After my great experience with the supernatural horror film APPLECART (see my review here) at this year's Fantastic Fest, I jumped on the opportunity to chat with cast members Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, A.J. Bowen, Sophie Dalah, and Elise Luthman, as well as director Brad Baruh. We discussed shooting in the freezing cold, working within different thematic formats, and why you never call Barbara Crampton a scream queen. Enjoy!
AK: Plus it was all night shoots I guess.
Brea Grant: It was really, really cold which made the physicality hard, but Brad and everybody was so nice to me because they would let me run back inside to warm up and then run back out and do the physical stuff because otherwise my hands were going to freeze off! I wasn't wearing gloves, and I was wielding axes and things- it would've been really bad if I would've thrown an axe at someone because my hands were frozen.
A.J. Bowen: Pretty much the last time that Brea was doing that- because there were a few times that we went up to [shoot in] Tahoe- but the last time we went up there, a snow storm hit that was so bad it knocked all the power out.
AK: Awesome. That sucks!
A.J. Bowen: So, "picture house"- which is Brad's house growing up, by the way- we would normally be hanging out there because it was very warm. But instead, there's stuff where Brea's being covered in blood and I'm laying on the ground and she's having to run around in it, but it's also 17 degrees inside the house unless you're standing in front of the fireplace. Because we had to use the generators instead of heating anything for the lights outside.
AK: So, heat was not the priority.
A.J. Bowen: No. There were a lot of hot pads being passed around.
AK: Yeah, I would die. I basically freeze to death in the movie theater all day, so dealing with that kind of cold would kill me.
Brea Grant: Me too! I'm not the person you should put in this situation. There was a point where we were doing the thing- that's the coldest I've ever been when we were on that water! We were doing a fight where I rip [spoiler!]'s face off. We kept running back to this van, and we kept falling asleep because it was so warm. But these guys (points to Brad) were out there the whole time, so I really shouldn't say anything.
Brad Baruh: Yeah, but we were out there in our North Face arctic gear. I had this giant puffy Michelin man jacket. I wasn't feeling it. I did have some anxiety about that though...she wouldn't have time to grab a jacket.
Brea Grant: I wouldn't! It wouldn't make sense.
Brad Baruh: So we just couldn't do it. Yeah, you were a trooper.
A.J. Bowen: It was fun to lay down in the snow. I remember that half my body went numb when we (to Crampton) were lying down together and they were lining up the shot. I stood up and was like, I can't feel my ass.
AK: I'm the viewer that thinks of those things too. Like, oh man they're so cold. Like watching THE REVENANT- I was thinking, oh God he's really in that freezing water!
Brea Grant: Yes! It's like when I'm watching GAME OF THRONES I think, they look cold.
AK: Without getting too spoilerish- I mean we know from the get go that Brea's character is the lone survivor- can you guys (Sophie, Elise, or A.J.) talk about what it was like working with the crazy make up and special effects?
Elise Luthman: I mean, I didn't get my prosthetics until a couple weeks ago, but these guys were on set and there were times where you would just lie there.
Sophie Dalah: It's hard working with prosthetics in the cold. There's a point where your face kind of like, the silicone hardens and you're sweating underneath. It was good and really fun to watch them do it. I had my face cast and that was really cool.
AK: I guess it literally changes your physical self.
Sophie Dalah: Yeah it does. You become, I don't know, scary! (everyone laughs) The first night on set that I was actually wearing the prosthetics I hadn't met the crew before! So the next day when I came to set no one knew who I was! (big laughs from everyone again)
AK: Barbara, you are a veteran scream queen. Did you have any advice in that regard?
Barbara Crampton: Obviously you haven't read my article about the term "scream queen."
AK: Eek! I guess I haven't!
Barbara Crampton: Google Barbara Crampton. Don't call me a scream queen.
AK: My apologies! I take it all back! Well then, as a veteran genre performer, did you have any advice for Brad or the other actors? Or did you step back and just let them do their thing?
Barbara Crampton: Oh yeah, who am I to tell them what to do? They have their roles. You (to Brad) cast it and picked the people you wanted. These guys are all awesome. I didn't have anything to say to them. I just try to do my best personally.
AK: I'm always interested in that dynamic when somebody has a lot of experience if they offer advice or not.
Barbara Crampton: If somebody asked me a question, but none of these guys did.
Brad Baruh: I did! From a director's point of view, I ask a lot.
Barbara Crampton: Yeah, we talked a lot. We continually talked.
Brad Baruh: She was incredibly helpful, and I drew upon a lot of her wisdom and her experience.
A.J. Bowen: I can tell you what was not a fun thing to do was to get into a fake fistfight with Barbara. (big laughs)
AK: You guys throw down.
A.J. Bowen: That was one of those times when I was like, hey Barbara (motions her over). We had a lot of quiet conversations, did a few trust falls.
AK: Barbara, last night in the Q and A after the screening, you mentioned how your performance in the political ads in the film were just a slight nod to today's political atmosphere. Your character is politician...
