Final Destination 5
Friday 23rd December 2011
In Final Destination 5, Death is just as omnipresent as ever and is unleashed after one man's premonition saves a group of coworkers from a terrifying suspension bridge collapse. But this group of unsuspecting souls was never supposed to survive and, in a terrifying race against time, the ill-fated group frantically tries to discover a way to escape Death's sinister agenda.
The second of the Final Destination films to be shot in 3D, Final Destination 5 is directed by Steven Quale, marking his major feature film directorial debut. The film brings together an ensemble cast led by Emma Bell (Frozen, TV's The Walking Dead) and Nicholas D'Agosto (Fired Up!, TV's Heroes), along with Miles Fisher (TV's Mad Men and Gossip Girl), Arlen Escarpeta (Friday the 13th), Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood (TV's The Bold and the Beautiful), P.J. Byrne (Dinner for Schmucks) and Ellen Wroe (TV'sHuge). Rounding out the rest of the cast are Courtney B. Vance (TV's Flash Forward, ER), David Koechner (The Office, Anchorman) and Final Destination franchise icon Tony Todd (Hatchet II).
Producers Craig Perry and Warren Zide return for the fifth time, working with executive producers Sheila Hanahan Taylor, Erik Holmberg, Richard Brener, Walter Hamada and David Neustadter. The screenplay was written by Eric Heisserer, based on characters created by Jeffrey Reddick.
Collaborating with Quale behind the scenes are director of photography Brian Pearson (Drive Angry 3D, My Bloody Valentine 3D); production designer David R. Sandefur (Repo Men, Journey to the Center of the Earth); editor Eric Sears (Shooter) and costume designer Jori Woodman (Eight Below).
Final Destination 5 is a production of New Line Cinema and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Question: How does a concept to do something like this begin?
Steven Quale: It starts with the script.
Eric Heisserer: I was attracted to the series because I was a huge fan of the first movie and I had a number of favorite moments from the entire franchise that have hung with me. But I'm sort of first at bat with the Final Destination franchise, as is Steven. And I think our enthusiasm for this project that carried us a long way.
Mainly, though, I wanted to add something new. I wanted to add something that was basically a moral dilemma for the characters that they could push against-that would make them more proactive-and a decision that would divide the team about, would you kill someone or not and how do you choose who that person would be?
Question: It seems that the audience comes to this movie for the death sequences, but with five films, how do you find a fresh way into that given the audience's expectations?
Steven Quale: Well, one of the things I did when I got this job is I watched all four previous Final Destination movies back-to-back and said, 'What is it about these sequences that I like and what is about them that I don't like. And what works and what doesn't work?'
And as a filmmaker, I said, 'Okay, well, the audience has certain expectations. I know that there are these deaths, but it's not the deaths alone that work. It's the suspense leading up to the deaths and the different twists and turns of how is that person going to die, with the audience trying to figure it out. Is it going to be the screw on the balance beam? Is it going to be the air conditioner falling on them? There are all these different things that are happening. And then, when it finally happens, if it's done in a sort of suspenseful way and then a twist, you get that satisfaction.
So, what you do is you hit them with a really scary moment, but really quickly. It's so shocking that they're almost like, 'Did I actually see that. I can't believe that actually happened.' It's a fun experience and a horrific shock and a jolt and you're like, 'I can't believe I just saw that.' Then you move on and there's humor afterwards. It's the combination of those two forces.
Eric Heisserer: Also, many times, laughter is just a natural human reaction to that. When you see something shocking you start laughing at it because .
Steven Quale: What else can you do?
Eric Heisserer: Yeah.
Question: There's also a fair bit of teasing that you do, with all the things that could go wrong in the scene. How much of that teasing do you do before you deliver it?
Eric Heisserer: It's a magic show, really. When you look at how magicians operate, it's all about misdirection. There are plenty of elements at play and, at the end of it, you're like, 'How did they pull it off?' So, we had to find that sweet spot in most of these death sequences to keep audiences guessing. Otherwise, that shocking moment that Steve delivered so well with all of these wouldn't have nearly the impact and the result.
Steven Quale: I think what helps, too, is the setting, like the kitchen. If you have it incorporated in the most benign situation, everybody knows what a kitchen is. There are some dangerous things in there, but for the most part everybody lives with that. And that, to me, is the ultimate. If you do it in some giant, dangerous factory that has big cutting machines or something, of course you know something bad's going to happen there. But if you just go in a kitchen, what could happen in a kitchen?
