Horror remakes and reboots are all the rage these days and this weekend sees the release of the holiday-themed slasher remake Black Christmas. The movie is based on the 1974 film of the same name, which was itself based on an urban legend and already remade once in 2006. Yet despite the 1974 film becoming something of a cult classic, one of the stars of the new film, Cary Elwes didn’t watch the original Black Christmas. He explained why in an exclusive interview with CinemaBlend’s own Jeff McCobb, saying:
I try not to look at other films. I didn’t look at the original. I don’t want to be influenced by it. I wanted to be able to create a character of my own, and so I based him on a couple professors that I had in college, um, and really, in terms of his manor and his behavior. As far as his psyche and his thinking was concerned, I really worked on that separately, and didn’t really base that on anyone I know, actually just people I’ve met.
It’s unclear if Cary Elwes has ever seen the 1974 Black Christmas, but it doesn’t sound like it. And he definitely didn’t watch it in order to prepare for his role in the 2019 remake. As Elwes explained to Jeff, watching another movie, in this case the original Black Christmas, to prepare for a role is simply not something he would do because it goes against his process.
Cary Elwes deliberately didn’t watch the original Black Christmas or any other film to prepare for this one because he didn’t want them to influence his performance. He wanted to be able to craft his character all on his own and watching somebody else’s performance would have inevitably had an effect on the way he portrayed his character.
It seems his reasoning is that he wouldn’t be creating a character but instead, either consciously or unconsciously, imitating or reacting to what he saw in the original or in another movie. So without looking at similar characters in other movies, Cary Elwes based his character in Black Christmas, Professor Gelson, on professors that he had in college.
Cary Elwes was able to take bits and pieces of professors he had to form an amalgamation that made up Professor Gelson’s mannerisms and behavior. And for the psychology of the character, which if you’ve seen the trailer is quite nefarious, he came up with that largely on his own, without basing it solely on people he knew.
It’s always interesting to hear about an actor’s process and how what works for some doesn’t work for others. Like when actors are in an adaptation of an existing work, say with Game of Thrones, some actors liked to read the books to get a better sense of their characters, while others didn’t want to be influenced and only worked with their direction and what was on the page in the scripts.
You might think watching other performances could give you ideas about how you’d like to approach a role, but I can see how the constant comparison to other things you’ve seen could color your own portrayal. Of course, even if Cary Elwes had watched the 1974 Black Christmas, he wouldn’t have had an exact comparison for his character.
That’s because this new, PG-13-rated Black Christmas is a loose remake of the original, taking the basic concept of a stranger stalking sorority sisters during Christmastime and doing its own thing with it. There is not a direct analog for Cary Elwes’ Professor Gelson in the original film and this new movie seems to be dealing with some conspiracy, cult stuff that the 1974 movie did not.