The Ring - Interviews and Urban Myths
To coincide with our R2 DVD Review of The Ring we have a series of syndicated Interviews with those involved with the making of the remake including director Gore Verbinski and star Naomi Watts. Followed by those you will also find a small piece on Urban Myths that may or may not provide a few chills for the reader...
Q: What was the biggest challenge directing a thriller?
A: To make it scary, definitely. Today's audience is very jaded – they walk into the theatre saying, “Scare me”. It puts up a wall and you have to try to penetrate through it.
Q: How much struggle was there with the visual elements, to keep the suspense escalating?
A: There are two choices; you can play to the genre, which you have to do a little bit and if you do it completely, those are the movies where you are able to dismiss them and you can try to get under their skin. The way to do that, because there are so many horror movies that have been made and re-made, is to access some contemporary issues and try to keep it real, as real as you can.
Q: What made you think of Naomi Watts for the lead?
A: I saw Mulholland Drive, she was fantastic in it and the turns she makes in that movie. It's a very difficult part in this movie. We introduce a single parent who's not a good mum. She’s not a likeable character. That's what we wanted from this character; you don't immediately latch on to her. I think in all of her movies, in Mulholland Drive especially she has guts. She earns it as the movie goes on. She doesn't come on the screen for you see that she is scared, she gets to you. There's something about that process of, earning it within an audience, that takes the audience into the screen a little more. You get this uncomfortable proximity.
Q: What about Martin, he's from New Zealand. Was that just a coincidence?
A: They're both good. Martin was a dark horse. We were scouting in Seattle and I got sent a tape at the last minute from the casting director. He came in ready and he was very calm and a really wonderful anchor in this film, in terms of simplicity of his character; being sceptical and playing against the more honest aspects of Naomi's character.
Q: Did you have any nightmares making this, because it was very scary to watch?
A: No, it becomes very mechanical from early on, like watching the original movie and deciding which are the really great parts, and you don't want to mess up. Then it's figuring out what's disturbing to me, and how do I find those images and put them on to the tape that has to serve multiple functions.
Q: How much did you change the original?
A: I think we changed up to 50% of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child. There was a decision to get rid of certain aspect of the story, the volcano, and wonderfully elusive dream logic that I think for the American audience has a requirement for venerierity. Somehow because death is the only resolution in life, we seem to put it as the resolution in all our movies. And I think that the Japanese film had a much more liberating approach to the story. But then the problems we had when we watched it was the fact that it seemed convenient that the characters had ESP and you were bumping into somebody and you were able to get information randomly. So one of the choices was to earn it through the tape itself, by investigating it and then to use that as a viral aspect that somehow at day three it's different than day four. As you progress it affects the performance.
Q: What about remaking the sequels, like in Japan?
A: I have to knock on wood. But the studio owns the rights. I don't think they're going to make another movie if it's not successful.
Q: Are we supposed to find out the origin of the tape, does it come clear in the movie?
A: It's very similar to the original movie and it took me three times to figure it out. When we had finished laying in the images of the chair and the TV, the idea that television, the interviews and the things have done a lot more, to feel like the video was behind and involved in her life when she was alive. The basic origins of the tapes are; she's in the well and those kids are recording a tape right above the well in that room and that day with that VCR. That's what the kids are talking about in the beginning of the movie, so it's there.
Q: Do you like to watch horror movies?
A: I'm a fan of the genre, but I think it is a tricky genre because it's always an Indian burial ground, or my child is the devil, or you die if you watch the videotape. The premise is always very silly. The only execution is that you take the audience to a place. The innocence of The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski's movies and The Exorcist are the ones that haunt me.
The riveting classics put it in the place where it textualizes the horror and you watch it, eat your popcorn and get scared and go have your dinner afterwards and try not to think about the movie. If we've achieved anything, I hope that it's that you don't want to have dinner. The movies that scare me are the ones where you are still thinking about a particular aspect of it three days later.
Q: Will there be more clues to the mystery on the DVD, i.e. in the form of extra scenes?
A: It's a very fine line, and I think we're going to get trashed from people who want more information, and trashed from people who say we put too much in. Because in the Japanese original, there are logic problems. There is wonderful prequel and sequel stuff and you can't deal with all the aspects of this thing. There's a Grimm's fairy tale; they wanted a child more than anything, she tried and tried two dozen times, they ran away, they adopted a child but they shouldn't have. That sort of iconic language for horror is there, but we didn't go and explain that. It's like; they wanted a child, they got one, so be careful what you wish for.
There's a whole prequel story and a sequel story, what is she going to do now to save her own child…
Q: Are there any deleted scenes?
A: There were some things that the movie just couldn't hold, with Martin Henderson's character going back to the cabin and finding the inn keeper dead and things like that. There is also another ending that we shot. There was a moral ambiguity issue that was discussed early on, and a scene was written to address that and we shot it but we never cut it in the movie. Because as soon as we put the film together, we were happy to feel that the strongest thing about it was leaving that question unanswered.