Craig Perry: It also has the take home factor. We all have kitchens at home. So, suddenly, when you're in there cutting up carrots, you're like, 'Well, this didn't work out so well in that movie.' And that, I think, is the real challenge with this. You take an accessible, normal environment and then inject it with a sense of malevolent presence, so that each inanimate object that you have a normal, everyday interaction with, suddenly you're going to Question it. Like, 'Boy, going on that elevator was a bad idea for them. I don't know if I want to go on this elevator. Maybe I'll take the stairs. Oh it didn't happen well for the stairs either.' So, that's the fun part of this is the take home value too.
Question: Has working on these movies affected the way you view real life?
Steven Quale: There's a certain vernacular where everybody calls it 'an FD moment.' You have something that's a close brush with death or something and everybody says, 'Oh that was an FD moment.' So, you think about it. And if it doesn't affect you, it gives you an awareness.
Question: How do you keep the movie scary and not slipping into self-parody?
Steven Quale: Yeah, I don't like the word 'camp,' so you have to work really hard and you have to ground the characters in a certain reality. You have to make the situations believable enough that when those extreme things happen, it doesn't take you out of the story. That was a hard thing to do. We worked really hard to make it happen in the scrip, the casting and the sensibility of how it looks and how you shoot it and how you stage things. As a filmmaker, you have to be really aware of all of those elements to make them organically fit.
Craig Perry: Also, since the last one was successful, it gave us the opportunity to sort of readdress the balance that's specific to your point. With the opening title sequence, we wanted to say to everybody that we're taking this movie seriously. It's not what you would expect given the last couple of movies in the franchise. We are sort of coming back home and we hope that audiences will appreciate it.
And I think that the idea of humor in this thing is very specific. The characters are funny. The situations aren't campy. They're not wink, wink, nudge, nudge. But the characters do have a sense of humor. Their comments have gallows humor, but it doesn't take you out of the movie. The movie takes itself very seriously. There's irony and that's fine, but it's not campy.
One of the things that Steve was adamant about was to make it grounded, palpable and real. And right off the bat, you can leaven it with all kinds of humor that doesn't take you out of the movie. It's still organic to the world of the movie. It's funny. And I think that that's why we found our way in terms of the tone; I think we finally found exactly the right balance.
Question: Steven, so many movies are now in 3D. Can you talk about why you wanted to make this particular film in 3D?
Steven Quale: I come from a slightly different background in 3D than maybe some other contemporary filmmakers in that I was working with Jim Cameron back in 2003 pioneering the 3D technology in our IMAX documentary movies, Aliens of the Deep and Ghostly Abyss. So, I learned early on what the 3D cameras can do and what they can't do and what works organically for a film. And then, on Avatar, we took that even further, having directed the second unit and doing some visual effects.
I have years of experience working in the 3D realm and I think it's dependent upon the filmmaker to figure out what he or she wants to do with it to organically make it part of the movie. I think not all films necessarily need to be in 3D, but if the director decides to embrace it, they can do an amazing job.
With this movie, I wanted to make it organic and fun for the fans, to really punctuate it when you want to, but, at the same time, make it a little more subtle and more enveloping of the characters because, to be honest, some of the best 3D is just a medium close-up of a face. There's something about that 3D face that is so real compared to a 2D version; if you get enveloped in it, you almost forget that you're watching a 3D movie.
Craig Perry: You're in the scene, not just watching it.
Question: But hasn't it been something of a Pandora's Box because of all the 3D conversion going on?
Steven Quale: Well, this film is one hundred percent natively shot in 3D. Every shot in the entire movie was shot in 3D and projected in 3D, whereas the conversion process is a way of getting 3D that I think has diminished the quality of what people think 3D should be like.
Question: Tony Todd indicated that it was a challenge at first to act in front of the 3D cameras.
Steven Quale: Well, it is a little intimidating because what normally is a small camera is this huge giant contraption with technicians running around and adjusting things and so forth. And, as the technology improves, that'll get closer and closer to what a normal camera is. So, it can be a little intimidating in that sense, but you just have to relax the cast and crew and get them comfortable with this giant mechanism that's being put right in front of you as you're shooting.
Question: One thing that struck me with these films is how audiences respond to the deaths with laughter. Do you think that's strange?
