Director James Wong plays dead with Spooker Washington and talks Final Destination 3
Like, Boo! All you thalidomide babies...The fine folks at Movieweb finally let me crawl back out from underneath the couch. The biggest horror sequel of the year is upon us, and I was allowed the opportunity to see it first. Why? Because I'm the Internet's leading Horror Journalist. Yeah, that's right, all you backstabbers and turd-talkers. I know more than a thing or two about blood and guts.
The Final Destination series has long been one of my New Millennium favorites. And I couldn't wait to see the latest installment. Well, the film doesn't disappoint. It continues the merriment and gore as witnessed in the previous two classics. And the first thing I'm going to do when I get done with you folks is jump on a roller coaster at Six Flags. That sh*t doesn't scare me. Because I'm already dead!
But first, I have to share this Interview I did with the director of Final Destination 3, James Wong. You may remember that he helped to create a little show called The X-Files (I never saw it), with Chris Carter. Well, he's back behind the camera for part 3. Here's what he had to say about his latest trip to the other side...
(I was accompanied on this interview by a College Student known simply as H. He has been appointed by Movieweb to keep me in check, and make sure that the talent doesn't run away screaming. Sadly, H has a tendency to ask one too many questions.)
Spooker: Did this movie take place before or after the Disneyland incident?
James Wong: With the Thunder Mountain thing?
James Wong: Did we think of this before or after Thunder Mountain?
Spooker: Yes. I mean, that was a pretty gruesome accident at one of our leading theme parks. Did you ever consider that while making this movie? The combination of the two might make you rethink getting on a roller coaster.
James Wong: When did the Thunder Mountain thing happen?
Spooker: Middle of 2004. Early 2004. I think. Did that infect your thought process?
James Wong: I didn't think of it that way. 2004? When did we do this movie?
Assistant: I don't know. I came in during post. Don't be asking me.
James Wong: Let's see...2004? I don't know. I know that wasn't something conscience where we thought, "Oh, Thunder Mountain. Let's do that." The roller coaster idea came from an executive at New Line. His name is Richard Bryner. It was sometime in there. I don't know the timeline between Thunder Mountain and this, but he says, "FD3...Roller Coaster." That's how it started.
H: One of the things I was thinking about while watching this was that the characters in 2 were really tied into the first film. There were direct relationships. This one is more in passing. We just hear that there were similar incidences. Was there ever any intention of having the third one tied more intricately to the first one?
James Wong: No. Because we really felt that the idea of Final Destination, or the fact that Death can visit you and you can cheat death, that that could happen to anyone. And so we wanted to divorce from the first film character wise. We didn't want to follow that same thread. Part of the difficulty in that is when a character understands what happened to them before; it's a whole different way in which they react to what's happening now. We felt the franchise could exist with a new group of people, instead of following those older characters all the way through. We wanted to see if this could work.
Spooker: Now, the little kids got off the roller coaster. Were they always meant to get off the roller coaster? Or did they die, and we just never saw that in the film?
James Wong: They were always meant to get off the roller coaster, because they weren't tall enough to be able to get on. In every permutation of that ride, they would have had to get off.
Spooker: Did you have any thoughts about letting a small kid like that sneak on the ride, and then show his death later on in the movie?
James Wong: I don't want to do that. They won't even let us kill a dog. Much less a little kid.
James Wong: Yeah. I tried to kill a dog twice. Once in the first Final Destination. Once in The One. Now, I have two dogs. I love dogs. It's not like I'm some dog killer. But I always thought that if you kill a dog, it's almost worse than killing a person. It's more cruel. Audiences react the same way. In fact, they're so intensely affected by the death of the dog. They're like, "The worst part is when the dog gets killed." So you have to be careful. Every time we've taken it and tested it, we had to take the dead dog out.
Spooker: Was there a dead dog in first one?
James Wong: There was supposed to be.
Spooker: I mean, did you include those in the deleted scenes, or something?
James Wong: In the first one, the dog that Clear had, that dog died. But after we tested the movie, everyone hated it so much; we had to shoot a few scenes where the dog lives.
Spooker: And those dead dog scenes aren't on the DVD?
James Wong: I don't remember.
Spooker: It's been so long since I've sat and watched the extras on that DVD.
James Wong: It's been so long for me, too.
H: You didn't direct the second one. What made you want to come back and direct a third one. And is there going to be a fourth one?
James Wong: I love this franchise. I love death, and all that. I think I was doing The One when the second one was happening. And we weren't able to do it. They wanted to go ahead, because they wanted a release date. They wanted us to produce it, but we didn't want to just take their money. We really didn't have time to be involved. I was telling Craig and Glen that when the poster came out, I was going up an escalator and I saw a poster for FD2, and I thought, "Oh, my God." Then I looked at the credits list, and I thought we really should have had something to do with this. I really felt a little bit of heartache about not being involved with something we started. And I really liked the franchise. I was glad they asked us to come back.
Spooker: You weren't really happy with the second film?
James Wong: I only saw it once. I thought David did a great job. It was different than what I would have done...I don't really want to say...I thought he did a great job, so...
Spooker: I think he did a fantastic job. I really love Final Destination 2.
H: What kind of response are you looking for from the young teenage population?
James Wong: I'm hoping they flip out. I hope they dig in and have a lot of fun. My fantasy is that when they go on a roller coaster, they stop for a moment and think about this film. Then they go, "Alright. I'm cool." And then they get on. I just want them to remember the movie when they go to the amusement park.
