Hopefully, you've already read Ryan Rotten's latest interview with Bryan Bertino, director of The Strangers, but ShocKTillYouDrop.com also had a chance to talk to his stars, Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, who play a young troubled couple terrorized by a masked trio at a remote summer home, turning it into a night of terror and tragedy.
Contrary to what some might believe, actors aren't always the best spokespeople for their own movies and when you put two of them together in a room, their chemistry can either make or break an interview, especially when faced with a group of reporters. Tyler and Speedman had obviously spent a lot of time sitting next to each other answering questions by the time we got to them, so Scott was doing everything he could to keep Liv laughing.
But when faced with a room full of journalists and a table piled high with microphones and digital recorders of various makes and models, it took Tyler a couple seconds to adjust. "Talk about fears! This is more terrifying than this movie was," she joked.
That's doubtful, since she's been doing this sort of thing for a long time, but the duo began by telling the collected journalists about some of the movies first-time director Bryan Bertino suggested they watch before making the movie.
"Bryan got us to watch a bunch of stuff. What did he want us to watch?" asked Speedman of his co-star, as if they hadn't been asked the question all day.
"I'm trying to think," she replied, right on cue. "I watched Rosemary's Baby, and we both watched Halloween."
"Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween was a good one to watch," Speedman agreed. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"And then there was this weird, dodgy movie where there's like two girls [who] get kidnapped. They get taken to the country and it's really disturbing and they're like naked."
"Oh, yeah? That sounds really cool!" cracked Speedman.
"We also watched other movies," she continued. "We also watched Women Under the Influence."
"We were supposed to," Speedman snickered, obviously not having done his own homework.
"When I was a kid I was pretty obsessed with horror movies," Tyler confided. "It was my favorite thing to watch and I remember seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time and that was like, 'Okay, I'm done with the horror movie genre.' It really scared me so much."
Either way, Tyler had good reasons for doing the movie regardless of her fear of the genre. "We both read the script and fell in love with it and that was a really well-written story about a couple. It's really a drama, a story about a couple going through a not-perfect situation and they just so happen to be happened upon by these three very bad people."
"It felt like we were stressed out the entire time while shooting," Speedman admitted about the vibe maintained on set during the making of the thriller. "That was what was so tough and exhausting about it, was keeping up that level of fear and anxiety every day. It takes place over like five hours, the whole thing. Bryan can't really do anything. That to me is our job, to get there every day and just try our best to reach it."
"He really gave us and showed us things to create an environment for us that was really specific to what he wanted," Tyler added. "He would give us music to listen to and show us photographs and that house was the house that he dreamed of in his mind. He was really clear about that and talked us through that extensively, then he kind of let us go. I think there was moments when if anything, he was cautious about not wanting to interfere. He would see us so upset and so disturbed, and I think that he didn't always want to get involved; he created everything for us and then stood back and just watched in a way. He would make tweaks on things, but he was very clear to us that it was not meant to be campy in any way or humorous. It was really very real and bleak and absolutely terrifying."
Speedman also found Bertino's on-set self-assurance to be refreshing. "It was kind of nice to have that, because that's what you don't want with first-time directors, somebody who's not cock-sure. It was nice to have somebody so confident."
One of the more cynical reporters questioned the stars' reasons for doing a movie like this, although both admitted that money was never a factor, since it was relatively low budget compared to their other films. "It's an amazing, wild, wacky collaboration of a bunch of gypsies making a movie, not matter how big or small," Tyler told us. "I just did The Hulk and it's the same thing but there's a lot more stuff to blow up and more time to take doing it – I wouldn't say the catering is any better – but ultimately, it's the same experience. To me, I always feel like no matter how big or small. This was different, because this was Scott and I and Bryan and our small little crew, and it was a really intimate and small experience for all of us. It was just really emotional for everybody. There was not one scene where we were not going through that. There wasn't ever a light day. Even for the crew, that was emotional as well. There were times where we'd shoot certain things and I'd come outside and my poor hair and makeup people would either be with tears in their eyes or shocked. It was even emotional to just stand and listen to it all the time."
"I've always had more fun, for whatever reason, on smaller movies," Scott agreed.
We asked Liv whether she personally ever experienced the fear of being alone in a house and thinking there was someone else there. "Oh, yeah. All the time, absolutely," she responded. "That's what's so real about this movie. We've all been in bed at night and trying to relax, and all of a sudden, you hear like a noise and you're like, 'What was that?' and are you brave enough to check or not. Bryan used to always say that to us. 'Imagine if you got up and went and looked and there's nothing ever there. Your girlfriend's in bed and then suddenly, one day you go out and look and there is a person with a mask on, standing with a butcher knife standing in your living room.'"
To which Scott felt the need to chime in with his own retort of "Yeah, that would suck."
"The movie was going to possibly come out a year ago, and I remember there was this story right at that time that was quite similar, in the paper," Liv told the reporters about real-life stories that mirrored what happens in the movie, and she also had things happen that came even closer. "I have two stories: one's two personal to talk about, because it's terribly sad but it's not about me, and the other one, my stepfather Todd Rundgren used to live in Woodstock and two people broke into his house in the '70s and tied he and Bean, his girlfriend, who was pregnant with my brother Rex at the time, to a chair and held them at gunpoint. I think one of them pistol-whipped Todd, which is horrible, and I don't know what they did. There was nothing really stolen, there was no real reason. But things like this happen a lot and often, they're very random, or sometimes, they're family members."
Yes, they do happen and that's primarily why Bertino's debut feels so terrifying, because even with two fairly well-known actors in the role, the horrifying home invasion they experience always feels real.