Check In To 'The Innkeepers'
With 2009's The House of The Devil, writer/director Ti West not only gifted the world with Greta Gerwig, but also declared himself a brave new voice in the horror community. One that didn't rely on gore and cheap scares to goose yelps out of his audiences. That trend stayed very much alive with 2011's genre-straddling The Innkeepers -- a film that made me laugh and shriek in equal measure.
I caught up with Ti to talk about his intention with Innkeepers and love for the genre, only to find out he is thinking about stepping away from horror ... once he wraps up work on a half dozen more scary movies.
Insider.com: The haunted house/hotel trope is something we've seen a lot but The Innkeepers feels like a fresh take. What was important to you upon setting out to make this movie?
Ti West: I was really making a movie about being stuck in a minimum wage job and juxtaposing that with a ghost story because I'd never seen a charming ghost story before. That's what I was going for and since I did every minimum wage job known to man for years, I put all my effort into creating that stuck at work vibe. I didn't want to make another movie where a girl is walking around in a spooky environment. I had just done that. I didn't have anything new to say about how creepy it is to walk in and out of a room. To me, it was far more about doing the opposite – a dialogue driven horror movie, where the setting was the ghost story, not the plot.
Insider: I am also loving this shift towards thrillers that Kelly McGillis has been doing lately. Why did you cast her in this role?
Ti: I actually had a really hard time casting that role, which is odd because I thought all these actresses would be fighting for this part. What I didn't realize is that older actresses don't have a sense of humor about getting older. Tons of them were actually offended that I even approached them for the role. They completely missed the point. All they could see is that she was a has-been and a failure, which for many of them hit too close to home. But when I Skyped with Kelly, I was trying to delicately explain that she's not a failure as she smoked a cigarette. Then she blew the smoke into the computer's face and said, "I don’t give a sh*t." Right from the get-go, she was self-deprecating and had a good sense of humor about herself, so she was able to use some personal touches to bring her to life.
Insider: You've written and directed all your movies to date. Do you think that makes the job harder or easier?
Ti: Infinitely easier. I'm not precious with my work. But to me, writing, directing and editing are the same thing – they're filmmaking. So I can make changes way faster on set because if an actor wants to change something, there's no one saying, "But that's not what it says in the script," because I wrote the script.
Insider: You were the first one to put Greta Gerwig in a major role with Devil. How did you cast her?
Ti: I knew Greta for years, but had to make her audition on tape so people didn't think I was jut casting my friends, so she made this really gross video of her eating and drinking soda – it was just disgusting. I remember the casting director telling me I couldn't cast the girl who was eating, but when the casting director saw the finished movie she apologized. I like to know how people are in person and then try to find ways to get that out through the characters.
Insider: How is that video not on the DVD?
Ti: I wonder if I could find it – I have no idea where it is. It must exist somewhere. I'll find it for the 20th anniversary re-release [laughs].
Insider: You've made six horror movies in seven years. Do you envision your films always maintaining elements of the genre or will your next movie be the sensitive drama about breast cancer?
Ti: I think my horror days are numbered. I've got a werewolf movie that could be made at any moment, I've got a science fiction movie that could be made at any moment, I'm adapting a horror novel and I've got one other sort of horror movie I could make if I time it out right. But beyond that ... when you sit down and write "she walks slowly down the hallway" once again, you just want to put a gun in your mouth. If you look at the first half of The Innkeepers, you see that I would have just as soon made a comedy but no one would fund it. I'd love to make all those movies I just mentioned, but if I was going to write a new movie in my spare time, I don't think it would be a horror movie – I think it would be the breast cancer drama or something because I just want to do something different. My favorite movie I've ever written is a hooker road movie. It's like Thelma & Louise but with these young, chunky hooker girls. I'm the closest I've ever been to getting it made, so we'll see.
The Innkeepers is now on DVD, click here to buy!