Ellen Wroe: Oh, yeah. You never know how you're going to react and the first time I saw it, I closed my eyes and screamed. So, I didn't see it. But the second time, I made myself watch it and I started laughing. I don't know why. I don't find it funny, but I laughed.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: I think we're all just twisted. We're very twisted. We like to see people die in like weird ways and there's something strange and macabre to it. It's just the way we are. We liked seeing it ever since the gladiators, Romans. We just like it. Steven Quale, the director, is incredibly brilliant and he just did it in a way where you're freaked out. You feel like you're there, but then it's also like, 'Oh, my god. This is so out of control.' There's no way this could happen, but you never know. It could.
Miles Fisher: I think something the franchise does really well is looping in the audience at every step of the way. It's almost a participatory sport. They create that sense of fun. It's like a roller coaster ride and you know, oh, this person's going to get it bad. Or you think this is going to happen. It doesn't. You exhale and then, bam, something else takes them out. So, it's that release. I remember in one of the screenings, I saw two people stand up and give each other high fives when someone died. And you think, 'Gosh, that's really grotesque when you think about it.' But it's fun and it's a great movie to see in the theaters with other people because of that.
Question: What made you want to do it, other than a job?
Miles Fisher: Well, initially, I was so excited about the 3D aspect of it. The director, Steve Quale, is a technological genius. And his mentor was Jim Cameron. He shot second unit for Avatar, Titanic, every Cameron movie since The Abyss. So, just getting to work with the most cutting-edge 3D technology with the guy who knows it as good as anybody was really, really exciting, actually.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: Yeah, I agree completely agree. I've always been a fan of Final Destination movies. When I found out that they were auditioning, I immediately jumped on and wanted to be a part of it, but Steven Quale's the number one thing. I didn't realize how incredibly talented he is. I knew he was amazing and very talented, but he was always thinking 30 steps ahead. Like you would kind of give an idea and he was there. He was beyond it. So, I'm completely humbled to work with him.
Question: With the opening scene on the bridge, was that shot on a soundstage somewhere?
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: The bridge sequence? Actually, we did exterior shots of the bridge in Vancouver and they actually built a bridge outside on the way to Whistler. There's this amazing cliff and they built everything there.
It looked exactly like the bridge. And then, they had the green screens and that's where they did a lot of the stunts. Then, at the end of the shoot, they made a bridge, a replica, inside, with green screens, but it was on hydraulics. So, we were flying on there, running, the cars are coming at you. So, yeah, it would literally go up and down pretty quick.
Miles Fisher: Yep. There were three bridge sets throughout the whole shoot. And then, additionally, of course, you shoot movies out of sequence. So, one day, it's an interior. We're just in a house and it's an emotional scene. The next one's like, oh, we have to hang from wires, suspended 80 feet above a suspension bridge. It was wild. And you never knew how physically demanding each day was going to be. It was a very technical, physically demanding film.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: Well, think about it for how many minutes of us running around and quick shots, it was like two weeks of us running non-stop.
Ellen Wroe: There actually was a day where we ran for 25 takes, just sprinting.
Question: Did you all prepare for it physically?
Ellen Wroe: I did and that was what I found just so exciting because I was a gymnast for 13 years and then, the day I found out I got the role, I was like, 'Okay.' I just called a bunch of gymnastics places in L.A. and immediately went to the gym and started training. And I had about eight weeks to prepare for the gymnastics scene.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: But when she says determined-beyond. We would get our pick-up at, what, six 'o clock in the morning. We'd go, 'Oh, let's grab a coffee,' not even awake. We're just hot messes. She's there in her ponytail, already showered, worked-out. And she's like, 'Hey guys, I've already worked out.' We would shoot for 15 hours or whatever. When we were done, she'd be like, 'Okay you guys can just drop me off at the gymnasium. I'm going to just work out and do some gymnastics.'
Ellen Wroe: Well, I had a lot of catching up to do. I had been out for like six years.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: But I'd never seen dedication like that.
Ellen Wroe: But it was like a dream come true to get to go back and for the first couple of weeks just gain all that muscle back. I just really worked on conditioning and then, after week three, started throwing tricks. And it's amazing what does come back and then what just never came back.
Question: So, you did gymnastics from when you were a little girl to when you were a teenager?
Ellen Wroe: Yeah, growing up. Now, I'm 5' 4" and a half. But what was interesting was the uneven bars, which is the thing that goes first because as girls, our shoulder strength just leaves you. That came back easy, I think, because it's a lot of muscle memory and timing. But the beam, that was a hard thing for me to get back. I think also because I just got scared.
