Michael J. Bassett (Director - 'Silent Hill 2')
'Silence Is ... Deadly!'
Based on the groundbreaking video game franchise, SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D is the sequel to the hit film SILENT HILL, which opened to #1 at the U.S. box office and took in nearly $100 million at the worldwide box office in 2006.
Featuring an unparalleled horror experience, Konami's Silent Hill franchise has captivated fans for more than a decade and has spawned a hit comic book series, graphic novels, collectible action figures and numerous soundtracks from rock bands.
In SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D, Heather Mason (Clemens) and her father (Bean) have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn't fully understand. On the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by horrific nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she's not who she thinks she is. The revelation leads her deeper into a demonic world that threatens to trap her forever.
Chatting recently the Director himself Michael J. Bassett, I first wondered, being that he was both the director and the writer of 'Silent Hill 2,' did he ever stop himself filming as a director to have the writer challenge something that needed a quick rewrite, perhaps? "Yeah, the thing about being the writer and the director is that you have nobody to turn to if something doesn't work. As a writer you can turn to them and say this dialogue doesn't work, or this theme has to change due to some practical reason. So go away and fix it while I carry on shooting. But when you're the writer you have to fix it yourself. What tends to happen is you'll do a day of shooting and then go back and look at the script for the next day and think that's not where you want to be anymore. Let's change it. It's not like one guy beats the other guy up. What's much more different for me is when I'm writing I just can't wait to direct and as soon as I'm directing I just want to have a quiet place to do some writing. I'm never really happy!"
During filming what turned out to be the hardest scene to shoot - and why? "I had this scene that takes place on a fairground carousel. A real carousel that had been decked out to be a Silent Hill version. I had my lead actress, a 3D camera crew with two cameras on the carousel surrounded by a ring of fire. Eight foot flames. And we're spinning round and the fire is all around us. And the winds are getting up also. And we're shooting an exterior. And the winds are blowing the flames which are now licking the carousel itself!"
"So yeah, that was a tricky night to get through. But there was quite a lot of stuff like that on Silent Hill. You try and create those grand moments, but you're always chasing the clock and trying to make the monsters look as good as possible. And in the middle of this the actress is doing her performance trying to make everything come alive for the audience. So, no there wasn't just one thing. Every day brought with it a new set of challenges."
So shooting in 3D atop an on-fire carousel on a windy night was just one of the hardest scenes to shoot! "Yeah, but generally speaking, the hardest scenes are the ones that have a lot of elements to them. This movie was shot in 3D though. There was no post-production process. We had 3D cameras on the set and so everything has to be done to work in 3D as well, as humanely possible. And when you're working with practical effects, which is what I like to do, everything becomes a bit of a challenge. You're not leaving anything to post-production you're saying ok I gotta fix this now on the day. And the clock is ticking."
"And they never tell you this when you say you want to be a director. You just go and hope your grand vision will be realized. The truth is there's an amount of time and an amount of money. And you've got to make that grand vision work within those parameters. So, the clock is the enemy. You're like I want to do this set up, I want to make this complicated shot that will take up half your day. And it just doesn't work like that."
Being the writer on Silent Hill 2, did you know it was to be a 3D movie before you began writing? "I knew it was going to be 3D, yeah. I talked to the producer Samuel Hadida who I'd also worked with on my last movie Solomon Kane. So Sammy said he wanted to to a Silent Hill sequel and wanted to do it in 3D. I actually said I didn't know if 3D was the way to go for this. I asked him if it was a technology he wanted to embrace. But he was determined to do it 3D. So I went away, thought about it and came back and said, 'Yeah, let's do it in 3D and embrace the technology'."
"So, I'm writing the script knowing it's gonna be a 3D movie. But it doesn't become a device in a cheap way. What I used it for was to draw the audience into a world. And that's kind of the principle reason I'm using 3D in this movie. It's a window into this strange, nightmarish world. And absolutely there are a few gags where I've had lots of fun with it, but for the most part its because I wanted to draw the audience in."
