The UK premiere of werewolf picture 13Hrs took place at Film 4 Fright Fest in the heart of Leicester Square on Saturday, and Alan Simmons was there to interview director Jonathan Glendening and his stars Isabella Calthorpe and Gemma Atkinson. Now over to Alan.
All three were in high spirits and seemed excited to be there. The girls had earlier had great fun in a brief photo call with one of the films werewolves and Mr. Glendening was on a high from just having been to lunch with all the other horror directors in attendance. Things got a little noisy as the enthusiastic audience spilled forth from the previous screening, and we all huddled around my dictaphone on a small pair of black settees.
Live for Films: Hiya everyone. I’m Alan from Live for Films, it’s lovely to meet you all. Firstly, Jonathan, can you explain to me what 13Hrs is all about?
Jonathan Glendening (director): Um, very simply, it’s a five kids in a house with a werewolf movie. I can’t dress it up beyond that really. But, hopefully, it’s a clever, entertaining version of that genre.
LFF: Gemma and Isabella, who are your characters and what drew you to the parts?
Isabella Calthorpe: I play Sarah, who comes back to her house to visit her family and um…
SPOILER ALERT – Highlight with the mouse to read the next bit.
…she’s actually the only survivor.
JG: You ruined the ending!
LFF: I haven’t seen it yet!
IC: *sheepish grin* I went to audition with Jonathan, I really liked the script, I’d never done anything like it and I thought it would be really fun to do a werewolf movie.
LFF: What about you Gemma?
Gemma Atkinson: I play a girl called Emily, who’s Sarah’s best friend, old best friend and is kind of dating Sarah’s brother. I thought the script was really good, the whole idea of the werewolf… the horror… it was brilliant.
LFF: I take it from what Isabella said, that you don’t survive?
GA: No. But it’s interesting how I die. It’s very interesting, it’s not the obvious thing that you expect to happen to me and how I die. It’s a nice little twist.
LFF: Was that especially appealing to you, having a good death scene?
GA: Yeah, definitely. I think if you’re gonna go out, you wanna go out with a bang. So yeah, it was good.
END OF SPOILERS
LFF: Jonathan. What was it about these two ladies that made you cast them?
LFF: Bearing in mind they’re sat right opposite you!
GA: We were the cheapest!
JG: Very true! They fulfilled the look and vision of the script. The script was very particular about what it said about the girls. Isabella came in and said she could do the running, jumping thing and look all action-y. And Emily… I don’t wanna offend Gemma, but the character is a tart with a heart… and the back story she could bring with her… it all just lent itself to the easy grammar of making a film and you just go “you know what? That’ll do it”. They put on two terrific auditions which I reviewed on video tape, over and over again, at home, alone…
IC: We didn’t really read much script in the audition, we had to do a lot of improv.
LFF: Like ‘Whose Werewolf Is It Anyway’?
IC: I had to pretend that I was looking through the floor and seeing my brother being killed by a werewolf.
JG: All really good stuff that I should have put in the movie!
LFF: Was it a tough shoot?
JG: Well for me it was a tough shoot, because you’re given eighteen days and you’re trying to make an action, horror, thriller and the budget’s only large enough to pay for eighteen days. You hear a lot of nonsense about “oh, how big is your budget? How big is your budget?” All that pays for, at my level of filmmaking, is how long you have to film – and the longer the better. So you just go, and I don’t want to demean the film, “that’ll do”. Rather than it being the auteur… this is how the script is written, this is how we must do it. It’s “I can cover it in these three shots”, and you hope that with those three shots you’re going to convey the best that you can. I don’t want to slag the film off though, because I’m very proud of what we achieved.
LFF: Do you think, in a way, it can have positives? In that you can’t do many takes, so perhaps you get fresher performances?
JG: It’s kind of swings and roundabouts, but for me, I would have liked another week, two weeks, to do it properly, um…
GA: (to me) I think what you said about the performances, everyone was really tired and working really hard and it was such a fun group that you really keep each other going. I mean, poor Jonathan had to work with, like he said at the beginning, five kids more or less! But you know we had so much fun, on and off set, it was brilliant. We had a built, a loft inside a big unit building. We had our own loft and had crawl ways and things and it felt really real. It was good. Though we were tired, and like Jonathan said, short for time, we were all pushing each other and I think it made it easier in the end.
