Capone trades vampire stories with LET ME IN caretakers Richard Jenkins and Kodi Smit-McPhee!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
This interview with the males in the life of young vampire Abby in the Matt Reeves-directed LET ME IN, the defiantly lovely remake of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, was conducted back in July at San Diego Comic-Con, prior to my seeing the film. At the time, Harry had just seen the film in advance of its selection as the opening-night offering at Fantastic Fest, and he was justifiably raving about it. I'd spoken with Reeves back in March, not long after he finished shooting LET ME IN, at the SXSW Film Festival, and his descriptions of how he had handled the material encouraged me that his film would be different enough to stand on its own but similar enough to maintain the high standards of the original.
At Fantastic Fest, Quint did a great interview with Reeves and the young male star of LET ME IN Kodi Smit-McPhee, but I got a chance to chat with him off the record (as he promised we would back in March) about my thoughts on the film, most of which are bordering on glowing). He had dozens of questions about my feelings on his work, and I answered them honestly (many of my points I made in my review of the film). It was one of the most frank discussions I've ever had with a filmmaker, and I want to thank him publicly for taking the time out of his clearly busy schedule to chat and listen.
Okay, back to the interview at hand. You all know Richard Jenkins, the recently Oscar-nominated actor for THE VISITOR, which he received after a decades-long career as a familiar character actor. Most recently, he played Richard from Texas in EAT PRAY LOVE, making him one of the only things worth watching in that movie. In LET ME IN, he plays the Abby's devoted but weary caretaker. In the role of Abby's new friend and the central character in LET ME IN is the 14-year-old Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, best known up to this point as "Boy" in last year's THE ROAD, opposite Viggo Mortensson. What's interesting is that these two have almost no scenes together in LET ME IN, yet they have a rapport that reminded me of a young man and his grandfather. They were great fun to chat with. Please enjoy Jenkins and Smit-McPhee.
Capone: So I actually spoke to Matt [Reeves] about the film back in March when he just showed up at SXSW to do interviews. He did a pretty good job of convincing me that this movie was worth remaking, the story was worth retelling. One of the things I find interesting as I happen to have the two of you here is that you are playing the same sort of person at two very different ends of their "career," I guess. It’s a fascinating dynamic.
Richard Jenkins: I do portend the future, yes. You know, hopefully it will turn out a little bit better for him. I was just like you. That was important to Matt that, and he said to me, “What do you think this guy’s life was like when he was Owen’s age?”
Capone: I was going to ask you if you'd thought about that.
RJ: And this boy is trapped in this life. There is no way out. It’s just absolute and it’s very sad to have a young kid trapped and without hope [in his home life], so that’s where I assumed I was, in kind of the same situation, or in a situation where it was better to do anything to get out. And I was also in love.
Capone: I was going to ask about that too. Do you think that your character, when he was much younger, was in love with this creature?
RJ: You will see.
Kodi Smit-McPhee: He's just taking away all of your questions, isn’t it?
Capone: Yeah he is, but it’s good. It means I’m asking the right ones, I think.
RJ: You’ll see. I really shouldn’t answer that, because it’s pretty clear in the film.
Capone: That’s something that’s not exactly tapped into in the Swedish very, so that’s good to know.
RJ: Yeah, somebody was important to Matt.
Capone: [To Kodi] What about you? You do have scenes together, right? Near the beginning?
KSM: Yes, some.
Capone: You knew making this that eventually your character was going to turn into a version of Richard's.
KSM: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. I think it’s cool, because you are seeing kind of a mirror image of what’s happening like it’s reliving his life, like you said, but he’s reliving his life, kind of. I can understand that he sees this kid growing into what he is, so really it’s kind of a domino effect throughout the whole movie. It’s like a cycle. But yeah, I think it’s cool. It’s very abstract and he sees not only that I’m getting very close to Abby or what was the little girl’s name in the original one?
KSM: I’m very close to her, but I’m living the same life he did when he was a kid, and that’s probably why he sees her, because he sees that I was just like him.
Capone: Did Matt also want to play up with you that love-story angle? That first love, coming-of-age thing?