Q: What was the idea behind the fly?
A: What I tried to do with things like the fly, is the inside-outside aspect of 'when does that world enter this world'. I tried to do that in a very subtle way. I think that to make something scary we have to feel like it could happen in real life. There is a sort of theatricality to a lot of horror that keeps you on the side of the screen. You watch it, it was manufactured, it doesn't feel like it could happen to you. I think today with 9/11 there's a real fear, our most contemporary fear, that we don't articulate very much – it’s the transferable nature of fear. You do something to me, I somehow justify the ability to take it out on you and vice versa. There's a feeling like that watching this tape; I didn't do anything to this kid, why am I going to die? And in order to save my child, who are we going to show that tape to next? There's a chain letter aspect to that. It's quite terrifying because even if the fear is not articulated, you get to sense that aspect of it, as opposed to bumps in the night, creaky beds or ghosts moving in the hallway. There's a very contemporary fear that we all have right now.
Q: So the idea is that if you don't show someone the tape you will be killed?
A: Yes, she basically wants to spread it. She's always intended for it to go on and she is praying upon them. We are drawn to taboos; parental advisory stickers on CD’s sell more records. You're going to die if you watch the tape, well, what are you going to do? You are going to watch the tape.
Q: Were there horses in the Japanese movie?
A: The horses are new. In the Japanese film, there was a whole back story about the mother having ESP. The reporter is interviewing her, there is a killer lurking in the volcano, and in one of the meetings we talked about what if Anna and Richard Morgan were horse ranchers. Then one of the images I was working on at the same time as the tape was the dead horse washed up on the beach. There is just something about the suicidal aspect of horses. Then I had to work it with the writer, Ehren Kruger, how to put this image in the movie and how to use it. There was the idea that whatever the mother was sensing, the horses were sensing as well. There's a frequency to her transmission that was driving them crazy. And that lead to the fact that we had to have a sequence where the horse knows that Rachel has watched the tape.
Q Did you choose Hans Zimmer or does he come with every DreamWorks movie?
A: No, no. We chose him and we're lucky to have him. Hans is head of the film music department at DreamWorks. Usually I talk to Hans about composers I want to use, like in this case I showed Hans the movie, and he paused and said, "What about me?" He's never done that for any of my other movies, he had just had twins and he was supposed to be off for 6 months. But he really responded to it and wanted to do it.
Q: Are there purposely some references to other horror movies in this one or did it just look like that?
A: There aren't any direct references, there's a little bit of Rear Window when she is watching it, and other people are watching TV, and there's the guy in a wheelchair. That isn't really a reference, but it's hard to direct the genre without feeling like it's so steeped in the language of all those other movies that inevitably you catch yourself lensing up the door knob shot. It's unavoidable. There is a feeling that you have to celebrate the genre, yet you look into the opportunities where you can deconstruct it or pervert the audience's expectations. It's really hard to do something new with it. The biggest thing I tried to do was to keep it minimal, to stay back and not try to over-stylise it.
Q: What do you think makes Naomi such an unusual actress?
A: We worked her 18 hours a day and she is such a hard worker. When we work 18 hours a day, she works 20 because of the hair and make-up. They started to tell her that she couldn't have that little turnaround time and they actually complained about it, but she never did. What makes her special is that she's got guts; she's not afraid. The scene where she's choking in the string was something I had always hoped to shoot, but it was never in the script. Two weeks before we shot it I pitched it to her, and most actors would say 'it sounds great' and then you'd get a phone call from the agent saying that "no way in hell they are doing that sequence, she'd look ugly" and so on. But not with Naomi. She was not worried about her image. Only the performance matters, she's great.
Q: Do you think that she lacks vanity because at this point she's not that famous yet?
A: I constantly talked to her about it, and I’m hoping that she doesn't change.
Q: What was the most challenging scene to shoot?
A: The horse on the ferry and on the water. It took a while. The horse is fine, it was scared to jump, so we had a computer generated horse in the water. You can't do what Sam Peckinpah did anymore.
Q: What goodies are going to be on the DVD?
A: There will be some deleted scenes, there will be some easter eggs, some hidden things. There was quite a bit of internet work because it is a difficult story to tell, there's so much. We used a lot of newspaper articles and props to create depth to the story that you really don't see in the movie and you'll catch those things on the DVD. So the menu section will be quite elaborate.
Q: Will there be more clues to help the audience figure the story out?
A: There's much more depth. If you are interested there's a lot more in there.
Q: Was it difficult to do the score for this movie?
A: I went to see Gore about something completely different, I was not going to do this movie, I was going to take a year off. And Gore started to show me some images and I started to get some ideas. I had just done a children's movie and I felt I needed to cross over to my darker side again because I was too cheerful (laughs). Life must be too good. I go between these different styles a lot. I'm German and collect German expressionism, and I thought the images Gore had shot were very much in a style of filmmaking that doesn't exist anymore. The score was pretty much written in that meeting. I wish I could tell you how difficult it was but it wasn't (laughs). Plus there is something really attractive about working on a very small contained movie as opposed to "the Hollywood blockbuster". It felt very much like working on a European movie. There are a lot of silences in this movie, so we were talking about silences opposed to the next car chase. None of the fast action events have music. So it's very much back to where I come from.
