Interview: Gore Verbinski Breaks the Rules in A Cure for Wellness

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Director Gore Verbinski discusses the creative freedom of making the unusual new thriller A Cure for Wellness

Director Gore Verbinski discusses the creative freedom of making the unusual new thriller A Cure for Wellness

Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness is a wild and weird mind bender of a Gothic meltdown. It’s haunting, arch, bleakly humorous, nightmarish, surreal, kinky and unlike any other movie you’ll see in the multiplex this year. Some might think such a Lynchian slab of oddness an odd product to come from the director of straight up horror fare like The Ring and grandiose fantasy films like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But Verbinski is an eccentric and his movies always have elements of tainted imagination running through them.

RELATED: Read Alyse Wax’s Review of A Cure for Wellness

The difference is that here, in A Cure for Wellness, that imagination is let loose to roam completely free. And thank God for that.

The movie stars The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Dane DeHaan as leering corporate slug Lockhart, who is manipulated by his employers to find the head of his company, who has vanished into the guts of a secret Swiss spa, and bring him back alive. Lockhart has no choice but to proceed with the mission and is soon thrust into a perverse world of incest, haunted history, mad science and perversions and miseries of every kind. It’s the spa from Hell and Lockhart is falling, falling, falling…

We caught up with Verbinski today to discuss his bizarre, decidedly anti-commercial psychodrama…

ComingSoon.net: People are calling this your return to horror. But I’m almost loathe to call it a horror movie. I don’t know what it is. It’s unclassifiable and I think that’s a very, very good thing…

Gore Verbinski: Yeah, I mean we tried to make a movie that wasn’t immediately reducible, and you know that makes it more difficult to market these days but, yeah, it’s such a blend I have a hard time saying it’s a horror movie or just a psychological thriller. Whatever it is, it’s its own thing.

CS: Which will be frustrating for some people and certainly confounding for many critics. But I’m sure you know that it will become a cult film…

Verbinski: I know and it’s not for everybody. It was intentionally made to be a movie that wasn’t for everybody. I think I wanted to be open about that so that some people would want to see it and the marketing campaign would say “Stop – this one’s not for you, don’t come.” Which is kind of an amazing place to be, really!

CS: So you pretty much defined the revival of horror post-millennium with your Americanization of The Ring. It was a huge hit. And now, here comes the latest sequel, Rings, which… well, maybe didn’t quite catch on as well. So maybe people don’t want regurgitated sequels anymore. Maybe if this does well, it will leave the door open for more challenging and original darker fantasy and horror films…

Verbinski: Yeah, totally. You see what’s happening. You see that movie theaters and Hollywood have to have this massive push to “event-ize” everything and the consequence of that is that all the good writers end up going to TV and so you see the fabric ripping. I mean, it’s easier to get $159 to make a movie or $8 than it is to get $38. Everyone seems to have run away from the middle and I tend to think there are opportunities there. All I can say is I’ve never been accused of being risk averse. So we’ll see what happens.

CS: You have quite the antihero in Lockhart…

Verbinski: No, he’s just an a**hole.

CS: Yeah, but you still root for him. He’s your point of entry into the story…

Verbinski: Yeah. And that’s why it was important to nab Dane for the part. I had been thinking about him for a while and I think he inhabits Lockhart in a way that is ideal. You know even in the first third, you’re like, he’s got it in spades, he’s ripe for the diagnosis of this place, but then we have him being played by an actor we still want to watch….

CS: …and who can look alternately reptilian and fragile.

Verbinski: Yes and you don’t really want a butch, “can-do guy” in a horror movie, or whatever this is, do you?

CS: No. Now, our villain, Volmer. Was that a reference to The Twilight Zone episode with Dennis Hopper, “He’s Alive”?

Verbinski: Oh man…man…that’s…man, I would love to say yes because that’s really cool… but sadly, no.

CS: Mia as Hannah is a stunning physical presence…

Verbinski: Yeah, I mean, it was a really difficult part. I loved Shelly Duvall in The Shining. I always thought that was interesting casting and Mia’s character has those qualities. You know, the whole movie is this kind of reverse Sleeping Beauty and Lockhart is slowly being put down and she, by virtue of his arrival, she is awakening, painfully. We needed somebody who is kind of like a little Chauncey Gardiner.

CS: What an amazing connection… I never thought of the film as having any ties to Being There, but now that you mention it. Wow, yes…

Verbinski: Well, I mean, she’s not naive. She’s being kept in this place, but she has this very singular world view. She’s watched all these people be processed here, but she’s never seen anyone like Lockhart come to this place. In the same way a child will ask you why over and over, by the time you get to the third why, you’re usually dealing with something very profound. I think Hannah gets there in one. Her whole view of the world is at that third why. And so I didn’t want to cast anyone who would put on mannerisms to convey that. Mia came in and read for the part and it was just, like, “done.” She was born to play this part. If you meet her… she’s Hannah.

20th Century Fox will release A Cure for Wellness on February 17, 2017.