Last year, some other journalists and I went to the set of Goosebumps, but unfortunately, producer Neal Moritz was unavailable. Thankfully, I got to a phone interview with Mortiz last week to discuss the film. For those unfamiliar with Goosebumps, Jack Black plays Stine in the film, and the author’s creations unexpectedly come to life thanks to a teen neighbor (Dylan Minnette). Subsequently, Stine must team up with his neighbor and daughter (Odeya Rush) before the numerous and varied monsters destroy their small town.
During our conversation, Moritz discussed why he wanted to adapt Goosebumps, the challenges in crafting a PG horror film, the line they’ve had to walk to avoid a PG-13 rating, choosing which books to use for the monsters, promotional tie-in plans for Halloween, shooting in Georgia and more. He also briefly touched on the status of Furious 8. Check out the full interview below.
Goosebumps opens October 16th.
What was it about Goosebumps that made you want to turn it into a film?
NEAL MORITZ: I love the combination of scary and fun. I thought it could be a way to [Bad phone connection] and I really wanted to make a movie that my kids could see as well.
From making the film, what were the discussions like on how scary to make this movie? Because this is a PG horror film and that’s a difficult line to walk.
MORITZ: I think, honestly, what was the biggest challenge for this movie was the tone. Our feeling was that we wanted to make it a movie that kids as young as 7-8 years old could see but it would also be good for older kids and adults. It was something that we felt like could be a real general audience movie, not just like a kiddy movie. I don’t really like to go see just a kiddy movie that my kids wanna see, I wanna see something that has something for me as well, and I felt like this material with the nostalgia factor also lent itself to that.
When we were on the set you guys had pulled from a lot of the books, what were the discussions on what to include and not to include in terms of trying to hit everyone’s favorite? Because since there are so many everyone has their favorites.
MORITZ: Yeah. You know, we had a number of kind of failed attempts at turning Goosebumps into a movie, we had some initial scripts that kind of just dealt with one book at a time and we just, honestly, didn’t feel like they could live up to what a Goosebumps movie would be expected of. It wasn’t until we came up with the idea that the reason that the Goosebumps movies are so good is because the monsters are real and are all locked up in the book, that to me was a credible reason as to why we should actually turn Goosebumps and make it into a movie, and I just didn’t think we would be doing it justice unless we included a lot of the monsters in the movie, which I can’t tell you the exact number of what we’re gonna have but we must have 30 of the Goosebumps monsters in the movie.
During the test screen process have you found that audiences are reacting to any of the monsters more than others?
MORITZ: They love Slappy, they love the gnomes, they love the praying mantis, and they love the abominable snowman. But everybody kind of has their own favorite per se, some people love the invisible boy, the poodle, there’s all kinds that everybody has because a lot of people grew up with these books in their childhood, a lot of people have these fond memories of one monster over another. But I love Slappy, I love him, and he’s the ring leader, he’s a little more manic than the rest of them and I love the fact that Jack [Black] voiced that character as well.
What was the process on sort of getting Jack to do that? Because when we were on set he still hadn’t quite gotten to it yet and I was curious what was it with finding that.
MORITZ: We just started talking about it, we all really liked… [Bad phone connection]… We had talked about Slappy being the alter ego of the Stine character, so it just made sense that Jack voiced him and he tried it and we listened to it and we were like, “That’s just a great way to go”.
Has there been anything that has been surprising to you from test audience screenings in terms of something that you didn’t expect people would respond to but they really gone for?
MORITZ: What really surprised me was that… [Bad phone connection]…the movie, and people had expectations of what a Goosebumps movie could be and I can honestly say that all the screenings we’ve had, all the research we’ve done, the movie has definitely surpassed what people’s expectations were, what it was gonna be, and I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that there is just a great idea at the center of it, and I thinks it’s really fun, I think the movie is fun but scary. And I think leach kid feels like they gain a badge of courage when they’ve made it through the movie, they’re like, “Yeah that was scary, but I made it through it, I’m so proud of myself”.
Well that’s what’s sort of really tricky, I find, today about PG horror films, is that in the ‘80s it used to be ok to scare kids and now it’s kind of harder to get that done in terms of taking that chance. Where there any sort of back-and-forths with the MPAA on like, “Is this PG, is this PG-13?”?
MORITZ: We had some issues with the poodle which I thought wouldn’t be an issue, but the poodle kind of scared people a little too far so we had to pull that back a little but not that much.
Because there are so many books left to tell, is this something that you’re eyeing with a lot of franchise potential for it, or is this right now something…?
MORITZ: I mean, I absolutely, absolutely loved making this first movie. I loved the kids, I loved Jack, I loved working with Rob [Letterman], I think we all just completely saw eye to eye on what it should be and yes I would love to make another one of these. I think we have some great ideas for it but until we see how audiences react to this I just can’t tell you what’s gonna happen.
Because this is planned around Halloween are you guys planning any sort of like tie-in or anything like that to sort of capitalize on the spooky season?
MORITZ: Yeah, we want this to be a holiday event.
Can you reveal anything on what you guys are sort of planning with regards of the tie-in to Halloween?
MORITZ: Sony had a lot of promotional stuff in place that they’re thinking about doing, none of it’s been finalized yet but we really want this to be like a big thing like maybe the kids come in costumes to the movie or a bunch of other things, a bunch of Halloween themed things that… [Bad phone connection].
While I have you on the phone and interviewing you, something I was also curious is that you guys have announced Furious 8 and I was wondering if you guys know when you plan to start that?
MORITZ: We’ll be shooting it next March-April.
Do you guys have a story for that and locations planned?
MORITZ: We don’t have that. I mean, we have a story but we don’t have locations picked yet now. We’re in the initial process of that right now we’re just kind of going through our usual thing.
Just to tie it back to Goosebumps, one of the things I liked about Fast and Furious is that it has expanded and right now Goosebumps is sort of this small town little thing. Is this a story where you can sort of see it expanding into other worlds?
MORITS: We have a great idea that expands Goosebumps if we’re lucky enough to make another one.
Great. Also, something I wanted to touch on with you with regards to Goosebumps, was that Goosebumps has been around for so long, was there any sort of ideas in terms of wanting to appeal to the older fans? Because my brother, who’s in his late 20s now and read these books when he was a kid but the books are still ongoing, was there any eye in terms of what era of Goosebumps books they should go for?
MORITZ: I think that we really tried to make a movie for a wide audience, people who grew up with them and have a nostalgia factor for the books, as well as the people who are reading them for the first time today. And I think it really satisfies that, what we’ve learned from our screenings is parents who read the books as kids love the movie and they’re kids love the movie. It’s been really a very, very rewarding experience in the fact that people just love the movie and we really feel like our best asset is showing the movie, so we’re gonna show it a lot before it comes out.
I’m an Atlanta native so I’m always happy when films are getting made there, so I was curious, what was the experience like shooting the film in Georgia for you guys?
MORITZ: It was fantastic. I’ve shot a lot of movies in Atlanta and I love shooting in Atlanta. I think it’s terrific place to shoot and with the new Pinewood Studios coming online there where I’m about to go shoot Passengers with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, I think it’s an added bonus, I think it’s a fantastic place to shoot movies.
Do you think you guys might do any Furious 8 shooting there or are you guys still deciding on that?
MORITZ: Possibly, we have in the past but we haven’t made that decision yet.
For more from my Goosebumps set visit, click on the links below:
- GOOSEBUMPS Set Visit: Jack Black vs. an Evil Dummy
- Jack Black Talks Playing R.L. Stine, Slappy, and More on the Set of GOOSEBUMPS