Q: Is there more pressure doing music for this kind of movie versus a movie like Spirit?
A: In Spirit I would have been happy if we had had a few more words of dialogue in it. But the pressure is enormous because I have children. If I disappoint my children I can't go home, that's real pressure! With this, I was nervous before the screening because I was sure I was going to get fired, thinking that the movie would be worse with my music in it. The screening went well, and everybody wondered why was I behaving like that. It's because each one of them is an experiment. You try to reinvent it in a way. What I like about this genre, horror movies, sound-wise some of the best ones are The Exorcist, The Shining, and Psycho, so for composers, horror movies have always been an area where you can go and reinvent something. I don't think I reinvented a lot in this, I just had a game.
Q: Did you watch some of the movies you mentioned for this?
A: No, I know them by heart (laughs).
Q: How much did the Japanese original inspire you?
A: Not on purpose. I felt that if we were to do a remake, we should forget that and try to create something new. This story is very much an urban myth-like story, so we just tried to embrace it as new, and not to try to be inspired or rip off the Japanese.
Q: What is the best instrument to suggest fear?
A: God, I don't know. This score's only dark instruments are cellos. I was trying to get them to play higher all of the time. So the fear came from the musicians being uncomfortable playing their instrument in a way they're not used to - where it becomes dangerous, they make mistakes easily up there. That was my way putting fear into it, having the musicians be actors.
Q: How do you feel Spirit was perceived?
A: I have no idea how it was perceived because I was doing "the Spirit world tour" so I would always be late catching up with things. I knew that it wasn't going to be The Lion King, because the experiment was to do a movie that looks very naturalistic, very un-cute. And it's just images and music. It was worthy in that respect. It was never going to make billions. That's what we have Shrek for. Plus I got my revenge on the horse in this movie didn't I (laughs).
Q: Do you have any strange, scary videos in your collection?
A: Everything my wife shoots of me is pretty scary. No, but I love these images Gore created for the actual video.
Q: Did you have any nightmares while doing this?
A: No, hauntingly enough not, but everybody else on my crew did. Remember, vampires and musicians work at night. So my guys would get home at three in the morning, switch on the TV and there would be those spots hitting them, invading every moment of their being. I came to it a different way, sitting with Gore talking about it. And I was just being fed little snippets of images as opposed to seeing the whole thing. On the other hand I made them watch it in one go without telling them what to expect. That was naughty but nice.
Q: What do you feel is the subtext of this movie?
A: The fundamental thing in this movie, which I think is very interesting, is the way communication has become so large and so accessible, that anything, an idea, something very private; a personal tragedy, can ruin anybody's breakfast. I'm fascinated by reading newspapers, not so much what they say but how they say it. Here we are in America and I'm looking at the L.A. Times and I have to look around the front page a little bit before I find out what's going on with the potential question; is there going to be a war or not? It's not the big headline anymore. The world is weird, what influences us is weird.
Q: How long did it take to record the score?
A: We recorded the score in one day, which is the European way; you don't have money, so you record it in one day. I had 36 musicians as opposed to a big symphony orchestra. I wanted to keep in with the greyness, the rain and the images Gore shot. I thought it needed to be intimate.
Q: Was the horror genre new to you?
A: Many years ago, just after World Apart I did my break through movie, a small movie called Paperhouse which was written by a child psychologist who had a little girl who had dreams. It happened in a very similar place to this. So I have been in this territory. But I always think that if someone gives me a chance to revisit a subject, I can perhaps do it a little bit better.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Ridley Scott's The Matchstick Men. I'm just starting that. It's a great movie. If we can pull it off, nobody will think that this is Ridley Scott or Hans Zimmer. I think they'll be surprised. It's more of a comedy than a drama. There's something wonderful that happens when Europeans come to America and look at America, because in a funny way we aren't cynical about it. We can see wonderful things in the valley. I think it's going to be a bit of a love story to Los Angeles.
Q: When you look at your old work, is it like looking at a photo album and cringing at certain things?
A: Absolutely. Some things I find, surprisingly, stand the test of time. But a lot of it is dreadful. That's why you carry on working, because you try to get better. You're either born with good taste, or you're not, so you instantly feel as if your work is good or bad. It's not like somebody had to tell you that 'less is more'. I know one musician who shall remain nameless, who was in a very successful band and he just doesn't do music anymore, because he was born with the curse of good taste; he edits everything and nothing gets finished because he knows it's no good or not good enough. But what I do is play music, and the emphasis is on the word 'play'. It's supposed to be fun. I'm not curing cancer here.
Q: Are you a perfectionist?
