There are many reasons why an actor wouldn’t return for the sequel to a hit movie they made. Sometimes contract negotiations fall through; sometimes there are creative differences between performers and filmmakers; and sometimes the story being told moves away from specific characters. In the case of the upcoming Don’t Breathe 2, it’s a bit of Column C that explains why the film doesn’t feature the return of Jane Levy’s Rocky, the protagonist of the original – but there is also another reason in the mix as well, and it’s one that you would probably never guess: apparently writer/producer Fede Alvarez didn’t want Levy to come back partially out of concern for the effect that the effort would have had on her.
Alvarez, who directed Don’t Breathe, worked with Jane Levy not only on the 2016 film, but also 2013’s Evil Dead – and while he considers both of their collaborations to be successes, he evidently walked away from the experiences with certain concerns regarding his star’s time on set. The filmmaker opened up about his relationship with the actor this week during a trailer preview event for Don’t Breathe 2 in Los Angeles, answering a question regarding why Levy isn’t featured in the sequel. Said Alvarez,
I have so much respect for her. I saw her recent work; I'm so happy that she's having so much success with the TV stuff. I think when I see her there, I see her in her true element where she's truly happy; when I saw her shooting these movies, I did not see her happy. I think that she gives two hundred percent every day. These movies are really, really demanding, the way we do them. So I wouldn't have done that to her, I think. I will bet she would have not come back to do another one, but maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'm just assuming.
Reflecting on both Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, one can understand why Fede Alvarez would hold this perspective. After all, Jane Levy’s characters in both movies experience some horrific trials (albeit very different ones), and when you’re on set filming those kinds of scenes it can take a lot out of a performer – especially a dedicated one like Levy.
Continuing, Fede Alvarez complemented her commitment to the work, but also suggested that in a way he didn’t feel great about what he was making her commit to. He wondered aloud if Jane Levy would have possibly agreed to make Don’t Breathe 2, but he noted that even if she did it would have put him in a kind of compromising situation:
Not just her – in general, actors going through this, the ones that take it seriously, they go through hell. They go through hell, and she went through hell twice back-to-back with Evil Dead and then Don't Breathe. By the time we did Don't Breathe I think it was even harder. Maybe if I called her she would have said, 'Yes' – I doubt it – but if she had, I would have felt really bad. I wouldn't want to do that to anybody.
The filmmaker further explained that there was nothing inappropriate happening on set; his feelings are instead more about the toll that Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe took on Jane Levy while they were in production. He laughed while acknowledging that most audiences probably don’t care, and that they would just want to see Rocky back in Don’t Breathe 2 regardless, but it was something he clearly thought about a lot. Fede Alvarez explained,
It's not so much what I do to her; it's nothing like that. It's what she does to herself, the way she pushes herself to do this thing, and this material. So I know the audience doesn't give a shit about these things. The audience just want to see the actors they like in the movies they like, but I think there was a human element involved in that decision that I just felt that she wouldn't ever do it, and also even if she wanted to I wouldn't have wanted to put her there. And I think she has found her true happy place in a different kind of material.
As alluded to earlier, though, that wasn’t the only reason Don’t Breathe 2 didn’t bring back Jane Levy – and that point was articulated by Fede Alvarez’s writing partner Rodo Sayagues, who co-wrote Don’t Breathe and has made his directorial debut with the sequel. Less emotional and more practical, Sayagues noted that one of the key reasons why Rocky isn’t back is simply because she didn’t really factor into the story being told with the follow-up:
Also, I mean, we were not really, at least I wasn't, thinking about that when we came up with the story for this movie. We just thought, 'What is this story there? What is the sequel that we want to do?' We came up with this story, and the story didn't call for her character. So that was it.
For those who don’t remember, the end of Don’t Breathe saw Jane Levy’s Rocky successfully survive her encounter with Stephen Lang’s terrifying Norman Nordstrom and escape with the money he won from the court settlement following the death of his daughter. She uses the cash to steal away to California with her younger sister, hopeful that they will be able to start a new life together.
Piggybacking on Rodo Sayagues’ comments, Fede Alvarez added that Rocky’s story is pretty much over, and that a sequel may not have made sense with her at the center. Said Alvarez,
Her story is kind of done, right? She succeeds, she escapes. And yeah, there might be a version, I think a lot of people expect that [Nordstrom] is going to go get her. Why would he? Maybe to get the money back? Money is gone, so far gone. She has burned through all of it. But I'm glad that you like it, it's a testament to her work. And hopefully she'll want to make another one of these movies at some point, but I think we'll come up with something new.
Starring Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Adam Young, and Rocci Williams, Don’t Breathe 2 is now just a few weeks away, set to drop in theaters on August 13. To see what else is ahead on the big screen between now and the end of the year, be sure to check out our 2021 Movie Release Calendar.