WE CHAT THE CABIN IN THE WOODS WITH DIRECTOR DREW GODDARD AND STAR JESSE WILLIAMS


Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Monday, April 16, 2012

cabin in the woodsDrew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s hilariously scary & genre bending The Cabin in the Woods is currently in cinemas wowing fans of the horror genre with its fresh take on the teen cabin in the woods theme.

We enjoyed their love letter to the genre and  The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most engaging film of its type in the last decade, at least. Even more so, when I think about the endless string of really dire remakes and carbon copy variations on the theme that we have had to endure.

To really enjoy The Cabin in the Woods one should go in fresh, knowing as little about it as possible about the story. So we haven’t reviewed it but have rather listed 5 reasons to go see The Cabin in the Woods over here:http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2012/03/establishing-shot-cabin-in-woods-review.html

Whilst Cabin in the Woods co-writer Joss Whedon answered fan questions about The Cabin in the Woods over here! We were lucky enough to chat with Director and co-writer of Cabin in the Woods Drew Goddard and one of it’s stars Jesse Williams whilst they were over here in London last month.

Both Drew & Jesse  were full of creative energy and lots of laughs and clearly we can expect a lot more from these talented individuals. In the meantime come with us as we visit The Cabin in the Woods with Drew Goddard and Jesse Williams.

Craig Grobler: Hi Drew & Jesse, thanks for taking out some time chat with us. Have you been to London before? Or is this your first visit?

Jesse Williams: I was here for two weeks last summer; doing a press tour for Grey’s Anatomy. But I’ve probably only  really been herefor a solid three weeks in total as an adult. I’m running around, I've got a bunch of friends here now, so I’m getting to see the city a little bit. I’m going to Stamford Bridge tomorrow for a match. So I’ll find my way there, I’m figuring it out.

Drew Goddard: I've been several times, but this is by far the best weather I’ve ever seen. I feel very lucky!


Craig Grobler: Drew, you have got a huge catalogue of in-genre work, could you tell us a how The Cabin in the Woods ended up on screen, and how you ended up in the driver’s seat?

Drew Goddard: I wrote Cabin in the Woods with my partner in crime Joss Whedon, I sort of started my career working for him on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We had honed our technique of working together over those years. We just enjoyed working together, so after those shows went away we were just calling each other saying “let’s find something else to do”.

We thought doing a feature would be the easiest thing to do for us, just in terms of our lives. So we started kicking around ideas of what we wanted to do, and we just love horror movies, and we love cabin movies in particular. He had this spark, this initial idea for Cabin with this upstairs, downstairs quality of it. As soon as I heard it, I went “oh yeah, that’s great let’s do that”. We just started meeting, and over the course of about five months we fleshed out the story, and once we had that we said, “alright, let’s write this”. We’ve learnt with Buffy that we never had much time to write because we were always behind schedule and we’d have to write scripts over the weekend constantly. But there’s a real energy that comes about when you do that. We wanted that energy, so we said let’s lock ourselves in a hotel, and we’re not allowed to leave the room until we’ve got a script done. It was very much an experiment, but it worked. We found this nice hotel and just kept writing, from like 7am to 2am everyday, round the clock, passing pages back and forth. And in the end we had Cabin. We sensed we’d written it, but it was every much what it was. It was very much a labour of love; just two guys trying to entertain each other.


How would you guys describe the film to somebody in a non-spoilery way?

Drew Goddard: I would just talk about the genre itself, and how this is our love letter to the genre. It is very much about making the ultimate horror film, or at least what we knew how to do. We just love that horror experience. This came about because we love sitting in the theatre, and feeling that energy when you’ve got the type of horror film that’s fun. And you’re screaming as much as you’re laughing, and when you’re sort of doing both. That can only happen in certain types of films, and we very much wanted Cabin to be that. It’s tough, because we can honestly say that the less you know about Cabin the more fun you are going to have, but you also want to tell people that it is worth their time. So it is finding that balance. Luckily, one of the things that has been nice is that we’ve noticed that people who see the movie understand, and they sort of know what not to do. They sort of do that without us having to ask. I think it’s true of most people,  I think most people don’t like being spoiled, and want to spoil, they just want to talk about the things that excite them. I think that is true of not just this movie but of all movies. I feel like we are definitely seeing that happen here, which is refreshing.


