IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Producer Jason Blum Talks ‘The Lazarus Effect,’ 'Jem and the Holograms' and 'The Purge 3'

Monday, 02 March 2015 18:39 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Producer Jason Blum Talks ‘The Lazarus Effect,’ 'Jem and the Holograms' and 'The Purge 3'

Producer Jason Blum is taking over Hollywood! 

After founding his company Blumhouse Productions in 2000, he went on to produce some of the most successful horror thrillers of the last fifteen years including the Paranormal Activity franchise, Sinister, The Purge, Insidious: Chapter 2, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Oculus, The Purge: Anarchy, Ouija, and The Boy Next Door. Not to mention that later this year Blumhouse will release the highly anticipated new movie Jem and the Holograms, which is based on the popular ‘80s cartoon. The super-producer also recently won an Emmy for his work on the HBO mini-series The Normal Heart, and was nominated for an Academy Award for producing Whiplash. But now, Blum returns to the genre he helped reinvent with the new horror film The Lazarus Effect, which opens in theaters on February 27th. 

In the new movie, which was directed by documentary filmmaker David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), a group of medical students discover a way to bring dead animals back to life. But when Zoe (Olivia Wilde) accidentally dies, her husband Frank (Mark Duplass) forces the group to help bring his wife back from the dead. While the experiment is successful, things become dangerous when they realize that Zoe’s personality has been altered. In addition to Wilde and Duplass, the film also stars Donald Glover (The To Do List), Sarah Bolger (In America), and Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past). 

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with producer Jason Blum to talk about his work on The Lazarus Effect, as well as Jem and the Holograms, and The Purge 3. The Academy Award-nominated producer discussed The Lazarus Effect, its cinematic influences, faith vs. science, his friendship with Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde’s difficult role, working with first time narrative filmmaker David Gelb, Blum’s role on set, the current status of Jem and the Holograms, and an update on the development of The Purge 3

Here is what Jason Blum had to say about The Lazarus Effect, Jem and the Holograms, and The Purge 3:

IAR: To begin with, The Lazarus Effect reminded me of several different classic films including Flatliners, Alien, Pet Cemetery, and even more recently Lucy. Can you talk about the potential that you saw in the screenplay and why you decided that you wanted to produce this project?

Jason Blum: I saw the same thing you did. I’m always looking for stuff that’s different and that feels newer, at least that we haven’t seen it for a while. So a movie we talked about a lot after we read the script was Flatliners. Hopefully if people go see it we will have reinvented it. But that’s why I wanted to make this movie. It is because it felt like it is a kind of movie we haven’t seen for some time.

Usually in a horror film when you are dealing with people coming back from the dead, it is because of one of two reasons. Either it has to do with religion and a demon or the devil has brought someone back from the dead, or it’s science that is responsible for raising the dead. But in The Lazarus Effect it’s both, can you talk about adding that unique twist on the genre to this film?

Blum: I think that the thing that makes movies scary is if they bring up issues that people feel strongly about. I use the example of Ouija. If you believe in Ouija boards, then fine. But there are a lot of people that say, “I don’t believe in Ouija boards and they seems ridiculous. I don’t want to play with Ouija boards because I don’t want to tempt fate.” I think there’s a lot to that. Everyone thinks there is life after death, and maybe there is but maybe there isn’t. But maybe if you tap into those feelings inside of people that will make the movie more relatable. The more relatable the movies are, the scarier they are. That’s my long answer to your short question.

One of the reasons that Flatliners was so popular was because it featured an ensemble of excellent but young actors that all went on to have fantastic careers. In putting together the cast for The Lazarus Effect, were you purposely trying to assemble the coolest group of young actors that you could find?

Blum: Yes. What got me to move the film from development to production was when David (Gelb) met with Olivia (Wilde) and Mark (Duplass). Both of them after those meetings called and said, “When do you want to do this.” I think we had Mark first and then we had Olivia. I think that’s how it worked, but I don’t remember who was first or second. David had only directed a documentary before so I was a on the fence about that. Both Mark and Olivia met with him and they both committed to the movie. That’s when I knew we had to make this movie and build it around the two of them and David. I don’t think this is true for every movie, but I think this movie would not have worked if they weren’t in these parts. I think a lot of the success of the movie has to do with the fact that they’re not people you would expect to be in this movie and they really make it all work.