KSM: Yeah, well obviously Owen doesn’t understand anything of what was going on. He thought he was the dad and he just sees that she’s kind of living the same life he thinks, the parents passed away, so they can relate and like Richard said, they are both kind of trapped in their own world and they cant get out of it, and he’s doing the same thing everyday, going to school, getting bullied. So having something different to come home to that you can look forward to, not seeing your mum drunk on the couch every night crying, it definitely lightened him up, and as their relationship goes longer, they see that they like each other a bit more, but Abby holds back because she knows everything about what’s going on.
Capone: And I remember that in the original that she does almost sort of do this reluctantly, or at least it seems that way, at first.
KSM: Right, she wants to, but she can’t quite ask for it.
Capone: She likes you enough that she doesn’t want you to necessarily get trapped in that life. Whereas you [Richard] are just her slave, basically.
RJ: Maybe it was that way with me too, but you make a choice to do this, and then we started thinking “Can I even write?” “Can I spell?” I mean, I left school when I was 12 years old, I haven’t been back to school, I’ve been, as they say, “On the road” running and going from one town to the next for 50-some years.
Capone: I got this package in the mail, maybe you heard about these…
RJ: That's mine!
Capone: I know, that’s why I said I got this blood-caked funnel
RJ: Could I have it back?
Capone: I wish brought it. I would have had you sign it.
KSM: What happened?
RJ: They sent them a funnel that…
KSM: That you drain the blood into?
Capone: But it’s a bloody funnel in an evidence bag.
KSM: That’s beautiful.
Capone: And it’s got stuff written on it and it’s got the date sometime in the '80s.
RJ: It’s pretty cool.
Capone: Yeah and It doesn’t say anywhere where it’s from. It looks like you’ve gotten some package by mistake.
RJ: That’s great.
Capone: [To Kodi] Have you ever seen one of Richard’s movies?
KSM: As soon as I met him, I was like “Wow.” My brother did the same thing, like everything he's been in goes through your head. I guess the last one I would remember would be STEP BROTHERS.
Capone: I just came from talking to Will [Ferrell], actually.
RJ: Are they over there?
Capone: Oh yeah, they haven’t even done THE OTHER GUYS panel yet. It starts in about 15 minutes or so.
RJ: They will be there for a while.
KSM: But I can definitely admire the stuff that he has done, because it’s cool. You don’t get it a lot that, you can see someone in a comedy, but then you can accept them in a serious movie, because if you see someone who has done a comedy movie and then you see them trying to do something serious, you kind of can’t take from that, but it’s cool.
Capone: Did you see Kodi in THE ROAD?
RJ: It broke my heart. Well Viggo and I have been friends for a while, and I know he was just crazy about him and yeah I did see it and he just breaks your heart in it.
Capone: Kodi, will you ever make a movie where you get to smile?
KSM: [laughs] I’m asking myself that these days. I would like to do a comedy soon.
RJ: But look at that kisser. By the way, he has grown about a foot since the last time I saw him.
RJ: I’m not the first to say that.
KSM: A million people said it.
RJ: He walked in the room and I looked and I was like “Who is this tall kid?”
KSM: Some people were saying it and then I was like “You’re just saying that, because I’m 14 now.” Then I met up with my sister and I'm her height now, so I’m like “Okay, this is weird.”
RJ: You have really grown a lot.
Capone: Yeah, but I think a lot of people started paying attention to you because of THE VISITOR, and I had a really great conversation with [writer-director] Tom [McCarthy] actually. Did you come through Chicago with that film? Or maybe you came to SXSW in Austin, and somehow I managed to miss you.
RJ: I’m from the Chicago area.
Capone: Are you? It seems like you are busier than you have ever been. You have got movies on top of movies.
RJ: [Knock on the table] Yeah, I know. Somebody just said to me on the phone, “If you died, we wouldn’t know it until 2014.” [Laughs] It’s been good. I’ve got no complaints.
Capone: You’ve got EAT PRAY LOVE coming out soon and then maybe one day CABIN IN THE WOODS will come out. [Writer] Joss Whedon was talking about it yesterday.
