Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I sure love Fantastic Fest, but man can that festival throw my schedule out of whack. I’m going to be spending as much of the coming week playing catch up on some articles that got log-jammed by awesome genre fare.
Starting with this interview with Fran Kranz about Cabin in the Woods, which hit Blu-Ray just as the festival was starting. I was able to get my chat with Kristen Connolly conducted, transcribed and posted before the fest and it’s pretty good (read it here), but I’m not done with the flick yet.
First up is Fran Kranz, who played the stoner character and unexpected hero. We cover a lot of ground in our limited phoner, including talk of his now famous bong, favorite monsters and just what the hell was on that 16mm film in the basement. Enjoy.
Quint: I was there at the big SXSW screening, at the premiere and…
Frank Kranz: Oh, man. I’m so jealous, I can’t even tell you. I was dying to get there. I was doing a play and I couldn’t get out. It was a good play, the one thing in the world that felt was even close to worth missing that premiere, but it sounded like it was the greatest party.
Quint: Yeah, it was great. That was my second time seeing the movie and I noticed that the audience always seems to lock on board with the reveal of that coffee mug transformer bong.
Frank Kranz: (laughs) Awesome!
Quint: I don’t know if you’ve found that to be true when you’ve watched the film with a crowd, but was that something you would have thought that would have been one of the movie’s big audience reaction moments?
Frank Kranz: That’s funny. Doing the scene is when I actually realized. When Drew (Goddard) actually composed that shot from behind the legs, behind me where you can see the zombie and looking up at a nice angle. It was like out of some western where we’re about to duel. It was a showdown, but with a coffee mug bong.
The way he composed it I knew what he was going for and I realized, “Okay, this is going to be a fantastic moment.” Reading the script, it’s obviously funny and all, but you weren’t sure exactly how it would play out or how much attention would be given to it. It could have been just a chaotic, messy fight where he’s swinging a bong around, but it was given its 15 minutes. The bong is definitely its own celebrity now.
At that point I knew it was going to be something, especially since it comes back to save the day. I figured in the best possible world that would be the reaction and it looks like we’re living it, which is great.
Quint: I mean, it was Austin, so the pot humor was going to work, but I love that even the very first introduction of it, when you turn it into a coffee mug, people were going nuts.
Frank Kranz: I’m so sorry I couldn’t have been there to see that all go down, but I can imagine. I get asked about it all the time. It definitely is a fan favorite, that thing. I’m not sure, but I think some people like the bong more than me. (laughs)
Quint: You’re going to signing those silver coffee mugs for the rest of your life. I hope you’re cool with that.
Frank Kranz: Yeah, yeah! It’s not bad. (laughs)
Quint: One of my favorite things about the film is that every character gets to be refreshing twist on the stereotype. You get to be the stoner guy that everybody expects to die first, but you actually get to be the hero of the movie. Can you talk a little bit about working within that character and working with Drew on the character?
Frank Kranz: For me, it was a gift of a role, to be able to play the comedic role, the joker, the fool, and to end up striving at being the action hero. To me that was a gift and a challenge.
In terms of turning the conventions on their heads, Drew Goddard was pretty adamant that we just play these characters as real as possible and that we really play it as five very close friends that find themselves in this awful situation. He felt that he would take care of the winking at the audience for us. Poking fun at the contrivances of the genre was his job and he wanted us to focus on playing each moment with purpose and honesty.
I think the actors were smart enough to know what level of humor to allow the performance to have, but for the most part everyone was trying to play it as honest as possible.
I’m sort of the wild card in that scenario, though. Because everyone assumes the stoner dies so early, I felt that I had the opportunity to play into that, so I could be a little bit over the top. I didn’t always have to be completely natural. I could have a lot more fun with the role than maybe the other actors could because it’s the kind of the guy you don’t expect to be around much longer, so he can be a bit bigger and broader.
Then, when I have the opportunity to come back, having undergone my heroic transformation, then you have the opportunity as an actor to play it more real with more honesty to the situation. It was sort of a challenge navigating that path, but I think it’s there in the script and I think it works in the movie and as an actor you can’t ask for me. I got the best of both worlds: I got to have fun and then got to play the hero.
