Going Underground

Submitted by Matthew Arnoldi on Tue, 02/08/2005 - 16:00

MA: What was the hardest thing about this shoot Franka, getting stuck in swamp-like cages or working with rats?

Franka: Ughh! Don't remind me! The rats, let's not even bring them into the equation. The hardest thing was to maintain focus, working in a maze, in cold, dark, draughty conditions. If you sent a feng shui person in there, I'm sure they'd agree that it's hard to focus on something. You can't sit down anywhere. Information travels really slowly down there. Working 6-day weeks, not seeing light .. ever.

MA: I'd read that after doing your first horror film Anatomie, you said you thought it would be fun to do more. Was this fun, given what you've just talked about?

Franka: It was different. Anatomie was mostly shot in a studio, whereas this was water tanks, cages and the like. I also had to have an appendicitis out whilst we worked which didn't help. It was a little doomed in a certain way but we definitely got to have fun. Acting-wise in a film like this, it gives you a great buzz because you truly have to give 100%, so you have to have fun off-screen otherwise you'd go mad for a couple of weeks.

MA: Did you feel tension built purely from the location you were shooting in?

Franka: No, it's the actors that create tension not the location...!

Chris: Of course it's mostly acting, but there's a sense that there's an edginess and a dirtiness that comes through. The funniest days were often those when we were in a studio shooting a torture scene or something. Franka, you weren't there then, that was when you were having your appendicitis seen to.

Franka: Oh I see, I was absent when you were having the most fun that's what you're trying to say! (laughing)

MA : And you said in the notes, that you found the rape scene pretty tough Franka...

Franka: Its always tricky for actors to do scenes like that because it feels very real. Indeed because I was in the subway and you're wearing those high-heels, the guy Jeremy was way taller than me and weighs a lot heavier... it's just a matter of good communication for physical scenes like that and we rehearsed it a few times to get it right.

Chris: I was very nervous beforehand, shooting that scene. It was tough, it was quite early in the shooting schedule, I've got two actors giving it 100% and I've got to watch something that's really painful. I know I can call, "Cut!", but if I call 'cut' too soon, I may lose good footage for the film, but if I call it too late, it's a pain in the arse for everybody. So I've got to get what I need, but not have Franka getting smashed against the floor any more than necessary.

MA: It must have been a big deal Chris, knowing this was your first movie. How happy are you, now that it's done, are you happy with the final product?

Chris: Oh I love it, I'm over the moon. The hardest thing for me was doing the first read-through. All the actors turned to me and I realised that from the word go, I had to be the boss, and in the back of your mind, you're thinking 'Wow! I've never done this before with this level of actors, you know what I mean?

Franka: Wow... but, I mean, you did a proper job...

Chris: The first day of filming, we tried to do an easy scene or an easier scene with someone just falling asleep on the platform - that wasn't as easy as we expected, but yes, we sort of got going after that. I remember I became obsessed with extras, ensuring they were good extras and made each scene totally believable.

MA: A change of tack, what were the first films you were both scared by?

Franka: The very first one for me was not a very obvious one, it was King Kong, but I was like five. Then The Exorcist ...The Shining, Rosemary's Baby...

Chris: The first for me was Curse of the Werewolf which I saw when I was seven. It seemed scary at the time but now doesn't seem scary at all! Then it was Friday the 13th Part 2, then The Exorcist obviously.

Franka: Halloween...

Chris: Oh yeah, I remember my friend and I, we watched The Exorcist and his dad had a shotgun and we just sat there with this shotgun ready in case something came to get us. (Laughter). His parents then came in (more laughs) and said, 'What are you doing with that gun?' 'We're watching The Exorcist!'

Franka: Fantastic! How cute! I'll have to remember when I'm shooting my first horror film. I'll have to have this scene with two young guys in their pyjamas sitting watching The Exorcist with a shotgun across them! Brilliant .. that's funny!

MA: And what scares you personally?

Franka: We have one phobia in common .. flying.

Chris: Yeah, flying first .. then sharks.

MA: Not spiders or rats or anything like that?

Chris: No .. wasps are third.

MA: Talking of sharks then, was there a temptation to shoot Creep in an ultra-realistic Open Water style, did you consider that?

Chris: We did. The reason we didn't is because there's so much darkness and blackness down on the underground and when you move it to video, it comes out grey. They say you can do it on HD (high definition), but if you do, it costs a lot more money and becomes a different financial ballgame altogether. I shot it all handheld because, one, I like it and, two, it adds an energy to the film. And also it enables it to be shot quickly and as a young filmmaker making my first big film, I didn't want to make the mistake of going down the road of setting up long tracking shots that take a day just to stage - as in say a film like Goodfellas. Our's is hand-held, but still widescreen so you get lots of strong perspective shots and twisted angles that add a realism and form of immediacy.