KSM: Is THE VISITOR out? What’s that about?
RJ: THE VISITOR is a little interesting drama.
Capone: Let's not undersell it. You got an Oscar nomination for that
RJ: I did, yes. [to Kodi] It’s like STEP BROTHERS.
Capone: It’s exactly the same.
RJ: Then I did RUM DIARY with Johnny Depp.
KSM: Johnny Depp?
KSM: Wow. He’s great.
RJ: HALL PASS with the Farrelly Brothers.
Capone: That’s right, and you have worked with them before, so yeah busier than ever like I said.
RJ: It’s been really good.
Capone: Had either of you seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN when you were first approached?
RJ: I have seen it since.
KSM: So have I.
Capone: Yeah. Did you kind of get precious about it, the way a lot of people did?
RJ: No, I didn’t even know there was a film when I said yes to this one, so I just read the book before I did the movie, and then I did the movie, and then I saw the other movie and it’s great. I mean it’s really great, but you have seen both right?
RJ: You saw ours the other night. There are a lot of similarities. Same story, but Matt goes and edited a different way, wouldn’t you say?
KSM: Yeah, he just adds a lot of stuff I think.
RJ: I really loved the movie though.
Capone: I’ve actually heard from a couple people who have seen the film say there are some choices Matt has made that are actually better and help to clarify things better than the original.
RJ: Well you know, I think it’s a thing if he saw it and saw that he wanted to say something. As good as it was, to have the nerve to say, “There’s something in here that I want to mine,” and I think he really connected with Owen’s character. And he really put it in his time growing up. He was a lonely kid, I think.
KSM: He said he could relate to Owen a lot and so could the guy who wrote it.
RJ: Now & Laters, that’s what Matt ate as a kid, so it was really personal for him, and I hadn’t seen it, but I bet you it comes off that way.
KSM: And also, he said the film was already going to get a remake, and Matt said, "I don't think you should remake it," and they were actually going to go older with the kids and he said “You shouldn’t do that.”
Capone: I think that was a fear that a lot of people had.
KSM: Then he ended up doing it and he said the whole thing also behind the whole vampire thing, those gears were turning behind it that was really about these 12-year-old kids growing up and having tough lives and the whole vampire thing is just a… what would you call it? A mask or something?
KSM: Something to say what’s happening.
Capone: It’s sort of a metaphor for angst-ridden adolescence.
KSM: Right, a metaphor.
RJ: The movie is sad. I think it’s very sad. It’s not just a scary story. I said to him, “What have you learned from doing this?" And what you learn from this movie is, you don’t want to be a vampire.” [laughs] This is not a life you want to pursue. It maybe the most depressing thing in the world.
Capone: There’s not a lot of joy in it.
[Matt Reeves walks into the room for another interview]
KSM: Like I was saying to Matt before…
RJ: If we'd had a real director…
Capone: A director that would show me a movie that I wrote about back in March, who would not show me his movie, even though my boss has seen it.
Matt Reeves: What?!
Capone: Good to see you again, Matt.
Matt Reeves: Hey! How are you?
Matt Reeves: What didn’t I show you?
Capone: The movie!
Matt Reeves: You’ll see it soon, I promise! Oh, that's right Harry just saw it. What did he think?
Capone: He loved it. He says there are things you have done that he thinks are better than the first and he loves it. And all I could think of was, “Wow, I did that interview with him for a half an hour and I hadn’t even seen the movie.”
RJ: The thing about Matt is he has no loyalty.
Capone: It’s so true.
Matt Reeves: That’s true! [laughs]
RJ: Halfway through the shoot, there was another guy he was going to replace me with, but my contract was binding.
Capone: I’ve got to say, when they said that you were cast in this role, I forgot the face of the poor actor that play him in the original, because you guys look, in my mind a lot a like, and it’s one of the best casting or recasting that I’ve seen.
RJ: Well that’s interesting, because when I saw it I went “This guy is really good. I’m glad I waited until I shot the film to watch the original,” but I’m not in it that much. It’s these guys movie.