Quint: And you also got to be right the whole time.
Frank Kranz: Yeah, right. Right!
Quint: That’s one of the funniest parts. The guy that’s the most buffoonish of the group, the one that’s the craziest, is the first one to be clued into what’s going on.
Frank Kranz: I sort of saw him as Shaggy meets Scooby. He’s sort of the goofy one, the butt of jokes, the funny one, but yes… he’s also right. He’s seeing the situation for what it is. He’s the guy that gets to pull the mask off and reveal Old Man Whatshisname. He’s trying to do that and no one is listening to him.
Right there you know you have the luxury of being an audience favorite because how often do you see horror films and the audience is screaming “Don’t go in there!” or laughing at these people making awful decisions and now you finally have this character that’s right there with you, sort of speaking your mind. He’s taking care of that for the audience, even if it doesn’t change the behavior of the other people onscreen.
That’s a whole other element to the role that makes it so satisfying and so much fun to play.
Quint: I have to ask… what was on the 16mm film your character was drawn to in the basement?
Frank Kranz: Everyone’s curious about that. You know, I’m embarrassed to say, but it’s been a while. We shot this movie 20 years ago (laughs). It was 2009. I know I asked, but I can’t remember if I was given a specific thing from the board that you see in the control room. I’m not sure if we actually linked up something specific.
I know that’s a really unsatisfying answer, but I do remember that we wondered what would draw Marty’s attention because there was so much stuff in the basement. Marty is so focused on just getting them out of there and realizing what a bad idea it is, we wanted to find something that would catch Marty’s eye. We thought it would be kind of fun, since Marty’s the one that sees through the contrivances of the genre… I mean, he’s obviously not aware that he’s in a horror film, but he’s aware of the silly things these people are doing in horror films… we thought it would be nice that film is what catches his eye.
We thought of Marty as a film student. He’s so aware of these conventions that he’s sort of like Joss and Drew. Of course he would be drawn to a film reel. Marty himself is kind of a film critic, do you know what I mean? That’s definitely something that we talked about, which I hope satisfies you a little bit.
But people have asked me that before. I have to go look at the board and come up with an answer, but I think it’s pretty cool to think of Marty as that film student and critic himself.
Quint: I think any movie geek can put themselves in those kinds of scenarios. I know when I’m out with my friends and we see something weird on the side of the road or the power goes out, what have you, we immediately say, “Well, this is how a horror movie starts.”
Frank Kranz: Yeah. Exactly. “People would never do that.” He is sort of saying that. “Why are we behaving this way? This is ridiculous! No, let’s not split up. We shouldn’t read the Latin. No we shouldn’t be down here.” These are all his way of saying, “Why are we behaving like we’re in a film?” It’s a wonderful meta moment where he starts studying the film reel and forgets about the actual film at hand.
Quint: Do you have a favorite combination of monster and their item?
Frank Kranz: Oh God… There’s so much good stuff, but I love that ballerina. Peter Deming, our DP, called her “Ballerina Dentata.” That was a pretty good one. I’m such a big zombie fan that for me it was sort of a dream come true working so intimately with zombies.
Granted, we had all kinds of great monsters. Those last weeks on set were surreal. It was like one of those old Hollywood clichés of being on the studio lot with a lizard man and a clown and skeletons and barbarians and Roman Soldiers. It really was like that, but all in the horror world.
We had wizards and werewolves, but zombies… I’m a huge Dawn of the Dead fan, 28 Days Later… I love the zombie genre and it was a real privilege and a dream come true to work with some good, old-fashioned redneck zombies. That was great and I thought they were done really well.
Dan Payne, who played Matthew, did a fantastic job of giving that heavy physicality, those slow movements and head turning before the body turns and all these wonderful ways to sell that zombie presence. It was really fun to watch up close. It was very cool.
Quint: Cool, man. Thanks. I appreciate you taking the time.
Frank Kranz: Oh, for sure. Thanks so much, man.
And so begins the great post-FF catch up of 2012. I have another Cabin interview, some Fantastic Fest reviews and even a big write up involving a nerd (me) visiting a certain ranch to see about a man and his whip.