Director, writer discuss their supernatural thriller
The Orphanage, a chilling new supernatural mystery presented by Guillermo del Toro, has become a smash hit overseas. Now it is arriving here in the States courtesy of Picturehouse on December 28th. The highly lauded feature debut from Juan Antonio Bayona stars BelÃ©n Rueda as Laura, a woman who returns to the orphanage of her childhood to make it operational again. Once there, however, she loses her son. Subsequently, the orphanage’s past, and its many ghosts, begins to catch up to her. ShockTillYouDrop.com met with Bayona and screenwriter Sergio SÃ¡nchez at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about the making of their macabre fairy tale.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: You were talking about influences earlier and what struck me was that the atmosphere in your film reminded be of the AIP/Roger Corman/Edgar Allen Poe films. Can you elaborate on your influences or the horror films that shaped you during your youth?
Juan Antonio Bayona: We were trying to go back to…not any movie in particular, but a style of film we liked when we were kids. The movie acts as a regression for Laura, the main character. I wanted the style of the movie to do the same, regress to the style of horror we liked when we were young. A lot of that comes from the script.
Sergio SÃ¡nchez: I just wanted to make a classic horror story. I spent all of my childhood reading ghost stories, but this came about in a very natural way. I couldn’t really tell you my influence was this or that. The main two influences were like “The Turn of the Screw” and “Peter Pan.” It was like trying to do “Peter Pan” from the point of view of the mother. That last chapter of “Peter Pan” is devastating and I’m thinking, ‘Jesus, what happened to this Wendy’ and all of them. It was really f**ked up. I thought it was interesting to show it from that point of view. I wanted to write something that was open to interpretation ’cause you can see this as a ghost story but you can see this as something that has nothing to do with the supernatural. It’s a tale of a woman who loses her mind because she’s unable to cope with the loss of her son. There’s nothing that proves the existence of the paranormal in this film.
Bayona: We would be honored if our film is in tune with all of those films that you mentioned though. That’s the biggest compliment.
Shock: Much of your crew is new to the feature filmmaking scene – were these people that you knew?
Bayona: It was my crew from school ten years ago. When I was shooting a lot of stuff with them, the composer, the editor, we were all working together in music videos and short films. “The Orphanage” was a very low budget movie. Our vision was big so I need to work with my crew. I remember talking about this with Guillermo and how my crew wouldn’t say ‘no’ to anything.
Shock: How did Guillermo get involved?
SÃ¡nchez: The first draft of the script was written in 1998 and I did a short film called “7337” which was a condensed version of the script – because I wanted to direct it myself. I did the short to use as my presentation to see if I could get the funding, but at the time all of these horror films came out in Spain, so it was tough to get it going. Then I met Juan Antonio at a short film festival and he really liked my short and asked if I had any scripts. I said, yes, but it was going to be impossible. He showed it to his production company as an example of my work, so they would hire me. They they really liked it, as it was, and started pre-production. After that, three years down the road, that’s how Guillermo came on board. Juan Antonio had already known Guillermo from when he was presenting “Cronos” in the Sitges Film Festival and they had kept in touch.
Bayona: It was quite a fun meeting because I was pretending to be a journalist for a film festival in order to get free tickets to see people that I admire. When Guillermo saw me, I was like this ten-year-old with sideburns and he was impressed by my questions and we’ve kept in touch since then. He really liked all of the stuff I did before “The Orphanage” – when he knew I was doing the film, he got involved. He wanted to produce the movie, but when he read the script for this, he wanted to present it, which is kind’ve special.
Shock: Supernatural films – or at least those dealing directly with ghosts – tend to lean towards implicating children in some way. Why do you think this works so well?
Bayona: The first time I read the script…I think the film is about childhood. Of course, the story has children and there are these parallel between children and adults, the living and the dead and fantasy and reality. For me, what moved me was the story of Laura and I felt for her. Feeling lost and sometimes looking at her place in the world. All of the problems she faces do not come from an evil force, it’s about maturity and the world of possibility. Life in marriage. Business. Motherhood. The things I could share with her. Dealing with her responsibilities.
SÃ¡nchez: When I wrote it, I just thought of my own fears as a kid. I was very sick, I had very bad lungs and was coming in and out of the hospital a lot. So I developed these two imaginary friends named Watson and Pepe, who are in the film. But I don’t know what it is about horror and children. If I were to make a list of my five favorite horror films, they all have children in them. There’s something about that that makes you…just like the fantasy genre allows you to do things you could not do in any other genre. Having a kid or having the point of view of a kid allows you to show a wider spectrum of emotions. You can go from complete innocence to complete perversion – because kids can be very cruel. It just opens up a wonderful field of possibilities.
Shock: Where did Guillermo del Toro stand during principal photography? Did you creatively challenge you or was he hands-off mostly?
Bayona: At the beginning he encouraged us a lot in the making of the movie. This movie wouldn’t have been possible without him. He brought us the opportunity to do the movie the way it was mean to be done. I probably would have passed on this film if I didn’t have the resources to make. Guillermo worked with producer Pedro AlmodÃ³var on “The Devil’s Backbone” and he had an excellent experience with that. And he tried to do the same experience with us. AlmodÃ³var once told him that a good producer is one who never there when you don’t need him and is always there when you do need him. Guillermo came to us and created a space for the budget and creativity – he gave a few suggestions. He never tried to impose anything.
Shock: How long did it take for you to find that seaside location?
SÃ¡nchez: The exteriors were shot in the region of Spain where I’m from and I wrote the story thinking of a particular house, but the thing is, when the location team when to scout the house, it was impossible to shoot in there. It was falling apart. But then we had to find the same scheme somewhere else. So the house we found actually wasn’t by a beach, that was done digitally. The house in the center of town and we had to erase all of the buildings so you didn’t see them. The beach we found was actually three different beaches. The beach on one side, then on the other and then a cave. And because of the tide, we had to find a cave somewhere and fill it with sand and water so we could shoot there ten hours straight and not have to worry about drowning. The house where we did shoot, no one had been in there for 30 or 40 years ’cause the woman who lived there, her son had been run over by a car in front of the house. There were just too many memories for her there so she left it. There were still things left behind in the house. The sound guy – after you finish a scene you record the sound of the room – and he’d be yelling, “Quiet everyone! Quiet!” and it’s like, “What’s that?”
Shock: What was being heard?
SÃ¡nchez: Most of the stuff you hear in the sÃ©ance sequence were recorded for real – that’s what we heard.
Bayona: What he recorded, I was like, “Put that in the movie!”
Source: Ryan Rotten