Jessica Rothe on the 80s Aesthetic of ‘Valley Girl’ and the Status of ‘Happy Death Day 3’

     May 8, 2020

With a killer ‘80s soundtrack, the musical remake of Valley Girl follows high school senior Julie (Jessica Rothe), as she spends time with her BFFs at the mall and on the arm of her jock boyfriend (Logan Paul), all while dreaming about a life creating fashion designs. When she meets and falls for punk rock musician Randy (Joshua Whitehouse), even though he challenges everything she stands for, he also makes Julie realize that she needs to break out of the bubble that she’s been living in and follow her heart.

During the virtual press day for the film, Jessica Rothe spoke to Collider for this 1-on-1 phone interview about how this movie is just the thing to bring a little bit of ‘80s neon sunshine to people’s lives right now, feeling fortunate that people will finally get to see the film after it’s long journey to being released, getting familiar with the ‘80s music, the most challenging performance numbers, and getting to share a scene with one of the original film’s stars, Deborah Foreman. She also talked about the possibility of a third Happy Death Day movie, and why she wanted to be a part of the upcoming Amazon series Utopia.

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Image via Metro Goldwyn Meyer Pictures

Collider: This movie was just so much fun!

JESSICA ROTHE: Oh, thank you so much! It’s funny because this movie has had such a long life. They were trying to make it for 10 years, before I even came onto the project. I auditioned for it five years ago. I didn’t get cast for about a year and a half, almost two years. It’s just been a long journey for this movie. The funny thing is, I feel like now is when it was supposed to come out ‘cause everybody needs a little bit of ‘80s neon sunshine in their life, right now.

You’ve done the slasher version of Groundhog Day, and now you’ve done this musical version of Valley Girl. Is there another film out there that you’d love to do some twisted version of, in another genre?

ROTHE: That’s a really good question. I was talking to someone recently about how, if I could be in a remake of any ‘80s movie, I would love to do Indiana Jones, but be Indiana Jones and also have Harrison Ford be in Indiana Jones with me. So, I don’t know what that means, or what that looks like, if it’s some kind of Freaky Friday/Indiana Jones situation, or if it’s just that I get to be in an awesome action movie, in the future, that’s about tomb raiding. I don’t know. That’s just a genre that I haven’t gotten to completely explore, and I think it would be really fun.

Obviously, when you make a big screen movie, it’s disappointing not to be able to see it on the big screen, especially when it would have been a lot of fun to see this movie with an audience. But are you just happy that people will finally get to see this film, even if it’s in their own homes?

ROTHE: 100%. I feel so fortunate that we live in a time where media is so accessible, especially right now. That’s not only being able to Skype and Zoom and FaceTime your loved ones, but also having the ability to have access to millions of hours of content because we all have a lot of time right now. And so, in that way, even though it would have been really fun to see this movie on a big screen because of the incredible set designs, the costumes, the colors, the dance routines and the music, I get so much joy, thinking that it will bring people happiness and comfort and a smile to people’s faces while they’re stuck inside. A big reason why I do what I do is to connect people and to tell stories. It doesn’t matter if the story is big or small, or on a big screen or on your phone. It’s just about expressing emotion and connecting people.

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Image via Metro Goldwyn Meyer Pictures

Had you been aware of much ‘80s music prior to doing this, or did you have to really school yourself in these songs?

ROTHE: It was both. I love ‘80s music, but very specifically ‘80s power ballads. I love Heart, I love Pat Benatar, and I love Cyndi Lauper. I feel like I had a really good education in the music that Julie would listen to, which is much more pop rock ‘80s and really fun, upbeat, more high-produced stuff. It was really fun, being exposed to the music that was more of what Randy would listen to. Matt Smith, our producer, made us this incredible playlist with a bunch of music from all over the ‘80s. One of my favorite parts of this job is getting to expand my knowledge base about any given topic. The ‘80s is definitely something I know more about now than I did when I shot this movie.

Are there challenges that are specific to doing a musical where you’re performing some really well known songs, as opposed to doing original songs?

ROTHE: Oh, 100%. Part of it has to do with feeling ownership over the music, and that comes from really figuring out why your character would sing these words, in that moment. When the music is written for the movie or for the play, or for whatever the musical format is, it can be a lot easier because it’s pretty spelled out. You know exactly why they’re singing, and it’s much more specific. And so, we had to go in and create narratives, as to why we were singing about these things and what the subtext was. Some of the songs lent themselves really well to what was happening. It was definitely a really fun challenge to find the ways to make it feel personal and specific to each moment.