Question: Can you take us into the filming of your death scene? That was crazy.
Ellen Wroe: The gymnastics' death scene. You've got to hand it to all those visual effects guys. It was amazing. What we did was we first filmed me doing my actual dismount, which is a giant double full. And I obviously landed and didn't kill myself. So, we had that.
And then, we did what they call like a blank slate, I think, without me, but the background and the background players reacting to my death. So, that was hilarious to watch and Candice dies and I was like, 'Ah.' So, that was a blank slate.
Then, we had me doing giants and that's the thing where you go around and around on your hands and we had the chalk spraying up into my face. So, I obviously didn't do the dismount into the chalk, but I did all those giants.
And then, we had just me lying in my ending death pose, which was totally green-screened. And the visual effects people just put those altogether. Then, we had some insert shots of my face as the chalk came in, which was interesting.
Question: So, you did all of this stuff?
Ellen Wroe: Well, yes, we had a difficult time finding an exact body double because all the gymnasts my age are in college and it was the World Championships that week, or some sort of huge Championships. So, everyone was out of town.
But I was so blessed to have an amazing stunt double, Atlin Mitchell, who's like Vancouver's sort of stunt prodigy. But she was a lot taller than me, so it wasn't exactly an exact replica. We also had Brittany Rogers, who's this amazing up-and-coming like Olympic gymnast in Vancouver, but she was playing a different gymnast role.
So, we had those two girls to kind of help me along and stand in certain places, but because they didn't actually really look like me, it was hard to do an exact replica.
Question: Had you seen any of the other Final Destination films when you made this?
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: Oh, yeah.
Miles Fisher: I had, every single one.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: Yeah, every single one.
Question: When you're shooting the film, knowing it's going to be so crazy, how do you approach it? Are you playing it absolutely straight?
Miles Fisher: Well, first off, this is the fifth in a now well-established franchise. So, you have a whole bunch of fans and you want them to be happy with the next installment. I think if you ask any fan, just waiting outside to go into the theater, 'What are you excited about this?' They always say, 'Oh, I can't wait for the deaths' and 'This one better be good and should be more eye-popping and explosive than the one before.' So, you want to deliver on that, but for us acting in the film, it's serious performances. The audience is kind of in on the joke, but no, it's not campy.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: I'm a big horror fan, but I don't enjoy a lot of gore. I like the older movies where it draws you in, the suspense. You don't know what's going to happen. You have that shock and awe. And I know it sounds crazy, but people can actually die freakish ways. So, you think, 'There's no way I could actually die this way,' and it's kind of funny, but then there's that dark sense that it could happen.
Miles Fisher: Right. And also, it's great that there's no psycho-murderer. There's no guy with a mask. There's not someone in real life. It's this spirit of death that comes after you. So, it's not as threatening. I don't think you're going to have nightmares because you think this is all supernatural.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: It's a fun ride. It really is a fun ride. Your adrenaline's going the whole time and you're like, 'Oh my god, is this what's going to kill that person?' So, by the end of it, you feel like it worked out because your adrenaline's just going. You're on the edge of your seat. It's not like, 'I don't want to look. Oh, my god.' You have those little pieces, but, again, you just really enjoy the ride.
Question: Does it prompt discussions of what you believe in? I mean, do you have to buy into the fact that there's this list somewhere that has a date and time?
Miles Fisher: Sure, sure. Also, I think every day we live in a world where access to information is easier and easier and easier. This movie asks where there's no answer. There's no answer. So, with every single character, this horrible thing happens-a bridge collapses; hundreds of friends of yours die-how do you explain it? We're so used to having the answers. So, I think the Questions that arise from that are interesting and engaging. And it doesn't take itself super-seriously. It has fun with it, even though it's literally eye-popping. [Laughs]
Question: Jacqueline, how did you prepare for your eye-popping scene? Was that nerve-wracking, when you were working in your bra?
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: It was funny because that was our first scene on set. That was the first day, the first everything. So, obviously, it was a little nerve-wracking. I'm pretty comfortable with myself and Steve was shooting the right angles. Non-stop, 'Shoot the right angles.' [Laughs] No preparation, just obviously the craft of it and getting that down. And it was a long shot for all of us.
Ellen Wroe: Jackie was a trooper. She was in that Vancouver water, freezing cold, like late November, for hours and hours and didn't complain once.