Jesse Williams: Yeah, and I think also, the word spoiler is kinda lost, its meaning is kind of amorphous, some people mean it "don't spoil the ending of some sitcom" it doesn't even matter, it's like little pieces to a story where they're not dealbreakers, whereas this I feel that the audience is really, people who've seen it are coming out and saying 'we don't wanna not spoil it for the sake of the director or the writer or the actor, we're not gonna spoil it for the audience, we want you to have the best experience possible' and a throw back to before twitter and the information age when everything was just fun to show off, to flex how much information you had ahead of time. Not "Oh, I got to see it before you, and now I'm gonna f*** it up for you." It's just a little muscle flex, and that's not what this is about, you see that  people wanna... Less is more. The first thing about The Cabin In The Woods is don't talk about The Cabin In The Woods.

As a fan, every time we heard about The Cabin In The Woods we'd get really excited, then a couple of weeks later the release date would change. How was it on your side?

Drew Goddard: It was definitely frustrating but I was just concerned about protecting the film. Everytime there's new management, you're never sure what's going to happen. Very early on the other studios, they started screening their products. Because what happens when something goes bankrupt, they screen their assets and other people buy them. That's why it took so long for The Hobbit and James Bond, they were all dropping with us as well. We were in good company, it felt like. The studios saw the film and started loving it and there was a bidding war, and Lionsgate called me, said 'we love the movie, we're gonna do everything we can to get it, we're not gonna change a frame', and once I knew that, it just became a matter of the red tape getting untangled, and that was fine. There's worse thing sin life than having your film come out slightly later than you thought it would. Joss and I joke, but it's been the best thing that could possibly have happened to us, we love Lionsgate, they're wonderful to work with, our actors have gone on to become stars. Be careful what you worry about, because it ends up working out fine.

Do you think this film will have the same impact on cabin films as say Scream did on slasher films, do you think this will be the film that other films will be referenced and compared to?

Drew Goddard: I don’t know, I try not to worry too much about how it will be perceived in the pantheon. We just tried to make the best movie we could. The rest of that is for other people to decide.

Jesse Williams: I think it’s hard to say right now, I mean it hasn’t even come out yet. We’ve seen it in a couple of theatres with people in it. Sure, that’s going to be a by-product, if it makes an impact, that people will make reference to it, so therefore it will have a lasting effect. We’ll start with one, and see if the math continues down that road.

With you directing for the first time, did you find there was a big change in perspective from writing and producing?

Drew Goddard: Well, I certainly can't blame the director anymore when things go wrong, which was the hardest part. Luckily I was really fortunate in my career to work for people like Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams who very much have a feature mentality to the television shows they're working on, and they're very much empowering the writers, and writing in general. Television is a writer's medium. I was very comfortable doing things like talking to actors and working with guts and looking at budgets and all of those things but there is something rather harrowing about stepping on set the first day and realising there's no one else to turn to, that all eyes are looking at you. And that takes a lot of getting used to, but there's also good in that, it's nice when you realise you're in charge.

Do you think, as a horror director, clichés are necessary for the horror genre to exist?

Drew Goddard: I think clichés happen for a reason, they happen because they work, things become clichéd not because everyone doesn't like them but because everyone likes them, and then they start to wear out their welcome. So much of Cabin is about how we deal with mythology, and not just in a horror film, but mythology in general and what it is we do, and how we compartmentalise this and analyse things and then destroy it. It happens over and over and over, and that's what happens with clichés, and I don't... this movie comes from a place of love. We're celebrating a lot of the things that we're also poking fun at, I don't hate these things, I'm just fascinated as to why we do this, I'm fascinated as to how things, through the action of storytelling, how things become rote, how archetypes take on a presence that's larger than the sum of its parts. It's interesting to me.

Was using the Angel and Buffy actors again a nod to the fans?

Drew Goddard: Not really, it's just because we love those actors and we wanted to use them. Joss has always... this is an energy he has created, it doesn't feel like work, it feels like you're getting your friends together and having a party and just sort of 'lets put on a show'. That's the energy we like to feel, we like to feel that we're this roving band of misfits, we just pick and pull and mix and match as we go, and I hope we keep this energy going forward.

How do you feel about the casting, as you've ended up with a doctor and Thor?

Drew Goddard: It's nice to be proven right, as we definitely, at the time, had the future of Hollywood in our cast. It's nice to see that come to fruition before we even came out.

Jesse Williams: You had that spec script, "Dr. Thor".

Drew Goddard: We couldn't get that made, so we made Cabin. It's nice, it's gratifying, it's what you always want for your actors, you always want them to do even better than before they  met you. It's nice to feel justified.

Jesse, what was it that attracted you to Cabin in the Woods in the first place?

