The Cloverfield director tells us how he went about remaking the Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In
In SFX issue 202 (on sale Wednesday 20 October), we talk to Cloverfield director Matt Reeves about Let Me In , his new remake of the sublime Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In . Matt was so talkative that we were left with lots of material that we simply couldn’t squeeze into the print mag, so we thought we’d share it with you here!
On understanding completely why people might be sceptical about this remake:
“I think when people are very cynical and worried about what the movie could be, they’re assuming that we’re being cynical in our approach to it. You think that people are going to take out what’s so unique about the story, which is how committed it is to its perspective. You think that those are things that aren’t necessarily perceived by Hollywood studios as commercial, and that they might rub off all the things about the film that have that sincere emotional commitmentand. By doing that you end up with something that’s completely homogenised, and what’s so special about the movie is how unique it is… That’s really true of the Lindqvist novel, and I think that people would fear that somehow all of that would be lost and there wouldn’t be that sort of really unique aspects of the story reflected in the film that we’re doing.”
On how he came to be assigned as director:
“Here’s essentially what happened… There’s a personal project called The Invisible Woman which I was trying to make before Cloverfield ; we cast it and then the cast fell out for some reasons - it was an independent film. Then Cloverfield came about, and I jumped into Cloverfield , and I was trying to get the film going again. After that there was a huge contraction in the independent film world. I brought the script to Overture Films and I said to them, ‘I’m really passionate about making this movie’, and they said that the movie was too challenging for them at that moment, that it was too small and too dark. But they said, ‘We would really like to do something with you, and we have this movie that we love that we’re pursuing the remake rights on’. So that’s how it came to me.”
On communicating with the author of the original novel, John Ajvide Lindqvist:
“I was so taken with the story that I had to read the book, so I got the novel and I was blown away. It’s such a beautiful story of the pain of adolescence, and it’s so brilliant the way he did that. I ended up calling up Lindqvist as they were pursuing the rights. I said, ‘I may get involved in this, and I just have to let you know how deeply moved I am by this story - I love the movie and I love your book, and I think it’s amazing. And I want you to know that it’s not just because it’s a brilliant genre story, which it is, but because it so connects to me about my own childhood.’ And he wrote back to me and said, ‘I’m actually a big fan of Cloverfield and I was somewhat excited to hear that you might get involved in this, but I’m much more excited to know that it connected with you personally. That puts me at ease, because this is the story of my childhood.’ And I was like, ‘Well that makes complete sense, because it comes through so powerfully and so vividly.’ It’s a real testament to the power of Lindqvist’s story that it so resonated with me, about my childhood in such a different place. We’re so culturally different and yet the themes were so incredibly universal and so similar to my experience.”
On his approach to adapting the story:
“I was so drawn into the idea of trying to, as much as possible, put it into the point of view of Owen [named Oskar in the original film] to really emphasise the coming-of-age aspect of the story - I wanted to take some of the subplots and filter those through that. The adaptation that I did is an amalgam of many different things. It has a lot to do with the structure of the original film, because Lindqvist’s adaptation is actually a very faithful adaptation to the book. It has some details that I tried to bring in from the book. It has some of the ‘80s things to sort of contextualise. It has some things from my own childhood, trying to personalise it, and stuff about trying to put it in an American landscape. So it’s kinda this whole melange of stuff.
On why the film features clips of Ronald Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire” speech (seen on TV in the background):
“At the beginning of the novel there’s this great scene where Lindqvist describes Blackeberg [a suburb of Stockholm, built in the ‘50s], which is where he grew up. He talks about how it was a planned community that didn’t grow up over a period of time, and as a result it didn’t have a single church, and that’s why the inhabitants were so unprepared. I thought, ‘That’s very interesting, because we have towns that sprouted up like that all over.’ In the ‘80s we called it Spielbergia, because he centred a lot of his films on those sort of tract housing, planned community places. But these wouldn’t be faithless places. So I thought, what would it like to be a 12-year-old in Reagan America and be in a not -faithless community and know that because you’re mercilessly bullied each day and you’re 12 years old and you’re confused, you have these very, very dark feelings, and where would you fit in in that world? And what does that mean about who you are, since those are clearly things that the Soviets are supposed to be, which is evil, whereas we’re fundamentally good. I thought that would be very confusing to a 12-year-old.”
On whether finding the right kids to play Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloë Moretz) was a difficult process:
“Well, it was a difficult process until they came in. It’s interesting, because people were like, “Oh well, you must have seen The Road , you must have seen Kick-Ass ’. I didn’t see either of those films - they weren’t done. The directors were very generous in talking to me about the kids, but they wouldn’t show me the footage because they were both in different situations where they were dealing with their movies. John Hillcoat was dealing with the Weinsteins and getting the movie finished and he just wasn’t able to show me anything - although he was raving about Kody. The same thing with Matthew Vaughn: they hadn’t done their Comic-Con screening yet and they didn’t have a distributor, so he was like, ‘Look, all I can tell you is she’s remarkable, but I can’t show you anything’. So it was really their auditions. They came in and I was like, ‘This is really exciting that we have these two kids.’ I have to say, no matter what anybody thinks of the film, the kids are extraordinary. They are truly amazing and I was really, really fortunate to find them.”
Let The Right One In is released in the UK on Friday 5 November, by Icon. Click here to read our review of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s new book, Harbour .