"It didn't inform the storytelling. It just meant that when I was coming up with a sequence I would go to Samuel or the designers and just say, 'Look, this is how it's gonna work, because this is a moment we've gotta make the very, very most of.' And that's the idea that I had in my head the whole way through. The depth of the world that I was trying to make."
With Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Deborah Kara Unger and such all back for the sequel, does it pick up from the end of the 2006 original? "No, what it does is it uses that gap of the time from the first movie to this movie. Because this little girl has grown up. So, it continues her story in a chronological way, but the young girl from the first movie is now turning 18 in my movie. It was actually a great opportunity, because you don't know what they've been doing for the past six years."
"And so we find out that this little girl grew up with her father. And if you know the first Silent Hill movie you know the ending and so I don't have to explain how she got out of Silent Hill and ended up living with her dad. And how he's trying to protect her from these memories that she's trying to suppress. And yeah, the dad is still played by Sean Bean, so there's a continuity still there for the audience."
"And so we find out what she's been doing all these years. And there's a reason why her name is no longer Sharon / Alessa and is now Heather Mason, because they've been assuming these new identities to try and stay ahead of the Evil which has constantly been pursuing them."
"So, the gap for me was incredibly useful."
What's the deal with these zombie nurses in one of the short video trailers for the film? Weird, dangerous, but very sexy still! "Yes. I think that's one of the most exciting things to do in horror is to confuse the hell out of the audience. And to how they feel about anything at any one time. And they do appear in the first movie, and they're great. And the nurses appear in some of the games as well. And in some games they're a lot more twisted and freaky and kind of hump-backed. And in later games they're kind of more like the movie."
"The great thing about these nurses is they do introduce this complexity of sexuality, especially for testosterone-filled young men. I have to tell you they’re are all incredibly attractive and all have fantastic bodies. And they were all able to twist them into some very interesting shapes. And then you're kind of topping it all off with this grotesque mask with this cadaverous skin tone. What I was trying to do was try to make the audience confused!"
"The poor kid, Harrington who plays Vincent in the movie I strapped him to a hospital gurney and he was surrounded by these sexy, freaky nurses. And a few months later after he finished making the movie he broke his ankle and he said he was in a hospital surrounded by nurses, on a gurney and he couldn't get the sequence out of his head," he laughs.
Being that the film was originally meant to be written by Roger Avery, but due to being sent to jail for gross vehicular manslaughter (and two felony counts of causing bodily injury while intoxicated) the film was delayed until the studio hired you back in the Fall of 2010. Then filming was delayed when a freak snow storm hit the set (in Cambridge, Ontario) back in March of 2011. And now you pay mention to a cast member breaking his foot! Do you believe in Evil, Michael?! "No, I'm not really a believer in those kinds of things. I love them as fictional concepts, but in the real world I'm really quite a pragmatic kind of guy. I don't think Silent Hill is any more cursed than anything else. It would be lovely to be able to say yes, but I don't think that's the case."
"The history of the movie in terms of Roger Avery and his involvement, and his unfortunate incident; which for him was a personal tragedy on many, many levels, is bad though, yes. But I spoke to Christoh Gantz when he chose not to step into the director's chair. And for me this was a great opportunity. So, what went before was before. The weather is just a product of shooting in Toronto in the winter. But beyond that, it's a movie that deals in the supernatural and the spooky. But there's nothing going on on the set. Well, nothing that I was aware of anyway," he laughs.
OK, finally, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you also, perhaps? "Do I love penguins? You know what, I don't have much fondness for penguins. Because I think they're hugely overrated! Just give me a Leopard Seal so he can eat your penguin! Sorry, but I gotta go negative on the penguin question!"
"But, what I do love is how Emperor penguins huddle up in the Antarctic winter and how they each have a different position within the group in order to protect themselves from the harsh weather. If you watched an amazing program on the penguins called The Living Planet with David Attenborough, you can see them in time-lapse moving so that each one gets a turn in the middle of the huddle. So, you've got to at least admire an animal that can do that."
"But, sorry, they're hugely overrated. Just because they're cute and cuddly. Oh, and they smell of fish," he laughs, one last time.
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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