As the week of release for You’re Next barrels along, I’m excited for you guys to read my interview with the film’s director Adam Wingard and its writer Simon Barrett. I’ve been covering thing movie for a while and I’ve also spoken to the pair quite a bit with regard to the V/H/S films, so I really wanted to focus on things we hadn’t talked about before. So we hurried through the streets of San Diego passing the recorder around (we were late for a SDCC panel they were moderating) talking about the film’s inception.
Then we skipped ahead a bit to discuss The Guest, which they had just started filming in New Mexico (right now they’re a little over 30 days into it). I remain optimistic that there’s some Satanic stuff going on in that movie (even though I’m likely 100% wrong) – though Wingard and Barrett dodge my potential Bob Woodword moment with admirable dexterity.
It’s been mentioned that initially Simon wanted to do something that was more of a screwball comedy and Adam wanted something more serious. How different from the final product was that first draft?
Barrett: It wasn’t, really. Ultimately it was the film. Adam and I are collaborators but we also give each other space in certain phases of the process. I tend to write in complete isolation and I don’t show Adam any pages until I have a draft I’m pretty happy with. And he tends to edit in the same way. That way he can approach my first draft with objectivity as a reader whereas I’ve gone insane for the past 6 weeks and have no idea if it’s any good or not. Then [after Adam edits alone] I can see the assembled film for the first time as a viewer. There’s a lot of good things about that and it’s obviously been very successful for us and we intend to keep doing it. But there’s also some anxiety there because I’m sitting there writing this script thinking, “oh my God, this isn’t what Adam wants but this is what my characters keep doing! What if he hates this? What if he looks at this and goes, ‘Simon! Goddammit!'” But so far, so good. I don’t think it was what he was expecting but we have a very similar sense of humor and I think he was down with it.
Wingard: Yeah, and I trust Simon’s instincts so much I kind of take them over my own, especially when it comes to story. I kind of came into this wanting to do something more technical and very scary. When Simon added the whole comedic element I never questioned it. It was the type of comedy I could relate to. It’s not an overly comedic script, there’s no jokes in it necessarily. It’s just more circumstantial so, from that perspective, I was totally onboard with it from the get-go. It still had all the creepy stuff to play with, the violence and all that.
So there’s not a window of time where you have to emotionally adjust to the script not being exactly what you’re expecting?
Wingard: Yeah, when I first read it I definitely had to. But it wasn’t ever a bad adjustment, I just go, “this is the script that Simon wrote.” I didn’t know he was going to write this female protagonist who was basically going to become the hero of the film.
Barrett: That was also way more hidden in the script.
Wingard: That made me a little nervous going into it because every time I had seen that outside the Alien series I felt like the filmmakers fell on their face. It just depends on finding a really good actress. And since I was just used to casting people I knew, I didn’t really have anybody in mind for who that might be. I knew we’d have to find somebody and that was a little scary. Luckily, Sharni – no pun intended – stepped up and became that character.
You mentioned that watching the audience respond to the more fun moments in A Horrible Way To Die was really gratifying and you wanted You’re Next to capitalize on that. Is that something that’s continuing with The Guest?
Wingard: Yeah. The Guest is again us asking, “what are we in the mood to do? Given our experience level, what’s a fascinating challenge?” You’re Next is a mainstream audience film, which was a challenge. We had to play by new rules in terms of the way we filmed it. I couldn’t just rely on experimental techniques to get me through it. The reason I did rely on those [techniques] before was because we didn’t have enough money and I had to get clever with it. So with The Guest it’s a different thing because we have more money on it. And it’s not just a horror film. With You’re Next there’s the fallback that there’s always something happening and there’s a kill scene every few minutes. With The Guest the challenge is going to be, while still having all sorts of crazy stuff happen in the movie, this thriller suspense element we’ve added to it. It’ll be a real challenge to pull off but so far it’s going well.
I’m convinced Satan plays a role in The Guest.
Wingard: Satan just plays a role in my life in general. He will always be at my side helping me and pushing his dark powers into the inner-depth of my mind. That’s just going to come through in general.
Barrett: That’s going to come through whether Adam and I are doing a film like You’re Next or The Guest, or whether we’re doing a romantic comedy or an Oscar bait war movie. All of those are hopefully on the horizon for us. You want to make all kinds of movies on all kinds of levels which means you have to be pushing your talents to new fields at all times.