Cast cozy inside and outside the 'Cabin'
Apr 13, 2012 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
AUSTIN, Texas -- It had been a wet beginning and a soggy red carpet on March 9, when the horror-comedy mashup "Cabin in the Woods" opened the South by Southwest Movie Festival. A couple days later, brightened by the response and sitting in a sunny room in the Four Seasons Hotel, the cast assembled to face a small media gathering.
Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford were the first actors on the scene, fittingly arriving together. They are rarely seen apart in "Cabin in the Woods" and they open the film as the confident, jovial mystery men controlling the action, terrorizing a group of teens into ever-escalating danger.
Drew Goddard, the film's director and co-writer with Joss Whedon, said the characters were written with "their voices in our heads."
"I remember even at the casting meeting with the studio, I was yelling, 'If Bradley Whitford doesn't say "Yes," ' I don't want to make this movie.' Because I didn't know who else could possibly play that role. Luckily, they were both onboard. And the second they got together, they had that rapport."
Mr. Jenkins said he didn't know that the actors had inspired their "Cabin" characters, but it took him about three pages to know he wanted to do it.
"I've said this a bunch of times," Mr. Whitford jumped in, "but what's really miraculous about this is you have two guys [Mr. Whedon and Mr. Goddard] who obviously are great, imaginative storytellers and they look at each other and they go, 'What would we write if we could write anything?' And the fact that that movie got made is just a miracle."
Mr. Jenkins, an Oscar nominee for "The Visitor," added, "I always think it was like a bet that they made. They wrote this unbelievable, complicated story and flipped a coin and Joss said 'OK, Drew, you direct it; see if you can possibly direct something like this.' And you know as good as the script is, the movie is better. ... It is a shock realizing that the original impulse was achieved with that kind of clarity."
In interviews that March day and during a phone interview earlier this week with one of "Cabin's" young stars, Fran Kranz, much was said about the final 20 minutes of the movie, a bloody third act that veers into a macabre "Twilight Zone" that ties together all that came before.
As Anna Hutchison, the New Zealander who plays Chris Hemsworth's girlfriend in "Cabin," put it, "There's just so much freaky stuff. What's going on in Joss and Drew's minds?"
Spoilers were being tossed around the room (you are warned), but the cast and questioners couldn't resist discussing the action after "Cabin's" narrative U-turn, or rather, descent, into a creature-filled world. The violence and gore that takes place in the cabin and the woods is horrific. The filmmakers really pour it on when previously parallel worlds collide.
Mr. Whitford said he struggled with the violence and gore in this decidedly R-rated movie, as a father of a 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter and as someone who was brought up Quaker. He recalled seeing "Pulp Fiction" and being asked his opinion of the film as he came out of the theater.
"I said, 'I thought it was great, but I want to take Quentin Tarantino and slam his pinky in a car door, just so he knows it's not funny.' I have really mixed feelings about, 'Ha, ha, oh his head got blown off.' But I don't think it's exploitive in ['Cabin in the Woods']. I'm totally fine with violence with consequences."
Mr. Kranz, who starred in Mr. Whedon's short-lived TV series "Dollhouse" and is now appearing on Broadway in "Death of a Salesman," said that gory though "Cabin in the Woods" is at times, it is a huge step up from the horror movies he watched as a kid.
"I totally love gore and horror films and violence. I would go to the video store and just pull out any horror film and look for what had the weirdest, goriest pictures, and just rent them. I saw so many crappy movies in my time," Mr. Kranz admitted. "I really am into this stuff, I guess as sick as that is. But I really believe the faint of heart and the squeamish and the people who don't generally go in for horror films can love this movie. It's hilarious, and it's a wild adventure. I go in for the crazy stuff, but I think it's good for a much broader audience."
Mr. Kranz often plays nerdy characters and his stoner Marty starts out in that mold but evolves into the dependable voice of reason. He thought of Marty as a potential "breakthrough role," but suffered the disappointment of "Dollhouse's" cancellation and "Cabin" being forced into limbo due to MGM's financial woes.
Now, three years after "Cabin" was filmed, he's promoting a movie heading into wide release today and part of a Broadway show directed by Mike Nichols and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
"I really believe in this movie," he said. "I really thought it was a great role for me and a great movie and it could be big for my career. So, it never left my mind. ... It's been a long process is all."
A trio of Mr. Kranz's co-stars were last at the dais in Austin: soap opera and stage veteran Kristen Connolly, New Zealander Hutchison and Jesse Williams ("Grey's Anatomy").
After seeing a gangbusters reaction from the preview crowd, they were preparing for something Mr. Kranz had experienced on "Dollhouse" -- the profile bump from a part of the Whedon-verse.
"There's [Mr. Whedon's] loyalty to his cast, and on top of that, his fans' loyalty to cast members of his shows. I think we're in for a ride we can't predict," Mr. Williams said.
"It speaks to how much Joss' work has touched people and how much it means to his fans that they are so loyal and so supportive of him. It's pretty awesome," Ms. Connolly said.
To make it through the physical and gore-splattered shoot of "Cabin," every one of the five friends who enter the cabin came out at least bloodied and battered, sometimes worse. The fake blood was sticky and took as much time to take off as it did to get it just right for the camera.
Mr. Williams, who is familiar with being covered in blood from his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on "Grey's Anatomy," was impressed with the sheer amount of the stuff.
He referred to a point in "Cabin" when those consequences Mr. Whitford was talking about take shape and creatures of legend are unleashed.
"My favorite scene is in the elevator bay when it goes ding and all the monsters come out, and there was so much blood," Mr. Williams said. "It reminds me of going on set that day and seeing all of these oil drums full of [fake] blood. There was so much! I think we were going for the record of most blood to pass 'The Shining,' so take that, Stanley Kubrick."
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960; Twitter: @seberson_pg; blog: post-gazette.com/popi.
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