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Starring in a remake is hard enough, but it becomes even harder when you’re remaking a bona fide cult classic. This August, when the Craig Gillespie-directed Fright Night hits theaters, critics and fans are going to be endlessly comparing Anton Yelchin’s performance to William Ragsdale’s, the actor who played Charley Brewster in the original. Luckily for Yelchin, he has a few key character changes on his side.
Two weeks back myself and a group of other journalists were given the chance to visit the edit bay for Fright Night and in addition to getting the opportunity to watch four separate scenes from the film (see my reaction HERE), we were also granted time to speak with the star of the show. Check out the interview below in which Anton Yelchin discusses how Charley’s personality has been altered, balancing the comedy and the horror, and his experiences working with Colin Farrell and David Tennant.
What’s your relationship with the original Fright Night? Are you a fan?
Yeah, I think it’s great. I love it. I think it’s a really smart film because it’s more about the horror genre itself than anything, and so I think that’s what makes it extremely smart and interesting. Even from the opening shot, going through a window on to a TV screen, already it sets up how self-conscience it is. It reminds me of…there’s a [Peter] Bogdanovich movie called Targets. It has that same kind of “genre movie yet not a genre movie,” super self-conscience genre movie quality. And I think Targets is really great – Boris Karloff’s in Targets and it has that aging movie star thing, and I think it’s great.
From what we saw in the footage, a lot of the film has changed quite a bit. For example, it’s Evil Ed that thinks Jerry is a vampire first. Does that same rule apply for the role of Charley Brewster?
Yeah, In the remake, like you said, Charley isn’t the first one to get paranoid. In this one specifically too, he doesn’t seek out Evil Ed’s help, it’s the opposite. I think, ultimately, there’s more of a journey for this Charley to take. In the original he gets scared, then he kind of stays scared, and then he has to fight. Here he starts off sort of super confident, feigning this kind of machismo; high school kid trying to keep up and seem kind of confident and cocky, when the reality is that he and Evil Ed grew up as best friends and that’s what they were in to. And he sort of rejects his friend to try and be more successful in the social end of school and because he then realizes that this mass-murdering vampire is living next door, all of those values, all of those false values that he had, become challenged and he has to actually become confident and strong to fight this horrible force that threatens to destroy everything he cares about. It gets his friend, it attacks everyone around him, it threatens to get his girlfriend, you know? So there’s really a definite arc from someone that is faking his way through something to then actually growing in that place where he can battle this vampire.
How action heavy is this role for you?
It’s very action heavy. It’s exciting; it’s a very fun movie. What’s good about it is that Jerry fucks shit up. I mean, you guys obviously saw that. And it’s gory and violent and at the same time it has a certain amount of heart in the sense that you really feel for the decisions that Charley has to make. It’s not an easy decision for him to reject his friend. You grow to care about his friend because you see what happens to Ed – and in the original it does it really well too, it kind of breaks your heart to see what happens to Ed and it’s the same thing with this movie. So yeah, it has a healthy dose of everything, but definitely a lot of fun action and good action sequences.
How was it balancing the horror elements with the more comedic elements?
Charley is, to a lot of it, these characters, like David Tennant’s character, Peter Vincent, he’s kind of the straight man. But there’s a lot of room to be funny, in the scenes with Chris [Mintz-Plasse] and the scenes with Imi [Poots] and even the scenes with Colin [Farrell]. What’s funny about him at first is that fake, macho thing that he’s doing, but it’s kind of humorous when he starts to trip out and this sort of mania starts to get to him that next door is a vampire. But then very quickly it just gets dark and scary and intense, which is good. I think it transitions from a lighter place to a darker place.
Oh yeah! It’s awesome. All I can say is that it’s definitely gruesome and frightening. It’s good because I think in recent years all the vampires look good and they just have fangs, and you’re like, “Alright,” but here it’s a monster. It’s great because it transitions out of Colin, who is this awesome, handsome dude, into this terrifying, terrifying monster.
Is it physical effects or CGI?
That’s another amazing thing. A lot of it is. There were transitions to the make-up artists. Howard [Berger], I think he won an Academy Award for Narnia, that’s who did [the makeup]. That’s great, because it’s kind of a dying art form, so it’s pretty amazing to see it when it’s all actually there and it’s real and it’s not just people with dots on their faces.
Is this your first experience shooting in 3D?
Yes it was.