IC: I think we knew that it was shot on a bit of a shoe-string budget and that we had three weeks to do it and we just put all our energy in and worked to from 6 to 11:30 every night and we had such fun together, we really enjoyed it.
LFF: What was it like working with Draco Malfoy? (Tom Felton plays Gary in the film) Did anyone harbour any resentment?
GA: I think people’re gonna be shocked when they see him in this movie!
IC: He’s really different!
LFF: (to Gemma) He doesn’t kill you does he?
GA: *laughs* No he’s a goodie, he’s on our side! He’s really friendly and always smiling and really nice to be around.
LFF: Jonathan, what were you influences on this? Horror wise, werewolf wise…
JG: Oh man…
LFF: Was there anything you wanted to homage, or certain films you wanted to watch for reference before shooting?
JG: Yeah, you do the normal. Me and the DP… I gave him Dog Soldiers, The Descent… I’m a huge Neil Marshall fan.
LFF: Have you seen him? He is around.
JG: Yeah! I met him on Friday, so that was a “OH MY GOD! IT’S NEIL MARSHALL!” Um… and The Thing and American Werewolf in London. Those were our standards. We didn’t try any kind of homage. We had our own film and you know, you don’t want to do pop culture references or anything cheesy. It was more a case of “that’s a great look and if we get anything near that I’ll be happy”. We were trying to make something different anyway, it’s more of an adventure than a reeeaaally serious horror film. It was more about sustaining momentum than “ooh, it’s moody!”
LFF: Gemma and Isabella, are you horror fans?
GA: Yeah. It sounds weird, but I really like the feeling of being scared when you’re watching something. It sounds stupid, but I put my fingers in my ears if I get too scared!
LFF: So it’s the sound that really gets to you, as opposed to the visuals?
GA: It’s like, I was petrified of Jaws. You know those two chords *does the Jaws theme* they just petrified me. And I think with Jaws, you didn’t see the shark ‘til the end really, which is kind of the same road Jonathan went down with this. You kind of don’t know what’s hunting them until the end really.
LFF: You mentioned Jaws. Do you have any other favourite horror films?
GA: I like Freddy Krueger, I was so frightened of that when it came out. My older sister had a sleep over and I watched it. I must have been about seven and I was sooo petrified! I’ve not seen the remake of it, cos I think that’d just bring it all back and it took me so long to get over it!
IC: For me, things like Halloween and The Omen films and then The Exorcist. Also, for me, anything with spirits. Where you’re not quite sure if that activity is around or not. That’s perhaps, for me, more frightening than seeing. I like watching horror, but I like watching it with people.
LFF: Well you’re in the right place, this is the perfect audience to watch a horror film with. Jonathan, what do you think it is about werewolves? What’s their enduring appeal?
JG: Well… that’s the question. I really don’t know… it’s a primal thing. Getting away from who you actually are and doing the stuff you wanna do. Like eat people.*Neil Marshall walks past* Is that Neil Marshall?! That’s Neil Marshall right there! Um… I don’t know. Werewolves are one of those great enduring horror things, it’s the transformation isn’t it? It’s being someone you’re not and doing something exciting.
LFF: What about the future? Will there be a sequel to 13Hrs, or any other horror stuff, or something completely different?
JG: Well I know the writer’s been commissioned to write the sequel, so I’m obviously hoping to get that?
LFF: Have you got a title?
JG: 72Hrs? I don’t know.
IC: I’ve just finished a play about The Beatles, very different from 13Hrs, it was a film called Backbeat – this is the stage version. We opened it as a preview in Glasgow and we’re waiting to hear if it gets into the West End. Fingers crossed. Other than that, I’m auditioning for other things.
GA: I’ve just wrapped on a movie called Sweet Shop, which is out later on, maybe October time. It’s a romantic story, a British thing again. I’m currently in rehearsals for a Neil LaBute play called This Is How It Goes, which’ll be on from the 7th of September at The King’s Head in Islington.
