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Sarah Michelle Gellar - "The Grudge 2" Movie - Amber Tamblyn About.com Interview
Thursday 22 June 2006, by Webmaster
Amber Tamblyn: From the Set of Grudge 2
A few months ago, ComingSoon.net had a chance to fly to Tokyo to visit the set of Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge 2, and while there, we had a chance to talk to actress Amber Tamblyn about taking over for Sarah Michelle Gellar in the sequel to the top opening horror movie of all time.
Of course, most people will know the 23-year-old actress, daughter of actor Russ ("Twin Peaks") Tamblyn, from her television show Joan of Arcadia, which was sadly cancelled after two seasons, but before that, she had a small part in The Ring. You may also have seen Tamblyn in last year’s adaptation of the novel, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
Now, she’s returned to the world of horror, having already been staying in Tokyo for a few weeks before we had a chance to talk with her. (You can also read our set visit and an interview with director Takashi Shimizu, in case you missed them.)
CS: What appealed to you about the script for this sequel that made you want to do it?
Tamblyn: The first thing was, obviously, the fact that Shimizu-san was doing this film again. Because it’s something that he created, I think that he really has no choice but to make it the absolute best thing that he can, because it’s really his neck on the line. It’s really his baby. And I think you couple that with Sam Raimi, who’s such a legend as far as American film is concerned. To me, that seemed like a really, really incredible team to put together. Script was really solid when I read it. I think it’s a double-edged sword, too, because not only is it a remake of a Japanese film, but it’s also a sequel, which is twice as scary. I think at the same time, it makes people work on this end twice as hard to make it the best film that we can possibly can to put out. Because I’ve already heard people saying that it’s going to be better than the first one, but, I mean, that could be just producer talk floating around the studio. From what I’ve heard, it’s coming together really, really well. And, you know, it’s all about like making leaps. Like, when I did ’Sisterhood,’ for me, that film could have been terrifying, because it could have been this like sweet little syrup teenybopper film, and I really felt like it carried a lot of weight for young women and didn’t marginalize them. That, to me, was a risk in its own mainstream level, so no matter what you do I think you’re risking something at a certain level. I’m definitely proud to be working with these people in specific. I feel like I’m in really good hands.
CS: Since you appeared in "The Ring," another Hollywood version of a Japanese horror movie, what was the main difference between working on the two?
Tamblyn: Well, first of all, the major difference was that "The Rin" was a very small part. It was just an opener. Obviously, on this film, we have Shimizu-san, who was the originator of all of these films. There’s an American aspect of this film, having Sam Raimi behind it. "The Ring" was directed by Gore Verbinski, and we have two completely different styles on how they see things, horror-wise. I’m trying to remember. To be honest, I had seen "Ringu" long before I had even done "The Ring," so I knew about them. When I originally read the script for it, I thought it was really silly. I think what I’m trying to say is, when I saw that film, I never realized how terrifying it really was until I saw it on the big screen at the premiere. I was like, "Whoa, this is really scary!" I mean, even when I was shooting it.
There is a major difference, obviously, with what gets lost in translation with working with a Japanese crew and set and working in America. Even though you’re remaking a horror film that is very big in Japan, there is a difference as far as the actual working on set experience. Trying to communicate things. Or things that you normally take for granted that you never think about, like asking the cameraman if he wants you to stand on your mark so he can check focus. Things which you generally just do without even thinking about it? Now I have to be like, "Help!"
CS: Are you a fan of Japanese horror movies?
Tamblyn: I think I’ve seen a good amount of it, probably not all of it. Like I’m a huge fan of "Damon," like the demon, which is a great film. It’s actually something that Shimizu-san and I talked about when I first got here, because that was a film that he told me to watch, but I had already seen it. That affected him as a child. He saw that around the same age as the little boy in the film. We were talking about things that were traumatic, and Shimizu-san was a really big, huge fan, of "The Haunting," which my dad was in. So when my dad came, he was sort of like [mimes fumbling with pockets]. It was really cute.
CS: Can you tell us a bit about the movie’s plot and your character’s relationship with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character?
Tamblyn: Aubrey obviously is Karen’s, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s, younger sister, and she’s always been the underdog in the family and somebody who is not as ambitious or driven as her sister. She’s sort of always felt like she’s had to follow in her sister’s footsteps. Even her mother sending her to Japan to figure out what happened to her sister... She wants her to figure out where she went and what happened and all this stuff about the fire. I think she’s even nervous about that, because it’s the first time she’s ever had to go experience something on her own, and it’s something that scares her, because she doesn’t know anything about it, and she’s really alone in the whole scheme of things. It’s really, like, this huge step for Aubrey trying to figure out where she is in her family’s life and in her relationship with her sister. She goes in a lot more tentatively, I think, you know with her experiences with the ghost and going to the house. She’s really the last one to go to the house and have a horrific experience with it.
