Lately the horror genre has been stuck on repeat. Films keep coming out that tell the same story, in the same way, without any sort of progress. Finally, there’s a horror film that has changed the expectations. “Cabin in the Woods” takes the horror genre and twists it around until it’s almost unrecognizable. Joss Whedon (writer) and Drew Goddard (writer and director) take the familiar and somehow, through their endless imaginations make it the unfamiliar.
On Monday, April 9, 2012, on behalf of SDentertainer.com and AudioHollywood.net, I was lucky enough to be able to talk with Kristen Connolly, breakout star of “Cabin in the Woods,” at San Diego’s Hard Rock Hotel. Connolly spoke with me about the strange auditions, the endless creativity of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and what it was like working on such a unique film that’s incredibly hard to talk about without giving too much away.
Kristen Connolly: I know, it’s hard doing the press stuff too.
With so many twists and turns, what’s it like continually having to talk about the movie without ever really being able to talk about it?
K: You want people to be excited about it, you wanna get people to go see it, but it’s sort of like, “Just take my word for it, it’s awesome! [laughs]” It’s kind of hard.
How has this whole press tour been?
K: It’s been really cool. You know, it’s definitely made a lot easier by the fact that I genuinely love the movie and loved working on it. I can’t imagine what it would be like if you hated something and had to go around saying, “[bored voice] Go see it, it’s awesome.” But this, it was really near and dear to my heart, and I loved making the movie. I’ve seen it now a few times and I think it’s something I would enjoy seeing – I’d probably enjoy seeing it more if I wasn’t in it [laughs].
Is it weird seeing yourself up on screen?
Yeah, it’s just…weird. You know, I think everybody has that – why did I make that face? – crazy, neurotic stuff.
K: Yeah, it was crazy. We had fake sides. All of our scenes, for the most part, were not actually in the movie. There were all kinds of crazy monsters that were kind of ridiculous. Like mine was Curt [Chris Hemsworth] and me running from pterodactyls and looking for these tunnels and screaming at each other, “We’ve gotta find the tunnels!” I was reading it like, “What the hell is this movie? It’s called ‘Cabin in the Woods’ but it’s all about these pterodactyl attacks? This is the weirdest thing ever.” And I think Fran [Kranz] had one where it was like the Clikkity Clack man is coming for us, coming for us all. He had some crazy scene and Jesse [Williams] had one in a locker room and it was some homoerotic scene, I think, with Chris [Hemsworth]. Anna [Hutchison] was in a hot tub and got pulled out by the angry molesting tree. It was – the scenes were nuts and then I didn’t get to read the actual script until after I’d been offered the role and then I was like, “This is even crazier than the other scenes.” [laughs] It was kind of a nutty audition process.
Definitely seems like it.
K: Yeah, well it’s hard to prepare for something when you don’t actually know what it is. You just sort of have to roll with the punches and I think that’s actually what they [Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard] were looking for in the actors, is people who just sorta go with it. It was more just being game, I think. Being up for anything. And everybody, it was a good group that way, everybody was sort of like, “Alright, yeah, let’s do it!” It was really fun.
You said that you didn’t actually get to read the script until after auditioning; did you agree to the roll before or after you had read the script?
K: After. I flew out to LA [Los Angeles] for my audition and I actually read with Fran [Kranz] because he’d been cast already and so we read a scene together, a scene that’s actually in the movie, and then I think they called me the same day. It was later that afternoon, I was on my way to the airport to fly back to New York and they offered me the part and I was like, “Oh my God.”
K: They’re wonderful. They’re two of the nicest guys you’ve ever met. They’re just incredibly kind people and they’re both just so creative and excited and…crazy, like the stuff that they came up with. I think they wrote the script in three days and they said, “We’re gonna write the script that nobody would ever let us make.” And well, they made it [laughs]. They’re so imaginative and smart, and they love horror movies and you can sort of feel that watching the movie.
You are playing this virginal archetype but you are more than that.
K: Yeah, and all of them I feel like you want to pigeon hole them but they’re not actually. They became that more and more as the movie goes on but there’s other stuff going on. Like Curt [Chris Hemsworth] is on academic scholarship and Anna’s [Hutchison] pre-med.
K: Vancouver. So beautiful. Such a great place. We were actually sharing locations with “Twilight,” which was really funny cause there were crazed fans that would come thinking that we were “Twilight” in disguise and that we were just trying to fool them and we were like, “No really, we’re not ‘Twilight,’ I’m sorry. Look in my trailer, he’s [Robert Pattinson] not here [laughs].”
That’s pretty fantastic.
K: Yeah, although we did have some bears on set, which was pretty funny. They came when we were shooting the scene where we’re all swimming at the dock at the beginning and they laid out these trays of Chinese food and the bears showed up and one of the PA’s was like, “They’re looking for ‘Twilight’ too [laughs].”
So you’re a fan of horror movies yourself?
K: Yeah! I mean, it’s funny because people have asked me this and I saw “Scream” in the movie theater and I loved it and I thought it was so scary. When I was in high school, I think, it came out. I sort of stopped watching horror movies because I don’t like torture porn, I don’t like seeing people get their fingernails and toenails ripped off, like “Hostel.” I probably shouldn’t say this but I hated that movie. I hated it. I was like, “Why am I watching this? I can’t eat now. I feel terrible and my body feels terrible and my soul feels terrible. Why did I watch this?” There’s something about just seeing people ripped up for no reason that I just, I don’t know why, I don’t get it. And I remember talking to Joss [Whedon] and Drew [Goddard] when they had offered me the roll and I was like, “Um, so the violence, can we talk about how this is gonna be?” And they’re like, “We’re not making ‘Saw.’ We’re not making a torture porn movie, that’s not what we’re interested in at all.” And I was like, “Great. Okay. Terrific.”
Could you ever imagine doing a standard horror movie now? After doing “Cabin in the Woods”?
K: I don’t think anything could ever top this.
Where do you go from there?
K: Yeah, exactly. Fran [Kranz] had a funny story where he saw the movie for the first time with Bradley Whitford and they watched it in LA together in a screening room, just the two of them. And he was kind of nervous cause he was like, “Oh god, what does Bradley think of the movie?” And he didn’t say anything really, for a while, and at some point in the third act I guess, he sort of turned to Fran and he was like, “We’re in the greatest movie ever made.” That’s how it feels. I’m not going to find a better horror movie than this to be in. I don’t know. Unless, I guess, Joss and Drew wrote it.
Do you have any favorite scenes or one that was especially difficult?
K: Yeah, the dock fight was really hard and it took two days and was just exhausting and it was really intense. And you know, because I was sort of on my own at that point, it was just intense and it was like two night shoots in a row and it was just exhausting and hard. You don’t think about it but being wet for days straight is terribly uncomfortable and it’s not like you’re wet in a bathing suit, you’re wet in jeans. It’s just unpleasant but you know, it was something that I think plays really well in the movie. And then, it sounds probably cheesy, but I loved the scene where we’re all together in the RV, partly because it was one of the last scenes that we shot. I think it was the last day that we were all five together in a scene and it was really close to the end and after everything else that we had shot, it was so nice to be comfortable and to just all be together. We really did love each other so it was a lot of fun to do that one.
I definitely loved the movie, and I loved you in it.
K: Oh, I’m so glad. Thank you, thank you so much.
“Cabin in the Woods” is released April 13, 2012. Kristen Connolly will next star in director David Fincher’s upcoming television show “House of Cards,” alongside Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
Mila Pantovich runs her own blog, Reel Obsession, where all of her articles can be found.