H: Was it your goal to make each death scene more daring and more daunting than the next? Was that what you were looking for?
James Wong: Yeah. We try to amp it up a little bit. We try to make it a surprise so that you don't know who is going to die next. And we wanted to give you some clues that allude back to the other pictures so that the audience is playing along a little bit. I want them to think its going to happen one way, and then actually be surprised at how it turns out. That was our goal.
H: Can you tell me a little bit about shooting the scene where the guy gets his head slaughtered by the engine fan?
James Wong: The crazy thing about that was, it was the second time we did it. It's amazing that nobody got hurt. The first time we did it, the truck was being propelled by this rig on these cables. It was supposed to be safer because the truck was on this track, to crush the car. What happened was that we started the cameras rolling, and we were waiting for the cameras to get up to speed. I think the special effects guys thought it was there countdown. I'm not sure if that's the reason. But when they pushed the button, the cable snapped. I don't know why. But the cable whipped across the location, and it chopped off all the cameras that were lined up to shoot the scene. So all we got of the scene was this truck, and then it all just fell over. Luckily, there were no injuries. We just locked all the cameras down. If there had of been people in the way of the camera, that would have meant big trouble. The second time we did it, we got rid of the cable. We had a guy that was rigged with a mirror. He was in the bed of the truck. So he was driving the truck blind into the bed of the car. He did a good job.
Spooker: In this, and especially the first movie, when I watch the opening moments, I get this really heavy sense of Déjà vu. Do you experience Déjà vu a lot in your own life, and did you draw on that in making these films?
James Wong: I do experience Déjà vu, but not to the extent that it's like I'm crazy or something.
Spooker: Well, I'm not asking if you can see into the future.
James Wong: I don't feel like I do it more than anybody else.
Spooker: But is that feeling what you're drawing from when you create these movies?
James Wong: Sure. I like that idea. I think everybody has this. Where you think you've lived it before. Or you think you dreamed it yesterday. I like that idea a lot. Because I think there is something about other forces telling you something. They tell us that Déjà vu is where one of your synopsis hits first. So that's why you feel like you've experienced something while it's happening. But I think maybe it's not that.
H: Is there any kind of spiritual message in the movie that you are trying to deliver?
James Wong: There were two thoughts when I went into making this. If you had pictures that were giving you clues into what is going to happen, then there is a force here that is going to end your life. But there's also a force here that is helping you avoid that. To me, it could be construed as two opposing forces. If there is a death force, there is a life force. I don't want to get too spiritual. But that's how I approached that. That's one way to think about the clues, or the pictures.
Spooker: In the original, Clear was going to have a baby and it got cut out.
James Wong: Yup. That is correct. She had the baby. It was on the DVD.
Spooker: I remember watching that.
James Wong: Did you have a follow up question to that?
Spooker: No. Not really.
H: Do you enjoy roller coaster rides?
James Wong: The roller coaster is the only amusement park ride that I can get on. Anything that goes around and around, or that has repetitive motion makes me sick. So, the roller coaster is the only ride I can really handle and enjoy at amusement parks. And I didn't really want to ruin the ride for myself with this movie. But once you're strapped on, it becomes kind of like a plane. Once you're inside it, you can't get off. I like that. That's why I like using the roller coaster. You're at their mercy. There's nothing you can do.
H: What about planes? Did you ever have a fear of flying?
James Wong: I didn't. But the very last flight I took back from Vancouver to LA...If you remember in the first one, they do this little credit sequence where there's a little skeleton thing hanging. Well, that's actually mine that my wife gave me. So I used it in the movie. So, at the end of the movie, the prop department gave me the skeleton thing back. Right? So I had it in my luggage. And I see it. And I go, "Oh, my God. This is it. This is the one I die in." Because of that thing. But I'm still alive. As you can see.
H: And then John Denver started playing.
James Wong: If that had of happened, I would have jumped out.
Spooker: These movies seem to get away with a little bit more gore than a lot of the other horror movies I've seen recently. Is that because there is no actual protagonist killing the characters?
James Wong: I don't know. I don't think we're getting away with anything more than anyone else. I mean, Saw II is pretty gruesome.
Spooker: I haven't seen Saw II yet.
James Wong: I think we're in league with some of those other films. I do suppose we get a little leeway because some of our deaths are a little more natural. It's not somebody hacking away at a victim. These are more along the lines of an accident. I feel that we do get away with a little bit more. And as far as how much blood we use, I didn't keep track. I know we used buckets of it.
Spooker: Is there a lot of CGI'd blood in the film?
James Wong: There's some. But there's a lot more on-camera blood.
Spooker: Here, I didn't notice it too much. But in some movies I've been noticing it a lot.
James Wong: What? CGI blood?
Spooker: Yeah. And it looks really cartoony.
James Wong: We have some. I think the only one we had really was where Kevin gets killed at the end. Where he goes through the window. We really couldn't have a subway spray blood back like that. So we had to add in some CGI blood.
H: Are you working on something right now?
James Wong: I'm producing Black Christmas. And Glen is directing it.
Spooker: Who originally directed that movie? Joe Dante?
James Wong: Black Christmas was originally directed by Bob Clark.
Spooker: Of course, from Porky's.
James Wong: Okay. That's good.
Spooker: It was a pleasure meeting you.
James Wong: Yes. It was nice meeting you, too.
Final Destination 3 opens in theaters this Friday.