For around 15 years, producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form of Platinum Dunes have made an indelible mark on the landscape of modern horror, with their latest project, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, quite possibly being their most ambitious endeavor to date. Daily Dead sat down with the duo after the film’s world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, and they discussed the challenges that came along with producing the ambitious monster movie, collaborating with Krasinski, and the difficulties of getting audiences into theaters these days.
Form and Fuller also chatted about how The Purge franchise has come to mirror society in some very terrifying ways over the last few years, and we even briefly dug into the issues of a certain Nightmare on Elm Street remake as well.
Look for A Quiet Place in theaters everywhere this April, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Congratulations, guys. The screening last night was one of the best South by Southwest experiences I've ever had. To get an opening night crowd to be that invested in a movie, where if somebody would've dropped a quarter in that theater, people would've jumped out of their seats, it was awesome.
Andrew Form: I'll just jump right in. This was a tricky movie. Mixing the movie has been a huge challenge for us, more than we ever expected. You mix movies and real life, like explosions or whatever, it is what it is. But this movie was so different, and the moments where we turned off the sound, when we go into Milli's [Simmonds] character’s head, we knew were risky because we turned the speakers off. Those last eight seconds where it's silent, I said to Brad, "You could hear a pin drop and there are 1,200 people in the room and everyone's holding their breath. There's no sound."
Brad Fuller: But again, we do that three times in the movie, where we turn the sound off. But from making all the horror movies that we've made, we're always relying on loud sounds to elicit a scared response. So, for us to go the opposite way, it's easy to talk about it today, but I can tell you, 24 hours ago, we were terrified and wondered if we had done it the right way.
Andrew Form: Yeah, it was John's idea to play with, "What could it sound like if Milli’s character takes the hearing aid off?" We have the one sound with the hearing aid on, which is that ambient rumble when you go into her head. Then, when she takes it off, you cut everything. It was a risk and we knew it was, but we felt like it was the right way to tell the story. Luckily, last night everyone was leaning in and holding their breath when it went silent.
Brad Fuller: Let's just hope that's a fair representation of all the audiences that see the movie.
I think so. I think it's going to be a really fun audience movie, and I loved that I was able to experience it with that crowd.
Brad Fuller: Hopefully it works out that way. These days, it's increasingly hard to get people to go into a theater and watch movies as a communal experience, and that was something we were always thinking about as we were making this. How can we make sure that people have to see this in the theater? That doesn't mean you can't see it at home, but you want people to have that experience in horror movies or one where it's a shared scary experience, and that heightens the experience of watching the movie.
Andrew Form: Because in a world where you make movies now, there are a lot of movies that are made for theatrical that end up not even going theatrical. That never used to happen. If you made a studio movie, it was going to the theaters. Now, if it doesn't test well, you could have your movie and go, "Nah, it's not going to go," or, "It's going to go to Netflix, it's going to go here or there." So, picking your movie now is like, "Wow," because you want to have that theatrical experience. You have to think, "Can that play in a movie theater or is that just as good to watch on your big TV at home?" We really talk about that stuff now.
You touched on something that I was actually going to bring up. You guys have been doing this for a while now.
Brad Fuller: We started here, by the way. We started in Austin. [The] Texas Chainsaw [Massacre] was our first movie, which we shot in Austin in 2002, so this was like coming home for us.
That's so cool. I'm a huge fan of The Texas Chainsaw remake. But I think it's really interesting if you look at where the industry was then versus now, for you guys, what are the biggest challenges when you're considering a project? Is it the fact that there are so many different factors now that ultimately determine the success of a movie? It's not just the box office anymore.
Andrew Form: We've also learned that reviews have made a big change to the landscape now.
Brad Fuller: They didn't used to.
Andrew Form: You could get away with a movie in the old days, if your trailer's great and it looked exciting, but if reviews are bad–
Brad Fuller: It's interesting, because right before we came in to this interview, we were going over our Rotten Tomatoes scores on all of our movies before this. Some of them did not score very well on Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly, that didn't determine how they did at the box office. A couple of movies I'm thinking about are within the last seven years, too.
Andrew Form: It seems like the last two, three years, the shit has really happened where people are looking at the reviews and saying, "I'm not going to go spend my money. I'll wait on that one." And if the reviews are amazing, you could actually swing people a little bit.
Yeah, and I'll be completely frank. I know the Nightmare [on Elm Street] remake was a big challenge for you guys, and I know I was one of the few that gave it a positive review. I don’t wholly love the movie, but I do think there are some really good nuggets of things that were going on in that movie. I think for a lot of us, the big disappointment was just that you could tell that Sam Bayer wasn't as invested in that world as he should have been. Hopefully, I’m not speaking out of turn here.
Brad Fuller: I don't know how we're going out on this, but I think Sam was invested in cool visuals and he delivered that, but you're right. I don't think that Sam was necessarily A Nightmare on Elm Street fan. Having said that, if he wanted to make another movie, we would work with him in a second because for the right thing, he's super bright and works hard and his stuff looks great.
