CHRISTINA RICCI & JESSE EISENBERG|
Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment
February 14, 2005
Written by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson and directed by horror auteur Wes Craven, Cursed is the story of a sister (Christina Ricci) and brother (Jesse Eisenberg) who, after being involved in a car crash, are attacked by a werewolf loose in Los Angeles. Although they survive the encounter, the siblings have both been bitten, and soon find themselves undergoing a steady transformation that will eventually have them howling at the full moon. Determined to rid themselves of the curse, they set out to solve the mystery behind their seemingly unprovoked nocturnal assailant.
The film features a supporting cast that includes Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Mya, Michael Rosenbaum, Portia de Rossi, and Shannon Elizabeth.
In this interview, Cursed stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg talk about the horror genre, their roles, and the rewrites and reshoots that plagued the film's production.
MEDIA: Are you fans of horror films?
CHRISTINA: Mmm-hmm. I like a scary movie.
JESSE: Yeah. I don't seek it out, but yeah...
CHRISTINA: [teases, to Jesse] Oh, come on. You subscribe to Fangoria.
JESSE: Right. No, of course, but I mean beyond that...[laughs]
What are some of your favorite horror movies?
CHRISTINA: My favorite of all time is, um...is uh...the uh...Hi, my brain's working really well today.
JESSE: [to Christina] Hide and Seek?
CHRISTINA: [laughs] Right! Hide and Seek. Uh, no. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original. Pretty incredible stuff.
JESSE: I remember I used to watch People Under the Stairs all the time, which is one of Wes Craven's movies, when I was younger. Must have been like fifteen years ago or something. I used to watch that all the time with my sister. And so that is my favorite.
CHRISTINA: Well, my new favorite...I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but also When a Stranger Calls. Oh my God, it is the scariest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. It's like two hours of a pure anxiety attack.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
JESSE: Well, my sister worked for the Psychic Readers Network. She got fired after a day.
For not being psychic?
JESSE: No, for not keeping people on the phone long enough. [laughs] But the lady who fired her said she was like the only real psychic they had. I mean, she really was predicting. It was really incredible.
If it were possible, would you like to possess any of the film's werewolf powers in real life?
JESSE: Well, in the movie, all the powers have like a dark side to it, so no.
CHRISTINA: I have a horrible sense of smell, so I'd actually like that to be improved a little bit. I'd like to be able to climb up walls. That might be fun.
What was it like working with Wes Craven on a horror movie?
CHRISTINA: He's great. He's incredibly experienced and this is his thing, what he does best. And he's just really laid back and smart and doesn't let anything really upset him too much. We're there to make a movie, but it's going to be fun.
JESSE: Also, because he's been doing it so long, has such a command of the genre, I think it felt like there was a great amount of respect for him and a confidence that what we were doing was worthwhile.
Cursed frequently alternates horror with comedy. Were the sillier elements part of the script, or gags that Wes Craven just threw in later?
CHRISTINA: It was more sort of Wes' decision later on. A lot of that stuff, like the werewolf flipping the bird, for example...I mean, that's not something we saw. [to Jesse] Did we?
JESSE: I knew about it.
CHRISTINA: We knew about it, but we didn't see it actually. A lot of that stuff, and also the way you edit things, ends up influencing the tone so much. Of course, some things were meant to be funny.
JESSE: It's like Scream. It's able to bridge that gap easily and jump back and forth smoothly. And there's an emphasis on that.
[to Jesse] Like Jamie Kennedy's Scream character, your Cursed character fills in the audience on some of the horror mythology they need to know. Did you use him as a point of reference for your role?
JESSE: No. I haven't see Scream since it came out. But yeah, I read somewhere that that character was similar. [jokes] I watched Malibu's Most Wanted a few times...
[to Jesse] Will this be the last awkward teenager you play?
CHRISTINA: [to Jesse] Make a decision, right now!
JESSE: [laughs] I don't know. The next movie I'm doing, I'm playing a...he's like 25. That's not an awkward teenager.
[to Christina] What process or techniques do you use in preparing for a given role?
CHRISTINA: I think it really does depend on who you're going to be playing. If there's a lot of technical truths that you need to learn or any kind of training, then you might start there. And that will sort of influence the character and you'll see how that would change a personality. Other times, you just sort of do whatever the director wants. If he likes to rehearse for three weeks, then that's how you sort of find it. For me, it really depends.
