Reeves Runs Merrily Through Cloverfield


Now that the long weekend is almost over, it’s pretty safe to say that most of you reading this have probably already seen the hotly anticipated Cloverfield. Yes, the J.J. Abrams-produced “Godzilla”/”Blair Witch” mash-up has made some serious bank this weekend from all those curious folks who wanted to discover what all the hype was about since the cryptic teaser trailer debuted last July 4th. We’ve all seen the monster (anyone else think it looked like the Cave Troll from “Lord of the Rings”?), we’ve all seen Hud continue to bravely film even while chased by the out-of-work bugs from Starship Troopers, and we’ve all seen Beth looking into the camera crying “I’m so scared” and thought to ourselves “I’ve never seen that before.” Not to editorialize or anything. What we do have in store for you is a nifty interview with the director of Cloverfield, Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer). In this interview, you’ll find Reeves’ thoughts on the internet rumors, the evolution of the monster, his next project The Invisible Woman, and some interesting sequel possibilities. You’ll also read about the clue to the monster’s origins hidden in the final shot of the movie, which this author spotted with his eagle eyes. Read on… Were you amazed at the life the movie took on after the trailer came out and the wave of internet speculation happened? Matt Reeves: Thing about it is, when we were kids, when Bryan Burke and J.J. Abrams and I were kids, I’ve literally known them since childhood, we made 8mm films together and so it’s kind of an amazing thing to make a movie with your best friends. When we were kids we’d go to movies, and there was one particular teaser trailer we all remembered for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It was all this weird documentary footage and this eerie narrator who sounds like the scary guy from “Frontline”. He said “Close Encounters of the First Kind” and you’re seeing these weird images of something in the sky, and he said “Sightings”. Then “Close Encounters of the Second Kind” and then you saw this weird footage of a footprint and they said “Evidence”. Then “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and then you wouldn’t see anything and the music was just building and it said “Contact” and it cut to black. We were like, ” what was that! I gotta see that, what the hell was that?” You didn’t know who was in it, and before that trailer you didn’t even know what “Close Encounters” meant. That was an exciting thing, you had a sense of discovery. So when we were making this movie we knew what our release date was and if we finished our trailer by a certain point we could get it on “Transformers.” We had a unique opportunity to make a trailer in that spirit. We thought this could be a throwback and allow people to discover what the movie is for the first time. We thought we’d have the short little teaser and have people say, “oh, what was that?” What we didn’t expect was that by doing what we did people would go CRAZY and that there’d be all this internet speculation. That was a total surprise, and in fact we turned to each other and said, “oh my God, this is too much too soon… this is only July and the movie comes out in January! We better shut up or people are going to be deadly sick of us by the time it comes out.” It was very exciting, we were only a week-and-a-half into shooting and already people were coming up with theories. I would come home from shooting and read these theories and that was actually a great way to unwind after shooting at night every day. When we were mixing the teaser trailer we wanted to indicate that it was a creature. We put in animal sounds and decided it still wasn’t enough. So at the end of the mix, the last 10-minutes, I jumped up in front of the mic and yelled “I saw it, it’s alive, it’s huge!” I came home one day and there was this whole thing with audio spectral analysis, playing back my voice and everybody was convinced that I said “It’s a lion!” instead of “It’s alive!”. I thought, “How can anyone think it’s a lion?” That kind of stuff was going on every day, and it was exhilarating and terrifying, ’cause we hadn’t even finished making the movie yet, and we were excited about the movie, but we didn’t know if our movie could compete with all these crazy movies that people were coming up with that were so fun! CS: There were definitely a lot of weird things being put forward as “fact”. One widely circulated drawing depicted the monster as a giant mutated whale. Reeves: I know! That is fantastic, and I wonder if people see that and think “my God that’s gonna be the lamest movie of all time” or do they think “that’s cool”? I have no idea. The other thing I loved is I would go online and see FULL REVIEWS of the movie, in detail, all of it