There are a lot of big performance numbers in this, and you even kick things off, dancing in a mall. Was there one that was most fun to shoot, and one that was most challenging to shoot?

ROTHE: The most challenging would probably be a tie. The mall was really fun, but there were just so many moving pieces. We were also shooting it at night, and everybody was exhausted. The last day that we were filming, we were up on fountains and jumping around, and everybody was in crazy costumes, and there were neon lights. It was really fun, but getting everything to sync up was definitely a challenge. And then, the other number that was really challenging was the aerobics number because we actually didn’t learn that until the day before we shot it. There had been a lot of discussion, amongst the producers and our music supervisor, about what the songs in the mash-up for that aerobics number should be, and they didn’t settle on them until the week before we shot it. So, on Friday, we got the track, on Saturday we recorded audio, on Sunday we learned the dance, and on Monday we shot it, which was just an insane timeline. Luckily, we had the amazing Mandy Moore, and her assistant Scott, who got us through it and made us look incredible, and I am beyond thankful to them.

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Image via Metro Goldwyn Meyer Pictures

What were the conversations around that costume like?

ROTHE: I loved it. I thought, “When else, in my life, am I going to get to wear that much spandex, ever, and have it be socially acceptable?” The costumes on this film were just a joy. It is always such a huge gift when I get to work on something and, whether it’s costumes, or a dialect, or hair and make-up, or something in the set design that really informs my character and the time and the place, and this movie had all of those things, especially in the costumes. Our costume designer, Maya Lieberman, did the most incredible job. A lot of the stuff I was wearing was vintage from the ‘80s. A lot of the pieces were pulled from different warehouses, whether it was MGM or Paramount. She got to go into their vault and pull stuff, which was such a treat for me.

What was it like to actually share a scene with the original film’s star, Deborah Foreman? Did you get to talk to her about the character, at all, or get any fun stories from her about the original film?

ROTHE: I did. Deborah is just such a ray of sunshine. She is so incredibly generous and kind and beautiful, and I can only imagine how strange it was for her to step onto our set, and seeing us do an adaptation of the movie that broke her. She was so beautiful and wonderful, in the way that she spoke about it and in her way of saying, “You get to play Julie now. I got to do that, and now it’s your turn.” It was a really positive experience. It felt important to everyone who was working on this movie. The original movie is brilliant and amazing, and there are so many people who love it so much, so we wanted to continue to explore it, and add the musical element, and give Julie more of a character arc, and add the mother-daughter element, and infuse all of these other things into it, but still pay homage to the original film and to the brilliant actors who did it because they’re the reason that we got to make this movie, and that’s a really important thing to remember.

You were so good in the Happy Death Day movies. Is there any chance that we’ll see a third? Is that something that you’d like to see happen?

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Image via Universal Pictures

ROTHE: I would love to see that happen. I know that the incredible, brilliant, genius Chris Landon has a third one in his brain. I would really love to get to finish Tree’s story. We didn’t know we were going to get to make a second one, but then, once we did, we definitely left it open for a third. I know that we all also feel really passionately that, if we’re going to make it, we want to make it right, and we want to make it incredible and raise the bar again, in terms of genre bending, and the quality of the movie and the story. Hopefully, we will get to make it, and hopefully, we’ll get to make it in the right way.

There’s definitely a fan desire for a third one?

ROTHE: I also have to say, though, that if in 20 years I get to pull a Jamie Lee Curtis, a la Halloween, and just barge back onto the scene as a badass older Tree, I’m not going to be mad at that. I’m ready for it now. I’m ready for then.

You also have the Amazon series Utopia, which also sounds like a cool story. What was the appeal of that series for you?

ROTHE: I had seen the original, awhile ago. It’s a British show, and it’s incredible. It’s just so smart and weird, and it’s shot really beautifully. It’s really hyper-saturated with color, and the characters are crazy and amazing. And then, when I heard the Gillian Flynn was helming the revamp for Amazon, I was like, “Oh, my god, I have to be a part of this.” And so, I auditioned. It was a really incredible experience. The cast is absolutely amazing. Gillian is a dream. She is everything amazing that you could possibly think about her, and more. I feel really lucky I got to work on it. Hopefully, it will come out soon. I’m not quite sure what their timeline is now because of everything that’s happening, but luckily, it’s in the can, so it should get to us sooner rather than later.

Valley Girl is available on digital.

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