Barbara Crampton: And possibly an other worldly being! Which it seems like some of these politicians are, whether you're for Donald Trump or you're for Hillary Clinton- in both camps there were a lot of people who didn't like either one. So, heighten that and who you have. So to have her possibly be an other worldly being and super strong and odd and weird was fun to work on.
AK: A very strong character for sure! From the get go, there's really no duplicity. She's straight forward.
Barbara Crampton: Oh yeah, I know where I'm going.
A.J. Bowen: The second you take that sweater off...
AK: Yeah, your character got comfy real fast.
Barbara Crampton: I was like, this is my space.That's what I was thinking.
AK: Brad, was this always the sequence? I imagine that in post you could go through and switch things around with the different thematic formats.
Brad Baruh: Absolutely not- that's a great question. And Meghan [Leon] the editor, who is sitting next to you, we talked about this last night. You guys saw cut 143 of the movie. I think cut 1 through 52 had the documentary at the beginning of the film and then the narrative portion. It was written like that. We originally thought, ooh this is really cool that we get to set up this documentary because I had watched these shows and they never connect. These soundbites that are clearly produced from these disconnected parties and the way they put together these stories can't be right. I have kids and I'm like, why are all these people killing their kids?! It's a really hard thing to wrap your head around.
AK: Right?! Like, what else is going on?
Brad Baruh: There's gotta be something else to tell. So 100% what you're saying. We would watch it and then we added the 60's bit to add to the mythology after- that was not part of the original script. That was one of our first pick ups after we put it together. I was being really bull-headed about it, like, we're gonna show this TV documentary and it's going to play like a show that everyone recognizes and we're gonna have fun with it. And then we're gonna flip it. But then Meghan was able to start playing with it and we started finding points to be like, okay this is a little bit more jarring structurally, but it also felt a little more original. It also felt like there's a bit of a disconnect so there's that scattershot thing. But it also enhanced the viewing experience. It sped up the film a bit. Then there were points that she found. Like when Dan Roebuck and Sky Soleil- who was the cop- were in the chair and he's talking about the tragedy of the missing girl who is still alive that they've never found and then we get a smash cut...and most people don't even notice that the TV stuff was matted and the narrative stuff played full frame so we'd be able to smash cut to her sitting at the table. That's when it really started geling. But you are 100% right. There are many cuts- I'd say anywhere from 52 to 102. They were different versions, but I think we found it. I'm happy the way it plays, and even though it can be confusing it felt like on the back end you get it and it was an easier way through. But yes, it was a difficult thing and it was very- I hate to use the word- but it was organic. It's a Hollywood buzz word.
AK: Well, sometimes it is. It just clicks and that's the natural direction you go.
Brad Baruh: Totally.
AK: And I love the idea of knowing the outcome from the get go and then you get to see how it unfolds. Like, we already know the conclusion but how in the hell did we get there? It's so fun how you filled in the blanks with the different formats. Ok, one last question. There is a serious looking newborn in one scene. Where the heck did you get a newborn? (everyone laughs) I'm like, that baby is fresh, that thing is still steaming.
Brad Baruh: This is a great question! Because I don't want to name the movies but...
A.J. Bowen: AMERICAN SNIPER (big laughs)
Brad Baruh: You see much bigger movies with babies and you're like, did they buy that at Toys R Us?
Brad Baruh: So the baby was a rental!
A.J. Bowen: Can you specify, because I don't even know.
Brea Grant: It's not real!
Brad Baruh: It's fully not real.
Brad Baruh: There's a specialist- I wish I knew his name- but our special effects team actually knew another guy who makes these babies. The way they're made is I think with a metal mechanism with a skin and stuff, so you're able to hold it and manipulate it. So Alex Ward who plays the crone who delivered the baby was able to manipulate it, so it's not animatronic, it's not real, it's literally a floppy baby that's fully practical. And then we added maybe a CG- wait Andy (Meyers, producer) has a photo of the baby. (passes phone around)
AK: It's so crazy!
Brad Baruh: So there was very slight augmentation with CG, but we were watching it in post and we just couldn't believe how much the baby looks real.
AK: I was like, who let their newborn in a film?
Brad Baruh: Right? Who is this awful person? Why would you do that? But no, it's not real. We actually shot that scene in a wooded set in Burbank in a warehouse. We were in a warmer state.
AK: So you weren't subjecting a fake baby to the cold? (more laughs)
Brad Baruh: The fake baby was warm.They told me if we break the baby it's a $30,000 charge, so we didn't want to break the baby. It was an expensive baby.
Publicist: That was your last question!
AK: No! I ran out of time and I have so many more questions. Oh well, thank you so much for your time today guys. I really appreciate it.
Brad Baruh: Thank you! You're the only one who has asked about the baby today.
AK: Score! Nice. Thanks again.
So that sums up my fascinating talk with the APPLECART gang. Definitely check out this freaky fun mystical horror romp as soon as you get a chance. Thanks for reading!
aka Annette Kellerman