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Danielle Panabaker Discusses Her Evolution, ‘Girls Against Boys’ & More!

Danielle Panabaker Discusses Her Evolution, ‘Girls Against Boys’ & More!

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Danielle Panabaker first made her mark on the entertainment scene with roles in Disney productions such as ‘Stuck in the Suburbs’ and ‘Sky High’. A lot has changed in that time and she has blossomed as a performer. One of the most intriguing young star’s in Hollywood, she has grown immensely as an actress and her resume grows more diverse with every role. The latest project she has taken on, Austin Chick’s “Girls Against Boys,” is no exception to that rule. The film centers on Shae (Danielle Panabaker), a naïve college student, is tormented by several men in a matter of days. As she reaches her breaking point, she is drawn into coworker Lu’s (Nicole LaLiberte) twisted plan for revenge. Together, the two embark on a gruesome killing spree, terrorizing and brutally murdering not just their attackers, but any man who gets in their way. However, after a wild weekend of retaliation, the friendship between the girls shifts into a dangerous obsession, and their perverse game becomes a desperate struggle for Shae to maintain control against Lu’s deadly and seductive influence. In addition to Danielle Panabaker, the solid ensemble cast of ‘Girls Against Boys’ features Nicole LaLiberte (Dexter), Andrew Howard (Limitless), Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield), and Liam Aiken (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) and was written and directed by acclaimed director Austin Chick (XX/XY, August). Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon caught up with Danielle Panabaker to discuss her evolution as an actress, her influences both on and off screen, the challenges of making “Boys Against Girls” and more!

What about acting intrigued you early on and made you pursue it as a career?

That is an interesting question. I feel like I fell into acting initially. My sister and I started doing it when we were younger, doing community theater. It wasn’t until I was fortunate enough to work on “Empire Falls” that I really began to love it and understand all the different craftsman and artists involved in creating a film. They really bring to life everything you see and experience while watching it. I think that was what really ignited my passion for acting.

Who would you cite as some of your biggest influences on-screen and off?

Good question! On-screen, going back to “Empire Falls,” I am very grateful that everyone was so kind to me. I was the youngest person on set by far and it was really my first professional experience. There were so many great experiences from the sound guy explaining to me not to crinkle my crackers over my line to Ed [Harris] working so hard to create a relationship. They are certainly role models for me. Particularly, the director, Fred Schepisi, was incredibly kind to me and helped so much. I will always be grateful to them all. In my personal life, I think I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by really incredible people. First and foremost, I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents. It starts there. I have been very lucky to create a family, so to speak, in LA with some great people. The producer of “Sky High” and his wife mean the world to me and have always been there for me to talk me through career choices but also help me with life choices. I feel very lucky in that way.

 

'Girls Against Boys'

‘Girls Against Boys’

Your latest project is a dark film called “Girls Against Boys.” What can you tell us about the character you play and the film?

The film to me is a coming of age story of a young woman who is going to school in New York. She suffers through a really traumatic event. She is assaulted and raped after going through a break up, so she is having a really tough time when a young woman named Lu comes into her life. Lu helps her get back on her feet and get a little bit of ownership back and together the two girls go to seek revenge.

What was it about the project or the script that intrigued you?

It was really nice to be given the opportunity to do a role that has such a full arc. Often times, characters for women are written as the girlfriend or the daughter of someone. This role was a chance for me to take the reins and take the character completely through the arc of the film. That was very attractive to me, along with working with the director, Austin Chick. He was so wonderful and truly a great collaborator. Both of those were wonderful reasons to be a part of this film!

What elements did you bring to this character that wasn’t in the original script?

That is another interesting question. I think I tried to create Shae to be someone who had a life before this weekend, the majority of the film takes place over a weekend. I wanted to be someone who had a life before this happened and who would have a life after. I think that was a big part of bringing the character to life for this film and to flesh out the story arc.

You mentioned Austin Chick. What did you take away as an actor from your time on this project and working with him?

I had a great experience. I was very empowered by my experience in New York, as it was my first time in that city. It is a challenging city! I learned the subway and was able to get around. I was really proud of myself for that! [laughs] It was a great collaboration between myself and Austin, which I am grateful for as well. It was a chance to really sink my teeth into something, to discuss things with him and then work it out by trying it. It was incredible and something I will take with me moving forward.