MA: Did you think about how a film like American Werewolf in London made use of the underground tunnels?

Chris: That was what was in my mind as I was writing it.

Franka: I'm his witness. He said in a separate interview, that that was what he'd thought about!

Chris: It's true, that for me is the favourite part of that film. It's only a short sequence, about three minutes, so we do the escalator shot looking down as a reference to it. And then I was told about a movie called Deathline (1997) after I'd written it, that there was already a horror movie about the underground called Deathline and I raced off to the video shop, watched it and was full of relief when I discovered it was nothing like mine. So nobody can say it's a remake. There are similarities, but luckily they are different too.

MA: And what was your thinking behind Craig as a character, Craig being the creep of the title?

Chris: I've got to be careful about not giving too much away here: I'd like to preserve the scary mystique for those who haven't seen it. I wanted it so that the audience fed on what they considered to be their own idea of what the 'creep' was. I don't like horror films where the horror is spelt out from the word go. I was keen though to create a horrible character that you also by the end felt sympathy for. He does horrendous things but he's also got pain. You have to believe he's capable of terrible things which he is, but he has a tenderness too.

MA: What was Sean Harris like to work with Franka, as an actor. I believe he's in to method-acting, was that kind of creepy?

Franka: It was in a good way. It was hard in the beginning because he was a total unknown to me. He insisted on me not seeing him as a person or in character on set which was kind of hard to organise in such a small unit and with us sharing a make-up trailer, but just to totally try and unnerve me, whenever I walked by his curtain, he would make these weird little sounds which didn't sound very sympathetic and giving me that room to wander and to think. And yes it freaked me out a bit, but that only really helped me. So I ended up talking to Chris and saying, "You better make him really vile!"

MA: So how was it when you first saw him?

Franka: I met him in full character. He never talked to me in-between takes. I remember I was totally exhausted resting from one take down on the subway and Chris brought him down and it was like he was showing me an animal or something and it was only afterwards at a rep party when he apologised for never saying anything to me and that was fine, but it was weird at first, since I was never given the choice. He just chose to act that way, but I respected that because he was so good and he gave me so much because he was so convincing.

MA: How do you prepare for a role beforehand?

Franka: I like to know a character, know the scenes, know all the angles. It's always worth stepping back and not going for the first immediately obvious movement that comes to mind. Sometimes it's better to choose a more difficult, challenging one sometimes.

Chris: You have to use some trickery sometimes. I forewarned one actress, telling her when Sean comes up and tries to put the gas mask on you, turn to me and I'll call 'cut!' because we won't go further than that. Then Sean comes on, immediately tries to put the mask on her and she's fighting all the way, wondering why I'm not saying 'cut!', but that was just a little bit of trickery Sean and I cooked up beforehand to get the best out of the scene. Since then everyone's commented on what a great performance the girl gives fighting against him.

MA: What do you have prepared for the DVD release?

Chris: We've got a "Making Of" section, commentaries, a special video diary that I did which will be good fun. It's my feelings every night during the shoot.

Franka: You never told me you put yourself on tape...

Chris: Yeah, I did. Talking about you...

Franka: How vain of you.

Chris: It's not vain! It's not. We've got some very twisted deleted scenes and some very special surprises, I'd like to show the creep doing a lap-dance for example. I wanted to call a cab, go down to Soho and say 'I've got a friend who needs a good time. He needs a good time but he's a bit deformed and he likes to wear a Doctor's outfit,' and then film her reaction. That's on the wish list, but I can't promise it.

MA: Projects to come, Chris, you're doing Comedian is that right?

Chris: Yes, it's a script I wrote before Creep about a double-glazing salesman in a situation he has to talk himself out of. It's a kind of film-noir comedy. I'm also doing a film called Triangle which is entirely set on a ship. It's my M.Night Shyamalan film about being stuck in a mysterious loop that doesn't exist on any map, with aspects of Memento and Groundhog Day thrown in.

MA: And you Franka?

Franka: I'm doing Therese Raquin next. It's a period film, written by Emile Zola in the period of 1860 to 1900. It's a script pretty close to the novel and then Che (about Che Guevara) is the next one. That's lined up for the Summer 2005. Maybe there's something else in-between, I don't know yet. And I may take a vacation at some point too.

Chris: And would you give Creep a lap-dance?

Franka: Maybe. You better talk to my agent and negotiate.

MA: And will you work together on something else?

Chris: Yes, we're going to work together, we're going to become like The Two Ronnies, or like Richard & Judy. The Chris and Franka Show!