Forgive us, Joss Whedon, if we’re not quite ready to let you move on to your little Avengers movie just yet. There will be plenty of time for that in May. Right now, we’re focusing on The Cabin in the Woods, the insanely clever horror-comedy that Whedon co-wrote with director Drew Goddard.
We’ve been on the Cabin bandwagon for weeks now, hosting preview screenings, offering prize packs, and reporting from the frontlines of the film’s world premiere, which was held in Austin at the South By Southwest film festival.
It was there that I was able to sit down with Whedon, one on one, and pick his brain about the film’s efforts to flip the genre on its head. We danced around spoilers as best as possible, In fact, we’ll run another piece with Whedon next week that digs deeper into the mythology of Cabin and elaborates on some of the geeky twists. For now, here’s the “safer” version, but still tread lightly if you want to go into Cabin with a clean slate this weekend:
From the stage at the Paramount Theatre, in a moment of candor, you admitted to the crowd that this was a difficult movie to make. We were talking about fan-fiction, and the endless possibilities that format brings up. We can imagine anything that we want, but to watch you guys actually pull it off in this age of cautious studios, it’s exhilarating. So when you say it was difficult, what presented the biggest challenges? Was it the sets, the plotting?
No, we had Martin Whist (Super 8, Cloverfield) doing our sets, and he really got exactly what we were going for. The spaces, themselves, are kind of simple. It’s more about what they evoke more than anything else. The evoke something very classic, a feeling of, “I recognize this, but I don’t.” It’s that fine line.
Logistically, though, the third act of this movie has a brain aneurysm. Things go positively ba-noo-noos. There are a lot of things people are watching on the screen, and we had to shoot everything they are watching. I was doing second-unit [direction] as well as producing, so I had the experience of spending more than three hours on a shot, and then get to say, “Congratulations, guys! We just shot 1/50th of a shot. The movie is designed to have more than you can catch while you are watching it. The white board is probably the most fun Drew and I had the entire time. It was like, “What’s actually on the white board? What will we get to show?” That’s not always the same thing, mind you. But making that list, and how it went, I’ll never forget that experience. It was so much fun.
Well, the movie is so much fun. Without talking too much about the roles Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins play, I’d like to talk to you about the humor in the screenplay, because they both seem to understand how your dialogue should be delivered.
We wrote the parts for them. We wanted those guys. And we were shocked and appalled when they agreed to do them. [Laughs]
Because they don’t normally do genre work like this?
Right. We knew that Richard was about to be nominated [for an Oscar] for The Visitor. And Bradley I’ve known for years because we went to the same college, at different times, and he’s just one of those guys. I knew his rhythms because I’m a West Wing maniac. But neither of them are ever like, “Hey, can we be the two guys in that horror movie about killing kids?” That’s not on their dream list of projects. But both read the script, and they do have an extraordinary chemistry and a great energy. They’re veterans. Bradley will be very pissed that I said that! “Somebody just described me as a Hollywood veteran! When did that happen?” But they’ve been in the game, you know? And they were always excited to do the work that’s right in front of them.
It’s possible, though, that this experience has ruined them. They’re upstairs telling press that this proves artists with an original voice should be left alone to create. They’re throwing around names like David Chase and Alan Ball.
They should. They should also have Van Gogh and Dickens in there. [Laughs]
You know, the thing is that we had a very weird experience in that Drew and I were left alone. Sometimes it would be like, “Where is everybody? Why did everybody go? I don’t know how to produce! I’m so frightened.” But we shot exactly what we wanted, and the movie that we made is exactly the one that we thought of when we’d say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to make this movie?”