A: No, I'm an absolutist, which is one step worse than a perfectionist. That means 'it's never good enough' and it's only when Gore comes in my room and tells me that we are releasing this movie without music if I don't finish now, that I finish. That's why I need deadlines.
Q: Will there be any extra stuff music wise on the DVD?
A: Because we did it so fast, there isn't much stuff left over. But the other thing is that this is something you only discover on the DVD. There are many details on this thing which you don't get on the first viewing. The structure of the music is a complete intellectual conceit. It's like an investigation, in the movie there is detective work, and I'm giving you snippets of this tune all the time. It's not until you see the end titles that you get the complete tune, that you get the answers to all the questions. That's my own joke.
Q: Is there a genre you'd like to do?
A: I'd like to do a good love story, but I don't think anybody is writing any good love stories. Not a romantic comedy, but more dramatic. I'm a closet romantic. We Germans are all about sex and death.
Q: Do you believe in any urban legends?
A: I'm very sceptical of most things I hear or read. But I think myths are very powerful, and it's more about if I believe in fairy tales, which this really is. They are wonderful things that are beyond explanation in this film. I don't even care if it's scary or not, I just think there is good imagination in this work here.
Q: Do you watch TV and videos in a different way after this movie?
A: I have to tell you something very bad; I don't watch TV. It annoys me. It's intrusive. It comes to my house and destroys the peace. I grew up without television, my parents were European snobs and thought that TV was a cultural crime, so they didn't have it. So when I first left home, all I did was watch TV. I stopped watching television because I got one of those satellite dishes, I had 900 channels to flick through could not find a satisfying meal anywhere. It all tasted like lukewarm chips from McDonalds.
Q: What about your kids, don't they want to watch the TV?
A: Sure they do. Hopefully they’ll get bored with it and do something else; play music, get out on the beach, whatever. There are worthwhile things on TV, it's just becoming harder and harder to find them. It's like the beginning of this movie, there's the idea that everything is scrambled; there is so much stuff flying around on the airwaves that it's difficult to find what actually suits you. So I'd rather make it myself.
Q: How many kids do you have?
A: Far more than you could possibly imagine, I have four. And that's because we just had twins and our family has grown exponentially.
Q: Have any of the older ones shown any signs of following in your footsteps?
A: I hope not. I hope they all get real jobs. They can all go and join a band once they've got their medical or law degrees! This is a dicey job. I was very, very lucky. There were a few years when it was financially really crap, but I didn't get another job because if you are a musician, or if you are me, you need to play music, otherwise you will suffocate. So if you're that obsessive, you play it even when the guys are repossessing your furniture and your landlord is kicking you out. I don't wish that on my kids.
Q: How did your wife deal with you in the difficult times, didn't she put pressure on you to do something else?
A: No, actually in those days I didn't have a wife, I was not marriage material. Even now I'm probably not marriage material, I'm married to a saint! It's because I disappear forever when I'm doing a movie. I'm never around during the daytime, I'm completely obsessed with the writing part.
Q: Where is your studio?
A: I have a studio in my house, another in Santa Monica and another elsewhere. I can't be anywhere without being able to play around on a keyboard.
Q: What kind of mood were you in whilst working on this?
A: Mysterious and moody, but I knew that I had to keep it in check because during Gladiator, which was a long process, the first time my wife saw it was around the premiere. She was sitting next to me, and she suddenly started to hit me really hard. I asked her, “What was that for?” She said, “Now I know why you have been such a bastard for the last few months!”. But I didn't know. We were all like badly behaved boys on that movie. We were all in our gladiator outfits, stomping around and being bad. I do method composing I suppose. So with this film I'd come from my studio, put on a smile and act myself at home. That Gladiator thing actually woke me up.
Q: Since you don't watch TV, you must have a huge video and DVD collection?
A: Yeah. I don't go shopping; it's like the shirt was clean, the pants were clean and they just fell out the closet, so that's today's wardrobe. But I know when I go DVD and video shopping, I can really go to town on that.
Q: What are some of your all time favourites?
A: I've been just watching Amarcord for the 200th millionth time. I'm really annoyed because none of Sergio Leone's movies are out on DVD. But I still have a laser disc player (laughs). I like silly things, like English television comedies, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, I love all that.
Q: Do you like any American comedies?
A: Some of them. I watched Grosse Point Blank the other day, which is admittedly a bit of an old film now, but it's such a concept to pull that story off. The writing is so great.
Q: Did you notice a huge difference in your daily life after Mulholland Drive?
A: Only that people started calling me, and the good directors and actors that I'd run into would acknowledge me and compliment me on Mulholland Drive. That was really the immediate stuff that I noticed, because before that I was just dying to get my hands on good material. I was only getting my 5-minute time slot and was up against way too many people to ever think that I was going to get cast in a great role. Obviously everything goes through the star system first, and then if you do an amazing audition once every star in town has turned it down, you get lucky.
Q: What about on a daily basis, has your life changed?
