A couple weeks ago, Fede Alvarez‘ remake of Evil Dead premiered at SXSW to an ecstatic crowd (click here to read my review). For those unfamiliar with the film, the story centers on five friends who go to a remote cabin in the woods, and stumble upon a demonic evil that begins possessing them one by one, which causes horrific scenes of gore and mutilation. Jane Levy stars as Mia, who has gone to the cabin to detox with the help of her two friends, her estranged brother, and his new girlfriend.
I got the chance to interview Levy at SXSW, and we talked about her role, if she had studied people who were detoxing, the appeal of the gruesome violence, the intensity of the production, working with Alvarez, and much more. We also talk about the film’s ending near the end of the interview, so I’ve put up a spoiler warning when we get to that part. Hit the jump to check out the interview. Evil Dead opens April 5th.
JANE LEVY: Good, I’m a little tired because last night was so great we stayed up all night long celebrating.
Was that your first time seeing the film?
LEVY: It wasn’t my first time seeing the film, but it was my first time seeing the film with color correction, the score and with an audience and it was fucking awesome. We couldn’t have asked for better- were you there?
Yes, I was.
LEVY: We couldn’t have asked for a better reaction. As an artist to watch people respond so viscerally to your movie feels so good, so we were really excited and we stayed up all night.
Did it feel really good to have it pay off after all that physical work?
LEVY: Totally, it was really torture for four months straight. It was really, really hard and I can’t imagine what would happen if I did that and people were like, “Eh, it was mediocre.” I would kill myself. No, it totally paid off, all the hard work.
When you first joined the project did they adequately convey the intensity of what would be required for the role?
LEVY: They tried to, they tried to, but you can’t. There’s only so much you can explain and you can imagine and it really only becomes real when you’re experiencing it. They were really supportive, and right before we started shooting Rob [Tapert] took me into his office and he said, “Jane, there’s going to be a point when you break. There’s going to be a point where you break down and you won’t be able to shoot anymore, and you’re going to be crying, and that’s okay. Just come straight to me when that moment comes.” That moment totally came and it was really nice to know that they were always there for me, because it’s even harder than it looks, that’s all I’ll say.
LEVY: That was fun, yeah that was really fun. It’s like you’re looking at a completely- you’re looking at an alien, some who doesn’t really exist.
Because you guys shot mostly in continuity did that help with your performance and just getting into the character?
LEVY: Absolutely, that was really helpful. I think they did it mostly for the blood levels and for continuity for that sake, but for me it was really helpful because I play three different characters in this movie. It’s this girl struggling at the beginning, then it’s a girl possessed, and then it’s a girl finally gaining strength and she’s an action hero. So I can’t imagine bouncing back and forth between them. I did a little bit, there was a little bit of crossover when we had to do the reshoots.
I want to just go back a little bit to the audience reaction. What do you think the appeal is of this level of violence and intensity and what makes people go for it?
LEVY: You know, I don’t have an answer for you. It’s something I think about a lot, I do. And also it goes into thinking about violence and whether it’s a good thing to be contributing to the world and I feel really conflicted about it. I wish I had a solid answer, but it’s a complicated subject. Violence has been a part of storytelling forever and there’s obviously a reason for it. Fairy tales are really violent, the original ones. I think there’s something cathartic about having kids live through their fears through a book or any kind of story. But with all the violence in the world it also feels like why would I be putting my energy into putting more? I don’t know; I really don’t.
LEVY: No, totally, me too. There’s a level of entertainment and also just art itself. Violence is a part of the world and life and you shouldn’t have to take it out of stories. I don’t know, I don’t know.
How did looking at Sam Raimi’s original film inform what you brought to this picture?
LEVY: There were pieces here and there where we were paying homage and I really enjoyed those little moments. Like in the cellar I did this- it’s not actually in the cut in the theaters, but it’ll be in an extended version on the DVD where I sing the “we’re coming to get you” song. That was a lot of fun to play with, and the tree rape scene, I love, it’s my favorite part of the original. It’s just so bizarre.