So did you do anything special in preparation for Cursed?
CHRISTINA: Nothing. [laughs] I was hired like literally two weeks before we started shooting.
JESSE: The nature of the movie...it's not necessarily a performance driven movie.
JESSE: But that's not to say that it detracts from the quality of the movie. You know, it focuses on other things. But also, it's a more whimsical movie. It's not as heavy of a movie. I mean, it is in the sense that awful things are happening, but in terms of the overall tone, it's not taken as seriously as something like Monster.
What do you think of horror movies like Ginger Snaps, a dark comedy that is very character driven and very focused on using werewolf mythology as a social metaphor?
CHRISTINA: Now, maybe I misunderstood Ginger Snaps, but I didn't realize it was about society.
Social constructs and interactions, gender roles, female sexuality...all that fun stuff.
CHRISTINA: Ooohhh...I thought it was just aaaaaall about women getting their periods.
JESSE: My sister owned it. I just watched a few scenes. But in terms of it being a metaphor for the social dynamics at school, I mean, that's presented in this movie. I don't think you could make a movie without addressing something. If you're going to have humans on screen, it's going to address something social. In this, there's stuff at the high school. I guess there's a direct relation to the curse. And she has a line that says, "We're all cursed, it's called life." So, there's your metaphor. [laughs]
The script for Cursed went through a major overhaul, and much of the film was reshot. How did the final story change from its original incarnation?
CHRISTINA: It changed quite a bit. We weren't related in the original version. We just both happened to be involved in this crash. And Josh wasn't in the original one.
JESSE: The story, I think, is improved. I think the final product is now better. They were able to keep some of the great effects, some of the more expensive things that still fit into the story that it is now. And the fight with the golden retriever--that was also retained. I know that was important to keep because it was really exciting, and also probably expensive.
How did making your characters brother and sister impact the dynamics of the story?
JESSE: Kind of grounded it emotionally, whereas the first story was about strangers who meet and have to join together. Which seemed to work, because I read the script and really liked it, the first one. But whoever's decision it was to change it didn't think it worked as well. But having a family as the focus--and a family who's suffered a loss--certainly grounds it emotionally.
Were there any cast members cut from the final version of the movie?
CHRISTINA: Originally, when we first were shooting, Skeet Ulrich was in the movie. But by the time they had reworked the script and everything, he didn't like the way his character had been changed, and so he didn't want to be involved anymore. And that was sort of sad.
What was his original role?
CHRISTINA: He was a love interest of my character. He was involved in the crash. There's like three of us involved in a crash, and then he and I become attracted to each other. But the way it was rewritten, he just didn't feel like there was enough to make him want to be in the second version.
JESSE: I think the part that he was originally doing was just eliminated essentially. So I think the interest for him, whatever that was at the time, may have not carried over to that new character.
Did you agree with the decision to rework the script and reshoot most of the movie?
CHRISTINA: Well, you know, we weren't seeing dailies. I think it was everyone who was watching dailies who could see that it wasn't really working. And when you're not seeing what's actually on camera, sometimes it's hard. The final product of any movie usually feels like a totally alien thing than what you've been shooting anyway. So we wouldn't really have that perspective or the objectivity to know that it wasn't really going quite right.
Were there any reshot scenes that you felt you already had nailed down perfectly the first time around?
JESSE: Nah. I never feel that way, so it was kind of exciting to get another shot in. [laughs]
Will they eventually be releasing the original version of Cursed on DVD?
CHRISTINA: I doubt it.
[to Jesse] How did you feel about having to provide the horror movie nudity?
JESSE: I stood off to the side and watched another guy do it. [laughs] I don't know if that's still in there.
CHRISTINA: Oh, it's in there!
So what's the big message of Cursed?
JESSE: Don't get attacked by a werewolf!
CHRISTINA: I guess in the end, we appreciate being human.
Would you be interested in making another installment of Cursed, or did all the reshoots sour you on the experience?
JESSE: [jokes] We're starting on the sequel next week. So we don't have a choice.
CHRISTINA: These kind of movies are really fun to make. I think as an actor sometimes you're in the mood to be really serious and do something really hard and thought provoking. But then the other side of it is, "Oh, but I could just have a great time running around doing actiony types of things and being chased by something." [jokes] Or, I could do that in my spare time...