Andrew Form: To go back to your initial question, for us, we're really trying to find original material these days. We've done a lot of remakes, a lot of sequels, a lot of prequels. Finding something original for us has been the biggest challenge. When this script for A Quiet Place showed up, this 67-page script with no dialogue, you get the script, and no one tells you there's no dialogue. You just get a script and you open it and you're like, "Sixty-seven pages. Where's the third act?" And you realize, well, if there's no dialogue, 67 pages is a long script."
There was the one scene in the movie where they talk. When we read that, we were like, "This is original. Let's talk about this." No one talks, but half of our horror movies, half the running time of a horror movie, no one talks anyway because you separate all your protagonists. They’re all running around and no one's talking in the second half of the movie, or definitely during your third act, so the genre lends itself to that. We looked at each other and were like, "We're up to this challenge. This is something special."
Brad Fuller: But we couldn't have done this movie 10 years ago.
Andrew Form: No. And to get the movie made was not easy. It's like, "Come on, it's a risk. You're making a movie with no talking." There's no exposition in the movie. Usually, you have those scenes to rely on, but we can't have them, so even when you're marketing your movie, in the commercial you really can't cut to anyone talking or setting up the rules or anything. You can't do it. It doesn't exist. I love that Paramount went on this experiment with us.
Paramount has been really ballsy with the films that they've been doing, in terms of mother! and Annihilation and even a few years ago, Scouts Guide [to the Zombie Apocalypse], and I love that. The fact that they're finding original projects to do, that's really cool and it's a testament to their faith in interesting storytelling. For you guys coming into this, John isn't somebody who's well-ingrained in genre storytelling, and he's primarily known as an actor. Were you immediately cool with the idea of, "Yeah, this guy's also going to direct this film and we're just going to put all of our faith in him?"
Brad Fuller: It wasn't a choice, really [laughs]. John called and said he read the script. We wanted to talk to him about playing Lee. He said, "I have great news, guys. I read the script. I'd love to play Lee and the good news is, I'm going to rewrite the script and direct the movie." There was never a discussion. He just jumped to that. And if you know John, you just get on board and try and help him accomplish what he wants to accomplish.
Andrew Form: He just responded to the material in a way you pray a filmmaker responds. Rarely have we heard it for someone on the other side of the phone—and this was a Skype call—that has the passion and the understanding of the material to the point where we were like, "I want to follow you. Let's go. That's the movie we want to make." It wasn't even a question. From that call on, we were in.
Brad Fuller: Then we just had to commit to a couple other people.
Andrew Form: And then we went to the studio and of course, we played that game, and then out of nowhere after the rewrites and the entire process, we were going to the studio, and John was like, "Emily [Blunt] wants to do the movie." He totally dropped it on us. We had no idea. We were like, "What? She's going to play Evelyn?" Then, here we are, sitting with you right now. But, yeah, it was a crazy ride like that.
How different was this process for you guys versus other films that you've done? Because of John's confidence in the material, and his passion for this world, did you guys go hands-off with him, or were you there to shepherd him through more of the genre side of this film?
Brad Fuller: I would say that we had a very collaborative experience with him. Drew was on set from the first second to the last second, and John and Drew had this incredible relationship where they trusted each other. There were a lot of scenes where you just let John work with the actors and he's great at that. If John had a question about the genre or a question about something, Drew was there to help him through it. It felt like a family on set. It was as kind and friendly a set as we've had. It was collaborative and magical. It just was, right?
Andrew Form: Yeah, it really was. It was an amazing experience. He was an amazing collaborator. The open communication between us was amazing for me to be on that set and watch him work and just always be there for him when he needed it. He saw the movie, and he did an unbelievable job. He really did.
Brad Fuller: The other thing is that Drew and I very early on looked at each other and said, "John's just a winner, let's just help him with it." He's a winner. He just is. He's smart, thoughtful, and prepared. I can't say enough nice things to describe him.
I know you guys are also involved with The Purge series, which weirdly has turned out to be a lot closer to reality than I think you guys probably thought it would be when it first started. I'm curious, how has that experience been for you guys to see where the story started off as to where it's gone through in these different sequels? And now you have The First Purge coming up, is it just surreal at this point?
Brad Fuller: James DeMonaco is a soothsayer when he writes these scripts. The first one was just kind of a straight-ahead home invasion movie, which we were all delighted to make, and it was a fun—at the time—experiment. We'd never made a movie for two and a half million dollars, never made a movie in 18 days, we never made a movie really in one location that we never left, either.
But every time James writes the script, he writes it and we read it and say, "Wow, this seems cool." But you never think that it can actually happen. Then, what he writes in the script happens. And it's going to happen again with The First Purge. He has hit on something else there that is wholly controversial and will have people talking and it will create more of a conversation about our country, which James is amazing at.
Also, that first poster is just incredible. My god.
Brad Fuller: That's Universal's brilliance. They are so good at marketing. We saw that, and knew they immediately understood this film. Universal creates the best artwork for those movies, too. We saw that, and it becomes this thing where you just smile, get chills, and say, "Get it out there."
Andrew Form: Yeah, please, just put it in the theaters now. We love it. It's going to be so great.
In case you missed it, check here to keep up to date on all of our live coverage of the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, including Heather's review of A Quiet Place following its world premiere at the festival.