KSM: But he means a lot. You could have someone that’s not in the film that much, but they can be the main character of the whole thing driving it.
RJ: Yeah, but it was fun. I did it, because I read it and I just loved the story.
Capone: Talk about Chloe [Moretz] a bit, because she’s completely not represented today, but there that initial strangeness of the both relationships with her that it takes your mind a while to get used to realize it’s not creepy.
RJ: Beautifully handled by Matt, because it was a concern of mine, you know? It’s just not what I need at this time in my life.
Capone: You want to keep working, yeah.
RJ: “Do you have grandkids?” “No, I don’t…” But he was great, wasn’t he? He really handled your guys' relationship really well. I found watching it that it was very intimate, the set was very intimate, very quiet except when they said “Cut,” then these two would start screwing around. They had fun. They are kids, you know, so they should have fun, but I thought he handled it really well.
Capone: Kodi, what do you remember? Did you connect with her almost right away?
KSM: The first time we met, we had a meeting with Matt and Chloe’s mum and me, and yeah we connected that day, and they showed us around the set of Owen's house and they were still making her house. So while we were doing the film, it was amazing to see the process of her acting was pretty much the same as mine, as she makes a whole life for the character and tries to make it kind of real. So yeah it’s cool to see someone else, especially my age doing the same thing as me. It’s cool.
Capone: You don’t normally act with people your own age, right?
KSM: No, it was pretty awesome working with someone my age through the whole thing.
Capone: Yeah, did your parents let you see KICK-ASS? Have you seen that?
KSM: Yeah, pretty much seen all that stuff.
RJ: He saw STEP BROTHERS.
Capone: That’s true.
KSM: My dad is an actor and my sister is an actor and my mum just keeps us all kind of sane, I guess.
Capone: Did that floor you? Were you like “Wow, that’s her?”
KSM: Yeah, I actually didn’t know she had such a big part. I saw in the end that the whole thing was on her shoulders and well, she’s good, and yeah KICKASS is definitely a one-of-a-kind movie. From the commercials it’s nothing what you think. I saw it and was like “Wow.”
Capone: Richard, you listed a bunch of things that you’ve got coming out that you shot already, but do you have anything interesting that you’ve got lined up for the near future?
KSM: Yes, Richard, do you?
RJ: I’m starting a movie called FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS with Justin Timberlake.
Capone: Right. That's already shooting, right?
RJ: I play his dad. Just started shooting that.
KSM: Where are they shooting that?
RJ: New York and L.A., yeah. I’m doing that and that’s it.
Capone: Literally like the first day of shooting, those photos came out of Justin and Mila Kunis shooting that film.
RJ: Those guys are always around him. It's unbelievable. But I haven’t started shooting yet. I start right after I leave here.
Capone: That’s Will Gluck directing, right?
RJ: Will Gluck, yeah.
Capone: Yeah, I liked FIRED UP and I’ve heard good things about EASY A too.
RJ: With Stanley [Tucci], yeah, he just finished that. Our film is really smart. The script is really good. It’s a really smart script and I play his day, who has Alzheimer’s, but it’s kind of funny.
Capone: All right, what about you Kodi?
KSM: I’m doing an animation right now, it’s called PARANORMAN and when I read the script, I thought it was going to be something kid friendly, but it turns out it’s not really. It’s an adult cartoon I guess you could call it. It’s going to be in stop motion and will be out in 2012.
Capone: Who’s directing that? Is it Australian or is it American?
KSM: The two guys, the director and the producer are English, so I guess they’ve been working on it for a while, and they came to America to do it. It’s about this young boy, kind of like Owen, although he can see ghosts and he saves the world from a zombie invasion. That’s the only difference.
RJ: You kind of help the zombie invasion in this one.
KSM: Yeah. But yeah that should be fun.
Capone: What is MATCHING JACK?
KSM: MATCHING JACK is a movie I did in Australia.
Capone: Right. It has some pretty cool people in it, from what I remember.
KSM: Yeah, Jimmy, who is from Ireland and I had to do an Irish accent in it.
