Happy Death Day 2 U, the second instalment of the time-looping humorous horror films, is nearly here. This time around – in whichever dimension we awake – director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity) has injected more deaths, more laughs and a whole load of tear-jerking emotion into what we’d say is the best Death Day we’ve ever had.
Out today, we caught up with Christopher Landon, Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard to get the low-down on whether they actually found the mask scary, whether Jessica ever got bored of waking up (again and again and again) to Israel’s ambivalent face, and what exactly each of them would get up to if they had one day that would unequivocally re-write.
HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U IS IN CINEMAS NOW
Chris: I actually got involved in the project many years ago. I was hired to rewrite the script for another director but the project ended up not happening. Years later, I was having lunch with Jason Blum, the producer of the movie, and I asked what happened to it – he said it was just sitting on the shelf, so I took it and said: “let’s do it”. That was how quickly it happened – it suddenly went from nowhere to filming on set.
Chris: The idea for the second film was a bit crazy. When making the first one, we never spoke about a sequel – it was a very closed story. Then one day, when I was in the editing room, this idea sparked. I called Jason and got really excited about it and said he suggested I wrote it. Before I went ahead with anything, I waited until the first movie came out to see whether it was successful and, therefore, worth the time. When the movie did really well we said: “OK, we can do this”.
The cool thing about it is that it’s a sequel born from the passion and excitement for continuing the story. It was never about making lots of money – I always feel like those kinds of sequels end up, for lack of a better word, sucking. This was a way for us to continue this story and raise the emotional stakes. We wanted to make a movie that was better than the first.
Jess: I actually sent an audition tape for the first film when I was shooting another movie. The script came through and I thought it was so cool. Chris saw my tape and after that, we chatted on Skype. A couple of weeks later I found out that I’d got the part and I came to do some readings with Israel.
Israel: I went through the audition process and eventually met up with Chris. I did some readings with Jessica and it went from there. We hopped on set in 2016 and it all went from there.
Jess: When Chris first told me about it I thought what can I possibly do in a second one? I do everything in the first film! He told me the storyline and the twist with Tree’s mum and I said: “Chris, you’re crazy and you’re the only person who would think that this would work… but if you’re in, I’m in”. A couple of months later we were shooting in New Orleans.
The funny thing about the sequel is that originally Tree dies at the end of the first film (you can see that on the DVD), but when they tested the film, the audience felt like we made them care about Tree and took them on her journey then just cut her off. We had to retake the ending after that. Chris brings this really emotional core to the second film which is brilliant; that’s why I love Chris – he takes chances with his ideas which always pull off.
Israel: We never knew for sure that there was going to be a second one. Eventually, Chris sent us the script and it was rocky and kooky and more exciting than the first movie – everything is bigger! Jess and I put our faith in Chris as we trust him and he did a great job. I’m excited for people to see it.
Chris: In the first movie it was really about Tree, her actions, her behaviour and how she treated other people. For the second movie, I wanted to explore the themes of loss, acceptance and owning your past. For me, it was really important to tell this very emotional story with Tree, plus, I didn’t think the movie would work without some kind of personal journey. This one was especially personal for me as I lost my dad when I was 16 and my mum 3 years ago. Even in this utterly ridiculous horror-comedy, I wanted to be able to explore what that means.
It’s also quite touching to explore the idea of ‘what if you had the opportunity to see that person again and say the things you never could’, and that was another big component for this movie. It was to give Tree the chance to grieve and say goodbye that she never had before. It’s heavy stuff in an otherwise funny movie… but it’s always good to surprise people like that.
Jess: I think one of the things we tried to focus on was the reminder that death can be final and death can be heartbreaking because there are many moments where it’s treated very comically. What initially attracted me to Tree was how she’s such a strong and incredible yet completely flawed human. She’s not your typical girl in a horror film who runs around looking pretty and screaming; she’s grungy and crazy and funny but also very sad. This film highlights the fact that she’s a multi-dimensional character and I was really excited about tackling that.