CS: Does your character have a boyfriend or a love interest in the film? Tamblyn: Not really. She comes alone. I’m really glad that they decided not to do that, because love and horror don’t mix. It really pisses me off every time I see it. I mean, there’s a little bit of that with Eason, Edison [Chen’s character], but not to a degree where it’s distracting. I think Aubrey should have a love interest with Kayako. That would be weird... fraternizing with the enemy.
CS: So have you actually done any scenes with Kayako yet?
Tamblyn: Yeah, I have. It was very interesting for me to watch her work. It’s amazing to see someone be able to move their body the way she that she does physically. She’s a really sweet girl, and we talk about fashion a lot. She actually brought me this Japanese magazine that had this whole article on "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and I didn’t understand anything. I guess the movie here was called "Sixteen," and I couldn’t understand anything, but right in the midle, it said "boy." And I’m like, "Why does it say boy on this page?" I had no idea. So I took it to somebody and they translated, and they said that that I drive boys crazy. That’s what the article said. I don’t know what that had to do with the movie. But, anyway, she brought that to me, and yeah, it’s just been really interesting to see how different things are, comparatively.
CS: What’s your relationship with Shimizu like? Has it been hard working with a director who doesn’t really speak English?
Tamblyn: First of all, I should say that I think he’s one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever worked with. He’s just got such a great sense of humor, and he’s very sweet and very open in explaining things to you beforehand. I just really admire that quality. I wonder where such a dark side can come out of a person. He’s got this kind of David Lynch thing, because David Lynch has this [mimics Lynch’s voice] really squeaky voice, and he’s really nice when he talks, but then his movies... "What happened in your childhood?"
I think that Shimizu-san and I have a great working relationship, because we’re able to even each other out in certain aspects. Like, for instance, things that I feel might be too over dramatic, which is typical of sometimes Japanese films to be more expressive physically, and with sighing or just general body language things, I can pull back and tell him why I think it should be this way. And we can talk about it, and say, "Well, you know, I think you can run these few sentences together just to make it look more realistic when she’s talking." That was an example of the scene we were doing today. That’s what’s great. He’s really open about that, too. Whenever you want to suggest something or say, "Well, I see it this way," or "My experience has given me this." He’s very open to it, and ten times out of ten, he’s all about it.
CS: Sarah Michelle Gellar said in interviews that it took some time to get Shimizu-san to say "Action!" because they don’t do that here.
Tamblyn: It’s just certain words. Like when they say "reset" that means going on to the next shot. So they’ll say, "OK, we’re going to reset now," and the literal translation of reset is that you are doing it over again. So I’m always like, "OK, we’re going to do it again," and then Chiho, the translator is, "No, no, no, we’re going to the next shot." I always forget that. It’s definitely not an experience for an actor that needs their ego catered to, because there’s no room to be careful with what you say around actors. Which I think is so amazing. Shimizu-san will come to me and he’ll say, "That was good, but for some reason, the rehearsal was better." And I love that. It’s that simple to explain something to you. In America, you’ll have a director who will take 45 minutes to explain what they mean.
CS: What’s it been like to be living here in Japan?
Tamblyn: It’s been amazing. I’m actually extending my stay 15 days past wrap so that I can travel. I’d probably move here if I could. I love the culture. I think it’s just a beautiful country.
CS: Have you learned the language yet?
Tamblyn: You know what’s interesting? I actually just took my parents to Kamakura, and like there was a guy sitting behind us in the bus, and I was understanding what he was saying. It was kind of freaking me out a little bit. He was talking about a small village and where it was. Like, I can understand general grammatical structuring and a few words, and I can just piece it together. Like, if you really pay attention, I think it only takes you like two months to start to figure out what people are saying a little bit.
CS: Have you had a chance to talk with Sarah Michelle Gellar about being in Tokyo?
Tamblyn: No, actually, Sarah’s coming next week, but I’ve been told she’s got some advice for me, so I don’t know what that’ll do at this point. I’ve had to learn it the hard way (laughs).
CS: How about Sam Raimi? Has he come to visit the set yet?
Tamblyn: He’s doing Spider-Man, yeah, so he has not come over. We’ve all spoken to him via satellite communications or whatever it may be, get your notes from him from an alternate universe. I think he’s getting everything, absolutely.
CS: Now that you’ve worked on it, do you have any insight into what the "Grudge" films are about?
