IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fran Kranz Talks 'The Cabin in the Woods'

Wednesday, 11 April 2012 13:00 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fran Kranz Talks 'The Cabin in the Woods'

Finally opening in theaters on April 13th is the long awaited horror film from writer/producer Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and writer/director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost) called The Cabin in the Woods. The film was first shot in 2009 but due to MGM’s file for bankruptcy in 2010 the movie’s release was up in the air until Lionsgate picked up the film early last year. The film finally had its premiere last month at the South by Southwest film festival and has been praised by fans and critics alike as being a “game changer” for the genre and on par with classic horror films like Evil Dead II.

On the surface the premise is not unusual for the genre, five stereotypical college friends go to a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation and are terrorized by scary creatures. However, The Cabin in the Woods has a mind-blowing secret that audiences will soon discover, which may change the way they look at the film. With Whedon and Goddard behind the scenes, two of the men that helped create groundbreaking television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost; you know to expect the unexpected. This isn’t your daddy’s horror film! The movie stars several actors familiar to Whedon fans including Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers), Fran Kranz (TV’s Dollhouse), and Amy Acker (TV’s Angel), as well as Kristen Connolly (TV’s The Good Wife), Anna Hutchison (TV’s Go Girls), Jesse Williams (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), Brian White (Brick), Bradley Whitford (TV’s West Wing), and Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). The movie also features a surprise appearance from a legendary genre performer that adds an extra level of authenticity to the film.

I recently had a chance to speak with actor Fran Kranz who plays Marty, the resident stoner amongst the unassuming group of college kids, in The Cabin in the Woods. The actor discussed the new movie, its delay, his typical yet unique character, how he got the part, his initial reaction to first reading the script, the movie’s unexpected twists and turns, working with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, The Evil Dead, and the film’s surprise cameo appearance.


Here is what he had to say:

IAR: To begin with, I know that The Cabin in the Woods is a film that’s release date has been delayed for a while due to several different reasons. In fact, actor Chris Hemsworth has had the time to play Thor in two different films since you first shot this one …


Fran Kranz: What’s Chris been doing? (Laughing)

Oh, you haven't heard?

Kranz: I was worried about Chris. I didn't think he was doing very well.

No, I think he's got something in the works, but I’m not sure.


Kranz: I thought he was bussing tables back in Melbourne.

Well, I think it was a little touch and go for him for a while but he’s doing better now.


Kranz: Well good to hear. I was not aware of this, but that's cool.

Back to my question, as an actor, does a delay in the release of your film bother you? You must have been excited for the movie to originally come out and disappointed that it’s taken so long, so how do you feel now that the movie is actually being released and fans will finally have a chance to see it?

Kranz: We shot back in 2009 and I definitely had moments where I kind of felt like I was a little embarrassed to still be talking about The Cabin In The Woods. I just loved the movie so much. I loved my part, I thought we did a great job, I loved the experience and I made friends. I just believed in the script. I believed in the movie and for it to be delayed I just didn't get it, no matter what happened. I don't know all the details necessarily, but I kept talking about it saying, when The Cabin In The Woods comes out it'll be really awesome. You guys are going to love this movie. I think it's really cool. Other people would say, “Fran, you're crazy, get over it, and move on.” I kind of had my moments where I did feel like the crazy guy in the room that's still talking about The Cabin In The Woods, but I knew it was too good. Eventually Lionsgate bought it and I think everything's worked out for the best. I mean movies always take a while, but there's definitely a unique situation in everything that happened. I'm happy where it is. I think Lionsgate gets the movie and that's the most important thing, everyone is honestly seeing this movie because they love it. I really love the movie. I know obviously Drew and Joss are really happy with it and all of us really like it. For it to end up at a place like Lionsgate, which is really proud of it as well and I think has such high hopes for it, I think it all worked out for the best. It's weird because like I said, I thought about it so much during this time that it now kind of feels like yesterday. In many ways it's a little surreal with seeing commercials and the poster around cities, but the truth is it's been a part of me since the first day I read the script. Now it's finally coming out and I'm just so happy.


