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SXSW 2012: CABIN IN THE WOODS Roundtable – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

Cabin in the Woods was the talk of this year’s SXSW Film Festival.  No matter who you are, if you are a fan of horror, you will be a fan of this film.  I can’t wait until it comes out in April so I can sit and watch it with friends and see their reaction to the most amazing horror film to come about in ages.  One of the unique things about Cabin in the Woods is not only the audience thoroughly enjoyed this film, but the cast truly enjoyed working on it as well. I discovered this with the second roundtable that I took part in with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, where they shared the respect and awe that Joss and Drew generated with the actors as well. Joss Whedon has been my very favorite writer for quite a while now. He is amazing at developing characters and story arcs and making you feel connected to, even love the people that he writes. Drew Goddard is right there with him with the same fantastic ability and now has tried his hand at directing to widespread acclaim and excitement.

This was my be-all, end-all interview, short of my missed red carpet opportunity the previous day. The excitement in the room was palpable as Joss and Drew walked in and I realized very quickly that I was among friends, hardcore fans of the work that these men do so remarkably well. In the spirit of that fan-dom, I have tried to keep intact all of the discussion that took place for your reading enjoyment.

Press: As great lovers of genre, both of you, how much of this movie comes from elements growing up of “I wish it would go there…”

Joss: I think everything we write is an element of that, we only write the things that we want to see and haven’t seen yet. And occasionally we right things that we have seen (Drew: and wanted to play with) yeah, and really liked. I don’t remember as a kid going “You know what I wish, is that there would be this whole structure around a horror movie”. I just remember going “I’m really scared, and it’s awesome.”

Press: You kind of have this reputation for killing characters, so a horror movie seems like a natural movie for you to work on…is that something you guys have wanted to work on for a while?

Joss: I think, we like killing characters and we’re ready to step it up and kill actual people. (Laughter). I do not love for to kill people, I love the people…(Drew Goddard smirks, Joss reiterates: I don’t love actual people, I love the people we write about. I don’t love drifters, so it’s okay.) Part of this movie was definitely about the idea that people are not expendable and that as a culture, for our own entertainment, we tend to assume that they are. Although I absolutely love horror movies and always have, I love them most when I really, really care about the people who are in dire trouble. With the exception of Alien…I was very frightened by that movie because they didn’t care about eachother. I didn’t think they were going to band together and fight back…that actually almost freaked me out more than the giger stuff.

Drew: The Thing had the same problem. I love it, I love when they turn on eachother.

Press: There seems to be a little of Joe Dante in this film.

Drew: Joe Dante is certainly an influence. This movie is very much about our love of the entire genre, so almost every horror movie we’ve ever seen is an influence on this movie.

Joss: I think Joe Dante did have a flair for writing absurdity, just enough, occasionally it would tip over…but there is an absurd integrity to this that has a little bit of that Dante flavor.

Press: I think one of the great things about this movie, you have the typical teenage or college characters but you introduce the other guys. Were they always introduced into the movie that early or is that something you guys talked about holding back on?

Drew: This was Joss’ original idea and in that first conversation you said, this is how we’re gonna start the movie, in the exact opposite way that all other horror movies start. We sort of say what this movie is in the first five minutes so people can get a sense that this is not going to be your average movie.

Press: Did it start with the cabin? Generic title – did it start with the cabin or was the control room the first thought?

Joss: It was always going to be the cabin because it was iconic to us and not just because of The Evil Dead, but not not because of The Evil Dead.

Press: How much female empowerment was it important to have in the Jules and Dana characters?

Joss: It was important for the characters to have integrity and to leave it at that. It’s not about gender.

Press: During the process was there anything that either of you fight for, who always wins.

Drew: I can’t remember anything specific, but I’m sure we did argue. Passion always won. If we felt strongly about it…

Joss: It weirdly came so much from both of us. You may have arguments about raising your child, but you both made the child. You don’t go, “he doesn’t really feel like my son”.

Press: What was the silver lining with this film coming out so far after you made it?

Joss: For me the advantage is that you’re not busy styling it and looking at it fresh. The pain of childbirth is gone and it’s just sort of a gift.

Drew: It felt like, everything happens for a reason. Everything has worked out perfectly; we have a studio that loves this movie and supports it 100%, our actors are turning out to be huge superstars, which they were not when we cast them. We keep saying, be careful what you’re worried about, we’re just happy.

Press: When it switched over to Lions Gate, did you have to go back and tinker with the movie at all?

Drew: No, no, whenever there is a shift in management, you worry that they might not see what you do and make you go back and change something, but to Lions Gate’s credit, they saw it and said don’t change a frame. We didn’t even have to protect anything.

Press: How long has the story been festering in your head?

Joss: The story itself just popped out. I was like one of those people who doesn’t know they’re pregnant. Once the idea came, it was years before we sat down and actually did it. This is and entire movie of “I wish we coulds”, two raging Ids.

Press: Do you think this movie will challenge other horror film makers to think outside of the box? There is a sense of this movie dropping the mic and walking away.

Joss: Try not to be more articulate than us. (Laughter) We just wanted to make a horror movie that people would really enjoy. I don’t see it as a watershed movie, I just see it as if people have a great time…it’s a new question.

Press: Your dialog is so distinct…how do you apply that to the different genres you do?

Joss: I talk, we talk, people talk. Talking is normal. It’s a blessing and a curse to have your style recognized. Part of the great thing about a TV show is you get a bunch people together who influence it and can also echo it.  So, Drew and I, when we write, we speak eachother’s language. Ultimately, I don’t want people to hear my voice, I don’t want them to think about what I wrote.

Press: How much is left on the Avengers?

Joss: We are picture locked, just sound and effects. In about a month I’ll push it away from me and die of old age.

Press: Will Dr. Horrible 2 come after Avengers?

Joss: That’s the plan.

I have to say the answer to the last question may be the one I got most excited about! hope you enjoyed geeking out to this as much as most of us in that room did. It was so much fun and something I didn’t think I would get to experience EVER. I treasure this interview opportunity and the time that these awe-inspiring, mega talented writers spent with us.

What do you think of these two taking on a horror film together? What genre do you think they should tackle next?

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! @CatEdison

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The Author

Cat Edison

Cat Edison

Cat is an Austinite once removed with an affinity for film, TV, comics, graphic novels, and really anything she can read or watch. She gets emotionally invested in movie, television and literary characters, to an unhealthy degree. Cat has always had a passion for writing and there is little she loves more. Hopeful cynic and funny lady.