Arriving in New York and Los Angeles theaters this weekend is Sony’s Stage 6 release of David Ondaatje’s The Lodger, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film entitled THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. Beyond the break you can read our exclusive interviews with director David Ondaatje and star Shane West.
A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film entitled THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG, first time feature director David Ondaatje is hoping the film’s obscure nature will draw a little less scrutiny than, let’s say, Gus Van Sant’s ill-fated shot-for-shot PSYCHO remake.
Based loosely on the original Hitchcock work as well as Marie Belloc Lowndes’ 1913 novel, THE LODGER is about a killer who appears to be emulating the infamous murders of Jack the Ripper. Since the Ripper case was never solved, the detectives must try to figure out which of the Ripper suspects actions the murderer is following.
Set in present day Los Angeles, Alfred Molina is detective Chandler Manning, who discovers that he got the wrong killer convicted and executed for a series of murders that happened seven years ago. When a similar string of murders starts up, Manning and the department confirm that the elusive killer has returned. Manning’s partner is rookie cop Street Wilkinson, who is trying to prove his abilities under the constant abuse of his tough guy partner. The story cuts between the detective’s investigation and bored housewife, Ellen (Hope Davis), who rents a guesthouse to a mysterious lodger (Simon Baker) while her husband (Donal Logue) is at work. The stories are gradually weaved together as almost everyone becomes a suspect and the prickly cat-and-mouse investigation spirals out of control.
Bloody-Disgusting spoke exclusively with director David Ondaatje and actor Shane West about the new thriller.
Remaking a Hitchcock film might seem like a fruitless task for a first time director, but Hitchcock fanatic Ondaatje felt the obscurity of the silent film might offer him some breathing room. “I watched it and thought, `Wow, this could be a good premise for a feature,” Ondaatje told BD. “[It's] also a safe film for me to do as my first film since it was made 80 years ago as a silent black-and-white, so hopefully the comparisons wouldn’t be too careful.”
“I am an enormous fan of Alfred Hitchcock and studied him a short film I shot about ten years ago called Waiting for Dr. MacGuffin. Through making that film and through studying him I came to find that he was much more than just the master of suspense. He was a great cinematic innovator.”
Actor Shane West, best known as Dr. Ray Barnett on ER, thought THE LODGER would pay homage to the Hitchcock original and take it in some interesting new directions. “I love horror films, but I was not very aware of Hitchcock’s early films, let alone his silents,” West told BD. “We had a unique opportunity to literally put a voice to this original film.”
Ondaatje used the original film and the novel as a jump-off point to center a thriller around the fascinating history of the Ripper mystery. “Having read the book, it was kind of a dated story based on Jack the Ripper. So I figured I couldn’t really tell a Ripper story in a contemporary setting, but I figured I could bring it into my story as a sort of study of history. So all of the info in the film about Jack the Ripper is historically accurate.”
“It’s unbelievable how grim a lot of the materials on Jack the Ripper are and we have some of that in the film [such as] actual historical photographs and information about the victims. It becomes almost a historical study of Jack the Ripper. The characters in the story, particularly the rookie cop Shane West plays, have to go and study about Jack the Ripper to try and understand more about his motives and predict what his behavior was going to be.”
West’s character, Street Wilkinson, is barely in the original, but the new version greatly expands the role. West on the role: “My character is a new young, brash cop who acts like he knows what’s going on, but he really doesn’t have that much of a clue. I used that. It was a different kind of background work I had to do on this film because it was kind of the lack thereof. I didn’t do that much research because I wanted to be as highly confused and ignorant as Street would be in this situation.”
Street’s character also absorbs a fair amount of abuse at the hands of his experienced partner. “[Molina] got to pull me around and make fun of me throughout the entire film. I always liken it to Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt’s characters in SEVEN.”
The part is a change for Alfred Molina, primarily known for his character parts and his classic portrayal of Doc Ock in SPIDER-MAN 2. Ondaatje on Molina: “Molina is a wonderful combination of being incredibly sympathetic while at the same time somewhat detached and gruff in places. He’s not an entirely likable character, but his performance is so compelling that you can’t help but be drawn to him.”
As the story of THE LODGER progresses, very few characters are free of suspicion. Just when you think you know who the killer is, another plausible suspect is brought into the equation.
“Audiences these days are so sophisticated,” says Ondaatje. “One of my goals was to keep them from being able to predict the story [and] disorient the audience at different times. Things you think are true turn out not to be true. Your assumptions are quickly flipped over.”
“Everyone has a different take on it, so some people may think one character is a suspect and other people may come away thinking it’s someone else.”
West’s character is actually one of the few left free of suspicion. “I was a little bummed by that actually,” admits West with a laugh. “There were a couple of looks and ways that I tried to do some scenes that I remember David stopping from doing. I was trying to put some weird looks in there to see if maybe I could screw with the crowd as well, but David pretty much erased that.”
The DVD that hits next month will offer some extra features designed to give some added perspective on the original Hitchcock film and the Ripper murders. “There is a great behind-the-scenes piece,” Ondaatje told BD. “It goes into a little more detail on some of the connections with Hitchcock [such as] shot references and footage on how we filmed some of the more complicated scenes. We did some great tricks using specialized equipment, so some of that is shown.”
THE LODGER hits screens today in a limited theatrical release and will then make a quick transition to home video in mid-February.