A: It's fuller. There was a time when I would just leap to the phone and if it was my agent I would drop everything. Now calling people back takes longer, and even my agent, as everything is busier. I pretty much haven't stopped for a couple of years now. But the great thing now is that I have a choice. I’ve just had a month off, and could have been working right now on number of things, but I knew that I was going to do this project at the end of the year and I wanted to have time out to really prepare for it. It's a small movie but an incredible role, cast and director. In order to do it justice I wanted to give it the time that's required for the preparation.
Q: What movie is it?
A: It's called 21 Grams. It's Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu, who directed Amores Perros. It has a similar structure, it's three different stories and he has cast myself, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro (laughing). Too bad, eh? It's an incredible role, I'm not allowed to talk too much about it yet. I play a woman who goes through a tremendous turmoil, and struggle beyond belief, even more than in Mulholland Drive. About the title, everybody thinks it must be 21 grams of cocaine. It is in the movie but it's not about drugs. That's allegedly the difference in body weight between life and death. In other words the weight of one's soul.
Q: Gore was talking about your lack of vanity and that you have a lot of guts which makes you different from a lot of actresses. Where does that come from?
A: I'd say it comes from growing up with a brother. He was older, so he influenced me more than I influenced him. There were no Barbie dolls, no pink bedrooms, no pink nail varnish, none of that! Growing up with a brother, you drew pictures of
buildings exploding (laughing) and you played action man and war with your friends. That's the difference - I think that made me a tomboy and not subconscious as a kid.
Q: You must be surrounded by a lot of 'yes' people now. Is it difficult not to lose yourself and remember who you are?
A: I'm careful. I've grown up with really strong women in my life who all have very strong opinions and they are not afraid to say what they think. As a result I'm drawn to people like that. I don't want someone to sugar coat things and to pretend that everything is fine when there's an absolute disaster happening. I'll always be attracted to people who tell me the truth, I need that. If I'm getting out of hand, or things are getting out of hand, slap me!
Q: Has anyone had to do that yet?
A: No (laughing). If they do, they're fired (laughing). Nooo…but I haven't had that yet, thank god.
Q: Do you believe in curses or the supernatural?
A: I believe in ghosts. I haven't actually had any experiences. I believe in energy, in the after-life.
Q: What was the hardest thing for you to tackle in the business?
A: Just coming here and knowing nobody. In retrospect I don't know why I came here, I came here on a whim. I wanted to travel and I knew I wanted to act. When I first came here, everyone was overwhelmingly positive and it gave me enormous hope, false hope.
Q: Weren't you a journalist?
A: I was a fashion editor, I would write little pieces, not go out and interview people. It was more about helping create the looks for the fashion editor and occasionally I'd find myself writing about that much (shows an inch with her fingers) about how to describe a white shirt!
Q: So for this movie, it was a new job for you?
A: Yes. A lot of people ask, “How did you educate yourself about becoming a Journalist?”. Unfortunately there was no preparation time, I came straight from another movie so a lot of it was in my imagination. It's a pretty fast gear change from being a journalist to someone who has to survive and protect, and it's not about getting a scoop or an angle, it's about something much bigger than that.
Q: Do you have any strange videos in your personal collection?
A: Only bad films of my own (laughs).
Q: Do you ever watch them again?
A: No, no. Occasionally if it's late at night you might see one of them floating about on some weird cable network.
Q: How do you feel about seeing yourself on the screen?
A: It's always funny. I don't really like watching myself on screen because I can't really go with the story. I only ever think, “Oh, that was the day that we lost the lighting” or I just think about experiences. It's hard to sit there and really enjoy it.
Q: What about being on the covers of magazines, is that surreal?
A: That is definitely surreal, and that's only really new. The most surreal thing was driving on Sunset Blvd. and seeing myself on the billboard of the Vanity Fair cover. Being at a newsstand and seeing 10 covers lined up, that was weird.
Q: Have you had any funny incidents of people recognising you or asking you for an autograph?
A: Yeah, I had that happen in a public restroom, it was a little embarrassing! Literally it started before I went in to pee, and they continued talking over the peeing!
Q: How do your friends feel about your success?
A: She is really happy for me because she's seen me through the ups and the downs. Oh, who do you mean? Not "the friend" that everyone talks about? (laughing). My friends and family are really happy for me. I haven't seen any massive changes there, and I think they are proud. I got lucky with that one break, getting that role, and I did a good job and turned it into something beyond that.
Q: You have three movies coming out next year. Do you have time for anything else other than work?
A: Since I finished shooting in Australia - I finished in June - so I haven't been working. But preparing for a movie takes time. But I did have a month in Bali, I had a holiday there, so I had time to relax. I've spent plenty of time sitting around and doing nothing. I have had plenty of rest and plenty of life experience, so I don't mind tucking in a little bit when the going's good. I'll get some time off next year and by the end of this period it will be four months.
Q: What about the show that you are producing?
