Homepage > Joss Whedon Cast > Nathan Fillion > News > Nathan Fillion - ’Slither’ Movie - Fangoriatv.com On The Set (...)
« Previous : Joss Whedon & Serenity Cast - Wizard World Los Angeles Con - Fan Photos
     Next : Alexis Denisof - About Season 6 - Angel Magazine May 2005 - Interview Excerpt »

From Fangoriatv.com

Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion - ’Slither’ Movie - Fangoriatv.com On The Set Report

Thursday 21 April 2005, by Webmaster

A few months back, my long-time friend Lloyd Kaufman from Troma told me James Gunn was starting to shoot a new horror film called "Slither" for Universal Pictures. 10 years ago, James wrote and co-directed a film I was in called "Tromeo and Juliet" with Lloyd. Ironically, I had just reestablished contact with Gunn because we’ve been tracking down folks for T&J’s 10 year anniversary edition DVD release. When I heard James was working on a horror movie in my hometown of Vancouver it seemed like the dream set visit for Fangoria TV! I emailed Gunn and he was all for it.

So my journey began with me working through all the channels necessary in order to get on a Universal Pictures film set. We were coming in with HDV cameras not just innocuous notepads. You see, it’s one thing to show up and write about the set experience, but it’s another thing for a film company to trust you with shooting actual footage of what they’re filming. Thanks to James, we had full access. It was especially amazing because the days we shot on the set, they were rehearsing and filming the big finale with all the monsters and FX makeup. And apparently, all the other media were coming the following week and they weren’t even going to be allowed to shoot their own still pictures! All the folks along the way were very kind and generous. Dan West and the people at Universal, especially Todd Zeller, made the whole trip a wonderful experience.

First let me say that when I heard the name "Slither," I assumed it was probably going to be a giant snake movie. Not the case. "Slither" is a story about a man who loves a woman, becomes a monster, but continues to love the woman. OK, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but that’s the heart of this film. There’s a definite sadness to it. Gunn, whose favorite filmmaker is the Canadian horror helmer David Cronenberg, is creating a real, 3 dimensional, character-driven, monster movie, reminiscent of Universal’s classics. My cohort, cameraman Ralph Pitre, and I witnessed the grand finale scene being shot, about which, for now, we have been sworn to secrecy. This was very important to James, and he made it a condition of our full access to him and the set. Our shocking footage of the making of this movie will ultimately be shown on Fangoria TV. In the meantime, I can tell you this...

We arrived on the set of "Slither" on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Call time was 1pm. They had finished filming all of their exteriors for the movie at this point and the remaining scenes were being shot on two huge sound stages. When we arrived, we made our way through dozens of crew members running around like organized ants, creating the ultimate movie set ’home’ for the creature. There was easily over a hundred crew people working furiously. One of the first things Ralph and I discovered was that the cast and crew were absolutely thrilled to be there. James had said that the most important element to him was that everyone from the lead actor to the catering folks had to be very positive, hardworking and creative on set. There is no doubt in my mind that he succeeded. By the time we began our visit it was near the end of the film shoot, and while everyone was exhausted, they were all still completely stoked to be there. They all believed in the project and they all deeply believed in James.

A couple of hours into our first day, Ralph and I were shooting some great visuals of the set, including the monster being created, when all of a sudden the lights went out. People began singing Happy Birthday to lead actor Michael Rooker. While Ralph turned on his camera light to shoot it, James asked one of his assistants to turn on some lights so Rooker could see. That’s when James was informed that there was actually a blackout and the lights weren’t intentionally turned down. Thank God for Ralph’s camera light! Within a few minutes the house lights came back on and hundreds of sighs where released simultaneously. Once the cake was cut and Rooker’s 50th birthday was officially rung in, James rounded up the troops for a run-through of the big finale scene. With Rooker, Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion on set, Gunn began to explain the scene. But he just didn’t verbally walk them through the climax, he vibrantly acted out every part with the infectious enthusiasm of Dr.Frankenstein bringing his monster to life. When he finished, the entire room erupted with applause. I looked at Ralph and was thrilled we got the entire sequence on tape. We covered the rest of the day’s filming including the 2nd unit’s scenes with glee, knowing we captured the essence of our subject perfectly.

Our second day turned out to be one of the most foreboding days on the "Slither" set. We arrived by 1pm and it was pouring rain. The first thing I shot with my HDV camera may have been an indication of how challenging the day was going to be. There was a large room built for some of the 2nd unit scenes and the crew had been instructed to strike it. They went through the entire painstaking process of dismantling this huge structure when a call came in from a ’higher up’ that it was still going to be needed for the day. So up it went from scratch. The carpenters never complained, just poured themselves more coffee, ate doughnuts and started rebuilding. Today’s shot list focused on Michael Rooker and his ’monster.’ By 5pm the crew, art department and make-up effects were ready to shoot. It was a very important day and you could feel it in the air. James was kind enough to give us about a half an hour for an on-camera interview before beginning his daunting night of shooting.

Afterwards, James walked onto the set and stood there looking at the image that was going to be the big closer for his film. He was silent. He sat down. He stood up. He closed his eyes. He shook his head no. Everyone, sans the special effects make-up team, was asked to leave the set by the assistant director. During the break the caterers could feel the tension, which was as thick as soup, and kept everyone busy by bringing out snacks and grilled cheese sandwiches. You would think on a multi-million dollar set, folks would indulge in the more gourmet aspects of the caterer’s offerings but everyone started grabbing the grilled cheese sandwiches like they were children all over again. So much so, that the caterers were getting nervous and halted the flow of grilled cheese. They needed at least a dozen of the sacred sandwiches to make it to the ’front lines.’ Luckily, Ralph and I had secured our portions before they were whisked away to the ’above the line’ people. FYI, ’above the line’ people includes the director, DP, lead actors, top producers and the studio executives. Pretty much everyone else is considered ’below the line.’ On this production the DP even had his own cameraman. I had never witnessed a movie being made where the DP never actually shot anything, just instructed the cameraman what to shoot. Ralph and I waited, along with everyone else, till 8pm to re-enter. It turned out James had not initially been pleased with the monster but by the end of the 3 hour overhaul, he had transformed it into what he had envisioned. I must say it was worth the wait. The monster was spectacular!

Ralph and I shot for a few more hours till we had enough footage to create an amazing ’making of’ feature on "Slither" for Fangoria TV. Just before we wrapped it up, while I was shooting James, he had been informed that some of the initial artwork for the movie had been posted on the internet without his or Universal’s authority. He immediately started pacing and making calls on his cell phone trying to correct the situation. James felt the artwork didn’t send the right message for what the film is about and that upset him. I can say, after seeing the artwork myself, that he is completely right. This movie will have so many layers and nuances to it. Like a Cronenberg flick, it will be so much more than just a horror movie. Fear not, however; from what I’ve seen, there will also be so many bloody, shocking and flesh-rotted scenes that even the most jaded horror fan will be wildly entertained!