This past weekend, Alexandre Aja’s Crawl stormed into theaters across the country and captivated audiences with its nonstop thrills and chills (and Sugar the Dog captured quite a few hearts as well). On the day of its release, Daily Dead had the pleasure of speaking with Aja about his latest genre project, and he discussed how Crawl was easily the hardest film he’s ever made in his entire career, how he prepared co-stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper for the challenges they would face throughout production on the film, his experiences working with Sam Raimi, and more.
Look for Crawl in theaters everywhere now, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
I had so much fun with this movie, and I love the fact that with the Thursday night screenings, everyone seems to be having so much fun with it as well. It's really exciting for me when horror movies bring fans together like this, so congratulations to you.
Alexandre Aja: Thank you! And yes, you can imagine how exciting it is for me to see, after so much work, people being really excited to go see it and reacting so well, so I'm really very happy today. We put a lot into making Crawl.
That's great. And that brings me to my first question, too. You've obviously done a lot of ambitious projects before in your career, but Crawl feels like it’s on an entirely different level. Between the weather elements, working through the different levels of the house, the alligators as part of this and all the stunts, it seems like there was a lot to manage here. Can you talk about the inherent challenges of making this movie and how you rose to the occasion and was able to tackle everything?
Alexandre Aja: It was definitely one of the most, if not THE most, challenging project I had ever approached. I thought that Piranha was the most difficult one ever, and I thought that what I learned on Piranha would be very helpful here as I was doing Crawl, but every project is different, and I realized that Piranha was mostly on the water, where this one was in the water for nearly the entire time, and that difference is huge.
While we were rewriting the script and developing the script for over more than a year and creating all of the ideas you see in the film, we just kept saying, “Everything is going to go wrong.” One of the lessons you learn as a director is that every time you think that something is going to happen the right way, it's going to be the opposite. And when you’ve got a movie with all of these elements, we knew things were going to go wrong. But we just wanted to have fun writing the script, and over time, we would just figure out how to do everything that we wanted to do. And then when it came time to get going, we realized that we had to build seven tanks, and all the tanks had to be on stage with blue screen because we had to use CGI to create the hurricane.
And each of those tanks had to be able to be floated with the water rising on command, and it was a crazy amount of water. It's hard to go into all the details now, but I really encourage anyone that is interested to take a look at the behind-the-scenes [footage] when it comes to video in a few months. We did an extended behind-the-scenes and I think it’s very interesting technically to see what it took to make the movie. But we had 40 days, which is a very tight schedule for a movie like this, that takes place in the water, with everyone in wetsuits, all the crew and the actors, for sometimes more than 12 hours a day. It was definitely tough.
I'm looking forward to that because I love seeing what goes into making a movie. So, in terms of the cast, how did you work with them and prepare them for the arduous nature of the shoot? Because beyond the fact that even before the water comes into play, they're basically crouched down in this very tight space, then there are also a ton of stunts and heightened emotions. Both Kaya and Barry really put a lot into their roles, respectively.
Alexandre Aja: From the start, we talked a lot about the movie. Kaya got some physical preparation ahead of time, because she has to do so much, but Barry is really in shape no matter what the situation is [laughs]. They were ready, but at the same time, they were not ready for what we went through together throughout the shoot. But I told them in the beginning, "We are making a survival story. We are making a survival movie where every twist and turn in the movie is about how you're going to make it to the next point in the film. It’s going to be really hard, but I want you both to use how difficult the shoot is going to be to feed into your performances."
And they got it right away because they were actually in water very early on. They were actually fighting the wind and the rain all the time. They were actually in the crawlspace where they couldn't stand or even get on their knees, which is so hard on the human body. There were no easy days while shooting Crawl, and they used those challenges to deliver their amazing performances.
Obviously, you're no stranger to genre movies. Did you recognize going into this that this film would stand out against a lot of the theatrical horror releases as of late?
Alexandre Aja: Maybe, but not in a direct way. I would say that I try to never think about what people want to see because I think it's very presumptuous, and also, you can get it really wrong when you start thinking for other people. So, because I feel like I'm a moviegoer and an audience member before being a filmmaker, I'm just always thinking about what movie I want to see when I go to the theater. And at the time I was really looking for something very different than anything I had made in the past, like High Tension or The Hills Have Eyes. And when I read the first draft of Crawl, I knew right away it was exactly the type of non-stop, edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster ride that I would want to see. Plus, it was really scary.
And so, maybe I wanted to see it because it felt fresh, but also very straightforward and simple, almost like you couldn't believe that no one had done it before. So yes, I think the result is that the movie is quite different from what has come out during the summer so far. And people seem to be very happy with their experiences at Crawl as a moviegoer, and hopefully the word of mouth is going to be amazing and will help us in this first weekend and in the future, too.
I know we're getting close on time, but I wanted to ask about Sam [Raimi] before we go. You have somebody like Sam here working as a producer on this project, and he's obviously very much a legend in this genre like yourself, even though he’s been doing it a bit longer, perhaps. But coming into this, was there anything that he helped shepherd you with, or was he one of those producers who was like, “I fully trust you. This is your baby. You just take it and run with it,”?
Alexandre Aja: I think it was a case of something in between. Sam is the kind of producer that every director dreams of having in their corner. He is a producer who is very respectful to the directors he works with and really wants to know what your vision is. And when you get to the point where you finally understand your vision, he is there to help you defend that vision from start to finish. Sam was not there to impose his views or his perspectives on what that vision should be, either. He was very supportive of the type of movie I wanted to make, and he was always there to make sure I was able to stay on track so that I could see my vision fulfilled on Crawl.
In case you missed it, check HERE to read our review of Crawl and to watch our video interview with producers Sam Raimi and Craig Flores.
[Photo Credit: Above photo by Sergej Radović / Paramount Pictures.]