Getting it right
LetMeIn director was reluctant to remake a foreign hit ... at least at first.
Let Me In director was reluctant to remake foreign hit ... at first.
THAT long, pained groan you heard a few months back? That was fans of the Swedish vampire hit Let The Right One In upon learning that Hollywood was remaking the movie about a lonely 12-year-old boy and a vampirous little girl next door.
Matt Reeves can identify. He did end up directing the Americanised version, Let Me In.
But Reeves, the man behind 2008’s monster-tears-up-New-York hit Cloverfield, said it took some time before he could justify his participation in the remake. After all, when Tinseltown tries to Americanise a great foreign film, usually a lot is lost in translation.
“This was before the Swedish film had come out in America, and I was trying to sell a script I’d been working on for a long time,” Reeves said. “It was my passion project, a sort of a Hitchcock thriller. The people of Overture Films read my script, said they loved it but that it was too dark and small for them. But they mentioned they were pursing the American rights to this Swedish film.”
Reeves protested that he wasn’t interested in doing a remake but took home a DVD of Let The Right One In.
“So I’m watching it, and I’m saying, ‘This movie is amazing!’ I couldn’t believe that it was working the same emotional terrain I’d been concentrating on in my screenplay. Both films were set in a cheap apartment complex with a playground courtyard.
“And then this Swedish movie is a vampire story. That was absolutely brilliant. They were using a vampire story to study the pain of growing up.”
Reeves was so impressed that he told the suits at Overture that he didn’t think they should even attempt a remake.
“I told them it was too good as it was. They said that since it was Swedish a whole big chunk of the American public would never see this great story.”
Reeves still wasn’t convinced. But he was intrigued enough to read the original novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the Let The Right One In screenplay).
“The novel had even more detail about the boy’s painful, humiliating childhood. It was like a Stephen King horror story – lots of scope and breadth but filled with detail about a kid’s life.”
Reeves began corresponding with Lindqvist, who told him the book was inspired by his own miserable boyhood.
“I started thinking there were ways to translate it to American idiom. I told Lindqvist that I wanted to make an American movie that would be faithful to his vision. And I told him that I totally connected with that kid’s life. The thing is, other than the vampires, that book was totally Lindqvist’s life. So I felt really responsible to him to get it right.”
In the end, Overture Films lost production rights to Hammer Films (although the studio is distributing the movie). But by that time Reeves had Lindqvist’s wholehearted support. He landed the gig.
“My view was that this wasn’t a typical horror story. It’s not about shocking violence so much as it’s about this sense of doom. This kid’s life was so miserable that it was like living in a horror story.”
When Reeves cast Kodi Smit-McPhee, 14, and Chloe Grace Moretz, 13, as his two leads, he hadn’t yet seen their breakthrough performances in, respectively, The Road and Kick-Ass.
“These two are so smart and talented,” Reeves said. “They understood that, handled improperly, a story like this could be really melodramatic. Laughable, even.”
Despite the downbeat nature of the material, Reeves said, his set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, was remarkably lighthearted, thanks to the kids.
“The two started what they called ‘prank wars’ stuffing snow in each other’s costumes. Once the camera was rolling they were very committed, but the rest of the time there was an atmosphere of play. They were laughing at the fake blood. It was like Halloween for them. That’s what’s odd ... watching those scenes in the movie, they’re really intense. But not in the filming. Filming violence is actually very mechanical.” – The Kansas City Star/McClatchy-Tribune Information Service n LetMeIn opens in Malaysian cinemas on Nov 11.
More of Moretz: Chloe Grace Moretz, who was in Kick-Ass, is a lead character in