Colin Farrell has been in the spotlight so long he’s grown to accept his role, and he has developed a playful disregard for anything resembling decorum. Farrell strolled into our room wearing a button-up with only one button buttoned, giving him the causal look of someone looking for a suntan, or a Jim Morrison-esque Lizard King. He was joined by director Craig Gillespie to talk about Fright Night, and how they approached the material, and their reverence for the original (or lack thereof). Check it out.
Colin, how do you get into the mindset of a character like this? He’s not human, and doesn’t really want to be human.
Colin Farrell: He has no desire to be human. It was a world where you couldn’t refer to your most basic human virtues and characteristics. Fear, remorse, compassion, hope, love, all these ideas, they were things Jerry understood objectively – having been human once – but also more than an observer of human behavior over centuries. I had to commit to the idea that this was a vampire that had no human leanings at all. If anything he had disdain for humans, and had a certain sense of humor as a result of that disdain. And his arrogance is what brings him down. In one sense it was liberating, but it kind of got repetitive at times, because without the human things we’re used to pulling and pushing inside us, it ran the risk of being one note.
Is this your first prosthetics role? With the contacts and the teeth?
Did that help with the performance, or did you just feel like you couldn’t wait to get it off?
CF: It did, I’m a sucker for all things practical. I’m doing a movie right now and there’s a lot of green screen in it, but the green screen is forty yards away to create a greater world of grandiosity. But the world I’m in is made by amazing craftsman, so I’m not like I’m working with a tennis ball or Jar-Jar Binks or anything (laughs). And with that in mind, getting to do this practical really does help, and like mask-work, it liberates you in a very scary way. You just have to work with your eyes. It really does effect how you move immediately. Some synapse goes off in your head, and you begin to react to behave a certain way.
Chris Sarandon told us you gave him a copy of Carl Theodor Dryer’s Vampyr, was that film important to you for this?
CF: No, it was something that I came to just before we left to do Fright Night. I was in a book store in Santa Monica, and there was a DVD section and it was there. And that was by chance. I got it, and before I had a chance to watch it I gave it to Chris. But I knew by looking at it, I knew by the director’s name that it had stood the test of so many decades. And then I got a copy and checked it out myself. But there were so many vampire films I had seen, whether it was this, or Lost Boys, Near Dark, the many incarnations of Dracula, Nosferatu, Coppola’s Dracula, they were all in my collected imagination when I did Jerry.
When the original Fright Night came out, a vampire film was an anomaly. Nowadays, it’s one of the most crowded times of vampire films. How do you stay true to your vision, while still acknowledging there’s Twilight?
Craig Gillespie: There is a vague reference to that, But honestly, I judge the material by the script, and I try to keep everything else out of that. That said, when I heard it was a vampire movie, I didn’t want to pick the script up (laughs). But I did because I was going in for a general at DreamWorks, and I was curious about it. I read it, and it’s such a great read that Marti (Noxon) had and the thing that caught me which was a refreshing and more of an homage to the 80’s was that mix of horror and comedy. An American Werewolf in London, the original Fright Night, and the Freddy Kruger character, there’s a sense of humor about them, and there’s not that much of that these days, it’s just flat out horror. I love that opportunity, and I love how ruthless the vampire is written. My immediate thought was he’s kind of like a serial killer. And it was this really interesting take on a vampire – the practicalities of how they would have to survive in our world that I thought would be really fun.
Because of the horror comedy elements you could say that the characters are all in different movies.
CG: Yeah, and to that casting is critical, because you have to have people who can walk that line. And it’s not everyone that can be invested and find humor. Colin was mostly the heavy stuff, but it was important that he has a sense of humor and enjoyment to it, because that’s what makes him fun to watch in any movie. Chris (Mintz-Plasse) and David (Tenant) were much more comic relief, but what was great about both of them was that they were grounded emotionally. You can see their pathos, and where they hurt. There’s a balance of that but overall for the studio it’s got to be a horror film first.
It sounds like you weren’t that familiar with the original.
CG: I was aware of it, I had that iconic image of Amy, but I hadn’t seen it since 1986, since it hit video. I knew it was a neighbor next door. I didn’t watch it again until we were about two weeks before shooting after we figured out the character arcs, so I could go back and pay homage to it, to make the fans happy. Obviously there’s the apple, and there’s the nightclub scene, but it is quite dramatically different in terms of structure.
Was there anything you put in specifically?
CF: The Apple. Originally when Charlie sneaks in I come back with a bag of groceries, and I was like “f*ck.” I had this image of Jerry the vampire with a quart of milk, and artisan bread. I thought “maybe this is a good place for the apple.” But I had no watcher, no keeper to throw the apple to so I had to throw it myself, and since I could juggle one apple, I twirled it off the table and catch it. There were other things, lines that carried over, and Chris Sarandon.
I would totally watch a film about Jerry Dandridge buying expensive cheeses.
CF: Jerry Dandridge loves emmental cheese.
“MMM, Camembert, a little pricey”
CF: He hates stilton because his sense of smell is already too heightened. (laughs)
Can you talk about working with Imogen Poots? You’re a hot couple there.
CF: It was fun working with her, great lady. This film was a lot of fun to shoot, we felt like a tight knit collection of film fans who were really getting a chance to play out some wish fulfillments, we all got to play. I was a lover of the original, I don’t know about the other cast members, but I was eight when the original came out, nine, and I remember seeing it a year later on Betamax, before we had a VHS. Everyone did their work, even I worked on my back-story, but then you get into vampire logic. He’s from the Mediterranean, he’s four hundred years old, he was in Versailles, then he was in Paris, got drunk with Hemingway one night, you just go to town on it. Maybe he speaks nine languages, and he was in China, and what boat did he come to America on? But when we came to the set, everyone had an understanding of what we were supposed to do. I was the horror, Chris and David were the comedy, Anton (Yelchin) was the emotional core, et cetera. And we got on the set and had a blast, and tried to allow that every take could be different, and how much we could push it. Sometimes I would slip into a Transylvanian accent. I don’t know what people from Transylvania sound like, but kind of a count Dracula (does the Muppet Count’s laugh) “One bad English actor- Ah-Ah-Ah”
Was there a transition going from Horrible Bosses to horror?
CF: It was fun. They were both “flick a switch” characters, they were so extremely different from me, so there were these shadows created, and you would step into them. And step out of the shadow and go home. And I didn’t take it home with me because there isn’t that emotional resonance like the parts that are more dramatic and more resonant, and then there’s the parts that echo into the night and into your sleep. Horrible Bosses was only a five day shoot, so it was condensed period of make believe, it was a lot of fun. And I had done three or four years of dramatic roles in dramatic films, which were incredible satisfying, but I need a mix, you know. Stuff that’s deep and stuff that seems more superficial. But it was time to go have a laugh.
Can you talk about the 3-D?
CG: 3-D came up very early on. And I thought about it for a beat, there had been those tentpole movies in 3-D, Avatar, Alice in Wonderland. So at first I was reluctant, but I was really interested in watching two guys in a kitchen talking in 3-D. because in horror, there’s always a sense of wanting to look over someone’s sholder, and around the corner, so I felt like it really put you in the space. And not constantly drawing your attention to it. And part of what was great was that you shoot in a more classic way. You can’t do hand held. These big long dolly moves.
CF: The process was slowed down a little, but the filmmaking process is so erratic to begin with, we didn’t really notice the difference.
Fright Night opens August 19.