Capone: Nesbitt, right?
KSM: Yeah, James Nesbitt. He’s awesome. And I did that, it’s about a young boy with cancer.
Capone: Still no smiling.
KSM: I know!
RJ: Can you smile?
[Kodi smiles to reveal a mouth full of braces.]
KSM: It’s my vibe. But the film is about this young boy that tries to slowly tell this other boy that gets leukemia about cancer and the chances of living and stuff, and my character doesn’t have such good luck. But in the end it’s good, because he passes everything he knows to the other boy and he lives and gets on with his life.
Capone: I’ve seen an Australian release date, is there any hope that that will make it here?
KSM: Well 20th Century Fox is producing it, so I think it is coming here.
Capone: That’d be good.
RJ: I’m going to plug two little bitty movies. One’s called WAITING FOR FOREVER that James Keach directed that has been shown at some festivals and doesn’t have a distributor yet. And the other is NORMAN. It’s real cool. It’s about a kid whose father is dying of cancer, and he is picked on in high school and he tells people he has cancer, and people start treating him differently. It's such a great script. It was at the Maui Film Festival and it was at the Waterfront Film Festival. I hear some really good things. I heard it’s good.
Capone: Who is the director?
RJ: Jonathon Segal is the director, yeah.
Capone: Who is the actor that’s playing the kid?
RJ: Dan Byrd. Emily VanCamp is in it. I hear it’s really good.
Capone: Okay. All right, thank you both. It was really great to finally meet you.
RJ: Nice to meet you.
KSM: Thanks. Have you been on the floor at Comic-Con yet?
Capone: I have. Were you planning on making the rounds?
KSM: I really would like to. I hope I have time.
Capone: You could probably get away without wearing a mask, too. Maybe not next year. Thanks, guys.
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Oct. 10, 2010, 4:18 p.m. CST
A beautiful film. Stands up to the original in every way, and in some ways, its even more enjoyable. Really a beautiful, sad, haunting masterpiece. Who would have thought the guy that made Cloverfield had it in him. And Chloe Moretz....she's going places. I expect to see her on film for many years to come. A really great movie. More people need to go see it. They fucked up the marketing huge, imo. Then again, I don't think its the kind of story most american audiences can appreciate or even really manage to understand. I saw it in manhattan and I could tell at least half the people really didn't understand why it was the way it was. They expected a completely different story. They laughed half the time too. Horrid.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:19 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Even fucking Vampires Suck made more money. It's a great MOVIE, as opposed to just a great remake. The remake snobs can smoke my pole.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:22 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Oct. 10, 2010, 5:14 p.m. CST
by Mr. Pricklepants
Oct. 10, 2010, 6:11 p.m. CST
It was the American film audience as usual. Seriously, if it doesn't have something to do with 'pop culture' in some kind of way than quiet, good movies will bomb!
Oct. 10, 2010, 6:14 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:19 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:22 p.m. CST
RJ: THE VISITOR is a little interesting drama. Capone: Let's not undersell it. You got an Oscar nomination for that <br> RJ: I did, yes. [to Kodi] It’s like STEP BROTHERS.<br><br>I laughed my ass off at that.
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:45 p.m. CST
Anyone who equates box office performance with the quality of a particular film has no place in this or any other Talkback, because you have zero sense of what a good or great movie truly is. Hey, guess what? MOON bombed last year. I'll punch anyone in the throat who says that was a shit movie. Meanwhile, pure shit lands at the top of the box office with alarming regularity. Sometimes good stuff lands at the top of the heap, but often it doesn't. These aren't original ideas I'm spouting, but let's get off the idea once and for all that box office success has anything to do with quality. Please.