Jess: Oh, yeah. I feel like I won the lottery getting to play this role. It’s funny, the thing that Chris and I spoke a lot about was how he wanted me because he needed someone who wasn’t afraid of being gross or pulling faces, being emotional or just generally a bit all over the place which actually meant a lot coming from anyone, especially from him. We wanted to make a movie with a strong woman who solves her own problems, who isn’t perfect, who learns from it and who won’t be the girl who waits around for the guy to come along and save her. She isn’t perfect and she doesn’t know everything but she’s not afraid to ask for help.
Israel: I think this is what’s great about the film: you don’t know what to expect – one minute you want to laugh and the next minute you’re scared or tearing up. But I’m with you on that – if somebody stubs their toe, I find myself laughing… not to be mean, it’s just a little comical.
Jess: I think the switch up came naturally because we get all get on so well plus, it’s all about being human. We could be laughing one moment or sad the next; we can be afraid one moment and we can be heartbroken straight after – our emotions can come at any time and that’s something that works really well with this movie.
Jess: The baby mask is terrifying! It’s funny because you wouldn’t think I should be scared of it but it’s horrifying eerie. There were times when I’d be wandering around in the dark and then I’d have someone chase me with a knife in a mask – even when you know it’s not real it’s terrifying! That being said, at the end of the day I wasn’t going home and having nightmares of a baby chasing me.
Israel: I think I’m pretty desensitised to this and maybe a little biased because I’ve read the script and I was there behind the scenes. The mask for me is just humorous but there were times when I’d be on the set surrounded by mannequins in the mask and that can be pretty uncomfortable.
Chris: I only had two ideas: the baby was the original idea but I also had a prototype of a pig. The pig was more metaphoric as I thought Tree was a bit of a selfish pig so it would have been ironic that she was killed by someone a pig mask. In the end, that didn’t quite have the effect we were looking for as it had to be scary but it also had to be a mascot and play into the comedy of the movie.
Chris: When we were making those movie’s they were all very much scripted. It taught me to have flexibility with Death Day where I encouraged my actors not to be married to my script – often stuff that happens spontaneously are the special moments.
That being said, yes, they did. My husband thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world that I’m a huge scaredy cat and probably the biggest chicken in the world. I’m usually affected by this stuff. When I was writing one of the Paranormal Activity films, I was alone in my house and suddenly I’d hear a noise and think “Oh sh*t, I’ve summoned the demons”. I do love horrors though, I grew up watching this genre!
Israel: Sometimes, when I went to work it was like ‘oh my god, I hate this dorm room now’, but once I got on set and the cameras were rolling it’s all a lot of fun. We had a lot of time and so much freedom to play around with the scenes. I’d just bounce off whatever Jessica was doing in reaction to how Tree wakes up that morning. We had so much fun doing this.
Jess: I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I always want to do more takes, so this was a bit of a dream come true! With the second film, Tree already knows what’s going on – even though she’s solving a problem, it’s a new problem, so every day something new and fresh was required from me. Some days were very comedy focused, and others were very dramatic heavy. Each day we got to use different parts of ourselves.
We also had a lot of fun with all the ‘death montages’ and I was amazed at all the different, crazy ways that Chris could make Tree die.
Jess: The fall out of the plane in the bikini. It was actually a reshoot after we wrapped the movie – Chris had the idea and so a body of a plane was bought in. I just got to do a really fun fall onto a bunch of mats in a really cute bikini…
Chris: If I had one day that I could have wiped clean I think I’d re-do the first time I ever pitched a movie (a long time ago). I was nervous and humiliated – when I finished I got in my car and cried… I was so embarrassed and such a dummy. That being said, I don’t have any regrets, even the bad stuff! That’s what makes us who we are.
Israel: I’d think about going and robbing a bank or something like that, or maybe I’d hop on a plane and see somewhere new every day… but would that even work? See, this is what happens, we over think it! This is why we go back to the bank robbery… or maybe a Super Bowl streak!
Jess: That’s such a hard question! I feel like the best answer would be to go and eat all of the ice cream and cake in the world and then let all the dogs out of the shelter, then stay in a mansion and have a pool party with my friends, wearing loads of crazy designer clothes. But, the truth is, I’d probably just lay on the couch with my dogs and friends and watch Netflix… it’s all about living without regrets.
HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U IS IN CINEMAS NOW