Can you talk about casting actor Mark Duplass in the leading role? Since Duplass is an accomplished filmmaker in his own right, was it nice to know that he was on set incase something went wrong?

Blum: Not so much if something goes wrong, but that there will be someone else on the set that knows how production and directing a feature works. So if Dave needs advice, that there's someone there to lean on and that did give me a lot of comfort. I really think Mark is great at selling things that are very difficult to sell. Selling situations or lines. I think that he's a real every-man. People really relate to him. I think that's why his show (Togetherness) is so successful because you just feel like you're him. He feels like everybody's friend. I think that was crucial to have in this part. I offer him a lot of movies. I want to work with him again. But that was definitely a big part of how the movie came to be and putting him in that lead part was important to me.

Olivia Wilde has a very difficult role in the movie. The audience must connect with her character early in the film, so that once the twist happens, the audience is invested in her and can be truly scared when she changes from the protagonist to the antagonist. Can you talk about her performance in the movie?

Blum: It’s really hard and she embraced it. That's a hard thing to do. It's a hard thing for an actor to embrace this insane circumstance. The only way the movie is good is if she really believes she's fucking dead, that she came back to life, and is going to be a demon, which is a lot to believe. But she really did it and she sells it extremely well.

The Lazarus Effect marks documentary director David Gelb’s first fictional feature film. What made you think that he was the right person to direct this movie?

Blum: When the movie came to me he was already attached. I was very skeptical and I was really on the fence about him directing the movie. Then this other guy who has a production deal with us really went out on a limb and advocated for him. What got me over the edge was the fact that for Olivia and Mark, first of all they're doing a horror movie, second of all they're not getting paid up front, and third of all they're working with a first time director. So there were seven reasons for them to say no, and all these red flags. But then both of them met with David and said, “We're in!” That is when I really clicked with David. That's when I really felt like he knew what he was doing. Luckily he did, but you never really know until you get on the set. You never really know if you have a director who knows what they're doing until you get on the set. I've had the opposite experience too.

On a project like The Lazarus Effect, what's your role as a producer during production? 

Blum: My role is minimal. I really don't enjoy being on set. I find it incredibly boring. So I come to set two or three times and try to make it as short as possible. Then once it's rolling we let them go and then we get involved. We get very involved in post. We're very involved in prep and very involved in post. We're not that involved in production unless there's a problem, in which case we're very involved. Often times there are problems, hopefully not that big, but we have a couple of people from the company who were on the set all the time watching. We give a lot of information because we make so many scary movies. We have a lot of data and we give a lot of information to directors. We let them choose what they want to do or not do, but that's not to say that we don't give our opinion of what they should or shouldn't do. Ultimately we let them decide.  

How is post-production going on Jem and the Holograms?

Blum: I can't wait for you to see the movie. We're going to screen it a lot and we're going to screen it early. (Director) Jon Chu did such a great job. He's so passionate about it. He wrote the script totally on spec without owning the underlying rights. He just went all out. It's like the indie version of Pitch Perfect. That's kind of what it is. It's more the rise to stardom of Jem, but it's really fun. And it's not a period piece. There's Facebook.

Finally, I really enjoyed The Purge: Anarchy. Are you currently developing The Purge 3

Blum: Yes, it's in development. We have a script, and we have a treatment. It's a very detailed treatment, and a very detailed idea and aesthetic that James DeMonaco wrote. It's awesome. I'm still really hoping he directs it. I think we have a good shot, but he hasn't committed to directing yet. I'm hoping that he will. I really want him to direct it. It's important to me. If he doesn't direct it I'll find someone else to direct it and hopefully it will be someone great. As a writer/director when you create something you should kind of stick with it, especially an idea like The Purge. It's such a rich idea, and there are so many places to go with it. I think he should direct the third one, but we'll see.

Will we see returning characters from the previous films or will it be a completely standalone movie?

Blum: There will be some returning characters for sure.

The Lazarus Effect opens in theaters on February 27th. 

To read our exclusive interview with Evan Peters about The Lazarus Effect, please click here.

To read our exclusive interview with Mark Duplass about The Lazarus Effect, please click here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The Lazarus Effect was produced by Relativity Media, iamROGUE's parent company. 

Jem and the Holograms is scheduled for release on October 25th. 

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