Question: For the bridge collapse scene, you had to be hanging for hours. How do you get comfortable with scenes where you know you're going to be doing that?
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: For me, I'm very hands-on. I was very excited about it, but once you're up there, you're like, 'Okay, this isn't going to be a one-time thing. I'm going to be doing this for the next ten hours.' So, it's very challenging for all of us, incredibly challenging.
Ellen Wroe: That was the most fun, though. It's getting me jonesing to do another stunt movie. I thought it was so fun. And you're not even really acting. You really are screaming because it's that scary. So it makes your job a little bit easier.
Miles Fisher: You use it too because one of the challenges from an acting point of view is that so much of the movie you're responding to is terrible and you try to think in real life what can I pull from that? Well, knock on wood, none of us in real life have ever had hundreds of people die right in front of our faces. So, it's hard to stay in that and be real to react to really horrifying things. So, being suspended from a wire, as painful as it, can actually really, really help. So, you just dig in and use it.
Question: After being a part of the fifth film in a hugely successful franchise, from your perspective what do you think sustains this franchise and the fan base?
Miles Fisher: Initially, I think the sense of fun. I think that it really feels like a roller coaster ride. It's this fun amusement park and every seven minutes you're going on this new, crazy ride and then you finally get a breath. And then, you run to the front of the line again and want to go to the next one. I think it does that really, really well and keeps on pushing the technology, so that it is more explosive every single time.
Question: What do you guys think you would be doing if you weren't acting? Would you be a gymnast, for example?
Ellen Wroe: Well, probably not because I quit for acting, but I think I'd be a civil engineer. I've always liked math and numbers and geometry. I think that's what I would do.
Miles Fisher: I think it would involve something with the internet. I'm just fascinated with the internet. I'm fascinated with everything that's going on.
Question: Would you be an entrepreneur, do you think?
Miles Fisher: Maybe. Yeah, something in that space with visual media and music.
Jacqueline Macinnes Wood: Yeah, I think for myself maybe something in fashion. And I DJ and produce music. So, probably an electronic DJ.
Question: It seems like the more gruesome the scene, the harder audiences laugh. Can you comment on that?
Emma Bell: I think that whenever anything happens that's very traumatic in our lives, we need a release. Sometimes it's just too hard to handle or it's too much. I know, in my personal life, I do that sometimes. I'll be in a really shocking situation and I just giggle or something. It's not even that I think it's funny. It's sort of a defense mechanism. I also think that we're fascinated by these deaths and how horrible these people can die. But there's also this element of, 'Oh my God.' We're thankful that that's not actually really going to ever happen to anybody, hopefully. So, that's where that comes from, I think.
Tony Todd: Yeah, it's a very cathartic thing. I mean, having been fortunate to be involved in four out of the five films of this wonderful franchise and watching the audiences, it's like a roller coaster ride-just a slow climb to the top and then all of a sudden you're in this car and you can't get out and it's screaming thrills of joy. So, it sort of makes people feel childlike, I think. And, like Emma said, they hope it never happens. These movies are so extremely plotted that I doubt they ever will. [Laughs] But, you know, people want to be tickled. It's like a tickling effect.
Nicholas D'Agosto: And I think the other thing about the Final Destination franchise, which is great, is that is a bit fantastic. Sometimes the reality of some of the horror films that are out there, the sort of torturous ones, where it's truly a human doing something nasty to another human is a bit much. I think that's what's genuinely different and nice about this franchise and this movie is that because it is this supernatural element, it allows the audience to go, 'Okay, this is something that wouldn't happen.' So, you're not relishing in the mistreatment of another person. You're kind of laughing at crazy circumstances presented to you.
Tony Todd: Like a funhouse.
Question: How do you draw the line between parody and what you guys are doing? How do you find that line?
Nicholas D'Agosto: The important thing is that you just have to have the cast. You have Tony, who really grounds the film in the reality and the setting of this world, which keeps the through line throughout the films. Then you have a great, talented cast of people around, who really enjoy each other. And I think you just have to get behind the people. You have to believe in the arcs and through lines of the relationships. And when you stop doing that, I think people will laugh and people will not take it seriously. But if you actually believe with the people who are going through this supernatural event, then I think you are willing to kind of suspend your disbelief.
Question: Tony, how do you prepare for a role like Bludworth?
