Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, and Gil Kenan Talk about the new computer animated flick
In every neighborhood, there's that one house that's just plain scary. And on Halloween, you just don't want to trick or treat there - maybe because the house is scary or maybe because the people who live there are scary. Whatever the case may be, that's the house in Monster House that Mitchel Musso, Spencer Locke, and Sam Lerner want to conquer.
The three teenagers made Monster House with the same computer animated technology used in The Polar Express; they acted out every scene, did nearly every stunt, and had a great time interacting with director, Gil Kenan. Plus, having actors like Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Nick Cannon and Jon Heder on set didn't hurt either - in fact, they almost hurt the actors, literally.
Sam told us about the first time he found out Jon was going to be part of the cast. "We jumped on Jon when we first met him; we were rehearsing, Gil had us rehearsing, and me and Mitchel go over to Gil and like, 'Hey, have you seen that movie Napoleon Dynamite? It's so funny.' And he's like, 'Oh yeah, you know, Jon Heder, he's actually in this movie.' And we went, 'Whah?' And he's like, 'Yeah, he's coming in an hour or so.' We were like, 'Ahhhh!' He walked through that door, and of course, Spencer being mature, just goes up and 'Hi, I'm Spencer' and shakes his hand; we leaped on him."
Spencer confirmed they can do that famous dance from the movie - they just wouldn't show us.
Getting that trio together, you could tell there was not only instant chemistry; but even after two years after shooting Monster House, getting back together, the chemistry was still there. Gil said finding the perfect cast was absolutely essential - even meeting with 1000 kids. "I knew this movie would sink or swim on the relationship between these three kids. So that meant I had to go after more than just a singular performance, I had to go after group chemistry. quest was finding the three kids that when you put them together, it felt like there was a potential for history between them. really, I was just a match maker; I had to pair the right personalities together once I found the right - let's say I found 30 great actors who are kids, it's not enough that they're great actor, they also have this second thing, which is innate - that's what was so difficult."
Because the teens had shot this so long ago, seeing the full movie really freaked them out. "Definitely a crazy feel after two years of waiting on it," says Mitchel. He continued with, "Going back in and watching and just remembering all the memories and stuff and shooting it and all the chemistry and working with each other and how fun it was; it was really cool to watch." Sam has seen it four times already with Spencer, but recently saw it with Mitchel. "I was clinging to him, literally."
Spencer has also seen Monster House numerous times, but it's different for her every time. "We saw it again last night, and it seemed scarier than ever, and I can't wait to see it tonight at the premiere; it's going to be in 3D. It's going to be amazing!"
Sam still gets scared "at that part with the hand; I jump every time, and I know it's coming, but I still do it." Mitchel talked about that scene as well. "They shot that after we shot the movie; I don't think any of us knew that was going to come. I mean, because it's animated, Gil just threw that in at the last second - something that will make you jump out of your seat."
Monster House is executive produced by the power team of one of my hero's, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis. Gil recalled finding out he got the job, and meeting with Zemeckis. Still in college at UCLA, his student film was shown at the DGA (Director's Guild of America) where it eventually ended up in the hands of Robert. "called me in to talk Monster House; I heard that he saw my film and he liked it and passed it on to Spielberg, who watched it and also liked it, which is also crazy. I read an early draft of Monster House which was written by two maniacs, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab. I read it and it triggered something in me; I don't know what it was - something animal. I went into a state where I was attacked by ideas and images from the story and some new ways I thought the story could become something special for me. So by the time I went in to see Zemeckis, which was a few days after that, after I read the script, I came in with these crumpled up drawings in my hands. I put them on the table and I don't think I shut up for about two hours and I explained the movie. It was a really great meeting, and if nothing else, I just met one of my heroes and I can pretty much die now. But then I found out it went really well and that he was going to give me a chance."
Monster House is not meant to be scary, but parts could frighten some younger children; Spencer says it really depends on the kid. "Last night, we saw it with a bunch of kids and I was sitting in front of a 5-year-old girl thinking she'd be really scared. Afterwards, I asked her, 'What did you think? Did you like it? Were you scared?' And she said, 'No, no; I wasn't scared, I loved it!' And then there are the kids, the wimpy kids that might be a little afraid."
Mitchel talked about the subject as well; "Kids are going to get a ton of emotions out of the movie. We went up there to do a Question and Answer, and one kid came up, he was about 6 or 7; he goes, 'Gil, why'd you make the movie so sad?' And we were like, 'Oh, well.' I guess it just all depends; we're hoping no one runs out screaming of the movie theater when it opens the first day."
And Sam said, "There was a lot of little kids yesterday, way younger than I'd think. I thought it was going to be like 10-years-old; they were like 6. I didn't see anyone screaming out."
Gil said Monster House really resonates with kids - especially, the weird owner of the house. "When we first came to Los Angeles, we lived in an apartment building, so it's not quite a house. But there was an apartment on the ground floor, right next to the pool, where this old man lived. He was the superintendent of the building - Old Man Ben. And he used to terrorize us; he had this cane, and whenever we played, like kids do - I was like 7 or 8 or 9, he would take the can and smash it up against the ceiling. It would create this really haunting, resonating sound - and kind of more in line with Monster House, whenever we left any toys around the pool, or anywhere near his apartment, they would disappear into this vast emptiness of his checkered interior. He used to wear Mr. Furley pants, like kind of plaid, checked pants - really hideous and scary."
Gil, being such a young filmmaker, made for a great atmosphere for the three teens. Mitchel remembered "when he took us all to In 'N' Out in our suits, in our dots one day; we said, 'Man, this is the greatest director.' We knew it was going to be a fun shoot; it was great."
Sam, being a kid himself jumped in with "He's a kid at heart; he's so much fun. He let us improvise; he let us do everything basically, he let us give ideas instead of being the director who chooses everything that's going to go in, he let us bring our own little things to the character."
And as far as the improv, Spencer said, "It was really hard with Kevin James and Nick Cannon keeping a straight face. Man, Kevin James, both of them, they kept throwing out really funny lines and we had a really hard time not laughing."
And you may not be able to stop laughing when you see Monster House when it scares up theaters July 21st; it's rated PG.