A: That's on hold right now. We were pretty far into the negotiations with one particular company, and we're not sure where it's going to go. It was a short film that I made with a really close friend of mine and we entered it into Sundance. We got in and got lots of recognition. We got excited and then everybody kept asking what were we going to do with it. We made more because we shot it on digital and it cost nothing. It's basically a one-man crew and a one-man show… although there are other cast members, we were just getting our friends to do it. It's completely fictional, but most artful things come from a place of truth and it's fair to say there's my comment on it and also the director's comment. But it was completely embellished.
Q: What do you like and what don't you like in Hollywood?
A: Plenty of things. I love that you can have a really good lifestyle here. You can have a house with a garden, a pool and although there is very much a city vibe here, it's also so spread out that you don't feel claustrophobic. The thing I don't like is that it is so geared towards one industry, so it's hard to escape conversations revolving around that.
Q: What do you miss about Australia when you're here?
A: The beach. I miss some of my favourite restaurants, the ones that I've always gone to, my friends and my family.
Q: Do you think that you are in a perfect position right now; you're getting all the great roles but you're not hugely famous yet. Are you nervous about getting more famous?
A: I'm okay with that notion because it hasn't happened yet. I don't feel that the public have a huge awareness of who I am, but the industry does, so nothing has changed in terms of, “Oh, I can't leave the house looking like this”. I just leave spontaneously and appear spontaneously wherever I want to, and I still pick my nose in my car and do the normal things that human beings do on the street. I'd hate to think that I’ll get to a place where I'm afraid to leave my house. I think that is absolute death for someone in my industry. Because then what happens is, you lose out on experiences, you lose out on interactions with human beings and your work is going to suffer. What are you going to do, imitate the performances that you've already seen?
Q: Was it scary making a horror film?
A: Making a horror film is not scary. I love playing the emotions, that can get you there. There were two which really freaked me out; the scene where my son watches it and I find him and the phone rings, and then at the end when I'm smashing the tape into pieces. Those are the ones where your emotions are truly happening and you can't fake it, you're tapping into something that happened in your own life first and that can take you there. In terms of watching it, I don't know. Being scared is all about the big end result; the music, the pacing, the things that happen before and after.
Q: Do you have any dream projects or characters that you'd like to play?
A: I'd love to do a comedy, but I’m not one for little romantic comedies. I've always liked darker stuff, even if it's a comedy.
Q: How much do you think that becoming successful is just pure luck?
A: I don't know, I certainly thought that earlier on, “Why not me?” and I know now why. I don't think I would have handled it as well as I do now. Maybe if I make good choices, I'll be able to have more time, and that will keep me here a little bit longer and it won't be a flash in the pan. I might not have been if I had had it in my early 20’s. But there is not just one reason, yes, of course you'd think that it would be talent. But there are a lot of people in this town who just want and want, and nothing comes in the way until they get it. It's not necessarily talent that's their driving force, it could be ambition or a cosmetic thing.
Q: How do you handle all the tabloid stuff?
A: It's all new to me, I try to keep it separate. So far it hasn't been malicious or anything, touch wood.
Q: Are there any deleted scenes that will end up on the DVD?
A: We shot a few different endings, but I don't know if they will reveal them. We were re-writing the script on the set sometimes - getting new pages a lot!
Q: What did you think about the video that's in the movie?
A: I was pretty freaked out when Gore first showed it to me. He was also shooting that stuff while we were doing the principal photography of the movie. He'd go off in the afternoon to do stuff, and finally it was compiled after about a month and he brought it on set. We watched it and I was like, "Wow!", because we had no idea what it would be like. It was not in the script. The script had certain images, but he went off and had all these other ideas. A lot of the stuff in the movie is his creation, he added to it. He didn't want the studio to know about it because they wanted it to appeal to everybody, they didn't want it to be too scary. Gore tried to make it as scary as possible without making it an R rating.
Q: What kind of videos do you have at home, any unmarked ones?
A: Unmarked? What are you implying (laughing), you Nordic people you get raunchy. What do I have? I like drama, epic stories, films about love and passion in life, all that stuff.
Q: Are you a DVD collector?
A: Not really, only if I really like it. I prefer seeing a movie in the theatre. That's what I like about Europe, they have a lot of re-runs, old movies that they put on again.
Q: This one looks like it's going to be great on DVD. What are your favourite scenes?
A: Without giving too much away, my favourite scene is my character's climax of the movie. When I saw that in the original it scared the hell out of me. I literally jumped away from the screen. I'd never seen that in a movie before, ever. Noone has ever done that - twisted with reality in a way where you think you're seeing one thing, and then in an instant the whole world does a 180 (degree twist).
Q: Did you ever give in to a temptation, only to find out that you paid too high a price for it?
A: I don't have regrets, I trust where I'm going. Coming to Hollywood was a big deal, I didn't see my family for three years at one point. I couldn't afford to fly home and there's a lot of sacrifices I made for that. There were times when I doubted whether it was worth it. I was missing my sister when we were both becoming adults and I wasn't even seeing her.
Q: But it looks like it paid off?
A: Yeah, I can afford to go home and I can bring them to me.
Q: Are you going to be the next big action hero?
A: We'll see, I'm enjoying doing that. I never thought that I would, but I'm actually having a really good time. I want to do more action movies for sure.
Q: What about bulking up for that. Did you train a lot?
A: A little bit, I try to keep pretty fit. I did a lot of sports when I was young and I try to keep it up in the gym. But I don't want to get too big. I can't eat that much, you have to eat all the time to be that big.
Q: What do you think about The Ring opening at number one in the US?
A: It's surprising. Not that it isn't a good movie, but for it to do so well and to get a 5% increase in its second week is unheard of. It's fantastic! The word of mouth is really good on this movie.
Q: What's your favourite sport?
Q: Do you have a boat?
A: I don't, but I'm thinking about it. My agent has a boat and we race on Wednesday nights down at the marina. I used to sail and own boats in New Zealand when I was a kid. I just do it whenever I have a chance. When I was in Denmark I went sailing with one of the producers. It's beautiful out there.
Q: Where do you live now?
A: I was living in New York, and since I've been here I've been living here on and off. I stayed with a friend when I first got here and then I had nowhere to live. Then I was crashing on people's couches, and finally got an apartment. I was dating a French girl and lived on and off in Paris for two years, I much preferred to be there with her, I'm not a big fan of L.A. The whole audition process is tough, you spend months just hanging about. Culturally it's not really my thing - L.A. just doesn't feel like home to me, it's very transitional, I feel it's temporary. That's why I resisted moving here. Maybe because in the depths of our hearts and our souls we all know that this thing is going to fall off one day. There's going to be an earthquake and all this is going to fall into the ocean. Where I grew up, there was a feeling of home and community. I don't get that here. In the wealthy communities you are locked off, behind fences, and in the poor areas you have crime and gangs. You don't really feel a safe sense of family here. When you go
to the beach in New Zealand, it's "the beach" and you communicate with nature. Here the energy is different, even on the beach.
Q: Where would you rather live?
A: I love Europe. But I think I'm suited to this kind of lifestyle, and it's perfect because I'm an actor. In Windtalkers we spent a couple of months in Hawaii, then in L.A., then I travelled for a while, lived in Paris. Then I came back and did a movie here, went back travelling in Turkey and Europe and then did The Ring up in Seattle. After that I went to Scotland and Sweden for the Danish film. I then came back again and finished another movie in L.A. Soon I'll be going to New Zealand to see my family.
Q: Despite the fact that you are a well-known actor in New Zealand, how hard was it for you to break into Hollywood and to continue doing it?
A: It was tough. But then again, I have to say that I do feel lucky being where I am now. And it wasn't that long, I've been in L.A. less than three years. I was in L.A. a year before I got Windtalkers but at the time, day after day you had to keep your spirits up because you get a lot of rejections, it’s easy to give up. Especially when you can just get on a plane, pick up a phone and get a job. You just have to swallow your pride and then it makes it all the more worthwhile.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you in L.A.?
A: I think I just suffered from culture shock. It's different in New York, which is a more international city. In L.A. the way people talk, relate to other people, the way things get done, people's values, is just strange. I'm amazed how much people work here. I say, "When do you enjoy life, when do you all really get together and relax?" It seems like everyone is a lot more driven. I hated it when I first got here.
Q: Are you now the same way as the others?
A: No. I think I just carved out my own set of friends outside the business, which I think is really healthy. So we don't talk or think about the business, we just talk about life.
Q: What do you friends think about you now that you're becoming a big star?
A: I'm sure they think it's funny. They're great, very supportive. But it’s funny, you get e-mails from people you haven't seen or heard from in years, and they're like, "Dude, I walked into a cinema and saw a trailer. Was it you?" It's also because I haven't talked a lot about what I've been doing. I haven't done any press in Australia or New Zealand at all.
Q: Is there going to be a red carpet waiting for your return?
A: I don't know about that. Maybe they’ll give me a beer!
Q: What do you think about becoming famous and everybody recognising you?
A: I'm a little wary of it because I experienced what fame is like when I was younger. I really don't pay a lot of attention to it. If that's the by-product of the work, then it's going to happen, and you'll just deal with it as it comes along.
Q: Would you rather be unrecognised?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: Tell me about your next movie Torque?
A: I play the lead role, it's pretty big. Yeah, so it's the price you pay (referring to the fame question). It's like a double-edged sword. There's positive and there's negative. I think you have to embrace the positive and deal with the negative the best you can. And I'm glad I don't drink anymore. Before I used to get horribly drunk.
Q: You must have had terrible time in Sweden then?!
A: They hated it. And they didn't believe I was a New Zealander. They tried to give me beer all the time, but I was like, “No thanks”. "But you're a Kiwi!"
Q: What's the status of Torque right now?
A: We finished shooting on 27th of October, 2002. It was a tough four-month shoot. There were a lot of stunts, and we spent a lot of time in the desert in Palm Desert, Lancaster and in Arizona. It was hot in leather suits, 120 degrees Fahrenheit; the dust, the sun and the dirt made it tough.