Tony Todd: Well, as an actor, you've got to believe whatever the situation is. So, people ask me, 'Well, who is this guy? Is he the grim reaper? Is he the angel of death?' It's none of those things. When I first got it, I made a choice. And maybe that one day will be revealed, but I just try to welcome people. And if they ask me, then obviously they are curious enough to know how to possibly escape it. So, that's it. They call me Mr. Exposition. [Laughs]
Question: Mr. Exposition?
Tony Todd: Yeah, particularly in the first film. I mean, I was there to give this two-page synopsis of what's going possibly with death. But I still have to make it human. So, I have to make human choices, but he comes off specter-like.
Question: Do you believe that things just happen in the world, or there is some real list somewhere with a date and time?
Tony Todd: What's weird is, I travel a lot. And whenever they say, 'Welcome to your final destination' on the plane, having done this, I always have a little tinge. And strangers look at me. 'No, we're good.' [Laughs]
Emma Bell: One of the great things about being in this business is the fact that we're not playing ourselves. You don't always have to go with what I personally, Emma, believe. I can suspend my reality and become somebody else. So, in these characters' world, this is what's going on. And it's kind of fun to be able to put yourself in that head-space and see it from that side and that point-of-view. It's all for the sake of entertainment. It's all for fun and doesn't necessarily have to mean anything more than that, really.
Question: Part of the fun of a film like this is trying to guess who is going to get it. And who deserves to get it. Do you look at that when you first get the script and quickly check to see if you have a great death scene? Or, do you make it to the end?
Emma Bell: It was really fun to watch everyone do their death scenes because then afterwards, we'd be like, 'Oh, man, your death scene was the best!' 'No, your death scene was the best.' That's what this film is about-dying in the most horrific way. You almost want that trophy of 'I died the best.'
Nicholas D'Agosto: it's a game of 'Top this.'
Emma Bell: It's fun though.
Question: Is it difficult to talk about the film without giving away any spoilers about who dies?
Nicholas D'Agosto: It's a challenge. This is a franchise in which people understand what they're getting into. They understand what's going to come. They understand how it's going to be delivered, generally, but there are a couple of twists about this movie, which some are revealed in the trailer and some have been whispered about. I think there are some characters, some protagonists, that have lived. So, you want to try and keep them guessing.
Question: How would you compare this movie to the others in the franchise?
Tony Todd: It's as good as the first one, I think. And I really loved the first one because it was groundbreaking. It was a new form. It's why we're here at number five. I like moving on so I'm really shocked that people are still coming to watch this whole wonderful game that we play. It's like a game of death, kind of.
Question: Emma, you were saying you were able to watch the other actors' death scenes. Were you on set for most of them even if you weren't in the scenes?
Emma Bell: Well, yeah, because we didn't shoot in chronological order and we were working on these big sets. One of the major places that we worked was this big warehouse where there'd be like three or four different scenes going on. So, yeah, a lot of times we'd be working at one end and other scenes would be going on at the other end. We all were around. So when we'd have down time, like I would run over and look and watch.
Question: What was it like working with Steven Quale, the director? He worked with James Cameron, right?
Nicholas D'Agosto: Yeah, that's right. He actually got started on The Abyss way back in the day, like straight out of college.
Emma Bell: Yeah and he helped develop 3D for Avatar.
Nicholas D'Agosto: I had a great experience working with Steve. He was great.
The thing that was most impressive was that he knew what he wanted. And that's what you want in a director-somebody who knows what they want. And, in that way, he put us all where we needed to be and we did our job. In that way, that's the greatest credit you can give him.
Emma Bell: He was the first one to say to us, 'I have a lot of experience technically, but please keep the communication open with me as far as the acting goes.' And he's a wonderful, lovely person, just super sweet and, obviously, brilliant and knows exactly what he needs and wants to do. But, as far as direction for acting, I definitely felt very nurtured as an actress in the scenes where I needed to be more emotional. He was wonderful.
Tony Todd: I've never worked under 3D cameras before and I've got to say, as an actor, it was kind of intimidating at first because you have to take so long. It's so meticulous. Then you realize, you see the finished product and there's a reason for that. Everything has to be in place. So, you have to be really grounded in your particular craft to survive that and deal with the repetition and the pace.
Question: After being engrossed in this horrific world, while you were shooting, do you go home and have nightmares? Are there effects from working on a film like this?
Emma Bell: There were definitely experiences. My senses were heightened to them. Actually, one of the first dinners that we had as a group was with the executives of New Line, who came and took us out to dinner. We actually hadn't shot anything yet. The head of the company was sitting in this beautiful Italian restaurant, but there was this big wine rack behind him, like a huge floor-to-ceiling wine rack filled with bottles of red wine. All of the sudden, one of the bottles from the very, very top fell out and crashed on the floor, like literally maybe half a foot behind his head.