Jesse Williams: A couple of things I think, first it was the material – you know, you are reading 6 scripts a week, looking for work right. Desperately trying to find a place for your self in some of these screenplays and this just stood out to me. 

We didn’t even get the full screenplay, we just got a couple of audition sides, and I got a couple of different sets 2 pages here, 3 pages there of things that they had just cooked up,  that they had no intention of putting in the film. 

They had some extra imagination and wrote up really elaborate crazy monsters, I had a molesting jacuzzi in one scene and you have to act this out in a little office space.

I was a New York actor at the time so often it has to go on tape to be sent off to Los Angeles, right, so you don’t get the feeling of being in a room with a person you kind of have to pull it together and on top of that, I had to be, you know sexually assaulted by a jacuzzi in an office and fake that it felt like I was going to be on candid camera, it felt like I was being set up for a reality show or something.

But what I loved about it was that it was really appealing to me and the voice was very clear, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, right. It’s hilarious, but it’s terrifying but there is monsters and the imagination is making it so that I can’t even really tell if this is the real world or where is it. It was really genre bending but really engaging and the voice was just so clear to me that I didn’t feel that I didn’t feel like it was forcing itself. It’s not a comedy that’s trying to scare you and it’s not a scary movie trying to get a couple of laughs in, in order to break the tension, it’s all of these things in a really honest way. 

And then once I came out to Los Angeles and met with these guys and we worked it you could just feel in the air how excited they were about it, how passionate they were about it. And we just really kind of got on well I thought building this thing kind of together. It was just the excitement around it. It’s not common for everyone to be this genuinely excited. Like it’s really, really passionate and excited about a project but also the creativity. – You know this is a world of remake and sequels and 3D and all these other different tricks. Horror movies now are just kind of remakes of put yourself into a high school and have a girl have her shirt get ripped off and these things are done to death. And this was just really original.

And it’s really nice to have an original story that has room for a character to grow and change and play some square guy was different from what I had just done in Brooklyn’s Finest playing a cop or theatre this was something different this was a guy who is two different people who is new to a group, and he is socially awkward and sexually frustrated and that was fun.

Is it hard for you to balance Grey’s Anatomy with films, as it takes 10 month of the year to film Grey’s?

Jesse Williams: It’s very difficult to balance Grey’s with films. You not available to do much of anything and it would be a pain for a studio to try to make that happen and fight with the Network to make that happen. That is the business side of it. That is the gift and the curse of one job is going to prevent you from getting other jobs. But 7% of actors work so I’m very, very grateful among the few that right now to have a job. So no complaints, but it is a balancing, act for sure. 

Craig Grobler: You started off in academia and shifted into acting, was that always the plan?

Jesse Williams: No, there was no plan. I was a public school teacher, film was one of my majors in college so I was writing films and shooting student films and going back and forth between Philadelphia and New York to shoot films with NYU students and Columbia students.

So I wrote a film that I submitted to Sundance for the screenwriters' lab, and it made the final list there, whilst I was teaching. I was writing it during my lunch breaks whilst I was teaching and it just kind of made it real, like "Oh shit, maybe I can do this, maybe there's a place for this", it made the goal kind of realised instead of just throwing it out into the ether. And that motivated me to go to New York and just try to pursue my creative goals before I wake up and 40 years have passed and I'm yelling at teenagers still. Which is fun, it's actually pretty fun, but yeah, I moved to New York and tried writing, that doesn't pay any money. I just kicked around odd jobs and boring stuff, worked in a law firm for a year and a half, but then I dug up this old agent, I did a couple of commercials in college, I dug up this guy, said "I'm here now, wanna give it a shot, don't know what I'm doing, quarter-life crisis". He sent me an audition for Law & Order or something and just started acting, doing theatre and something like that.

Craig Grobler: You talk about writing, is that something you may continue with?

Jesse Williams: Yeah, I'm doing some writing now, writing a couple of projects now, and co-producing a film after we finish this season of Grey's. Just kind of figuring out ways to be creative and using my time. Anything you're doing, you do one show 10 months a year, I love th show, I love my job, but you just wanna kind of mix it up. So I produced a project that was at Sundance this year, just trying to mix it up so you don't go insane.

Craig Grobler: What is the project called?

Jesse Williams: That project was Question Bridge: Black Males, it was an video installation that was at their New Frontiers lab, and it's now in 5 museums around the States, and it's gonna do a 20 city tour and the LA Film Festival.

Craig Grobler: There are some wonderful references & homages in Cabin in the Woods are there any favourites that didn't make the final cut?

