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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

January 26, 2007

In the paranormal thriller The Messengers, a family relocates to a North Dakota farm to escape the problems of the big city. But it's not long before teenage daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her 3-year-old brother begin to see haunting apparitions invisible to their father and mother (Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller). As her parents begin to question her sanity, Jess faces the disintegration of her family amidst a supernatural threat that is growing increasingly violent.

The Messengers is produced by Sam Raimi and his crew at Ghost House Pictures, and marks the English-language debut of acclaimed Hong Kong horror directors and twin brothers Danny and Oxide Pang (The Eye, Bangkok Dangerous). In this exclusive interview, Oxide talks about the making of the atmospheric film and his own brush with the supernatural (and, incidentally, he explains the story behind his wicked cool name).

[Note: To break down the language barrier, this interview is paraphrased by a non-professional interpreter. Oxide speaks English as a second language, and I speak gibberish.]

The Interview How did you come to cast Kristen Stewart as the lead in this film?

OXIDE: Actually, she was recommended by the studio and Sam Raimi. We saw tape of her, talked it over, had a screentest, and found that she was the most suitable actress for the role.

What made her an ideal choice?

Her character has to deal with family problems, and at the same time, she needs to contend with seeing ghosts while her parents question her sanity. It's an important aspect for the character, and the actress, and we found that she could handle it.

Was it a similar casting process for the other main actors (Dylan McDermott, John Corbett, and Penelope Ann Miller)?

Yes. They were also recommended by Sam Raimi and the studio.

Were you more focused on the thematic elements of the family dynamic, or the supernatural elements of the restless ghosts?

We needed to compromise. We always concentrate on the story first, but the studio wants more action. So we spent our time compromising between the family and the ghosts.

How closely did you work with Sam Raimi on the project?

For about two months, we sat together and had a meeting every day with Sam.

How did you first meet him? Did you get together because of your work on The Eye?

I think so. They tried to contact us about shooting The Messengers because Sam Raimi had seen our movies The Eye and Bangkok Dangerous. So we flew to Los Angeles to meet him, had a conversation, and then finally made the decision to make this movie together.

In terms of it being a storytelling device, what do you like about the horror genre?

I love the horror movie environment. The environment for us is very important. And we love the silent environment in the movie, because it is conducive to making people feel scared. And the theater is dark already, so we can make the environment of the movie look like the environment of the theater, with the audience sitting inside a dark room. It's quite interesting for me.

What served as the inspiration for the story's atmosphere?

Sometimes we can be inspired by music to shoot an environment that can make the audience feel scared. And we tried to imagine how the movie could relate to our life--situations we would normally encounter every day. We always concentrated on this.

The massive sunflower field and giant flock of crows (actually played by ravens) are two major symbols in the movie. How did you accomplish those specific visuals?

The studio spent a lot of money to make the sunflower field. And the crows, they were quite difficult to control. There was a lot of CGI involved. We spent a lot of time trying to shoot the birds, but then finally, we used CGI to help us create those flocks.

What was the hardest thing to shoot?

I think it's trying to make the animals scary. Sometimes we think we can make it scary, but find out after shooting that it does not have the impact we thought it would. So then we would try again, and try to imagine the audience's perspective, and not just only come from our point of view.

We've heard that you and your brother have had possible brushes with the paranormal. What did you encounter?

One time, I saw a shadow walking on a road--but only the shadow, without a person, without a body. I saw it very clearly. I tried to find what was casting the shadow, but I could not see it. All I saw was a very clear shadow of a human walking on the road. And this was in the afternoon, not at night. It's really amazing.

And what was your brother's encounter?

It was similar to this situation. He saw someone walking into an elevator, but when he followed them inside, nobody was there. It's quite scary.

Do you have any plans to work with Sam Raimi again?

I hope so. I think we need to wait till The Messengers is released in the US and see how it does.

Would you want to stick to horror for your next film, or would you like to tackle a different genre?

We would love to try anything different, not just horror. Maybe an action or mystery.

What is your favorite American horror movie?

The original Omen, part one.

One last question: How did you get the name "Oxide"?

It's just a chemical name. [laughs] One day, someone asked me, "What is your nickname?" And in my mind, I just came up with Oxide. And after I say Oxide, I feel people usually remember my name, which is good for me. I might not remember their name, but they remember mine.

Well, it's definitely working, and everyone seems to dig it! Thanks for your time.

You're welcome.

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