Arriving in theaters this weekend is director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow’s Truth or Dare, which puts a supernatural spin on the popular game of the same name after a group of friends traveling in Mexico for spring break end up trapped in a deadly game where the stakes are life or death. Truth or Dare was produced by Blumhouse, and co-stars Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Taylor Ali, Landon Liboiron, and Nolan Gerard Funk.
Daily Dead caught up with Wadlow during the press day for Truth or Dare, and he chatted about how he managed to figure out a way to infuse the game of "truth or dare?" with a very personal brand of horror, collaborating with the ensemble who become the heart of the film, why the movie needed to be PG-13, and whether or not he’s even considered a Truth or Dare sequel at this point.
I'm curious, because initially when I heard the title of Truth or Dare, I was like, "Okay, so how do you make a movie about truth or dare, and make it a horror movie, too?" But it works, and I enjoyed how you put this supernatural spin on the mystery of just what is happening and what is driving the game, and I think that really adds something to the film. Can you discuss the inspiration behind your story, and how you managed to crack the formula to Truth or Dare?
Jeff Wadlow: Well, I had the exact same thought you had when I first thought about, "How am I going to do this?" I pitched that opening scene in the gas station to Jason [Blum] on the spot. I just made it up in the room when he brought up the title, and he got excited. He was like, "What happens next?" And I was like, "I don't know" [laughs]. So, I called up my friend Chris Roach, who wrote Non-Stop for me, the Liam Neeson movie that I produced, and I asked Chris and Jillian Jacobs, his wife, if they wanted to work with me on it.
We approached it like a writers' room for a TV show. I had been working with Carlton Cuse, the executive producer of Lost, on Bates Motel and the final season of The Strain, and I just liked the writing process with him. I thought it was really interesting the way he ran his writers' room, and I thought, “Well, wouldn't it be interesting to do something like that for Truth or Dare?”
The three of us got together, and we just started spitballing ideas, and coming up with these secrets and fears that could be confronted with the truth and the dares, and started talking about characters and how everything would tie together. Very early on, I knew how I wanted the movie to end, but I just didn't know how we were going to get there. We just slowly figured out the story and then started setting up all the scenes, where I'd write one scene, they'd write another scene, and we'd pass them back and forth, and very quickly we had a script. And I do think it was way better than any single script that one of us could have written independently.
How was it working with Jason and Blumhouse? I know that they're really great at making these smaller-budgeted horror movies, and I’ve heard that they’re very supportive working with filmmaking talent, as far as letting you guys have your own vision.
Jeff Wadlow: I was excited about it because Jason has got an amazing track record. You know, I think in a hundred years, the way I studied David O'Sullivan's career in film school, I think people will be studying Jason Blum's career. So, I was thrilled by the prospect of working with someone like him, and in many ways the movie was a dare, not just to make a movie with this title, but to make a movie in the Blumhouse model. I also decided I was gonna push it on this one, especially with that roof sequence, because it was so ambitious. I was told by many people who worked on our film, who had also worked on other Blumhouse films, that nothing that ambitious had ever been attempted before with the budget we had. But I wanted to see how much we could get out of the model, and it all worked out great.
I did enjoy the concept of this demon manifesting itself in a way that’s akin to Freddy Krueger’s powers, where this force terrorizes these twenty-somethings in a very, very personal way, and it's been a while since I've seen an antagonistic supernatural force use psychological warfare, which was very effective.
Jeff Wadlow: Yeah, I just didn't want to make a movie where you're just waiting for the bodies to drop, where the characters are just placeholders for inventive death scenes. I wanted to make a movie about characters that felt like real people, that were multi-dimensional, and their death sequences would be incredibly personal and unique to them as individuals. In many ways, these scenarios were manifestations of their own flaws and their own weaknesses and their own secrets, and I do hope it feels like we really put some effort into that.
How was it bringing this group of actors together and helping them find these relationships between their characters? It felt like there was a genuine camaraderie shared between everyone, and I thought there were some interesting dynamics at play in the film.
Jeff Wadlow: Well, I did this thing that really worked, and I'm still kind of surprised it worked as well as it did [laughs]. I had this notion that I should take them to Mexico for 24 hours and do a little spring break with the six actors, because when the movie begins, they're supposed to feel like they're best friends and they've known each other for four years. I told them that I wanted to do this, and they were all game, so we jumped in a van, and I gave them all iPhones, and I said, "While we're down there, hanging out, let's shoot some stuff and just try to be in character. And not only did they bond and become really good friends, which I think shows in the rest of the film, but we also got some great footage that I used to cut that opening credit sequence.
There seems to be this ongoing debate about PG-13 horror versus R-rated horror, which I'm firmly in the camp of "we need all of it." So, I'm curious if you ever saw the rating as a detriment, or was it just sort of arbitrary? Because Truth or Dare is aimed towards teens and young adults, I feel like you didn't need an R rating to make this film.
Jeff Wadlow: No, I think you just have to listen to the movie, and this is a movie about a game that people play when they're coming of age. If you make that film, and you're not going to let people who are playing the game see it, you're an idiot. That, to me, is so obvious. I don't understand how anyone could even have a conversation where we needed to even consider going for an R rating. If this movie was about extreme subjects like torture or pedophilia, that would be a different conversation, because that's not something that people under 18 should necessarily be exposed to or experiencing in their everyday lives. But for teenagers who are playing truth or dare, why would I make a movie called Truth or Dare that they couldn't go see?
Absolutely. I know we’re close on time, but I wanted to ask this before I go: there are aspects of this concept that could be brought back for a sequel, and I'm curious, is that anything that you've entertained at this point? Or, are you just enjoying this moment with the film coming out soon, and waiting to see where it goes from here?
Jeff Wadlow: I always approach every film with the philosophy that I want to leave it all on the floor. I don't want to feel like I held anything back. When I finish shooting a movie, if I'm not so exhausted that I can barely stand, then I did something wrong. Every idea I had that I thought was feasible is in this movie. That being said, if the movie is a success and I'm asked to come up with other good ideas, there are other stories that could be told through the filter of a supernatural game of truth or dare. But certainly, at the time, and for the past year, any good idea I had that could be in this movie, is in this movie.
In case you missed it, check here to read Heather Wixson's interview with Truth or Dare co-star Tyler Posey.