Last month I had the pleasure of chatting with André Øvredal for the release of his film Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. We previously ran a small update he provided for his next film, an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Long Walk, but this time we’re sharing our spoiler-filled talk regarding Scary Stories.
Most of our conversation goes over what he’s learned as a director since Trollhunters, and some of the things I was interested in, after having seen Scary Stories. Be warned, spoilers ahead.
HN: So my first question is, what have you learned as a director from making Trollhunters to now tackling Scary Stories?
Andre Ovredal: “I mean I’ve learned more and more about myself as a director, where my strengths lie and what I want to do, what I want to focus on. Trollhunters was such a wacky movie to make, for a director, because you had to step back and not put your stamp on it visually or in any way, because it had to feel like a documentary. So in so many ways you just could not make it feel directed and stylized, you couldn’t show your choices and what you like, because it had to feel all random.”
“That was very specific for that movie, so I was very happy when I was able to direct The Autopsy of Jane Doe, with a sensibility that is very much my own. Pushing it towards a very classical expression, and with very grounded characters, because I gravitate there, that’s my base for making a movie. Then I was able to hone, and be able to trust myself, with my team of wonderful collaborators. I mean that’s always a given, you never make a movie alone as a director. You have wonderful producers supporting all the way through, a DOP, an editor, production designer, you know everything. As a director I got to hone my [craft], how I think a movie should be told, on that movie, and then bring that further to Scary Stories. But then Scary Stories is a PG-13 adventure with kids, as opposed to an intense little thriller inside of an autopsy room. So I was able to still retain my values, in what filmmaking should be, just on a much bigger canvas.”
HN: Jumping into the film, I did have some questions getting into spoilers. In the film, we get to see Sarah Bellows’ book and there’s other stories that are briefly seen, but the main focus is on stories like Harold and The Big Toe, were there any others that you considered using but just ultimately didn’t make it?
AO: “In the draft I received, 10 months before we shot the film, which was the one I fell in love with, there was also one of the other classic stories called High Beams. I would’ve loved to have shot that, because I know that story. Even though I didn’t grow up with these books, I knew that story. So that was in it. But we changed some aspects of the characters, through the process of touching up the script for production, and then that scene had to go. Which was a loss, but it naturally just had to go. So, hopefully if we ever get to make a sequel, I’ll try to shoehorn it back in somewhere [laughs].”
HN: High Beams is one of the classics, I would’ve loved to have seen that too.
AO: “Yeah, it was a really fun version of it too.”
HN: How long was your original cut of the film? Are there a lot of deleted scenes we might see on the Blu-Ray?
AO: I mean you start with a long cut, that is mostly because you just put together the footage you shot, in a very basic, raw form. You can never show [that] film to an audience because they’ll be bored stiff. I think it was like 2 and a half hours, 2 hours 45 minutes even, the very first cut. So we took out almost an hour, but it’s not really taking out scenes, we did take out some little beats and little scenes, maybe 5 to 8 I don’t really remember.”
“It’s essentially about tempo, working on the tempo, making it as entertaining as possible, because nobody on the movie-making side will ever want to bore an audience because there’s no point in it. So we’re always trying to keep the movie flowing, and engaging, and moving along. It comes down to trimming more than removing whole scenes.”
HN: Does that mean there will be any scenes we might see on the home release?
AO: “I’ve personally said no to that for right now, there are some moments that I want in the movie, but I want to consider the movie as a complete piece. All the other stuff is not part of the movie anymore, and Guillermo [del Toro] was a master of helping me hone in on the tempo of the film, and how it should roll. I kind of personally decided to leave those scenes out.”
“If the film gets a huge following, if something like that were to ever happen, that’s a rarity, but if so I think it’s a conversation. But for right now, I wanted the movie to feel like this is the piece of art that we’ve created, and that’s the beginning and end.”
HN: One of the things I really liked about the film, was how it explored the idea of stories in general, and how people can create stories that are good and bad about people. Can you talk about the decision to explore that.
AO: “I think it’s such a theme both in a small community like this, and through history. Somebody gets a reputation for something, it’s hard to get away from that, it sticks with you. The stories that were told about both Stella and Sarah Bellows, and how they were treated, was huge to them but in a smaller world.”
“Today the world is so big because of social media, the same thing can be done. Stories can be used to promote something in a wonderful way, but it can also be used to hurt people. So in social media you can easily see teenagers saying bad stuff about each other, and it can really hurt somebody. There are terrible incidents as a result of these kinds of things.”
“So I found that to be a wonderful way of portraying in in a slightly naive way, but it’s the same issue. So it does absolutely resonate with me, even as an audience member in a movie theater as well. It’s part of why I fell in love with the story, because it’s the first time I have the reaction that the audience has when they see it, I had that when I read it.”
HN: By the end of the film, Stella’s friends are still gone, can you reveal where they went to, or is that something you’re saving for the next film?
AO: “[Laughs] No that’s something we should definitely keep for the next film, if the world wants us to make one. It was always, Guillermo and I thought that there has to be real stakes, real loss, and they have to disappear and leave the world when they do. So what [Stella] says in the end is a hope, it’s not necessarily a truth.”
I’d like to thank André and CBS Films for their time, and be sure to check out the film when it hits shelves this fall.