It’s been too long since the last Drew Goddard movie. Although Goddard has been attached to a host of projects, his first directorial effort was 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods. Thankfully, after six long years, he has returned to the director’s chair with Bad Times at the El Royale. The film opened last Friday and focuses on seven strangers in 1969 who come to the El Royale hotel, which is on the border of Nevada and California. As the night wears on, secrets are revealed, and almost no one is who they seem to be.
Earlier this month, I had a chance to talk with Goddard about the movie. We discussed his screenwriting process, putting together the soundtrack, and the difficulty of getting the film into production. We then move into spoilers to discuss some more specific elements of the movie including how he came to the ending.
Check out the interview below. Bad Times at the El Royale is now in theaters, and you can click here to read Haleigh Foutch’s review.
In your commentary for Cabin in the Woods, you and Joss Whedon talk a lot about set up and pay off when writing a screen play, and I was curious if you could talk about that process here when you’ve got a movie that jumps back and forth in time.
DREW GODDARD: Yeah, I mean you really use … first and foremost my I would say that’s my first rule of screenwriting, which is it’s all about set up and pay off. With this movie in particular there is no wasted time, everything is setting up something. We spend the first act or so first 40 minutes really setting all the pieces in place so that when they start to fall there’s a very clear moment when the pieces start to fall in this film. When that happens, a character gets hit in the head, and when that happens it’s because of all the set up that we’d done that then allowed the audience to sort of go on.
So when you were writing the screen play, did you have sort of the time jumps in there or was that something you found more in the editing room?
GODDARD: Yeah, well it was all in the screen play. This movie is so complicated, from a pure structural stand this was not the sort of movie where you could just shoot a bunch of stuff and figure it out later. We had to be very clear about every decision every step of the way.
Was it difficult to get this movie made since it wasn’t based on a pre-existing property?
GODDARD: I would say no more so than any movie. I mean even pre-existing property are tough to get made unless you’re dealing with Marvel or Star Wars. Everything’s kind of tough to get made these days, and we’re not worried about it too much. I tend to just write what I want to watch, and then hope that other people will want to watch that too. In this case it worked out. If they treated every movie that I’ve ever made that has my name on it seemed like a crazy idea at the time, even something like The Martian, which did so well, it’s still going into the studio and pitching, “Here’s an E-book based on a man who makes potatoes in his own feces,”—it wasn’t the sexiest pitch, and yet I always trust that if I love something I can convey that love to the audience and to the studios.