We're all talking, engrossed in conversation and we just hear this huge crash. We see him and he kind of makes this face and all of a sudden it looks like blood coming out from under his seat, because of the red wine. And we were just like, 'What is going on?' It's like Final Destination starts now.
And if we got into an elevator and it would shudder, I'd be like, 'Oh my God.' So, yeah, there was a little bit of that definitely.
Question: Courtney, what attracted you to this project?
Courtney B. Vance: I'm a huge fan of Avatar and Steve [Quale] fan. We sat down and he talked to me about it. I'm not a horror film guy. I'm kind of a scaredy-cat. No roller coasters. It's just not me.
P. J. Byrne: You're very handsome though, if it means anything.
Courtney B. Vance: Thank you. He's my biggest fan.
P. J. Byrne: Yes.
Courtney B. Vance: I just wanted to work with Steve. I didn't know anything about the genre. In fact, we were doing the first read-through and I was screaming and yelling. I didn't know about it, but I trusted him. And in that sense I was clueless.
Question: How long did it take you to lock in?
Courtney B. Vance: I locked in immediately, but I was very excited. I mean, it was a huge undertaking for someone to do their directorial debut on a 3D film. But this is not new for Steve. He knows exactly what he wants and what he wanted. But he's such a nice guy. We all just wanted to help him.
Arlen Escarpeta: Do our part.
Courtney B. Vance: Do our part. What can we do to help, Steve?
P. J. Byrne: I took my shirt off actually.[Laughs]
Courtney B. Vance: And that didn't help. [Laughs] That did not help Steve at all. In fact, he told me. He was very upset that day.
Question: P.J., how big were those needles that your character gets stuck with in the film?
P. J. Byrne: They were really big and it was real. And that's not a joke. No, I had to go to an acupuncturist before to see if my body can handle the needles. And it wasn't a great day. I didn't love it, but I wanted to be in the movie.
Courtney B. Vance: And, of course, we enjoyed seeing it.
P. J. Byrne: Did you? Oh, thank you so much. That's terrible.
Question: When you all decided to join the project, you know death is there. Do you go through the script and try and find your own death scene?
P. J. Byrne: Absolutely you do.
Arlen Escarpeta: You do. It's a Final Destination movie. How do you not? I mean, Courtney, obviously, wasn't familiar with the franchise. But for someone like myself who watched all of the movies, I was like, 'Oh my god, how do I get to go?' You want to know how you go in the premonition and then you want to know how you go later.
P. J. Byrne: Exactly.
Arlen Escarpeta: It's an exciting process.
P. J. Byrne: And there are some great deaths. There are four previous movies. I mean, it took 14 years to make this one. So, we've got a lot to live up to here. So, you do run through it. And the thing about this cast is we all got along so well and we jokingly were all so competitive about our deaths, but also very helpful because when you're going to die, it takes about a week to shoot each person's death. So, whoever that person is, they have a long day or a couple of days because I knew for a whole week that I would be sitting in make-up and then the day would start.
Question: Courtney, how did you feel when you saw how your character would die?
Courtney B. Vance: I was upset. [Laughs] In fact, I took Steve and said, 'Can I chitchat with you about something?' I felt bad because I was like, well, I don't really have anything to say Steve. I just wanted to say, 'Why am I so boring? Why do I die in such a boring way?' And he had to explain to me that just in terms of the script, it's shocking when I die that way.
Arlen Escarpeta: It was beautiful. It was like watching The Nutcracker.
Courtney B. Vance: That's not a good analogy. [Laughs]
Question: It's interesting that when you watch this movie with an audience, they laugh even at the most extreme death scene. Do you find that shocking?
Courtney B. Vance: No, no, it's beautiful. The way they've set this up, it is so beautiful that people are screaming. My wife was screaming and she didn't expect herself to be that involved.
Arlen Escarpeta: That means we did our job as a whole, actors, crew, directors, editors. As a whole, everyone did their job because that's what you want. You want people to be scared. You want them to laugh because it's a release. You want them to have a good time because that's what these movies are. They're good times. And as morbid as that sounds, that's what the franchise is built on, people having fun and enjoying themselves.
Question: In real life, what would be the worst way to go?