LFF: OK. Nice. Smooth plug there!
LFF: I’m going to finish up with our special, quick-fire Live for Films questions… Firstly, what is the first film you ever remember watching?
JG: *Getting off phone* (He wasn’t being rude – he was constantly being pestered for tickets to the screening) What did I miss?
LFF: Quick-fire round. First film you saw.
GA: I think it was The Goonies… or The ‘burbs…
LFF: That’s a great film!
IC: The first film I ever saw, AND the first film that scared me, was 101 Dalmatians, in Winchester. I have a really strong memory of seeing that and being terrified by Cruella De Vil! How things have changed! I remember that really well.
JG: My late brother took me to see The Jungle Book, when I was three or four.
LFF: If a movie monster was going to kill you, which one would it be and what would your final words be?
JG: *big laugh* The shark from Jaws and “ARGHARGHARGH!”
GA: Mine’d be a zombie, I’d like a zombie and I’d say “I told you it’d take a while bitch!” and then it kills me.
IC: I think I’d like one of the ghosts from Ghost Busters, I’d get slimed to death and my final word would be “BLEURGHBLURRBLURR”.
GA: I’m going to change my final words to “I’ll be back!”
JG: Oh nice!
IC: For the sequel!
GA: Yeah. (to Jonathan) I’ll come back as a ghost for 72Hrs.
LFF: And finally… what do you prefer, salted or sweet popcorn?
GA and JG: (instantly) Sweet.
IC: I like both, I always change.
LFF: Great. Well, thanks guys. It’s been great fun talking to you all. Let’s all go see the film now.
We all rise and while the girls leave Jonathan indicates there’s something else he wants to discuss. He had to take a call during discussion of the toughness of the shoot and wants to elaborate further.
JG: Well, it’s when we talking about budget… Budget pays for schedule. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, films like Blair Witch or Open Water. They film over many weekends, over years, because it’s their own money. When you have a low budget and it’s a proper crew thing and you have a set amount of time, you HAVE to adhere to that and it’s very difficult. Just to give you an example of the challenges low budget filmmaking gives you: My producers, who I’m very grateful to for giving me a film to make, brought forward production by a week or two, to make use of the location. So pre-production was cut, which meant the (Werewolf) suit wasn’t ready. Also the whole film is set in one house. So I had eighteen days to film, but I only had access to the house for the first five days of the schedule – hence us having to build a set AND I didn’t have the monster suit ready until the final day of the shoot. So get this, we’re filming the climax in the Ballroom of the house, I can only shoot left to right for the reactions of the lead actor to the monster, that was on day five. I had to then wait ‘til day eighteen, in a set environment, to shoot the monster for the other side of the fight! So the fact that it cut together at all, who knows, you may watch the film and disagree, is a miracle to me! So there you go, that’s all I wanted to add.
LFF: Thanks Jonathan, again, pleasure talking to you.
What a charming and honest bunch. Isabella and Gemma were enchanting and Jonathan’s frankness was refreshing and his enthusiasm for his project, and filmmaking in general, was palpable.
13 Hrs is directed by Jonathan Glendening and stars Isabella Calthorpe (The Prisoner), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Gemma Atkinson (Hollyoaks, Boogie Woogie), John Lynch (Black Death, Merlin) and Manimal himself, Simon MacCorkindale.
Sarah Tyler returns to her troubled family home in the isolated countryside, for a much put-off visit from Los Angeles. The rundown stately pile isn’t so much a money pit as a financial abyss though and the massive cost of the ongoing renovations has caused much distanced friction between Sarah’s parents. But as a storm rages outside, Sarah, her family and friends leave all their problems at the door and shore up for the night, cut off from the outside world. But something is about to come out of the driving rain and darkness. Something that needs to kill and is looking for human prey amongst the distressed and trapped group of people scared out of their wits in the vast darkness. Something that holds a terrifying secret so devastating that, in one night, it could wipe out the entire Tyler bloodline.
13 Hrs gets a limited UK cinema release on September 3rd and is available on DVD on October 25th.