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:51 p.m. CST
But somehow in my gut I did know. Watching him in the Visitor I just knew. There's something about actors from Chicago or the Midwest where someone from there can just tell. I don't know what it is. I'd say there's an accent, but none of think we have an accent,so that's not it.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:06 p.m. CST
by Orbots Commander
I don't think anybody is equating box office to quality. What I think people ARE getting at is if good movies don't just under-perform, but totally tank, as in only two people per auditorium attendance, it's that much harder for good movies to get made. It's an observation. <p> BTW, I really enjoyed Let Me In. I had a day off of work last week, and caught that and Social Network back to back. Jenkins, McPhee and even more, Chloe Moretz--- are jaw dropping, scarily fantastic in this.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:08 p.m. CST
by Orbots Commander
The "Owen, I'm not a girl" line launched peals of laughter and clapping from a gaggle of high-schoolers.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:17 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
THAT would have shut those teenagers up.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:17 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Actually better than the original's version of how Eli/Abby's guardian gets caught.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:22 p.m. CST
After seeing Into the Void which will fail at the box office, but is truly a unique and powerful cinematic experience.... Can I get into the remake of Let the Right One In? It's still an iteration of a movie that was great. I might prefer Cloverfield! Which I liked quite a bit as the best depiction of a dream logic nightmare of a monster attacking a city story.
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:07 p.m. CST
but, could she pull off elegant?
Oct. 11, 2010, 12:49 a.m. CST
pure shit movies, though. Like those Bay Transformers.
Oct. 11, 2010, 4:49 a.m. CST
Get over it, no one gives a shit about Matt Reeves.
Oct. 11, 2010, 6:15 a.m. CST
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed make movies. <P> He is a bad man.
Oct. 11, 2010, 6:37 a.m. CST
That is all.
Oct. 11, 2010, 7:07 a.m. CST
'would never say those things out loud in public'. <p> Common fundamental error...yes it's a public forum..but its NOT OUT IN THE STREET..just a website <p> Try to get that into your head <p> idiot. <p> ;-P
Oct. 11, 2010, 1:15 p.m. CST
audiences have stayed away in droves. what did the studio expect spending ANY money on this? a quality horror movie with good actors and an interesting story? what the hell? cue more torture porn prequels requels sequels remakes reimaginings and STAT! SAW 7 !!!!!
Oct. 11, 2010, 1:21 p.m. CST
PARANORMAN to NOT get made, a stop motion movie? Haven't we learned from failure after failure that the stop motion movie industry is a dead end and these movies don't make money? hopefully someone will smarten up and cancel the project the same way that santa clause biography movie and the one about a giant will never see the light of day! when will people figure out that animation, stop motion are both dead ends? CGI is the only animation anyone cares about and wants to see! IN 3D !!!!
Oct. 11, 2010, 1:42 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:28 p.m. CST
Easily one of the best movies Ive seen in a while...shame it didn't make more $$...I hate when all the crap movies make $$
Oct. 11, 2010, 11:45 p.m. CST
I liked it a lot, but it was basically the same movie as the original. Admit it, you know it's true.
Oct. 12, 2010, 12:40 a.m. CST
I own both the original on Blue Ray and the novel. I was so ready to hate on this film, but it turned out to be one of the best remakes ever. It nailed it... but it's a shame no one went and saw it.
Oct. 12, 2010, 6 a.m. CST
This is just my opinion. I think the movie did so poorly because there is not one single sympathetic character in the film. Abby is a brutal remorseless killer so you can't really like her. SPOILER: .... Owen watches Abby attack and kill his neighbours and does nothing about it and worse he actually helps her kill a policeman. So you can't really root for him. .... Obviously you can't root for the Richard Jenkins character because he spends all of his time killing teenage boys or at least trying to. By the way. Why does he only attack teenage boys? It doesn't make any sense in the context of this movie. His character is not a pedophile like he was in the swedish movie and Abby is a girl and not a castrated boy as in the original film so an attraction to boys doesn't seem to be a motive. Wouldn't killing girls be easier? The killing method is just stupid and highly implausible by the way. Anyway, back to my points. In the Swedish movie only one of the bullies was sympathetic. He didn't participate in the final assault of Oscar and his life was spared at the end because of it. In this movie all of the bullies at one point show a bit of remorse at certain points but none are spared, which leads you back to Abby being a brutal monster killer. Most audiences like a hook, someone you can root for but this movie didn't give you anyone.