On Friday the 13th (of April), Fritz Böhm’s lycanthropic fairy tale Wildling will arrive in theaters in both Los Angeles and New York, and it will also be available on VOD nationwide. The film is centered on Anna (Bel Powley), a teenage girl raised in isolation by “Daddy” and taught to fear the “Wildlings” (vicious creatures that eat children). After being rescued by a local sheriff (Liv Tyler), Anna is introduced to the outside world for the very first time, but as Anna begins her journey of discovery, things spiral out of control, as she suspects that her “Daddy” wasn’t telling her everything about her true nature and how it relates to the folklore she grew up fearing.
The first-time feature from Böhm, Wildling co-stars James Le Gros, Troy Ruptash, and Mike Faist. The film recently celebrated its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, which is where Daily Dead caught up with Böhm, Ruptash, and LeGros to hear more about how the project came about, their experiences collaborating on Wildling, and more.
Great to speak with you all today, and congratulations on the film. Fritz, I'm going to go ahead and start with you. What was the process like for you, putting this story together and making the transition into directing, because I know you've been working in film for quite a while prior to this project?
Fritz Böhm: Right. I've been working in film since my late teens doing short films, and I have always wanted to be a filmmaker. I grew up in Germany, so I went to film school and then it seemed like producing was kind of the way to go, so I worked as a producer for a long time. I had a company in Germany, but there was always that voice in my head that said I really wanted to also be a writer and director. I finally decided to make the switch, move over to California, and start there, because the movies that I was particularly interested in weren't being produced in Germany that much. And I am so glad I did that, and I feel like I got to be very lucky to put Wildling together, and then put it out there into the world as my first directing feature.
Was there something in particular that inspired the idea of the Wildling itself? There are clearly some werewolf leanings to this story, but it also has something of a fairy tale aspect to it.
Fritz Böhm: It was definitely inspired by a ton of fairy tales that my mom used to read to me as a kid, and they left an imprint in my DNA somehow, so I wanted to just create a fairy tale of my own and center it on a creature of my own. I started looking at all the werewolf movies that are out there, because I thought werewolves hadn't been looked at from a female angle as much as something like vampires. There are a lot more female vampires than there are female werewolves.
But the more I thought about werewolves, the more I started to realize so many tropes connected with them that I don't really like, like the magic amulet and silver bullets and the full moon transformation, so we ended up just making up our own myth of the Wildling that's inspired by all these things. We tried to make it as primal and as simple as we possibly could.
For Troy and James, coming into this, what was the initial appeal of the project to you as actors, and what was it about your characters that you were intrigued by that made you want to dig into them creatively?
Troy Ruptash: Seeing Moon Men, Fritz's short, I just got a sense that his visual aesthetic was so strong, and then the script was really great, too. I tend to play a lot of darker characters, but there was something about Roger that was really different to me, and that was really appealing. There's so much going on inside of him that you don't know really what the forces are that are acting upon him, but you find more out as you go along.
James Le Gros: Well, for me, it's always about the story first, and then the character comes second. I, too, was attracted by the mythology that had been created in the script, and then with my character, we made a few adjustments, mostly pulling him back a little bit, because originally, we were getting a little bit too much information, so we decided to pull that back a little bit. Also, a big part of any film is the team you're working with, and that was another attractive part of it. Liv is also a friend, and that's always compelling to be on projects with people that you love and respect.
Speaking of your character, “The Wolf Man,” what’s interesting about your character is that he becomes this conduit for Anna, and I love how he fits into her transformative process.
James Le Gros: Well, he’s something like you’d see in those old stories. In a way, he's guiding her across the River Styx, and down into this other complete alternate reality that is not in the front of her consciousness at that point. He becomes like a spirit guide to her, helping her as she completes her transformation. I thought it was great.
Fritz, how was it putting this ensemble together and then collaborating with them on Wildling?
Fritz Böhm: From just the directing point of view, it was important to make the right decisions with the casting and really follow my instinct there. And then, once that stage was done, it was about embracing each individual, and trying to have each actor tap into their instincts in service of the script. I just tried to allow that as much as possible because I knew if I could let them accomplish that, then these characters would feel like real people.
Of course, there are certain things that you need to dictate in some way, where you must be specific about certain things. But with Bel, she read the script and she developed a very strong sense of who her character was. That's a gift, that's what you want, and I just got so lucky that that was the case with every single actor in this movie.
Troy Ruptash: Yeah, I agree. I feel like there was such an authenticity that was created, and you're right, Bel was incredible. But most of my stuff with Liv, I feel like I learned so much from her just watching how she handles herself on set, and in the work, the questions that she would ask. Just working with her was incredible because she has this uncanny ability not to anticipate anything, so it feels like she's so present, and so moment to moment that she immediately just pulled me into that. I learned so much from her and Brad—the intensity that he brings, oh my god.
James Le Gros: Yeah, he stays in character all day long. He doesn't ever become Brad Dourif. He walks in as “Daddy,” and he stays “Daddy” all day long.
Now Fritz, because this was your first time doing a feature, and this is a pretty ambitious film in terms of the world you created and all the effects, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome on Wildling?
Fritz Böhm: It always came down to time and money. I think everyone says that, probably every director you ask, no matter if they have one hundred thousand dollars, one million dollars, or a hundred million dollars. We had 23 shooting days, but we had a ton of specials, and a ton of moving pieces in our schedules. You always say the three most time-consuming things that you can put in a movie in terms of scheduling are children, animals, and water, and we had all three of them.
Plus, we had all the special effects makeup too, which sucks a lot of time out of your day. Just the hours it takes for the makeup artists to put the latex on the actors and glue on the nails and all these things, it was very time consuming. So, it was a lesson in efficiency to make sure we were able to get the movie in the can, so to speak. Then, there was a lot of extra work in post-production to make sure that everything came together in the end in a nice way, with the editing, the visual effects, the coloring of the movie, and sound. We used all tricks of the trade to finally land at the vision that it was supposed to be, and I’m very proud of what we were all able to create.
In case you missed it, check here to read Heather Wixson's SXSW review of Wildling.