as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Evil Dead.]

Last weekend, I sat down with Jane Levy (Nobody Walks) and Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood), the main stars of Evil Dead. Read on as we talked about the preconceived pressures of facing comic book convention crowds, the physicality of acting with prosthetics vs. CGI, and all kinds of fun stuff.

As always, be cautious of spoilers.

Last night with a live audience, was there any sort of pressure to move the story towards a more modern, realistic gore, stay[ing] away from campy sort of thing?

Jane Levy: I don’t really know. I think there was a level of, I don’t know if this has to do exactly with what you’re talking about, but I think Fede [Alvarez] wanted to make a film that was timeless. There are no cell phones in the movie, if you noticed, and we’re wearing clothes that’s a little ambiguous. Lou [Taylor Pucci] looks like he’s straight up from the 70s. It’s not really clear exactly… I mean, I’m wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt, but I feel like the place and the time is not totally clear, and I think he did that on purpose.

And none of you guys overacting or anything like that. It was more natural until maybe you were possessed.

JL: Yeah. I think we took our jobs seriously; we didn’t necessarily take ourselves seriously. I mean, we’re making a horror film at the end of the day. The campy thing, I have a hard time defining or understanding. I don’t think anyone ever tries to be campy, do they?

Shiloh Fernandez: The thing is that Evil Dead 1 is very… it’s sincere. They made a movie, and you can see it, and you can feel it. I think the campiness came in the next movie in Evil Dead 2 when Bruce Campbell is in the car and faces the camera. The movie that Fede was asked to make was Evil Dead, you know? So he took that scary movie that he remembered as a kid, and that’s what he did. The campy thing is like, there are funny moments, it’s really funny, and that’s what’s so good about it is because you laugh. The deaths with the [way] they do shit to themselves. It’s so insane that, hopefully, causes some laughs.

I’m kind of curious about the physicality during the possession when you guys become more twisted and contorted. What was that like to do that everyday?

JL: Yeah, it’s all really though. You get neck problems, man! It was fun to think about it. Fede hired a couple of movement coaches that worked with us and talked about our being possessed and what that would mean for our particular characters. We all had our freedom with that, each one of us gets possessed. We had discussions, but ultimately, we just tried stuff on the day, and I guess whatever was scariest, Fede chose for the cut.

Are you guys prepared for the wider response for comic book convention crowds? Are you guys ready for that?

JL: That stuff is really hard to comprehend, because who knows? It’s sort of like saying… I don’t know, this is a really hard question to answer. What if it’s not? What if nobody sees it? I don’t know.

SF: That’s happened to me before, that question two years ago. “Are you ready for this thing?” First of all, there’s nothing to prepare for, because you can’t ultimately prepare for something that isn’t real.

JL: And that you don’t understand and have never experienced.

SF: I think what’s cool is this movie is a legendary film, so no matter what happens, it’s cool to be a part of this.

Did you feel that pressure of remaking Evil Dead? That’s, to a lot of people, the holy grail of horror films, so it’s a lot of pressure as an actor being part of that legend. You know, “You got to live up to its standards.” It’s not like the acting in Evil Dead wasn’t exactly top-notch.

SF: I didn’t say that.

I’m saying that. It was great, but in retrospect, it was kind of cheesy. But now, you guys are a part of that history.

JL: I didn’t really feel any pressure. None of us were trying to be anybody, we’re not trying to imitate anything. Fede wrote the script; I’m sure maybe he felt some pressure. I’m sure he did. I think he speaks honestly about that, but I was just an actor. I was just a piece of it.

SF: Yeah, I think it’s a beloved movie. I’m not a huge fan of remakes. If a movie I love gets remade, I’m sort of pissed off, so I understand that attitude, and I think that the only thing you can do is to trust in the director and pray to god that he does a good job. Ultimately, I always felt like, how frustrating it was, he was going to make a movie.

JL: And Sam [Raimi] was behind every single decision and has the final say in everything, so the original director is “The Great Powerful” for this whole project. I made a joke because he’s making the Oz movie. But it really was sort of like that. I never met Sam, but he was very much involved; the same as Rob [Tapert].

Are you guys fans of the original, or did you only see it before you got the part?

JL: I saw it once I got the part, and I really liked it. I was really impressed, and I thought it was really fucking scary.

SF: You thought it was scary?

JL: Totally. I was so scared.

SF: I really liked the first one. We already talked about that, yeah.

The story’s obviously a lot different, and the background is a lot different, but keeping a lot of same things, [like] with the tree scene, you know… kind of that iconic, awful, horrible, things from the first movie recreated. How do you feel [about the film] keeping close to the original, not necessarily in tone or style, but keeping in the spirit. It was a very different story, and I digged that.

SF: I think that’s really cool, the little things that we say peppered in to give [an] homage is really cool. I know that we got there and there was no tree rape scene, and there was going to be a snake. That was something we were all really excited for to have that particular scene in the movie to completely appease the fans that might be doubtful of this reboot. It was great to keep a lot of those elements.

Besides the original Evil Dead, did they make you guys watch any horror films that have come out since?

JL: He did give us a list of his favorites, but he didn’t make us watch everything.

SF: You did a lot…

JL: Yeah, I watched a lot of horror movies.

SF: He told me to watch a Gregory Peck movie, and I can’t remember the name of it right now. Unfortunately, I didn’t do it… clearly. If you saw the movie last night [at the premiere], I didn’t do it.

What was it like working with more practical effects as opposed to CGI. There was a big emphasis on being more gritty and more intense, and that definitely adds to it. When it’s CGI, it’s kind of fake and takes you out of it, so what was that like to work with more practical effects?

SF: Jane had to deal with it a little bit more than I had to, but for me, it was really hard because I’ve never… You sort of want to get into a rhythm and flow in the scenes with them, but ultimately, they got to reset and they got to wash that fucking blood off the wall, and they’ve got to re-tie her arm up to the wall or whatever. It’s really tedious and hard to stay focused and stay in it.

JL: I thought it was really fun, actually. I mean, I’m not saying the whole movie was fun, but a lot of the practical effects were great because everything’s happening right now. It’s not all in your imagination. Like in the first scene where I come out and I scream and the windows break, the windows actually broke in the house. In that scene I watched Jessica [Lucas] shoot where she looks herself in the mirror and the mirror breaks, [it] was all set up. It was just so cool to watch it actually happen, and also, it was fun to work as a team.

One day, I shot the shotgun, and Fede was like, “It doesn’t look real because a shotgun would have smoke afterwards” and the shot’s behind my head and I’m laying there on the floor. I think I said… I smoked a cigarette on the floor and tried to blow it. They were like, “No no no no no, that’s not good enough because it’s not coming from the right angle.” So a guy in rain boots laid next to me, some kid in New Zealand, and smoked a cigarette next to me in my face after I shot my gun so that there would be smoke.