 

Danielle Panabaker & Nicole LaLiberte

Danielle Panabaker & Nicole LaLiberte

Did you do research for your character before jumping into the project?

As much as possible! I had some time before I met Austin in New York for filming and I tried to do a lot of research and preparation. I worked with Nicole LaLiberte to get to know her beforehand. Because our relationship is so intimate in the film, I wanted to have a relationship between the two of us as people so we could draw from that. I did do some research on women who have gone through an experience like this. I read a couple of books and tried to find as many articles online. I found when researching this topic online that the anonymity of the Internet gives many women more of a voice in an experience like this. Austin had also recommended a few films for me to watch. The one that sticks in my mind the most is “Lilya 4-Ever.” I took a look at the film and tried to get a sense of what he was looking for, as well.

There are a lot of elements at play in this film. What were the biggest challenges with this project?

I think every day posed a different challenge. The beginning of our shoot was a lot of the stuff in the loft with all of the guys. That was very emotionally challenging, not to mention I think we went through three boxes of Cap’n Crunch or maybe more! I don’t think it was something I was prepared for! [laughs] Some of the slo-mo stuff in the film was really challenging and technically difficult. It can be very tedious to shoot, particularly the shot underwater. That was a little frustrating for me because I knew what Austin was looking for and I was having trouble giving it to him.

 

Danielle Panabaker

Danielle Panabaker

You have had an impressive career so far and made some terrific choices. How have you evolved in your craft since you started?

I think I am constantly evolving. Hopefully! [laughs] I continue to study and try to push myself as an actor and also as a person. I think, by default, having more experiences helps to inform my work. I think so much of how I have grown comes from life experience and hopefully it translates into my work as well.

Is there a particular type of film or genre you want to take on in the short term to challenge yourself as an actor?

I love the variety! I am so fortunate that I get to work in a lot of different fields. What was great about this film was the character and getting to delve into something so dramatic. I would love to do another drama piece in the vein of “Empire Falls” or something similar with a great ensemble. I would also love to do something with more action! I think it would be really fun and I love the physical challenge of training and I think it is really cool!

What is the best piece of advice someone passed along to you in regards to your career?

Helen Hunt told me to keep training and studying. That would also be my advice to aspiring actors as well. I think it is really important to keep challenging yourself and expanding your knowledge.

Thanks so much for your time today, Danielle. We really enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing what you have in store for us in the years to come!

Thank you so much! Take care!

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Nicole LaLiberte Talks Her Breakout Role In Austin Chick’s ‘Girls Against Boys’

Nicole LaLiberte Talks Her Breakout Role In Austin Chick’s ‘Girls Against Boys’

nicole-laliberte-feature-2013

Smoking hot actress Nicole LaLiberte is not only a pretty face but a force to be reckoned with! Her hard work and dedication to her craft are taking her to greater heights with each new role. In her latest outing, she finds herself tackling her most ambitious and spellbinding role to date in Austin Chick’s “Girls Against Boys”. The film centers on Shae (Danielle Panabaker), a naïve college student, is tormented by several men in a matter of days. As she reaches her breaking point, she is drawn into coworker Lu’s (Nicole LaLiberte) twisted plan for revenge. Together, the two embark on a gruesome killing spree, terrorizing and brutally murdering not just their attackers, but any man who gets in their way. However, after a wild weekend of retaliation, the friendship between the girls shifts into a dangerous obsession, and their perverse game becomes a desperate struggle for Shae to maintain control against Lu’s deadly and seductive influence. In addition to Nicole LaLiberte , the solid ensemble cast of ‘Girls Against Boys’ features Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies), Andrew Howard (Limitless), Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield), and Liam Aiken (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) and was written and directed by acclaimed director Austin Chick (XX/XY, August). Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Nicole LaLiberte to discuss her career, bringing her character in the film to life and the challenges that presented themselves along the way!

 

Nicole LaLiberte

Nicole LaLiberte

I read you didn’t set out to become an actress initially. What can you tell us about your transition into becoming an actress and what led you to this point?

Oh my! Basically, a friend of mine wrote a play and he wanted me to be in it. I was living in New York City. I said, “Absolutely not! I am not an actor.” That was approximately five years ago. Finally, I relented and said, “Fine!” [laughs] I found it very challenging and it really turns me on to do it. I have also had many people supporting my continuation. It just seemed like an organic choice for me to keep doing it. I had been doing a lot of other things before I started acting. It really just seemed natural! The work started coming pretty smoothly. I was asked to do this film with Paul Morrissey called “News From Nowhere” and right after that I did Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom.” I don’t know. When the work kept coming, it just felt natural to keep on doing it.