LEVY: It’s so bizarre. The one part we changed about it is its arguable whether or not she likes it in the original, there’s this weird pleasure, we didn’t do that and I’m happy about that part.
That’s one of the things; Sam Raimi’s original is sort of a filmmaker trying to find his voice. What was it like working with Fede, because he seemed to know exactly what he wanted?
LEVY: I know, it seems that was doesn’t it?
It was very controlled in the tone, not that I dislike the original.
LEVY: No, of course, I’m with you. I’m really impressed with what he did. I think what’s so cool- I think there are a lot of things about him; I think he’s just probably naturally talented and he’s a really intelligent guy, but he was really free. He wasn’t obsessed with one idea or he wasn’t precious with his words. He was really open to changing whatever right in the moment, even to the point where sometimes it was really annoying. Like they had made a prosthetic for my right arm and then the day of he decided it to be my left arm, and so we just had to somehow make my left arm look like my right arm, and he didn’t care he goes, “just do it,” and it always worked. I think there was something about that spontaneity and how he was just open to any ideas coming his way. I thought that was so cool and he was a real collaborator, even though he was very much the vision and in charge of everything.
LEVY: Let me try to think…I don’t know, those kind of details- I don’t remember acting.
It was a year ago.
LEVY: Yeah, it was a year ago, I mean I remember the physical stuff, but it’s hard to remember- there’s not that much dialogue in the movie, actual scenes and also my character goes through so many things it’s hard to say, “My character wouldn’t do this, my character wouldn’t do that.” You can sort of justify anything in this fantastic world.
One of the interesting things about this movie is that it takes a lot more time to really invest in the characters. Rather than Raimi’s film which just sort of snaps into “these are five people in a cabin”, this one sets up the characters.
LEVY: There was even more in the script.
LEVY: I did, a little, but I sort of felt like I know what paranoia feels like, I know what physical discomfort is, I know what the symptoms are, and it all happens so quickly that there was only so much space to explore those things. I didn’t do that much drug research, no [Laughs].
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
Last night it was mentioned that a sequel was already being written, have they talked to you about that? Do you know if you would be back?
LEVY: It’s being written, but it doesn’t mean the movies being made, but yes I would absolutely be back. I’ve had sort of conversations here and there, but nothing official.
Do you know where you would like to see your character go?
LEVY: It’s a good question, I don’t actually. I’m really excited because it seems like Fede is interested in my opinion, so I should think about it a little bit harder.
LEVY: I haven’t seen Evil Dead 2.
Evil Dead 2 is almost partially a remake of the first one because it starts out with Bruce and another girl, but just the two of them going to this cabin; it’s as if Evil Dead never happened. It’s definitely more a slapstick comedy so a sequel to this one would probably be somewhat different.
LEVY: Yeah, I think they would do something totally different. I think that’s the idea.
Do you like the voice that’s being forged with this one? Do you feel it’s something that other horror isn’t offering right now?
LEVY: Yeah, I do, I definitely feel it’s different than any horror movie I’ve ever seen. I haven’t even watched that many movies, I’m like a weird actor. I feel like I’m vastly uneducated when it comes to the cinema, but I guess there is something very old-school about this movie, right?
LEVY: There’s something very modern but also old-school about it.
Well, it takes away technology and all that stuff to make it a little timeless.
LEVY: No cell phones.
Exactly. Are you currently working on Suburgatory?
LEVY: I just finished season 2.
Do you have any film projects coming up on hiatus?
LEVY: I think I will. I’m working on stuff right now, but nothing that’s set in stone.
What the experience like going from a movie back to the regularity of a TV show?
LEVY: It’s so different. Going to Suburgatory is like going to the spa compared to Evil Dead. I swear to god, it’s like going to work and people massage me all day, that’s how it feels compared to Evil Dead.