Drew Goddard: No I got away with everything. I really did. Shockingly so, but I got to do everything I wanted.

A big surprise is the inclusion of *SPOILER*, as she's not credited, did you write the part for her?

Drew Goddard: No, we wrote it a-sexual, the part is just known as The ********, but we were thinking of a man because that's just what we  do ourselves being sort of sexist about it, but we weren't excited. When we talked about names, nothing excited us, and one day we just looked at each other and said "Lets just switch it, lets make it a woman" and as soon as we said that, ******* name popped into our head. 

"Oh, she would be perfect for the genre, and she'd be so good at this" and just that day called her up, and she said "Yeah, I'm in". We're like "Really? Are you sure?" but she was "No, I love you guys, lets do this" which was exciting. She knew Joss from the ***** days, and it was nice. She was so fun, the first question every day when she showed up on set was "When does the Werewolf get here?" "First of all, ******, it's not a real Werewolf" But she was just so excited. It was nice to see someone whose done what she has done still have the enthusiasm for her job, it gave us all a tremendous burst of energy to have around.

Jesse, have you considered doing a role with a little less blood?

Jesse Williams: Kind of a running theme here, I've dabbled in non-blood films, the non-blood genre, early on in my acting career, and it just wasn't as satisfying. I mix it up, sometimes I do blood with gloves, sometimes without gloves. Sterile and non-sterile field. In and outside of an institution, I'm mixing it up. Could I possibly do another film near this genre again? I don't know. Cabin has kind of destroyed some of that because it's so fucking awesome. The bar we set very high.

Andrew Jones: When they are in the underground cavern, I’m pretty sure there was a reference to Left 4 Dead?

Drew Goddard: Where did you see that? I didn’t even see that, but yes!  It’s in there somewhere. Because we didn't have any money on this movie and yet we knew what we wanted to do and luckily Left 4 Dead, we were going to do a tie-in with Left 4 Dead 2 that was going to be Cabin in The Woods: Left 4 Dead and you could actually play the game, so that was all planned, and then the bankruptcy happened. But as a result we got to have some of their assets and they were nice enough to let us put some of their stuff in the deep background. We didn't want to be that obvious but I’m impressed you caught that because that is definitely not something that is easy to spot - Boomer.

In Cabin in the Woods you define 5 stereotypical roles, which would you both be in real life?

Drew Goddard: I was definitely the virgin. Boy! I wish that wasn’t true.

Jesse Williams: I was somewhere in-between Marty & Kirk. I was, you know back at that time an athlete and wanna be tough guy but I was like 90 pounds and smoked a lot of weed though. So somewhere in there. 

Drew Goddard: High school’s hard.

Jesse Williams: Yea! I was not Holden that is for sure.

Drew, why such an extreme ending?

Drew Goddard: You know, at least with this, I feel like, that these days everything is just - Part 1. And you feel like I watch a movie and that the Director is saying, well no, no the good stuff’s coming when you watch the next one and wait till you hear what we have planned for the third one. And I’m like give it to me now! I want it now!

So we didn’t set out to hold anything back we wanted to tell a complete story. So that people don’t have to worry about doing your homework ahead of time or reading the tie-in or doing all that crap. Just come in and sit down, we’re going to give you a great time and that’s enough. I miss that. You know you want that sort of energy of a movie. And so I don’t know I just felt that - let’s do it all, do everything we ever hoped for and we’ll worry about later, later. You know it’s all about making one good movie.

Jesse Williams: I would add that to the list of things that really attracted me to the project is that it is not trying to sell you anything. It leaves it all out on the table. Especially in the third act it’s overflowing with opportunities to make all types of other, all those things are really fascinating and it’s like you can make 12 movies out of what they just felt like throwing in there. 17 movies come out in a 2 week period that don’t have as much creativity on their finger nail as a 3 minute segment in the in the third act.

You can follow Jesse Williams on Twitter over here: http://twitter.com/#!/iJesseWilliams

The Cabin in the Woods is in UK cinemas from Friday 13 April
Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favourites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a mind blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.

Produced by Whedon and directed by Goddard from a script by both, the film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. Lionsgate presents a Mutant Enemy production.

http://www.facebook.com/thecabininthewoodsUK
@enterthecabinuk


cabin in the woods quote poster
Poster: The Cabin In The Woods Quote Poster

The Establishing Shot: WE CHAT THE CABIN IN THE WOODS WITH DIRECTOR DREW GODDARD AND STAR JESSE WILLIAMS 

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