You are doing a terrific job and it seems effortless. You are right, it seems only natural to keep it flowing!

Aww, thanks! I appreciate it.

Your latest project is Austin Chick’s “Girls Against Boys.” What can you tell us about your character and how you got involved with the project?

I was given the audition and I was excited because I really loved the script. I was in New York at the time and I had my audition set up and I was going to do a couple of different scenes. I don’t know what it was but I put on this Tom Waits song. I rehearsed for hours to the song because I really felt it helped my performance. I went in and had the audition and it was fantastic. Originally, the role of Lu was written for, I believe, an Asian-American actress but she ended up not being able to do the film. What drew me to the character? Obviously, killing people! [laughs] I think that she has this mysterious, precious, playful, Lolita-like darkness that I could really connect with personally. Not that I wander around with that energy at all, that is actually not me at all. I just understood where she was coming from and I felt I could really connect with her and use some of the experiences from my own life very directly with the character.

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The director of “Boys Against Girls” is Austin Chick. What did you learn from your time with him?

He wrote the script, so obviously he brought a lot of insights to me on set. He also brought a lot of faith in my ability. He was very supportive before we started filming. We were really connecting and working together. Once we started filming, he had a lot of other elements to focus on. That really gave me the opportunity to live in my character and be in character on set. I think that was very important for me with this role, that I wasn’t being fiddled with too much, which I like.

What do you consider the biggest challenge on this project?

There were a few days that were tough. However, there was one day in particular that was totally tough! It was a day where I am slicing through Liam Aiken. We had a camera on a dolly and the dolly was rolling down the hill. They wanted to get the timing of the shot, the particular angle and the way he was sort of pre-cut to work. There were a lot of elements going on with this one shot. It just took hours and hours and hours to get the shot they were trying to get. I was swinging the sword over and over again and my thumb was blistering from holding the sword and my back was getting achy. It started to drift into becoming a painful nightmare! [laughs] But by the end of the day, we did finally get the shot that we needed and we were all really happy!

 

'Girls Against Boys'

‘Girls Against Boys’

You worked very closely with Danielle Panabaker on this film. What did you learn from her while on set?

There is a scene where Danielle and I are in this hotel room together and she is crying. She is doing her close-up at that point. In between takes, she would go over and put her headphones on and listen to some music that was obviously moving her. Then she would go back into the scene. She was doing what she needed to take care of herself and going to the place she needed to be for the scene. I think that was really cool. I really respected Danielle’s process and how she worked. It was a great inspiration.

How have you evolved as an actress since you started out?

I have evolved a lot actually. I feel a lot more relaxed and confident. I trust my capabilities a lot more now then when I first started out. I think when I first started out, I lacked the confidence which comes from experience. Having been doing this for a while now, I feel I have really grown in regards to confidence. Whatever gets put in front of me, I am excited by and I am excited for whatever is next! I am very hungry to keep working and doing amazing projects like this one.

With that said, where should we look for you next?

Well, I just finished some work on “Dexter” which is really cool. There is also a new film I am getting ready to start called “The Girl and The Gun” which stars Juno Temple. That is what’s next!

Great! We will spread the word and talk to you again very soon!

Thank you so much!

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WWE® Studios And Anchor Bay Films to Distribute ‘The Day’

WWE® Studios And Anchor Bay Films to Distribute ‘The Day’

WWE® Studios and Anchor Bay Films today announced a partnership to co-distribute the provocative action thriller, The DayWWE Studios secured the U.S. distribution rights to the film immediately after the film’s initial audience screening at the Toronto Film Festival.

The Day was one of the most buzzed-about films at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section. The film stars a stunning cast that includes Shawn Ashmore (The X-Men trilogy), Dominic Monaghan (“Lost” and The Lord of the Rings), Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale, 40 Days and 40 Nights) and Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism).

“With the incredible audience reaction it saw at Toronto, we knew that The Day would be a great addition to our brand,” said WWE Studios President, Michael Luisi. “By combining the marketing power of our television, digital/social media and print assets with Anchor Bay’s tremendous distribution capabilities and successful track record, we look forward to bringing this film to a broad audience.”