Was it any different for you as an actor or was it largely the same?
Realistically it’s not that different. I thought it would be, but it’s not. The rig is a lot bigger because it’s two cameras shooting, one shoots this way [points in one direction] and one shoots this way [points in the other direction]. At times the focus doesn’t… their pulling Z-focus. If one of the cameras is off, it can’t shoot…realistically the amount of times that happened out of the fifty days that we shot, for all the scenes, maybe it happened 10 times at most. And it’s not like it’s a major delay, it’s like a five or ten minute delay, so it’s not really that different… I realized it wasn’t that different.
I’ve heard that those cameras are really huge.
Well, it’s not different for me. It must be different for the operator and I know it’s different for the steadycam operator because the rig is suddenly twice as big and not what he is used to carrying.
No, not really. I was kind of curious because I kind of like to geek out on the technology, but it wasn’t too different, no.
When they were shooting the original, they didn’t show William Ragsdale the vampire make-up until they were actually shooting so that they could get a natural reaction. Did they ever try that during this production?
In the sequence where he’s – I think you guys saw it, where he has the girl in the chamber – that chamber is actually really creepy. It’s like some rapists cell. Like Silence of the Lambs, uncomfortable, and that was creepy. It definitely had a creepy quality in the things we were shooting, especially towards the end when we’re actually with the vampires. Inevitably you’re scared because you’re already in that mind.
Why is it, do you think, that vampires have become so popular in recent years?
I really don’t know. It must have something to do with the fact that… I don’t know what socially vampires represent now to people. In the old school Nosferatu, the really old one, it was actually similar to this: an all-powerful dark menace that started to consume the place that it was going to, which obviously has a lot to do with the pre-war German psyche; it’s not related to what’s going on [now]. I don’t really know. I was never a Twilight reader. I didn’t even know what it was. I had no idea that it was that huge and that many pubescent girls were in to it. So I don’t really know. It might be that the way that they’ve accessed vampires… it might just be that. Vampires now are accessible to a new audience, especially with the Twilight thing. It’s all about these little girls who want to fuck these vampires. What I like about this one is that it’s actually a scary vampire. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m in love,” like “I’m going to fucking kill you. I’m sorry, I’m a vampire, it’s what we do.” That’s what makes it exciting and fun for me. There’s no romance. It’s not like Interview with a Vampire. He’s scary, he’s a monster and he’s going to destroy you. It’s kind of how he is in the original, except he’s a little more love sick. I think this one specifically targets that original, “We want gore and we want a monster that’s going to kill things.” I didn’t see 28 Days Later, was that vampires?
No, that was kind of zombies.
Yeah, I didn’t see that. I think there’s a lack of vampires destroying things that I can think of. They’re more in love or whatever and this takes it back to the original.
Yes, absolutely. I think Craig… in Lars [and the Real Girl], Ryan Gosling, it’s totally about the performance, so that was definitely great for me because he’s a filmmaker that likes to work with actors, obviously, and now I know this from experience. Just having seen the movie, it’s just like, “This is someone that likes to have actors give interesting looks, that bizarre look at things.” So that was definitely a plus.
Jerry really has a complete sense of how powerful he is and really plays around with Charley, and just from what we saw from David Tennant in the footage it looks like he’s going over the top and really having fun with it. What was it like working alongside Colin and David?
It’s great because Charley is kind of the straight man for those two – they’re opposing forces, but they’re such characters, you know? And it was a lot of fun, because with David Tennant, Charley is either trying to get him to be on his side – kind of like in the original – or he’s just terrified and coming to him. With Jerry, especially at the beginning, there’s that definite false kind of machismo that Charley tries to put on to counter Jerry, which is a lot of fun to play. It’s all false, it’s not real. It’s him doing what he thinks will make him look tough. And of course Jerry totally sees through it, he’s about a thousand times stronger than he is and more menacing, but it was fun. It was a lot of fun.
Have you seen the script for Star Trek 2 yet? Do you know when it might go into production?
No, I haven't seen the script. I'm not sure. I think we're doing it at some point soon, I don't know when though. No idea.
Have you spoken with JJ Abrams at all?
No, JJ's, I think, doing Super 8 now and he's doing press for it. I haven't because they'll get to it when they get to it. I'd love to get together with those people again, I really love that whole cast. It would it be a lot of fun to do it, but it's kind of one of those things.