Releasing the film this week seems almost serendipitous with The Avengers opening in less than a month and so much attention on Chris and Joss right now. It’s sort of perfect timing isn’t it?

Kranz: That timing is amazing. Joss is going to have a killer year and Chris obviously will too. I think that Snow White and the Huntsman is just around the corner as well? All joking aside, Chris is Thor! He's a big deal. Chris Hemsworth … you know, I love that guy. He's one of my favorite people on the planet now. But he wasn’t Thor when we were filming this movie. You know, I talk to my friends and family when I’m working on stuff and they obviously ask how's it going, how's the cast, and do you like everyone? I remember early on saying, this kid Chris Hemsworth is a movie star! Then I think two months into filming he got the role of Thor and also a role in Red Dawn. So it's no surprise to me where he is now. The timing of it's fantastic! We're opening on April 13th, Friday the 13th, which is very cool. I'm doing Death of a Salesman on Broadway right now, and that's just super exciting. It sort of has worked out in this wonderful way. Hopefully the good stuff is just beginning you know what I mean?

The film is not your average horror movie; it has lots of unexpected twists and turns. So what were your first impressions when you originally read the script? Did you anticipate the story unfolding in all of the different directions that it does?

Kranz: It's funny because I was working on Dollhouse with Joss Whedon so I already had a good idea of what he was capable of. Just because it was a horror film, I knew that it wasn't going to be your typical horror film because it was Joss Whedon. Then you add Drew Goddard to the mix and I'd seen Cloverfield and loved it. I hadn't seen Lost, but obviously it was one of those hit shows that just sort of permeated everyone's life in a way. I knew that it was good, and I knew that it was original and all that. So I had really high expectations for the script to be honest, but it blew my mind. It exceeded my expectations. It far exceeded them from the first page. Everyone says this movie has got a twist and you don't want to spoil it and there is a secret to The Cabin in the Woods. Those are all great things. Those are all cool things to have with a movie that you’re in, but the truth is it's just not one twist, it's not one secret. It's plural. There's so much the movie has to offer and it escalates it. The very first scene is not something you'd expect. The opening shot makes you wonder why this movie's called The Cabin In The Woods. That's the way it was in the script. What you see is what was written so I was already kind of blown away. I remember by page ten that I wanted to be in the movie. It was so good so quickly, but by the end it was kind of just jaw droppingly awesome and I couldn't even believe it. I just really wanted to be a part of it. I was very lucky to get to read the script before I got the part, but in a weird way I think I was unlucky because I did not have the part yet and I knew if I did not get it, it would just be heartbreaking because I love the movie so much. So I was kind of on pins and needles for weeks during the audition process because I was still working with Joss (on Dollhouse) and he wanted me to do my best. But ultimately it was a studio film and the studio had to sign off on all of the casting. So I knew Joss and Drew really loved me for the part, but sometimes these things go to a movie star. You know, anything can happen until you're on set filming. It was kind of a brutal waiting period, but it all worked out and honestly I think it's one of the best scripts I'd ever read. I think we did a good job with the movie. I'd go so far as to say it's one of my favorite movies too.

You mentioned the film’s many secrets and twists, and I certainly don’t want to give anything away but I wanted to ask you about a legendary genre film performer that makes an unbilled appearance in a scene with you at the end of the movie? Can you talk about working with that person or is their casting one of the film’s secrets that you want to protect?

Kranz: I can't talk about it until the movie comes out. I’m so bad at this stuff so I’m encouraged just to not talk about it because I can get into lots of trouble. But I'll tell you this, every cast member was amazing and I loved working with everyone.


Fair enough. The five lead characters in the film, the kids that go to the cabin, are all sort of stereotypes of characters that we’ve seen time and time again in horror films. Obviously that was done for a reason, can you talk about your character, Marty, his stereotype and how he may or may not actually fit into that horror film mold?