Tamblyn: I think that they’re about the dark side of human nature. I don’t know. They could be about ghosts, too. To each their own. I think everybody takes a piece of it. But just like I said that Shimizu-san told me he was affected by that film "Demon," about this young kid who has to live with the devil of a stepmother. I think that there is a huge undercurrent in all of these films with domestic violence as well. In fact, there was a whole sequence where Takeo is like beating the crap out of Kayako [for the first one]. That was a scene that they shot and apparently they were not allowed to release it because it’s not PG-13, because of domestic violence. That was like a really crazy thing to watch, but when you watch a thing like that, it’s really interesting to think about how you as human beings can almost take on a ghostly affect if you have gone through any traumatic experiences like that, whether it be any kind of abuse on any scale. So I think you’re talking about real human nature, but you are emphasizing the unknown about it: What it does to your psyche and your brain and those areas? So that’s what make it really scary, the idea that someone who can go through such a terrifying violence that we can identify with, like domestic violence or whatever, and then they themselves can go on and do a violence against you as an audience member, which is to terrify you. So it’s almost like you are second-hand experiencing what they are going through. I don’t know, that’s the way that I see it. I see these films being a commentary on what we as humans, what violence does to us.
CS: As an American, does it take more to scare you?
Tamblyn: No, I think it’s gotta be less. I don’t know if you are a film buff and you’re going to hiss at me right now, but the sequel to "Alien" I thought was really good and really well-edited and put together. You were expecting things flying out of walls and being this tumultuous thing the whole way through the film, but in reality they were just building you up continuously. I love when that’s done in a film. I think that’s the best part of it. That’s why "The Ring" works so well, because you were throwing little pieces in there, like bait to the shark. Eventually, you get swallowed up, I guess. This film has a lot of that. But what’s interesting about it is that it’s a lot smaller disperses of it throughout the entire film until you get to the end. And there’s definitely a grand secret that they’re going to deliver to everybody that is completely different than the sequel to "Ju-On." I think they’re very aware that this isn’t really a thriller. This is a film about ghosts and about hauntings and about things like that, so there’s a thin line that you thread with violence, and keeping people interested and scared throughout an hour and a half or two-hour period.
CS: What sort of movies scare you?
Tamblyn: "The Haunting." That movie still to this day really terrifies me. "Rosemary’s Baby," probably one of the most brilliant. The first time ever that I had really started studying the editing and the way that people shot horror films, and like the first time I had ever started to think about what makes a film scary. Going from like huge wide shots of an empty room into tights of Mia Farrow’s face, so that you feel isolated and things like that. It’s just really interesting, the psychological trip that horror films take you on. Way more than thrillers, way more than most films.
CS: Do you believe in ghosts?
Tamblyn: No, I think after you die, your brain shuts off, and that’s it.
CS: Your father shot one of the most well-regarded giant monster films here, so does he have any Japan stories?
Tamblyn: Yeah. "War of the Gargantuas" and he shot on Toho Studios. He just loved it here. This is his fourth trip to Japan, although this time it was a little different, because when they came in, they got in an accident on the way in from the airport, which was like a really bizarre experience. My mother, who had never been here before, was a little traumatized by that. But besides that, he loves Japan. They were really excited, because "War of the Gargantuas," it’s like a huge film here. I think they’re filming like another "Godzilla," so every once in a while I’ll be sitting outside to get some sun at lunch, and between the two studio buildings, I’ll just see this like giant Godzilla like thing being like pulled by eight men between buildings.
CS: Do you know if Shimizu-san will give your father a cameo in the movie?
Tamblyn: (laughs) That’s what they’ve been talking about. I’ve been trying to get Shimizu-san to bust an Alfred Hitchcock in his own films. Just a shadow somewhere. Pop up in a screen. I don’t know. Maybe he could just show up like a Miyazaki character, like some little like wood nymph on a tree somewhere, just like tiny in the background, just perched there and you won’t know what it is. I don’t know. We’ll see what shows up.
CS: Were you disappointed when "Joan of Arcadia" ended, or was it good for you to focus on your movie career?
Tamblyn: I think everybody was just disappointed, because it was a great show and we especially were disappointed because it had a great cast and a great crew. It was a rare situation where everybody seriously got along so well. It’ll be just like God, it’ll be one of the great mysteries.
CS: Have you thought at all about going back to serialized television?
Tamblyn: I don’t think so. It’s an ambiguous question that would get an ambiguous answer.
CS: What’s next after you finish this?
Tamblyn: I’m doing a film called "Normal Adolescent Behavior," which is sort of like a "Carnal Knowledge" for teenagers, a study of MySpace and sexuality and young kids and what exactly monogamy is to them and their relationships. [It’s by a] first-time writer director, her name is Beth Schachter, and Brad Wyman is producing the film at New Line.
The Grudge 2 is scheduled to open on October 13.
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