Director James Watkins and film editor Jon Harris dropped by the press room at Empire’s BIG SCREEN to discuss upcoming Hammer horror film The Woman in Black which stars Daniel Radcliffe and is set to arrive in UK cinemas on 10th February 2012.
James, can you tell us what the story is about?
JW: We’re trying not to give away too much of the film’s plot, because part of it is the mystery! Daniel Radcliffe plays a young lawyer who is sent up north to sort out a problem for his company.
There he encounters a mystery which gets deeper and deeper and scarier and scarier.
Does having Daniel Radcliffe help the film’s profile?
JW: Having Daniel is fantastic in so many ways, lots of people love Dan and he has a big fan base and people want to see him so in terms of getting the film out there it’s fantastic…
JH: …and it’s such a new role for him…
JW: absolutely and I think that’s what is so interesting about the film, it’s showing Dan in a new light and gives Dan a new challenge.
It’s really his first proper grown up role – he plays a father in the film, someone who has lost his wife, so he’s playing a real sadness, a real…
JH: …it’s a real grown up performance
JW: …yes, it’s in a completely different register to what he’s done before.
So how did Daniel get involved?
JW: I had him in mind and he read the script and we met and talked about it to make sure we were seeing the film in the same way and we were and we clicked.
It was important to Dan to know we were making a very scary film, there’s a lot of emotion in the script and wanted to make sure we were delivering on that.
Will this part cement Daniel’s status as a ‘proper’ actor?
JW: I really think it will, I’m really proud of his performance in this film, I think he shows a really new side, a different side to himself as an actor and in terms of his range and where he’s willing to go.
When you’ve done something that’s so big and do pervasive as Harry Potter and so successful it’s very hard for people to see beyond that.
He looks completely different, he looks older, he looks great, taking the glasses off, he’s lit differently and I think people will be really amazed. It’s a totally different Daniel Radcliffe.
JH: I think in years to come people will look back and say ‘that was his first grown-up role’ – he’s going to be a real movie star.
Does the nature of the film place an onus on you to say it might not be suitable for younger Harry Potter fans?
JW: Under a certain age it’s not the right film because it’s a very scary film so no, I think parents would be very up in arms if their kids were going to see it.
But then again, it’s not a film with blood and guts and violence, the scares are all implied, they’re psychological.
I don’t know what rating it’ll get but I image 12-13 year olds will be able to go and see it and have a really fantastic scary time but be scared in a way that’s a really fun way.
How does it feel carrying on the Hammer legacy?
JW: It’s not a legacy that’s ever weighed on us, we’ve never had the conversation ‘how can this be a Hammer film?’
I think it’s fantastic brand and we’re very proud to have the logo at the beginning of the film and obviously it does hark back to classic horror films.
JH: There are certain key moments, just because they’re dressed in Victorian garb, that’s cool, classic Hammer Horror.
JW: I think if we’d set out to make ‘a Hammer film’ in a sort of retro way…I think what we made is a very modern film that is very scary and plays to a modern audience. I doesn’t feel like a period movie.
I wasn’t trying to pursue a legacy, I just wanted to say ‘what is the story?’, ‘what is it about?’ and ‘what are the key things in that speak to me and ‘how can I translate onto the screen?’
Everything else is really just a white noise or distraction so I try and keep blinkered about those things.
A lot of people will have experienced the play, which has been a huge success, how different is the film version?
JW: The film is based on Susan Hill’s book, rather than the play, that’s what Jane’s script is based upon.
Obviously in terms of the film it needed to be opened out. A lot of the film is set in a house and becomes quite tense and claustrophobic, but you want to make sure moments outside the house REALLY breathe and have real scale so that people get the full cinema experience.
What’s been very gratifying is whenever people have talked about the play and the film, they say the film is scarier and I understand the play is very scary so that’s a good thing!
Is scaring people what you wanted to achieve?
JW: That’s a good question! I’ve always said if you buy a ticket for a comedy it has to have laughs, If you buy a ticket for a ghost story or a supernatural thriller it has to scare you, that’s the ride.
But if it’s just about that, for me that’s not enough and what really appealed to be about the script was that it wasn’t just a deliver vehicle for scares, it had a lot more to it than that. It has a real emotion depth.
JH: It’s a really good unravelling mystery and the scares come out of that.