“We are extremely excited that we are partnering with WWE Studios in this venture,” commented Kevin Kasha, Executive Vice President, Acquisitions and Co-Productions. “The film’s production team has created a truly fresh story and brought in top young talent to bring it to life. Audiences will be thrilled, thoroughly entertained and will be left hungry for more.”

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Sarah Butler Discusses Her Breakout Role In ‘I Spit On Your Grave’

Sarah Butler Discusses Her Breakout Role In ‘I Spit On Your Grave’

In 1978, director Meir Zarchi unleashed his film, ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ to the masses. The film ended up being banned in several countries after being condemned by critics for its graphic violence. The film eventually experienced a second life in the Mom and Pop video stores that littered the neighborhoods of suburbia in the mid-’80s, elevating it to “cult” status among genre fans. Three decades later, director Steven R. Monroe’s remade the film, which many consider “sacred ground,” and stands ready to bring it to a new generation.

Sarah Butler is the talented young actress who scored the lead role in this ambitious project. Butler plays the role of Jennifer Hills, a budding novelist who travels to a remote cabin to write for a few months, only to be brutally attacked by a pack of depraved local men. Jennifer’s journey into darkness does not end there, as she seeks revenge and dishes out her own brand of justice — brutally murdering her attackers, one by one. I am sure you are thinking, “the horror genre is not typically the genre for a breakout role,” but ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ is not your typical horror film. On screen, Butler’s portrayal of “Jennifer” is anything but one-dimensional. She breathes life into this iconic role, making it jump from the screen as she peels back the layers in a role that is sure to leave a lasting mark on critics and audiences. Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently sat down with this multi-faceted actress to discuss the process of remaking this cult classic, the challenges that it presents along the way, and her thoughts on her big-screen debut!

Sarah Butler

Let’s give everyone a little background on you. Where did you grow up and why decide to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?

I grew up in a small town called Tulalip, Washington. I did a lot of theater when I was in school there and really enjoyed it. After that, I came down to Los Angles to study the arts at USC. That is how I got down here. Eventually, I found my way into auditioning, having known some people that were in the game. I asked them what I could do to get started. I basically started from the bottom of the ladder and I am working my way up. I have always kind of been an entertainer! [laughs]

‘I Spit On Your Grave’ is one of your breakout roles. How did you originally get involved with the project?

It just came through as any other audition would. You know, set your sights, study these lines, go to this place at a certain time and read those lines. Then I got a second audition and I got the script at that point … I was like “Whooooaaaaa! What is this!” [laughs] I was a little bit apprehensive at that point but after talking to my management, who assured me that it was going to be “bad ass” in his words, [laughs] and some respected friends in the industry, I realized that it was a great opportunity for me. The character goes through so much and there is a huge arc. It was a great honor to get the role.

Did you have any reservations playing the lead in the film due to the graphic nature of the film?

Yeah, totally! That was my initial “Whoooaa!” I honestly think my first reaction was, “I can’t do this movie! This is crazy! What is this sick thing?!” [laughs] Like I said, it was the people that I respect around me that got me pointed in the right direction. From there I was like, “Why are they all so excited about it? Let me do some deeper thinking!” That is when I really realized that this was, and I don’t want to sound blasphemous and say it was a blessing, but it kinda was! It is not very often that someone at this point in their career gets a role offered to them of this magnitude. I really got room to stretch my muscles in this film and it was really fun to do! It was such a great breakout job for me! It was fun and an honor!

Were you familiar with the original film before you took on the role?

Not at all. I didn’t even know that it existed! I had no idea but, after I got cast, I rented it! At that point, I had already read our script and become very familiar with it, so I knew what to expect.

Did you do anything to prepare yourself for your role mentally, seeing as what your character goes through both psychologically and physically is so brutal?

No. It was something that, if I had prepared for too much, it would have been like shooting myself in the foot because our natural tendency as human beings is to shield ourselves from pain, fear and all of the things that I needed to tell this story. Basically, I went into the scenes where I was being victimized with an open mind. I went into it as a normal person going through their day in their life and then is suddenly attacked for no reason. It wasn’t hard to react to that just having such talented costars who were surrounding me and being so creepy and terrible! They did such a good job at that! [laughs] It was such a pact mentality and it was very frightening being in the middle of that, so I had to genuinely react to that.

For you as an actress, what was the biggest challenge in making this film?

Towards the end of filming was the most challenging day that I had. Each of the kills during my revenge were shot in one day, so basically, I got to kill a guy a day! That is a very short schedule to shoot such big scenes that involve so many different elements. At that point, I was not only controlling a bunch of prosthetics and special effects makeup things in the midst of playing this character that is mentally over the edge after everything she and I have been through. That was very challenging. I also had to control the scenes because I had most, if not all, of the dialog in those scenes and had to be remaining in control of the situation at all times, driving the story forward pretty much on my own at that point. There was a lot to juggle there doing those scenes. On top of it, I had such feeling of guilt for the positions that these guys where being put in because, at that point in the shoot, they had become my friends, much to the directors dismay. He didn’t want us to hang out but we did anyway. [laughs] It was hard to see them tied up in different positions, complaining that their arms were completely numb, and smeared with fake blood. It was hard to be cruel to them at times but it was actually a good motivator as well because the more cruel I could be to them faster, the quicker they would be out of those positions as we got the shot we needed and moved on. I think that guys were quite surprised at the anger and violence that I was able to pull out. [laughs]

Sarah Butler

Moving away from the darkness of the film for a second, what part of this process was the most fun for you?

Probably the most fun that I had was during those revenge scenes just because, after all that I had been through, there was so much there to use and bring against these guys. To add that element, a little point of insanity [laughs] and having many layers to work with is something that I really enjoyed — playing the subtleties of the post attack Jennifer. I would say a close second is the day that I got to lay out on my dock in my bikini, that was a fun day too.

Nothing wrong with that! I knew we should have done a set visit! [laughs]

[laughs] Yeah!

The film has been making the rounds at many film festivals and is generating quite a buzz. How has the overall process of presenting the film to the masses been for you, be it fans of the genre and the critics?

The audiences have been amazing. They have been so supportive, the whole community. We feel really lucky that we have an overwhelming amount of support from fans of the original film, which is a hard thing to do. Everyone that has come up to me at festivals or conventions have been really complimentary and are getting really psyched that the film is getting ready to hit theaters. I suppose there are other people out there that have different opinions, but I guess they just don’t wait in the line to come tell me! [laughs] That’s OK with me! I did watch the film in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival with an audience. That was a great experience! It was like a dream come true. I had been saying in interviews for a while that I hoped that people would stand up and cheer at the end because they were able to go along for that ride and root me on the whole way. That is exactly what happened! As soon as there was any sign of me coming back, the audience started with an “Ooooooohhhh” or “Ahhhhhhhhhh” and clapped anytime that I would kill someone! There would be little groups of standing ovations here and there! The crowd was just electric! It was loud in there and it was exactly what I had hoped for!

Very cool. Do you have any fears of being typecast as a “Scream Queen?”

Well, that is always a concern of every actor. No actor wants to be stuck in one single genre. It is something that we are always aware of. I wouldn’t say that it is a fear, but I am definitely aware that it could happen. But at this point in my career, I feel like I have so much more to give. I don’t feel that I am stuck right now. That is the focus of my representatives and myself at this point, to seek out that perfect next project to be the perfect counterpart to this one. It is kinda difficult because ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ is a very strong genre film, but there are different things out there that we can counter it with. Maybe you will see me next in a romantic comedy, who knows! It is really exciting to be out there looking for the right thing!

What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?

Just to enjoy the journey. It sounds so simple, but it is such a great piece of advice, just for life in general. You hear all of these little life lessons and anecdotes that people say, you hear people say them your whole life. Then for some reason someone says it to you and it all of a sudden makes sense and means so much, it rings so true! For some reason, that one has just stuck with me. Sometimes I will go on an audition. I am on this huge lot that is like a maze and people are looking at me funny! I am thinking, “Did I wear the right thing?” Or like this morning, my power went out and I am supposed to be all dolled up for some on-camera interviews! These things pop up but I always remember to enjoy the journey because I will look back at this time and think, “Remember when I was so freaked out that one day that I didn’t have the right dress on!” That stuff doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things because I am sure that no matter where I am, I will be happy there. I will be able to adapt to where life takes me.

The Dark Side of Sarah Butler

Where can fans catch you next?

They can catch me promoting this film! That is what my life is all about right now! I am going to be going to the Calgary International Film Festival and then I will be going to Sitges Film Festival in Spain. Basically, I am traveling around trying to bring this film to peoples’ attention while I am looking for the next big acting project.

Thank you so much for your time, Sarah! We think you did an amazing job on the film and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Thank you so much!

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‘I Spit On Your Grave’ hits theaters in “Unrated” form on October 8, 2010. Check out the official website for ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ at www.ispitonyourgravemovie.com!

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Director Steven R. Monroe Discusses His ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ Remake

Director Steven R. Monroe Discusses His ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ Remake

In 1978, director Meir Zarchi unleashed his film ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ to the masses. In the years to follow, the film was banned in several countries after being condemned by critics for its graphic violence. As the years passed, the film experienced a second life in the Mom and Pop video stores that littered the neighborhoods of suburbia during the mid-’80s, elevating it to “cult” status among genre fans. Three decades later, director Steven R. Monroe’s remade the film, which many consider “sacred ground,” and stands ready to bring the film to an entirely new generation of film fans. As he will tell you, this is no easy task! Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently sat down with the director to discuss the process remaking a cult classic and the challenges that it presents along the way!

Let’s give everyone a little background on you. Where did you grow up and when did you decide to pursue a career as filmmaker as opposed to going in a different direction?

I was born in New York and when I was 5, my family and I landed in Los Angeles. My father was a cameraman and was a theater director and producer. I always wanted to become a director and my sister became an editor. She is an amazing editor. It was basically our whole lives, so we had no choice! [laughs]

It was in the blood!

Oh yeah!

What were some of your influences, be it other filmmakers or outside influences?

Filmmakers for me were Stanley Kubrick, William Friedkin, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen believe it or not! Primarily Kubrick. Films that influenced me were ‘Raging Bull,’ ‘2001,’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The French Connection.’ It was a lot of those very iconic movies from the ‘70s and early ‘80s for the most part.

Who did you initially get involved in the process of remaking one of the classic cult films of that era,’I Spit on Your Grave?’

I found out that CinTel had gotten the rights to remake the film and I lobbied very hard for the job when I found out that they had it. I knew them from other projects and I really wanted to puut my thumbprint on it. I wanted to make sure that it was done right. Lisa Hansen and Paul Hertzberg where hopefully, knock on wood, smart enough [laughs] to see that and trusted me with the project! I have watched a lot of movies get really ruined when they shouldn’t have been and I didn’t want that to be the case with this film.

Did you have any reservations about remaking ‘I Spit On Your Grave’?

No. The the only reservation I had, and I wouldn’t even say it was a reservation, but in the back of my head I knew that no matter how hard you work on a film or how it turns out that there are going to be people that are going to be pissed off just because the film is being remade. That is one of the three balls that you are juggling when you are doing a remake. The other two are trying to make sure that you are paying a proper tribute to the original and its fans and you are making a film that new fans may come in to and embrace like the original.

How difficult was it for you to find the cast for this project since they are very dark roles?

You know, surprisingly this casting process was probably the easiest that I have ever made on a job. It was mostly because, for some reason, in the first very few rounds of auditions for each role, except for “Annie” and the Sheriff, I found people right off the bat who completely floored me. They were perfect as the characters. Then we put those forward for the producers to OK and luckily for me the producers went with it. As many, many very iconic directors have said, “Eighty percent of your job with the actors is done if you cast properly.” I got very lucky. The role of the Sheriff was put to me as a possible “Andy” character, the actor Andrew Howard. The minute I saw some of his work, I went to the producer, Lisa Hansen, and she thought about it for a couple of days and said, “Yeah, you are right.” “Andy,” who is played by Rodney Eastman, we were really having a hard time casting and then Sarah Butler’s management company, who also work with him, sent me his reel. I knew his work and said, “This is great!” So I wanted to book him immediately. The whole process was pretty painless!

These are very dark roles for all the characters in the film. What can you tell us about the vibe/atmosphere on the set during filming and was it difficult to control?

It wasn’t too difficult for me to control. I made it very clear to the cast, we had many discussions before we got started about what was going to be involved and what it was going to be like. Everybody on the crew knew what we were in for and was very respectful. We did have a lot of closed sets. People knew immediately when to clear out and stay out of eyesight and not to be hiding around a corner during a take and start giggling, which happens so many times. Everyone knew what we were in for from a combination of production meetings where I said, “Look. Here is how we have to act on the set and here is the atmosphere that we need.” You read a script like this and crews are professional they know. When crews read a script where someone cries, they are very respectful let alone what we were dealing with.

Meir Zarchi was the director of the original film and he is along this time as a producer. How involved was he with you and the remake? And what did he bring to the table?

We became very close. It’s funny, when he first met me he watched another film that I did called ‘House of Nine’ and we all sat down in the first script meeting and he made it very clear to the producers that he wasn’t really happy with me and that he had some concerns. It was really interesting. As the process went along and we had more script discussions, he started warming up a lot. When we started shooting dailies, I started getting e-mails from him and by the time he got to the set he walked up to me and he kissed me and said, “I was wrong about you my friend!” We became very close! [laughs] We very much bonded from that point on. You know, it is a very hard process for someone who made a film that he did, the way he did, and to turn over a remake to somebody else. So, he had his concerns initially but completely backtracked on those.

What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

I think that the biggest challenge, like I mentioned before, is trying to walk that line of making sure the original fans are happy with it and that the potential new fans out there can embrace the new film. It is really hard because horror fans are without a doubt the most passionate and outspoken fans in film. You don’t see a lot of blogs and websites dedicated to romantic comedies where they are screaming, “This film’s great!” or “This film is all wrong!” [laughs] It was mostly trying to make sure that the film is done correctly for the audience that it is intended. It is an even harder one to juggle with this film because the original film and this new version, isn’t really a horror film. It got adopted by the horror fans when it got banished and banned. That was the hardest task, to make sure that the film came out properly for all of these audiences.

Ultimately you arrived at the point of bringing the film to theaters in an Unrated form. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?

It is exactly what I wanted. What happened was that we did the cut that was submitted to the MPAA, which had everything in it that we wanted as far as things that could be potentially cut out by the MPPA. They came back surprisingly and said “that we feel the film is very impactful, the version that you showed us, and if you cut out what we need you to cut out, we feel that the film is going to lose a lot.” That was a total shock to us to hear that from the MPAA. That is when the discussion started of whether it would be rated NC-17 through the MPAA or do we just go Unrated? Unrated we would be able to get more theaters. That is not a box office comment, that is more theaters to reach the audiences that want to see the film. Any way you look at it, if the distributors only really gave a crap about making money, then they would have released the R rated cut, but then the fans wouldn’t have been happy. It just came down to “Let’s go for it! Let’s give the fans the movie that they want to see! Not the R Rated version that the MPAA or the censors want them to see.” Like I said, horror fans are very passionate. It goes from, “They are going to wimp out and release a watered down version so it gets in more theaters,” and now they are saying that it sucks because we are releasing it Unrated and it won’t be in enough theaters! [laughs] That is kinda how that whole process came about but we just felt it was best to go Unrated for the audience the film was intended for.

I know that Meir Zarchi had originally envisioned a sequel to his original film. Do you think we will see a sequel to yours in the future?

It was discussed literally right after the first screening for the producers and the distributors and everyone was really happy. It is something that is out there but I think that it is going to come down to how the film does and how can we do something that will hold up. If I were part of it, that would be my biggest concern. What do we do for a story that holds up and also isn’t just a rehash of what happened in the first one with different people.

What advice would you give to someone who might be considering to pursue a career as a director?

I have said this a lot to film students and other people, if you truly and passionately want to do this, be ready to never give up and to never care what anyone says about anything and just know that this is what you should be doing. You get your ass kicked every single day out there by everybody. So, until you are really cool or your last name is Tarantino, you will be kicked all over the place and be told that you will never make it but if you are ready to be totally relentless and are that passionate about it, do it. If it is something that you just want to try, I suggest just getting out of the way because there are a lot of people that really, really, passionately want to do it.

What other projects are on the horizon for you?

I am looking forward to getting another project that pushes the envelope and raises questions. Those are the type of movies that I really feel that I can dig my claws into emotionally, visually and storyline wise. It is just a rough genre as you and horror or thriller fans know, there are a lot of crap scripts out there. That is what I have been looking at lately and I am looking forward to getting one with an offer that makes me go “Wow! I really want to do this!” [laughs]

Thanks for your time, Steven! We will be spreading the word and look forward to seeing where your journey takes you!

Thanks, man! I really appreciate it!

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