During Paramount’s recent press day for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Daily Dead had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the film’s trio of stars- Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz and Gabrielle Walsh- as well as writer/director Christopher Landon about their experiences working on the latest entry in the Paranormal Activity franchise.
During the roundtable interviews, we heard more about Landon’s experience stepping behind the camera and finding the stars for The Marked Ones and the cast chatted about the challenges of working on a found footage movie, some of the scenes that didn’t make it into the final version of the film (including a different ending) and more.
You’ve been involved with this series since Paranormal Activity 2. How was it for you to get to step behind the camera this time for a Paranormal Activity movie and direct in addition to writing?
Christopher Landon: Oh it was great! I’ve been on set every single day since we began working on Paranormal Activity 2 and I’ve enjoyed working with the other directors on all the other films. But this was a really great opportunity for me to go out and tackle the material myself and I just felt really comfortable.
It was really nice too to get the opportunity to work directly with the actors, which is probably my very favorite part of the process. That was the thrill for me and the thing about this cast is, they’re so good that it made my job easy.
This one also had a lot of energy to it and was really fun to watch as a fan.
Christopher Landon: That was a huge part of my approach. When I started writing this one, this is going to sound completely random, but I was really inspired by Downton Abbey. That probably doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense, but what I mean by that is how they took a dusty, old format and made it feel new again by the economy of storytelling. They manage to do a lot with very little and in very little time, so it was that pacing that inspired me. The other movies had more of a slow-burn approach, which was part of their appeal, but with The Marked Ones, I wanted the tone and pacing to be very different and feel like everything was always moving.
Can you talk about finding your cast for The Marked Ones?
Christopher Landon: It was a long, hard search and I have to give a large amount of credit to Carla Hool, who was our casting director. She really went out into the world and was canvassing high schools and held massive open auditions. It was important to find actors who were really comfortable with improve and were really smart and quick in front of the camera, but could also stick to the major beats of the script too, which is a tricky balance.
Another challenge while casting was that because we were casting Latino cast members, it was a dialect issue when it came to finding people who had great chemistry that also shared the same dialect. It had to be believable that they would be related to each other so that was another tricky aspect. When I was writing the script, I was telling a story about a Latino family, but I was still trying to appeal to a wide fanbase at the same time, so I had to find ways to write characters that sort of represented different stages of their Spanish-speaking ability.
I created the Irma character who only spoke Spanish because that felt really authentic and real to me. At the same time, I also had Hector on the opposite side of the spectrum. He’s Latino, but he doesn’t speak any Spanish and he really represents the audience. He’s always needing people to translate for him so that allowed us to get away with not using any subtitles, which was a really important thing. You can’t make a found footage movie with subtitles.
So did you guys have any favorite scenes that didn’t end up making it into The Marked Ones?
Gabrielle Walsh: Yeah, there was this eating contest scene where we had to eat all these tacos and all this hot stuff--
Jorge Diaz: Oh yeah! There were a couple of funny scenes that didn’t make it in. There was the one where we go and get the reading from that psychic lady, but they ended up switching it up so that didn’t make it in. That was kind of weird because she was for real. There was even this whole scene in a church that we had shot--
Gabrielle Walsh: It was a whole different ending even.
Jorge Diaz: Yeah we even had a wrap party and then got a call soon after that, saying, “Yeah, we’re keeping the first 35 minutes of the movie and we’re going to start shooting more stuff for the rest” (laughs).
Gabrielle Walsh: Yeah, the church scene was great. I don’t think I can really give anything away, but there was this one moment where I got to shoot a gun too. It didn’t make it into the final movie which was a bummer because I thought it looked kind of awesome (laughs).
How was the experience for you guys as actors making a found footage movie?
Gabrielle Walsh: You have to be careful to keep it feeling really authentic which is a challenge. It was very different than a normal film where you have a set script. But it was a lot of fun because it was spontaneous and creative where things just popped up. It really was a collaborative effort.
Andrew Jacobs: I found it a little bit harder at times to do the improv stuff. Sometimes, it was easier because something would just happen in a moment and we’d run with it. But a lot of the times, it was harder because if Jorge and I were doing a scene together, we may instinctually say the same thing off the cuff and then we’d have to go back and start again. There were other times where we’d be saying all this stuff, finish, and then realize we missed something really important from the script so we’d have to start again.
Being Latino yourselves, was it exciting to be involved with a horror movie that was about your culture specifically?
Jorge Diaz: It’s great. It’s definitely not something you see happening very often in film these days. I think it also shows other studios that stories can be told that- no matter what ethnicity- you can relate to them and you can have a great time watching them. We don’t always have to play gardeners, the maid, inmates or whatever (laughs). We’re regular kids too. At the same time, this isn’t a movie that’s supposed to represent all Hispanic families either- this is a story about a family from a very specific to this area of Los Angeles who are Mexican American.
Catch up on our recent coverage of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones by visiting the following links: