SDCC Press Conference: Jennifer’s Body

Horrors fans talking with horror fans. That was the vibe I got when 20th Century Fox invited to sit in on a press conference and footage preview for Jennifer’s Body, the horror-comedy starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. In attendance was Fox, director Karyn Kusama, writer Diablo Cody and producer Jason Reitman. All wielded a sense of humor and a love of the genre.

Fox, in the film, plays a high school student whose body becomes a vessel for seduction and destruction when she is possessed by a boy-eating demon. You’ll find photos from the press conference and description of the footage we saw here.

Without further adieu, here’s the conference…

Question: Megan, how freeing was it for you to play a character like this?

Megan Fox: Well, I think what I loved about the movie is how unapologetic and how completely inappropriate it is at all times. That was my favorite part about the script and the character. It’s fun to be able to say the shit [my character] gets to say and get away with it. People find it charming.

Question: Talk about the challenges of creating an original horror film in today’s market of sequels, reboots and remakes?

Diablo Cody: For me, I was simultaneously trying to pay tribute to some of the conventions that we’ve already seen in horror, yet at the same time try and turn them on their ear. It’s truly a post-modern thriller in that, on one hand, I grew up watching these ’80s genre movies – like The Lost Boys – and I wanted to honor that. But at the same time I had never seen this particular sub-genre done with girls and I tried to do a little of both. Ryan Rotten: Were there any horror films with a strong feminine view that inspired you?

Cody: What’s interesting, and this is discussed before, that the last survivor standing in the typical horror film is the woman. So if you think about Nancy, or even Jason’s mother, all of the great heroines of horror. Horror has always had a feminist angle to it, in a weird way. It’s also delightfully exploitative. It’s one of my favorite things about doing a horror film is we got to do a little bit of both.

Rotten: So does this turn the tables? Is there a “final guy”?

Fox: [shakes her head no and grins]

Kusama: I think, also, a lot of horror is about female-ness. Whether it’s Carrie or Rosemary’s Baby, I feel there’s a lot of fear of the female. Or celebration of it, in some weird way. This movie managed to take the fear and the sense that it’s the female that ultimately survives and marry that in a really interesting way.

Question: How did you approach the balance of horror and comedy in this while you were writing it?

Cody: When I first set out to write this I intended to do something very dark, very brooding – a traditional slasher movie. Then I realized about a 1/3 of the way into the process I was incapable of doing it. Because the humor kept sneaking in. I have a macabre sense of humor and a lot of the things that happen in this movie are funny to me. I’ve always said that comedy and horror films are similar in the sense that you actually witness the audience having physical release. They’re laughing, they’re screaming, it’s not a passive experience.

Question: Megan, the vomit scene we witnessed was outrageous. Talk about that. And what other gags do you have in store in this film?

Fox: That day, what I was actually throwing up was chocolate syrup. We did a few takes where I would just do the scream and puke chocolate syrup. Then the special FX department did a rig that clamps onto my ear – and we revisited that in the pool scene which happens later in the movie – it clips around the back of my ear and then I bite down on it on the side of my face. It’s a tube and projects whatever that material was.

Kusama: We went old school.

Fox: It was pretty intense and I think it was worse for Amanda because she was the one that got puked on.

Question: Did you opt to go more practical with the FX?

Kusama: Yes, it was a choice that we all sort of made organically. We appreciate those kinds of effects in older movies. I question sometimes how much more effective it is to use a ton of CG. We always started with a practical effect then moved forward from there to lay a groundwork for something that is physically, materially there. It was more fun, too.

Question: Jason, this is considerably different from the movies you’ve been making. Does this scratch any itch for your love of the genre and will we see you do something along these lines?

Jason Reitman: I found Thank You for Smoking do be absolutely terrifying. I’ve always loved horror films and certainly I go see more horror films than probably any other genre in the theater. I mean, I saw See No Evil in the theater and I still haven’t seen 400 Blows. I would love to. I hope I’m as capable of doing it as Karyn is. It’s an intimidating genre because certain people can do it very well. I love horror films.

Question: Karyn, how did you get involved in this?

Kusama: I was blessed to read the script at a moment when the producers were meeting with directors. It just knocked me out. It’s so original and imaginative. That’s what it is about the script and the world, it feels like a fairy tale gone psycho. And I think that’s what most fairy tales started as. They’ve just been neutralized over the years and this story felt old. Coming from old stories, but totally fresh. I went to bat for myself.

Question: Megan, was there any apprehension about taking this role? And how did your acting process change from what you’re used to doing?

Fox: You mean from Tranformers? [laughs] There were no distractions here. There’s no robots to distract you from whatever performance I do give. So if it’s terrible, you’re going to f**kin’ know that it’s really terrible. That, of course, is intimidating. But the character was so much fun for me, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I was just trying to have fun with it. I felt I was able to make fun of my own image, how people perceive Megan Fox to be. I was just flying freely and I hope some of it works.

Question: How sexy can this movie be?

Fox: Oh, this movie is so sexy – you better put on your f**kin’ sexy shoes! [laughs] There’s a relationship that happens between my character and Amanda’s character that is, depending on who you are, a common relationship you grow up with or not. But there is a hint of a lesbian relationship that happens. There’s a girl-on-girl kiss. But I feel like it’s an homage to that but we also poke fun at how homogenized horror movies have gotten. Before every kill there is a seduction that occurs so these boys have to be seduced to get close enough to this dead girl for her to devour them. It does get pretty sexy.

Question: Karyn, all three films you’ve done now portray different levels of violence. How would you say you tackled each one? Is there a different approach or are they all the same?

Kusama: It’s definitely different in each movie. With Girl Fight I think it was important to actually be authentic to the world of amateur boxing and the emotional dynamics in the ring. I think with Aeon Flux there were some approaches but that didn’t reflect that entirely. There was a different interest in the way the body moves through space that was interesting to me. With this film, it was important to know that the mechanics of violence, as a movie tool, for instance, when Jennifer pukes, it should be black as tar and it should come out big and loud. Be a shocking moment. I think in a way, somebody mentioned the movie feels over the top, I think it was important to know when to go there and not back down from feeling like a genre movie while trying to keep it real between the characters and keep the world real.

Question: Was there ever a push and pull with the MPAA? Was there a consideration to get this down to a PG-13?

Reitman: It was always going to be R.

Kusama: The language alone…

Question: Some filmmakers do horror before they break through with films like the ones you all have done, but you’re going back in some respects. What is that saying about the filmmaking climate and trends?

Cody: It’s a personal passion to me. Horror is better than anything I could have done building to this.

Reitman: You’re with a generation of filmmakers here who grew up on horror. We’re also of the VHS generation as well.

Kusama: You can watch a lot of horror and, like a Pandora’s Box, crazy shit just keeps coming out of that box. You can find so many amazing movies. I look at the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and feel like it’s a crazy art movie that happened to become a youth-quake event. That movie would never get made now, not in that way. It’s been remade in a different way, but in a way horror speaks to all of us. It’s definitely the genre to try to get to and try to achieve in my opinion.

Reitman: I remember cracking open my father’s laserdisc for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Truly one of the coolest movie moments of my childhood and I can’t imagine dangerously opening a broad comedy in the middle of the night and hoping I wouldn’t get caught. The idea that there will be a kid out there opening a Blu-Ray of Jennifer’s Body is pretty exciting to all of us.

Cody: This is totally going to be that movie 11-year-old boys are going to go after.

Kusama: And the 11-year-old girl. It’s a crazy enough movie…somebody asked about when I got into the process, when I read the script, the first thing I felt, viscerally was, man, when I was 17, if I was just a younger person right now, this is the movie I would see 10 times in the theater. I just feel a pull towards it that speaks to me. It’s not intellectual, it’s emotional. The best horror and the best comedies just speak to you on this visceral level.

Question: Megan, are you drawn to horror films to?

Fox: I’m actually not. I don’t ever watch scary movies because I have a very intense fear of the dark. The last movie I saw was The Tooth Fairy and it was out in 2005 or something, I was like 15 and I slept with my mom for two weeks after. I get really affected by them. I think for me to play something I normally would be frightened by was intriguing to me. I saw this movie doing ADR recently and I didn’t realize they had done more sound design since the last time I had seen it. We were watching the clip I was going to add a scream to and I remember the scream I had done on set, so when it got to that part I literally jumped and screamed inside the looping booth. It frightened me. I was shaken up for five minutes and couldn’t do my ADR. So it’s cool to see myself scaring people. Because I’m just a little girl, look at me, I’m so sweet. [laughs]

Question: Diablo, the clip we saw had a cameo by you. Is that all we see?

Cody: That’s it. And I think that was a pity shot.

Question: How important is the music in this film?

Kusama: The music is a huge component to the movie – the songs we see and hear performed – and just the vibe of movie as it progresses it becomes a music-oriented movie. Some of the band posters in the bar scene you saw were made up.

Cody: I really wanted Screeching Weasel bad. That was important.

Question: Are there a couple of horror movies that stand out for you all?

Kusama: I’m a Near Dark junkie. I need to see that movie every year just to get through life.

Cody: My all-time favorites are Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now.

Reitman: I’m a Shining guy. The imagery really stayed with me. The original Alien, too. My father took me camping when I was a kid and told me the entire film as a campfire story. His continued though. They made it back down to earth. Later, when I finally saw the film I realized I knew exactly where everything was going to go. Honestly, I was young enough to have a moment of, “Oh my God, they ripped my father off.”

Question: The bar fire sequence reminded us of the Great White performance in Rhode Island that happened. Did that inspire this scene?

Cody: Not specifically. That’s come up a few times. To me, I’m afraid of fire and pyrotechnics which is weird why I asked to be in the scene.

Kusama: You asked to be set on fire, do you remember?

Cody: That was me trying to conquer my fear. By the way, they would not let me do a full burn. I argued Burt Reynolds did it once. There’s nothing more terrifying to me than being stuck in a claustrophobic space that’s burning down.

Rotten: Diablo, are you going to get behind the camera now?

Fox: I’ve noticed all of your questions have been for Diablo. [laughs]

Rotten: I’m waiting for you on the red carpet.

Cody: I’ll direct for you. If I did direct I would want to do a horror film, I don’t know if that will ever happen.

Source: Shock Till You Drop

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