Q: Did you learn to ride bikes for this?
A: Yeah and I fell off (shows road rash on his elbow). Pretty cool? I already had two scars on the same spot from moped accidents in Bali and Sumatra. This was the third one from coming off the motorbike. But I had one when I was 18 in New Zealand. My dad made me get rid of it - he wanted me to survive! And I did, so he was smart. Now everybody is asking if I'm going to get a bike but I think 'naah'. It's fun for a movie but it's not safe.
Q: How do you feel about the movie now, right after shooting it?
A: It's so hard to tell. It certainly looks great. I think it's going to be a really fun, cool movie. It's not serious at all. So you can be more extreme with the comedy and take liberties when it's clear from the beginning that it's not serious. It's like an adventure ride.
Q: Are you working on something right now?
A: I'm planning on doing something in January. I'll have December off in New
Zealand and then start working in January. We haven't negotiated the female lead's deal yet. I can't tell you the name of the movie because if it doesn't work out with her, I'll have to do something else.
Q: What about sequels for The Ring, did you talk about that at all?
A: Yeah of course, but I'm not going to be in them. There was talk at one point about maybe keeping my character alive for the sequel but I think there is a lot more value in having what happens to my character in this one.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH...
OWN IT ON DVD AND VIDEO SEPTEMBER 1ST
The story of The Ring centres on an Urban Myth that becomes a nightmarish reality for the viewers of a disturbing videotape. Once the tape has been watched, it is swiftly followed by a distressing ‘phone call warning the listener that in seven days they will die… Over the years there have been many urban myths from around the world. All the stories are united by one common thread - their uncanny ability to unnerve the listener:
1. A student at a party takes a sip of her drink and passes out; when she wakes up she is in a bath of ice in a strange hotel. Realising something is seriously wrong she looks down to see a huge scar and begins to scream. The noise attracts attention and an ambulance is called. When the medics arrive they explain that this is not the first time this has happened and that it is likely that her kidney has been removed to be sold on the black market.
2. A young couple on a trip to a well-known lover’s lane are disturbed by screams outside their car and the boy reluctantly gets out to investigate. When her boyfriend doesn’t return, the girl begins to panic especially when she hears a repetitive banging noise on the roof of the car. Putting the vehicle into gear she tries to speed away but something keeps pulling her back. The banging noise turns out to be the sound of her boyfriend’s feet – a madman has hung him by the neck with a rope that has been wrapped round a tree then tied to the car’s bumper. When the girl tried to drive away she just tightened the noose around her boyfriend’s neck.
3. A young couple are parked in a pretty lane in the country. Listening to the radio they hear that a madman with a hooked hand has escaped from a nearby insane asylum. Spooked they drive away at great speed and decide to cancel their date for that evening. However, when they arrive at the girl’s house she gets out of the car and begins to scream: there’s a hook hanging from her car door handle.
4. Out for a drive in the country a young couple run out of petrol and the apologetic boyfriend sets off to walk to the nearest garage telling his girlfriend to lock the door and open it for no one but him. She waits nervously until she hears a sound outside, thinking it’s her boyfriend returning at last, she looks out the window to be greeted by the sight of a lunatic with her boyfriend’s decapitated head in one hand – and the car keys in the other.
5. A young female student has been out partying late at night. Not wanting to disturb her roommate she sneaks into bed without turning on the light. When she awakens the next morning she discovers the mutilated body of her friend and a message daubed in blood on the wall thanking her for not turning on the lights. Had she done so, the murderer would have killed her too.
6. Whilst out shopping on a Saturday, a kindly young woman discovers a confused old lady sitting on the back seat of her car claiming to be lost. She asks the young woman to take her to the nearest hospital and the girl is just about to agree when she realises that the ‘old lady’ has abnormally large hands. Realising there’s something wrong she makes a run for it. When she later returns with the police, they discover a bag full of blood-smeared weapons on the back seat.
7. At a petrol station a young man is annoyed when the counter assistant yells at him to return to the payment desk as he has forgotten his wallet. Once back inside the building the assistant quickly locks the door behind him and points outside at the young man’s car. To his horror, he sees a man armed with a large knife hiding under the vehicle awaiting his return.
8. A young girl babysitting for a neighbour receives a series of disturbing ‘phone calls from someone threatening to kill her. Thinking it’s just some thoughtless friends playing a prank, she decides to ignore the threats. However, to her horror she slowly realises that the person calling is not only genuine – he is calling from the upstairs phone…
9. Whilst out driving at night a couple of teenage boys are almost driven off the road by a vehicle with no headlights on. Flashing their lights at the oncoming vehicle to warn him that he has forgotten to switch his lights on, the driver takes this as a sign that they want to play tag and chases them until he runs their car off the road killing them in the process.
10. Finally, a dare for the fearless. Rumour has it that if you say the Lord’s Prayer backwards at midnight whilst staring in a mirror, the devil will appear behind you…