completely fabricated, and I think “what do people get out of this? They make up a whole story…” That’s the thing with the internet, you can print something and nobody can tell you if it’s true or not. There was crazy stuff that went up… the whales, there was Stay-Puft Marshmallow stuff, some rumor about it being a bunny. It was fantastic to read. CS: What were the specific visual inspirations for YOUR monster? Reeves: We hired this guy Neville Page to design the monster, and he is a genius. We would go into his office and he would have what I affectionately referred to as his “Wall of Terror”. On the wall were all sorts of bits of color, and as you got closer suddenly your interest turned to revulsion because those pictures were like pictures of intestines and eyeballs and pieces of animals. What he was doing was having a biological, evolutionary basis for every aspect of the creature. That was really cool because there are parts of the monster that can do things that we actually didn’t have a place for in the movie, that’s how thoroughly designed he was. The key to it is that the monster was a baby. The monster was suffering from separation anxiety and was absolutely disoriented and pissed, “where’s mommy?”, and terrified. That was the most important aspect of the creature. Not only was he furious and in a rage but he was scared, because to me there’s nothing scarier than something huge that’s spooked. If you’re at the circus and the elephants are going nuts you don’t want to be near them. We talked with Neville about the idea of how when a horse gets spooked you see the whites under the bottom of its eye. He fleshed out those sort of details. We talked about wanting the monster to be different in that it was white. All these different aspects which were important to us. It developed in many different ways and it came down to what Neville was doing which was amazing. CS: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project, “The Invisible Woman”, and what audiences can expect from it? Reeves: Sure! She’s not invisible, it’s not a genre film in that sense. It is a kind of Hitchcockian thriller of sorts. It’s basically about a woman who’s incredibly desperate and she feels like she is invisible. It takes place on Long Island in New York. She’s a housewife and a mother and she’s got herself in a terribly desperate situation. I’ve read a lot of cases like this that are real, it’s a strange phenomenon of people getting so desperate that they turn to robbing banks. This woman watches the neighborhood kids and goes out and nobody knows that she’s robbing banks. I read about one family that robbed banks together, like the two daughters went in and the mother was driving the getaway car. They’re people just like you and me, they’ve just mismanaged their personal situation so badly that they get terribly desperate. So this woman feels very alone and if she tells her husband the situation she’s gotten them into financially she’s going to lose her family, so it turns into this Hitchcockian thing where someone finds out what they’re doing. CS: Any possibilities for a “Cloverfield” sequel? Reeves: This was so fun ’cause we’d never done anything like it, and I think we’d want to find a similar challenge, to find a way to have its roots in this but be fresh and new, otherwise you’re just repeating yourself. There’s a moment on the Brooklyn Bridge, and there was a guy filming something on the side of the bridge, and Hud sees him filming and he turns over and he sees the ship that’s been capsized and sees the headless Statue of Liberty, and then he turns back and this guy’s briefly filming him. In my mind that was two movies intersecting for a brief moment, and I thought there was something interesting in the idea that this incident happened and there are so many different points of view, and there are several different movies at least happening that evening and we just saw one piece of another. That idea sort of tickled me. We’ll have to see if anyone would want a sequel. If the movie does well and we find a compelling reason to do so then it would be fun to do a sequel. Did you see the thing in the last shot? In the final shot there’s a little something, and I don’t wanna say what it is. The final shot before the titles. The stuff at Coney Island, there’s a little something there and I don’t want to give it away ’cause the fun is sort of to find it, but I will say this: there’s a funny thing, you look at the shot and until you see it you don’t see it and you really don’t see it and obviously you don’t ’cause none of you have seen it, but once you see it you’ll never stop seeing it. CS: It’s the thing dropping in the water, right? Reeves: Ahh, you saw it. Cloverfield is now playing everywhere, destroying all box office records in its path with little to no concern for property damage.