Director Dan Trachtenberg discusses 10 Cloverfield Lane
Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 saw the Blu-ray/DVD release of the J.J. Abrams-produced 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Rather than a direct follow-up to the 2008 hit sci-fi/horror film, CLOVERFIELD, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a spiritual sequel that relies on vibe, atmosphere and originality to make its connection.
In 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is trapped in a bunker with two strangers, Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) following what may have been a horrible event in the outside world. The three form a makeshift family unit until suspicions about what’s true and what’s not beginning to tear at them.
I had the chance to talk to first-time director Dan Trachtenberg about casting 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, what surprised him most and more. Be warned: there will be SPOILERS in this interview.
Andy Burns: Why was 10 Cloverfield Lane the right film for you to make your big-screen directing debut with?
Dan Trachtenberg: I love movies that combine genres. I love when something is more than just one thing. Jaws is my favourite movie of all time. I never label Jaws as a horror movie. When it’s scary, it’s terrifying. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious. When there’s drama, it’s the most sincere stuff on screen. And when there’s adventure, there’s swashbuckle. It’s got all of those things, and I always hoped to make something that can be on those terms and play to many different genres. When I read the script I was really struck by how tense it was, and by how funny it could become and by how satisfying it was in the end. And how new it was. That ending, I knew it would be devisive, I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone, but I knew for some it would be an incredible experience to have it.
Andy Burns: When you’re watching the film, your final product, was there anything that surprised you?
Dan Trachtenberg: Frankly, and I think this is the case with a lot of filmmakers making scary movies; I was surprised at how scary it ended up being. When you’re making it, nothing is really scary. The performances were intense and emotional but the moments aren’t really for you to have because you know all the moving pieces of it. You’re making all the choices, doing what you feel will create that tension, will create that fright, but you’re not actually experiencing it yourself. At least, I wasn’t, and I remember hearing the same basic case for other filmmakers that I love, and I was always curious about that, and it turned out to be true. Hearing from people how scary the movie became was a delight it was surprise.
Andy Burns: The word I keep thinking about with the film is “intimacy.” Was making the film an intimate experience?
Dan Trachtenberg: It was intimate. I never felt like we were making a big movie. We shot all on one set for the most part, on the soundstage down in New Orleans and in order, for the most part. It was just the (four) of us. And then just the (three) of us. And then just me and Mary, and the crew, obviously. And it did feel like we were making this little movie between us, for us. It’s great to hear you respond the way you are, because I think that helps the movie quite a bit, that it really feels so character oriented and it makes you enjoy the thrills all the more.
Andy Burns: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a three-person film and chemistry is so important. John Goodman was an inspired choice for Howard; what made you think of him?
Dan Trachtenberg: We started with Howard and thought about that character. We wanted him to be quite convincing and actually sound like he had a point. And then we thought if we could bring a sense of humour from every characters perspective, it would be a lot of fun to watch. A lot of the screenplay read as being very dour; it’s very dark material, and I thought if our cast to bring a little humour to it, we would really enjoy the thrills much more. John Goodman really fit all of those needs and brought even more to it that you could possibly imagine. When he dawned on us, it was so great. He’s someone you love. We grew up with in our homes, watching him every week on TV. He had (been in a film called) The Jack Bull, he plays a judge, and he comes at a very cathartic time in the movie and is so convincing. And you could really be convinced by him (in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) that he’s telling the truth.
Andy Burns: What was the rest of the casting process like?
Dan Trachtenberg: Mary is an actress that I’ve always enjoyed and I hadn’t seen (her 2012 film) SMASHED and her name came up and I thought of that movie right away, that that might be the thing that would show us that she’s Michelle, and sure enough, she blew me away in that movie. I didn’t want someone who had done something action oriented before. I wanted this to be the movie she puts her claws on in terms of that, and I loved the idea of forging a new action hero out of her. It was very exciting that she wanted to do it.
And for Emmett, I loved John Gallagher in THE NEWSROOM and SHORT TERM 12, and he was the guy we always wanted. He was our model for it.
Andy Burns: The CLOVERFIELD name brings with it some expectations. Why was that the right name for this film?
Dan Trachtenberg: It evokes a certain tone, a certain sense of what genre this is. It says this is going to be a very new experience, a unique experience and one that could be fun and funny while also being terrifying. And that title sounds like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode. So it said all the right things, and now we’re a part of this universe J.J. is building.
This interview originally appeared at Rue-Morgue.com on June 14th, 2016.