Kranz:
At this point I should've done my homework and picked up the dictionary, but I sort of look at it as like they’re archetypes that play against the stereotypes of those stock characters. What I do believe is that we all play into those and against them. That was one of Joss and Drew's ideas, that while we think we know these characters, they're not what they appear to be. Chris Hemsworth plays Curt and he's sort of the jock, but yet the stereotypical jock would be the guy that would cheat in class or get some nerd to do his homework and all he's all concerned about is the big game. You see Chris at one point wearing the letterman jacket and he just looks like that guy from a horror film, but at the same time, early on in the movie he's telling the girls which book to read because the professor always takes his tests from this book. So you know he clearly is that guy but he's on full academic scholarship. The ditsy blonde is not actually a blonde; she's just dyed her hair for the weekend. The virginal girl is actually having an affair with her teacher. The slacker stoner is actually more perceptive than he appears. He's actually seeing things for what they are. But I do know what you're saying. It's these things we've seen before, these stereotypes and troupes that we know, but we are having a little bit of fun with them and we're trying to turn them on their heads so you think about it differently in the context of what appears to be a very conventional scenario. But in terms of Marty, I had the best time playing him. I think it's always fun, just to be honest; it's always fun to play drunk, stoned or high. As an actor you're just allowed to make silly choices, have fun with it and we did a lot with that. Drew and Joss allowed me more so than the other actors just to improvise and have a little fun. I felt like I was the wild card, you know the stoner, the slacker guy, the 5th wheel, all those little roles and that I fit into the dynamic of the friendship with the five friends. I appear to be the guy that's going to die very quickly, if not first then probably second, or a long shot at third, but he's not making it very far. There's no doubt when you meet Marty that that's who he is and so we had a lot of fun with that because we wanted to take him as far as we could go while the audience still had him, so to speak. I did make some sort of bigger choices that often seem a little cartoonish, a little Shaggy (from Scooby-Doo), a little over the top and I thought it was okay because he's kind of a wild card. He is the guy that is suspicious of the surroundings, but he's also comic relief. He's a really dynamic character. There are a lot of stereotypes to Marty, but then there are a lot of things that sort of make your head turn and make you do a double take and that was a real gift of a role. But so much of it was just in the writing. I can't take a lot of credit for the performance because I got it so quickly. When I got the script I immediately sort of knew what they were going for. I could see the guy and that's really telling of great writing and I just thank them for it. I was really lucky to get to play that part and to take that journey because as you know he goes places you're not expecting. It's the best role I've ever had in a film.

Finally, were you a fan of The Evil Dead and the type of horror films that The Cabin in the Woods is emulating before you began shooting, or did you have to do some research into the genre?

Kranz: I love horror films. I love The Evil Dead. In fact I had actually never seen it until The Cabin In The Woods. When we got on set in Vancouver Drew gave us The Evil Dead I and II as kind of homework. He gave us Halloween, the first Friday the 13th, and The Descent, which I think was the most contemporary horror film he gave us. But he gave us these because he wanted us to see the films that he loved and what he thinks are great horror films. Our goal was to make a great horror film and put ourselves in that sort of canon, and celebrate the tradition of great horror films, which he felt had sort of been sidetracked and needed to be revitalized. The genre needed a kick in the ass and that's what we set out to do. I think we did a good job, but I am a fan. I love some weird horror films. I like Jaws, I like Event Horizon, and I love The Descent. I love the original Night of the Living Dead, which was a classic. I loved The Evil Dead and when I first saw it, I remember I watched it with Jesse (Williams) and we had the best time. At first we were all almost worried because we saw so much of our movie in The Evil Dead, but I think our movie goes into a completely different sort of stratosphere so I think we're okay. Actually the guy that shot Evil Dead II, Peter Deming, shot our film The Cabin In The Woods. So it was great to have someone actually there on set that had firsthand experience with such a classic horror film giving us guidance. It was very cool, but I'm a big fan of that one.

The Cabin in the Woods finally begins scaring audiences in theaters on April 13th.


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