IGN: Interview: Wes Craven, Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy

Published: August 5, 2005

The director and stars of Red Eye talk to IGN.

Wes Craven has had a long and storied career. He has created two of the most successful horror franchises of all time with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. He has become synonymous with the horror genre and even turned in an unlikely Meryl Streep drama called Music of the Heart. Craven’s most recent effort, Cursed, was a disastrous affair. The movie was shot twice and finally released earlier this year to poor reviews and box office failure. Now Craven is trying to put the curse of Cursed behind him and get back on track with a new thriller entitled Red Eye.

Rachel McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a manager at a prominent Miami Hotel. She’s returning home on a late night flight when she meets up with a charming guy by the name of Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy). The two flirt back and forth in line and an airport bar before eventually winding up sitting next to each other on the flight. Jackson seems like a nice guy, right up until take off, when he reveals his true motive. Jackson and Lisa’s meeting was no chance of fate. He had been following Lisa and is now threatening her, using the life of her father (Brian Cox) as bait. If Lisa doesn’t call her hotel and switch the rooms of the U.S. Director of Homeland Security, who is arriving early that morning, her father will be killed.

IGN FilmForce recently spoke with Craven, McAdams and Murphy about their work on the intense thriller.

Craven has carried the title “Master of Horror” for a number of years now. We asked him what he thought of this. “It’s great to be thought of as the master of anything. Even idiocy. Master of idiocy, Wes Craven. But if it’s master of horror or fear or whatever, that’s great. But at a certain point, if there’s more to you, more that you’d like putting out there, then it’s fun to be known as, say, the master of suspense which it kind of shifted in the last three or four years. So on this one, one of the reasons I took the movie was that it was clearly a thriller and a psychological thriller… I could show more chops than just having people jump out of doorways with a knife.”

For Red Eye, Craven chose two talented up-and-coming actors instead of going for A-list talent. “I kind of like the idea that by the end of the year they’re going to be huge stars, I’m convinced. Just with the films they have in the can including this one. But when we cast them, it was just people that were really studying who’s coming up were aware of them… I like the idea that the broad audience wouldn’t know who Cillian was physically. They wouldn’t know who the actor was. They wouldn’t know quite what to expect from him. So I liked that and I think it says in the press notes, we met with Cillian. Once I believed that he could get the American accent in time, which was remarkably quickly, within a matter of five weeks I think, we just went with him, made the commitment…

Rachel was the only female actress we looked at… When I sat down with her in a room, I thought, ‘That’s her.’ I loved The Notebook and saw this is an actress who can obviously do the first part of the movie where she’s falling in love and she’s beautiful. I looked at Mean Girls and I said this is somebody who can disappear into a role and be totally different. So she’s not just one thing in every role.”

For the actors, the chance to work with Craven was a no-brainer. “That’s the thing, his films just speak for themselves,” says Murphy. “He is just unbelievably fluent in that language of tension and suspense and how to create that and how to manipulate an audience and people want to be manipulated by him, they want to come out altered from a screening and he can do that like no one else.”

Be it master of horror or suspense, McAdams says Craven is pleasant to work for. “He’s, he’s very, very good natured, very quiet and has a wonderfully wicked sense of humor – and you have to listen really closely to hear it. But he’s so clever, so witty, and he brings that to his films, which I love, because they’re so heavy and so, you know, dark sometimes, and then, you know, he throws in these twists… It’s just such a nice opposition.”

Carl Ellsworth’s intense script also intrigued Murphy. “The premise of the script, you know, and I read it really, really quickly, like it was a very compelling read and I thought ‘How the hell are they gonna write themselves out of this,’ you know, and then they did. It was an actor’s piece, you know. It was just two actors for the majority of the film. For the majority of the film, two actors sat next to each other in this tiny little space and I loved the fact it would have to be so controlled. The issues you’re dealing with are so big.”

Sometimes things just hit you and you don’t know it,” says McAdams. “I remember reading the bathroom scene and thinking, you know, if nothing else this is a great scene that I have never seen before, and just love to work that out in that space. So sometimes it’s just little things pop out and your gut says yes and you go with it and then it develops from there.”

Murphy and McAdams have an interesting kind of reverse chemistry in the film. “We got on great through the whole thing,” Murphy says with a smile. “It was a very lovely atmosphere on set, you know, very light atmosphere, lot of joking. Because we’re spending so much time sitting next to each other you need to get on and she’s so cool. She’s really normal and really lovely. I always hoped to maintain that. We’re here to do a job and everyone’s got their job to do. To answer your question, whether the characters are antagonistic is immaterial.”

McAdams on Murphy: “He’s an incredible, incredible actor – and, again, has such a great sense of humor. You know, it was quite an intense piece for us on that plane for that amount of time, and, being at odds with one another. So when the camera was off, you know, he was just so lovely, such a gentleman… But, you know, as soon as the camera was on he was convincingly terrifying – to make my job easier… There’s a real sense of danger in the air when he’s acting. And, that’s great to connect to… He’s just an incredible physical actor so I learned a lot about that. And I loved the action. I would love to do more. It was so great to get off that plane… I just felt like I was being shot out of a cannon and I just was free to run and fight back…

Since 9/11, airports aren’t exactly the easiest locales to secure for shooting. Craven talks about these challenges: “Well, we certainly didn’t get United Airlines to enthusiastically let us use their planes or anything like that. We had to make up an airline. It was tricky with airports but not impossible. We got three airports to allow us to shoot which I thought was really terrific because in that case, they were physically opening themselves up to 100 people coming in with all sorts of tools. It was funny because they would check everybody for something carried, like the grips would say, ‘I have five knives in my kit. What are they thinking? If I wanted to kill somebody, I’d kill somebody…‘”

For a movie like Red Eye to work, the audience has to believe the turmoil and forget that they aren’t in a real plan at all. McAdams talks about the challenge: “The biggest challenge is to amp yourself up, you know, 12 hours out of the day. Just to get to that level of intensity and fear is a little trying sometimes. But the confinement actually fed the fear. It drove it a little bit because I was stuck on this plane for such a long period of time… so it kind of works. You know, the cameras were so in your face and all these eyes are watching you… So it kinda helped to amp it up a bit.”

Despite playing a relative psychopath for the second time this summer, Cillian Murphy would like to let everyone know he’s just not like that. “Very little of that’s me. Very, very little. I thought the dialogue’s great in it. I liked the way he spoke. He had a sense of irony, which you don’t get in all American movies. I liked the levels within him, you know… You just have to do as best you can, give it your best shot, really. I’m a nice person, you know? You just have to investigate that… You have to commit to the part, you have to commit fundamentally 100 percent to it and you can’t apply your moral framework onto this character and you have to understand the mechanisms and engine of this man to play it.”

Setting so much of a film on a plane also requires thinking through all the details to keep it believable. “The logic of this is very important,” Craven says. “As much as possible, we try to observe that. She couldn’t make calls because of the storm or he had his phone on the whole time of the trip so the battery would be dead. He’s not able to call this guy, he says this guy responds only to my voice and then his voice is ruined so he wouldn’t be able to call the guy. We tried as much as possible to make sure everything was copasetic. It was pretty important. The nightmare is that you’ll get in the cutting room or the picture will be released and suddenly there’s some glaring thing like, ‘Well, she could’ve done this. Why didn’t she?’ But why didn’t she make a phone call in the airport? Because she was running to save her life.”

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