Director Marcos Efron discusses his thriller And Soon the Darkness which stars Amber Heard and Odette Yustman
Efron directs Heard and Yustman along with Karl Urban and Adriana Barraza in the thriller remake And Soon the Darkness, which can currently be seen in a limited theatrical run and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD December 28. I recently had the chance to speak with Marcos over the phone about his new movie, which revolves around a pair of tourists (Amber Heard and Odette Yustman) vacationing in Argentina when terrible things start to happen. Here's what he had to say:
You're almost going back to the original trend of remakes, where they would remake more obscure movies instead of remaking everything. Can you talk about what you saw in that original 1970 movie that you thought made this ripe for a redo?
Marcos Efron: Yeah, absolutely. I can't take credit for choosing to make this remake. Karen Lauder and the producers had been involved some years before me and ID'd it as something they wanted to remake. When I got involved, a couple of years afterwards, I saw the movie for the first time. To be honest, I had never heard of it. I could see why they wanted to remake it because it was a simple, clean, atmospheric film that didn't rely on aliens or blood and guts. Those are great in certain movies, no doubt about it, but in this movie, it was in need of more of a slow burn. I thought, with all the remakes out there, let's do something that's a little different. That was the appeal to me, as a director.
Can you talk a bit about your writing process with Jennifer Derwingson? What were there things you wanted to keep from the original and what kinds of things did you want to make your own?
Marcos Efron: Sure. Jennifer had written the script before I had gotten involved and then I rewrote the script and she and I ultimately shared credit. It worked out great because there are a lot of elements that she brought along with things that I created. In terms of the original movie, the biggest thing for me was, A) it wasn't going to be torture porn, it wasn't going to be a gory movie. And B), I really wanted that feeling of a stranger in a strange land. In the original and Jane, the Stephanie character, she doesn't understand French and there are no subtitles, so, unless you speak French, you're not going to know what they're talking about. That's what I wanted to keep in this remake.
Nice. So you really wanted to keep the viewer on the same plane as the character then?
Marcos Efron: Yeah. Unless you speak Spanish, with a dialect from northern Argentina, you're really not going to know what's going on. You might get an idea. Certainly, there aren't any major plot points that you have to speak Spanish to understand, but just the idea that they can't understand what anybody is saying, I think that helps puts the audience in Stephanie's shoes. That was a thing from the original movie that I was intent on keeping.
The locations here are simply stunning. I saw from the director's diary on the DVD that you needed some local ingenuity at times, with the river bridge and the docks. Can you talk about shooting in those locations and what else those locals really brought to the production?
Marcos Efron: Oh, the first thing I have to say is that the crews in Argentina are outstanding. They do a lot of film there, a lot of commercials, so there was a great depth of talent there. There were challenges because weren't shooting in Buenos Ares. We were either two and a half hours by plane in the northwest province, or six hours by car from Buenos Ares, so we didn't have the support, like if a camera goes down. We really did rely on our crew from Buenos Ares but also the crews from these small towns. These people don't have 75 studio vans and trucks and the gluttony of support, we just figured out how to do it and we had a lot of great people working with us.
Aside from being cut off like that, were there any other location challenges like weather or anything like that?
Marcos Efron: You know, we actually got lucky that the weather cooperated. We were shooting around February or March, which would be winter/spring for us and it's more like summer/fall in the Southern Hemisphere. We had a couple of days of rain, but nothing severe. I count myself lucky.
I was really amazed about those ruins you shot in, for the end of the movie. It was really a stunning landscape and then to find out that those were real, untouched environments. You said on the director's diary that your dad told you stories about that. Did you just remember those stories when you were looking for a location for this?
Marcos Efron: You know, my dad was born and raised in Argentina and I told him that I was doing this movie in Argentina, and I said I had wanted something like the Salton Sea or like an abandoned lakefront and asked if he knew anyplace like that. He said, 'Absolutely,' and he told me the whole story about the flooding. When I saw the pictures, I couldn't believe that no one had used this location before. The location scouts in Argentina were great, but even they hadn't heard of this place. It's crazy.
It really added a lot to the scene. It's hard to describe, really, but it was fascinating and I wanted to know more about that place.
Marcos Efron: Yeah. It's an alien landscape and we didn't do anything to it to achieve that look. That's just how it looks. Yeah, we threw some props here and there, but the landscape is how it looks. I think it was in the mid-80s when it flooded. It was like a saltwater resort.
This is your feature directing debut and you have a wonderful cast that most people making their feature debut don't get the luck of working with. Can you talk about landing Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, Karl Urban and even Adriana Barraza in a small part as well?
Marcos Efron: Again, I count my lucky stars, I had a great cast. Amber was the first piece of the puzzle to fall into place. We got along great because we're both from Texas and I just knew that I was really going to enjoy working with her. Odette came on board and then Adriana. I mean, Babel is one of my favorite movies, and she was phenomenal in that. I thought there was no way we would get Adriana and when she agreed to do it, it was amazing. Then Karl came on board and it was off to the races. I know how lucky I am.
Amber is becoming know for taking on very diverse roles. She's a very intense actress and it's great to see her in something like this.
Marcos Efron: The great thing about Amber is, for as young as she is, she's extraordinarily smart. She really understands characters and story and I wouldn't want to underestimate Amber Heard. I'll say that, because she is smart and she knows what she wants and I really enjoyed working with her.
There was a bit of physicality to this role, along with working in some of the colder water climates. Was she game for all of that right away? Did she embrace that aspect of the role?
Marcos Efron: Yeah. After a few minutes of cajoling (laughs), she would be up for anything. I think anybody's first instinct is, 'You want me to get into that?' But she was game for everything and it definitely took a lot of TLC on my part. It was great and she was game for anything, as were Odette, Karl. I have to give major credit to the Argentinian actors as well, Michel Noher, who plays Chucho and César Vianco who plays the police officer, Calvo. Those guys were phenomenal.
I really enjoyed the Director's Diary on the special features. Was that something you wanted from the get-go, to document your first feature?
Marcos Efron: (Laughs) Gosh, it's funny hearing all these questions like it was such forward thinking. Yes, we had a videographer on set and I remember, I guess it was every day, I was thinking about the day's shoot, the shot list, the problems that came up the night before that we have to deal with, and the videographer would grab me and ask me all these questions. Of course, now in hindsight, it was great, because we have all these documentary pieces of the making of the film, but I was thinking about nothing but making the movie at that time. I'm sure somebody was thinking about it, though, and I'm glad they did.
Is there anything that you're currently writing or are attached to that you can talk about?
Marcos Efron: There are a couple of projects I'm working on right now. There's an adaptation of a book over at Sony Pictures that I'm working on and there is a writer that I've become friends with, he has this really good time travel script that I'm going to be directing. And, you know, I'm doing some commercials and staying busy until the next project goes, which will hopefully be next year.
Can you say anything about what that book you're adapting is?
Marcos Efron: I probably shouldn't because it's not set up yet and I don't want to get in trouble. I can tell you that it's based on a British novel from a couple of years ago, a trilogy, young adult. It's kind of like Logan's Run meets 1984.
To wrap up, what would you like to say to fans of the thriller genre or fans of this amazing cast about why they should check out And Soon the Darkness?
Marcos Efron: I think if you're looking for a movie that's not what you expect and doesn't rely purely on gore and the torture porn genre, I think you're really going to like the ride you'll take with And Soon the Darkness. It's a slow burn, but it's well worth it.
Well, that's about all I have for you. Thanks so much for your time, Marcos, and best of luck with any new projects you have coming up.
Marcos Efron: Thanks, Brian. I appreciate it.