Interviews: Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson, and Radha Mitchell

     April 14, 2009

Written by Matt Goldberg

Danielle Panabaker (Becca)

While she may be getting a reputation as a “Scream Queen”, Danielle Panabaker seems to relish the title. Already showing off her horror chops earlier this year with “Friday the 13th” and last year with the psychological thriller “Mr. Brooks”, Panabaker not only seems excited by these roles but has a genuine interest in the whole production and while she does seem accident-prone, she enjoys the physicality of the role while constantly appreciating not only the visceral horror but the thematic horror of a town under quarantine and its citizens falling victim to a terrifying virus.

On the script: “I love that it starts moving right away. There are no secrets. There’s something wrong in this town.”

On being considered a “scream-queen”: “I would love to be a scream queen! I think it’s fun. I think you get to go so many places with something like this. You get to hit so many different notes, as an actor, because my character, you see her before everything starts going wrong in the town so she’s innocent and young and fun and then there’s a really dark journey this character has to take that you don’t necessarily see in a romantic comedy. And that’s fun for me. I don’t know why…maybe I have a very warped reality.”

On the physicality of her role: “My character gets tossed around. We were shooting a scene in a barn and I got my arm hurt and last week I accidentally got hit in the mouth with a rifle. I’m totally accident-prone! It’s Murphy Law: If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen to me.”

On how her character was [SPOILER FOR READERS WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE NEW FRIDAY THE 13TH] supposed to bite it in Friday the 13th: Well originally, my character got out onto the bus with Jared, Amanda, and Derek. But I don’t think they could get a location that worked. There was a really cute line (I don’t know if you’re allowed to use the word “cute” when describing a Friday the 13th…) about “Maybe on our next date we’ll do something a little bit more romantic,” and then my character gets it but it’s after this huge fight involving a fire extinguisher and all this crazy stuff. But when it came to shooting the bus scene, they decided I couldn’t be at the bus so they had to come up with a death for me that came before those characters got to the bus.

Is she more terrified by a masked killer charging through the woods or an infectious disease: “For me, it would be the infectious disease because with the masked killer, you know what’s coming. If Jason’s coming for you, that’s it. It’s over. But with this, I think the unknown aspect of ‘What’s going to happen?’ and ‘How’s it going to affect you?’ They’ve really thought through this infection and what becoming “crazy” means.

On the difference from “Friday the 13th’s” claustrophobic environment to the expanse and nowhere-to-hide of “The Crazies”: Well the environment changes a lot. This is a big night for that but there have been other nights like poor Joe and I ran through this field over and over again. I think that is pretty terrifying that you can run and waste your energy but you’re not really going to get anywhere that I think is kind of dark. But my preparation is still similar in that there’s just a really strong need to stay alive.

Joe Anderson (Deputy Russell Clank)

While he was all-singing and all-dancing in 2007’s “Across the Universe”, in “The Crazies” Joe Anderson is all-running all-fighting-for-his-life. We spoke with him about what he found appealing about his role and what he finds terrifying in this film.

Talking about his character: “He’s sort of a young guy trying to prove himself. To be honest, I think one of the most developed characters in the script was Russell. He’s just a young kid who starts off pretty cocky. And this whole thing changes him to some degree. That was what was appealing to me in the first place was the arc of the character and having room to go from two quite different extremes, black and white sides of the character.”

On the military presence: “It starts from the sky down. They’re checking out the area to see what happened. There are some lovely moments with Dutton sort of clocking this and putting the pieces together. And then it sort of gathers momentum.”

On the look of The Crazies: “It makes you sick. They’ve gone about it in a really clever way. It’s all based [in reality]. It doesn’t look like a stereotypical anything. It’s very real. The veins are… I had a friend who had menengitas and looking at what happened to her and looking at these people is very, very similar. So it has definite roots in reality, what happens to their eyes and skin. There are different levels.”

Radha Mitchell

While she may be no stranger to having her characters run for their lives, Radha Mitchell doesn’t let herself become a victim to monsters, fighting off badies in both “Pitch Black” and “Silent Hill”. Aware of the strength she has to bring to female characters, we spoke with Mitchell about filming in the South, the physical demands of the role (especially considering that her character is pregnant-but-not-yet-showing), and how fast and inescapable the terror is in “The Crazies”.

On filming in the South: I’ve never been down south before. I’ve gone horse-riding and was invited to go pig hunting. I was going to bring you all some boiled peanuts, but I couldn’t find any.”

“I had no experience [during Silent Hill] with that side of America. I didn’t know really what it was. Here there is a church everywhere you go. It’s the one thing that I’ll have missed out on doing is going to one of these church ceremonies, which would have been amazing to have done having been down south. I feel like I’ve learned about America being down here.”

On going to Bahama Bob’s Karaoke: “Everyone of all different shapes and sizes were in there grinding. It was actually a great bar. It’s probably one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. It felt very authentic.”

On the physical demands of the role: “I had a sore neck the other day because I was bashing the heck out of a crazy. That kind of thing does take its toll on your muscles. You need epsom salts if you’re going to do a part like this. It was fun. If you don’t have the gun, you want to have something like that.”

“Everything you do seems to be a demanding. This has been interesting because a lot of it isn’t so much in the dialogue but in the action and activities. A fight scene with a crazy can be quite physical. You don’t feel it while you’re acting, but each day you go, that hurts.”

“The scene that we’re shooting tomorrow night is quite intense as well. We go into the situation where the people who’ve got the disease are going to be. I’m going to be strapped to this gurney and injected with stuff. It’s genuinely intense…”

On what attracted her to the role: “I’ve really enjoyed it. What I like about the story is they’re like a normal couple. They’re a married couple that are going through this crazy situation. They are relying on each other and I don’t think you see that a lot in this genre. They’re in love and they’ve got the baby and they’re just normal. That’s what attracted me to the story in the first place.”

What pullsher characterinto the action? “I’m playing the town doctor and he’s playing the sheriff, so there’s a weird thing that’s occurring in the first scene which triggers his suspicion. And people are coming into the clinic with this weird kind of aura. We can’t quite figure out what it is and then the pieces all get put together and David kind of figures out [it’s all] connected. As soon as we figure it out, we’re in the middle of it all. We kind of fall into it as we figure it out at the same time. Just as they understand what’s going on, they become completely victimized by the situation.”

On the plausibility of the situation presented by the film: “Well I think the power of the story is its quite conceivable. This could happen and if it did happen you wouldn’t be trusting the government to be taking care of you. And I can cite incidents, but I won’t go into it, where this has happened. But just the way society is structured. This is the kind of thing that would get buried if it was possible to do that. If there’s a bunch of people that may or may not be infected, I can’t imagine them being invited into society. Who knows what some of these chemical weapons are designed to do and how capable are we of guiding them? Do we really trust the bureaucracy to be able to do that…”

Click here to read interviews with Director Breck Eisner, Production Designer Andrew Menzies, and Special Make-Up Designer Rob Hall

Click here to read an interview with Timothy Olyphant

Click here to read about Matt’s visit to the set of “The Crazies”

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