Courtney B. Vance: Drowning and falling out of a plane.
Question: Have you ever had a premonition or gotten a weird feeling about something?
Courtney B. Vance: My wife told me not to play basketball with Wynton Marsalis and I was like, 'What are you talking about? I play basketball. What's the problem?' And then, six months later, we played and I tore my Achilles' tendon. She had one and she didn't know why she was telling me. I said, 'Why did you tell me that?' She said, 'I don't know. I didn't want you to play with him.'
Arlen Escarpeta: It was women's intuition.
Courtney B. Vance: It was women's intuition.
Arlen Escarpeta: She knew.
Courtney B. Vance: She knew. That's it.
P. J. Byrne: I'm never playing basketball again. I will never do it.
Question: Can you guys describe the experience of working in 3D with Steven? And did you guys get to learn anything from him and kind of grow in this process together?
Courtney B. Vance: He's the sweetest man in the world.
P. J. Byrne: We love him.
Courtney B. Vance: He made sure that we didn't have to worry about the technical stuff. He had it cold and just would come up to us and say, 'This is an idea I had. Does it work for you guys? Let's talk about it.' So, with that kind of environment everybody, crew, cast, producers, everyone was just in love with him.
Arlen Escarpeta: I had a great time working in 3D. I was very interested in the fact that when we got there, they did these 3D color checks to see what we look like. And then, they did this body scan thing towards the end of filming, but when you do the body scan, they make a digital image of you and it's like a digital person on the computer. And for me, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can see my waves in 3D in my hair.' That tickled me.
So, overall it was just a great, great experience. And Steve is sharp. He knows what he's doing. For me, one of the greatest things that I've had the opportunity to do with acting is when you see a director that not only knows how to work with actors, but knows the technical side. When a director and a cinematographer are on the same page, it moves and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
Question: Part of the fun, too, seems to be figuring out who deserves it the most. Was that your character, P.J.?
P. J. Byrne: I hope so. Thank you for saying that, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you for wanting to kill me.
Courtney B. Vance: P.J. Byrne.
P. J. Byrne: Yeah, P.J. Byrne, is going to die in the movie. It was a conscious effort for you to hate me. I mean, my character loves himself. He loves women. And he loves getting women for himself. I mean, that's not necessarily a likeable guy. He's the guy in everybody's office you absolutely hate. And I wanted you to actually see me die and maybe laugh along the way a little bit in the hopes that my final death is so drawn out that even though, as much as you hated me, maybe that one last moment was like, 'No, don't. We don't hate him that much.' [Laughs]
Question: What happened with the waxing of your chest?
P. J. Byrne: That was real too. They had to wax my body. But I wanted to be in the movies. So, this is what you get. I wanted to have chest hair, but, apparently, it doesn't look as cool in 3D. And who doesn't want to see my sexy frame, full-on, because you can clearly tell I worked out for this movie? Yep, I'm the only one who takes his shirt off in this movie. Oh my gosh, what did I do? But no, I really did acupuncture and the needle that hurt the most that you didn't see in the movie was when they put two needles in my ear during the test. If anyone tries to do it, acupuncture's great. It's fine. You can handle it. Don't put a needle in your ear though. That will shut your mind down.
Question: Why did you do it?
P. J. Byrne: They wanted to make sure that my body wouldn't get red and could handle the needles because some of the needles that you see in the movie are really real; the one they do in my forehead, the one they do in my stomach, another one they do on my side. Those are real needles going into my body. So, there are some moments I'm not acting at all. I'm like it's in. We've got it. I'm sure. That's really real because it really hurt.
Question: Courtney, you mentioned your wife, Angela Bassett, a moment ago. How do you separate work and personal life? Because you are both creative performers. Do you read each other scripts?
Courtney B. Vance: No. When it's necessary, we'll sit down and read each other's' scripts and when it's not, it's time to go to work. And when we're home, we're home. Family comes first and we just keep moving from that. And then, we talk about it and say, 'Is it time to go do?' 'Yeah, I think it's time to go do.' And we save our money so that sometimes we can afford to go, 'Naw.' And God is good.
Question: And is there also a conscious decision about working together? Is that something you look for?
Courtney B. Vance: No. If something presented itself, which would be great. Our production company's producing her directorial debut this coming April, based on a novel called Erasure and I'm producing that, but working in it as an actor would be too much because we have a set of twins and it's just too hard when we're in the same place 14-16 hours a day and nobody's with the children.