Later tonight at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival, co-writer/director Norbert Keil will be able to celebrate the long journey to completion for his latest project, Replace, as the genre-bending horror film is set for its world premiere as part of the fest’s Nightfall programming.
Yesterday, Daily Dead sat down with Keil, as well as with Replace co-stars Rebecca Forsythe and genre legend Barbara Crampton, to discuss their wholly unique collaboration that left this writer continually guessing until the very end. During the interview, Keil chatted about how his own fears inspired the film and both actresses offered up their thoughts on being a part of this very female-driven cinematic story. The trio also chatted about how Replace affected them, both personally and professionally, and much more.
To get details on Replace and all of the great horror and sci-fi films being featured at LAFF 2017, click HERE.
Really fantastic work on the film, everyone. Norbert, we should start with you and talk about where this idea came from, and how this project came together. Because, if I read correctly, you announced this a few years ago. And then it was about two years until you guys actually got into production.
Norbert Keil: Correct. The idea originally came about because I personally have a big, big issue with growing older and losing control over my body. I had some back issues where I had an operation, and it put a lot of things into perspective. So I looked for a story that related to that and I think it's a very common thing in our society that people have a problem with growing older. Everything's focused on being young and beautiful. That's where the story came from.
I took it to [producer] Felix [von Poser] and we went to Cannes and we talked to Colin Geddes, who used to program the Midnight Madness in Toronto [for the annual film festival], about the idea. He came aboard as a co-producer because he's been a fan of mine since I had done this short back in 2000, which he programed. He helped introduce us to people and we were originally set to go two years before, where we actually started production. We started shooting in Canada, but when the money fell apart, it took us two years to refinance and make it happen in Germany.
So, the exteriors were still shot in Toronto because everything was set there already, and the interiors were just shot in Germany. That's how that came to be, and that's why it took us two years to regroup.
For you two, Rebecca and Barbara, I’d love to hear what it was that appealed to both of you in terms of coming into this project? And how much did it mean to you both that Replace is such a female-driven story, and you’d be given a chance to be a part of that?
Rebecca Forsythe: I was really drawn to my character, Kira, and her strength, and that she wasn't this weak character. She knew what she wanted, and I remember reading it for the first time trying to figure out what was the twist and everything, what was going to happen, and I loved the directions this story took. My favorite leads are ones that are the anti-hero, so they're not fully good, and that's what I liked about Kira. She was real, she wasn't two-dimensional. She had all these different colors to her, and that's what I was really drawn to.
And, especially as an actor just starting out, it's really hard to get roles like that. You never see them. So this was the first script I read of that year and I was just like, "Oh my gosh. This is so meaty." I really thought I wasn't going to get it. I just kind of went in and I was like, "Well, I'm gonna give it my best shot and if I get it, great, and if not, I'll go cry."
Barbara Crampton: And you auditioned a lot of girls for this part, right?
Norbert Keil: More than 200.
Rebecca Forsythe: I still can’t believe it. But most of all, I just really loved the script and the story.
Barbara Crampton: Yeah, and for me, I really did appreciate that it was a woman's story. It is Kira's story and there has been a lot of ongoing discussions about bringing more women forward in the genre, and bringing characters forward that are interesting and dynamic. It's important to look at something and say, "This is of value. Let's put our eggs in this basket." Because when you accept a role, you have to not only learn your lines, but you've got to do some research, and you've got to take time off, and it's a marriage between all of us. I really liked the script initially because it was a woman's journey and also because my character was originally written for a man, but then they decided to cast me in the role and make it very woman-centric. And as I've gotten older, people are giving me roles that have more dynamic things to play around with, so now I'm more in control. Obviously, that is very enticing to me, plus I liked this character and you don't really know who she is until the end. There is something that happens in the movie and you go, "Oh, well, wait a minute."
You think the movie's about this one aspect, but really there's a lot going on. I thought the twist at the end was quite remarkable and I just thought it told a fascinating story about our culture and women in general, thinking about beauty and wanting to preserve that, and how important this is to you, and how far will you go? A lot of people will go very far, and we're right on the edge of the science really being revealed to do even more remarkable things than we see today.
And the thing with Norbert, and I've read a couple of his other scripts, too, is that he likes an interesting, different story. He's not telling the same story. This was a different story, so that's another thing that interested me in the project because it's a unique story. I haven't seen this done before like Norbert does it here.
Another thing that I absolutely loved about this, because I'm sort of a geek for the details, were the production design and the costumes. It’s one thing to put on a dress, but the way these details reflected each of your characters, I thought it was really great. Can you talk about how getting into wardrobe and being in those different sets helped put you in that mindset for this film?
Rebecca Forsythe: Yeah, before we started filming, Norbert and I talked a lot about how he wanted to represent Kira visually. I'm actually wearing Kira's color scheme right now, I didn't even realize that. But his idea was that I am the air and water elements and Sophia [Kira’s neighbor, portrayed by Lucie Aron] is fire, so we contrasted against each other. And then, Norbert had me wearing these very flowing pieces and with Kira's background, it all helped me figure out her physicality and how she carries herself through the world and even her point of view of things.
Barbara Crampton: I knew it was important to Norbert and to the production design team to marry everything together: the look of the movie, the costumes, the hair and makeup. I had numerous conversations with the hair and makeup people and our gal that did the costumes before I even got to Germany. My hairstyle was very specific in that they wanted my hairstyle to reflect a certain look that and it was pretty severe. And then, with the clothing that my character wore, it was also severe because she was a doctor, and she was in control.
So they wanted me to be in a lot of blacks and whites and reds, which you also see throughout the institute where my character, Dr. Crober works. Sometimes you work on movies and they just say, "Well, what looks good on you? What colors look good on you? What shades do you like to wear?" But this was not like that. It was very, very well thought-out from the beginning.
Norbert Keil: We created two worlds for the movie. One is like the old world that's Kira's apartment, where everything is really rundown and it's almost in a state of derelict. It's in a state of decay. And we said, "Okay, that's the old world." And the world of Dr. Crober, the institute, that is like the new world. So we made that look drastically different, where we used a very different color scheme for the new world.
We also talked a lot about, with the costume department, what would somebody who has that skin disease where everything obviously hurts, what would she wear? I was also blessed with lead actresses who both were questioning everything, because they wanted everything to feel right and to make sense. I think we pushed each other a lot on this project to really make it believable.