As a nice change of pace from all of the loud hills we have to deal with in our everyday life, Silent Hill bodes to be quite a special little film. Based on the spooky series of games dating back to the PS1, the premise based around isolation and freaky things in the mist grew strong enough to nab an amazing array of talent, none other than Christophe Gans, whose Brotherhood of the Wolf was number two in my top list of 2002 and I probably enjoy it more than The Two Towers today. He’s an amazingly rich choice for a film like this, and if a certain Mexican makes Halo the video game adaptation business will be an embarrassment of riches. This isn’t some quick smash and grab. Look at the cast!
I went to the lovely city of Toronto in 2005 for what is most likely my last set visit, and had the chance to watch this crew of folks shoot that scene from the trailer with Radha Mitchell meeting the undead nurses. Chatting with Gans was a high point in my film journo career and it’s a goddamn shame my tape was inaudible because the man blew me away with his ideas and lack of pretension.
The following is excerpted from transcripts of a press conference with the cast of the film and hopefully a nice primer for April’s release that is sure to send shivers down your spine right into your ass where they will mutate into another organism altogether and wreck your world forever.
That’s a good thing. And now, the cast of Silent Hill…
Q: Radha, what was the attraction of doing this film and what are the challenges of playing a character in a video game?
Radha Mitchell: I think the major attraction to me was Le Pacte des Loups, which was directed by Christophe. And I saw that film and I was intrigued and fascinated ‘cause I thought it was a beautiful and exciting and strange and bizarre movie. And so then I met Christophe and I was charmed, obviously, by him. And I guess that’s what it was. And then, since we’ve been making the film, we see the vision and the script comes alive. And it’s a very visual piece so when you read it you won’t necessarily understand what it is. But, since we’ve been working on the film, every day has just been an assault on the senses. And I guess today was just a sample of that. And the challenges, I guess, I mean I’ve got to run around and call out “Sharon”… and do that in 50 different ways. So there’s that aspect. And I think Christophe has a really interesting take on the concept of the videogame. And you do have a sense of what it must feel like to be sort of stuck in this chase. And I guess that’s the main challenge … making the variety and keeping that interesting. It’s interesting working ‘cause a lot of the time we’re reacting to things that are not necessarily in front of us and the things that we’re imagining and we’ve got to, you know, imagine them at the same time. So we’ve constantly encouraged the first AD to make loud noises for us so we can all, you know… and be scary. And so everybody’s had to become an actor on this movie including the crew. And that’s been interesting.
I think Christophe is very specific in the way that he cast the film. He wanted actors who had sort of some sense of movement. And that’s definitely part of the performances. I don’t know so much with my character ‘cause I’m playing a more human character… But I think that was definitely part of the choices that people made as actors was to move in a particular way. And you’ll see that when you see the film.
Q: Deborah, we know what all the other actors’ characters are in the movie but … ?
Deborah Kara Unger: I’m playing Dahlia. Dahlia’s been extraordinary because I think, to Christophe’s credit, and certainly the entire crew and special effects and design, he’s really, really captured the essence of her and then extended her into the psychological nightmare that would capture the imaginations of the gaming fans. So it was a much deeper exploration than I anticipated. Because I’m a big lurker on all the sites. And I love the varying competing analysis on all the different characters. With Dahlia it’s been an extraordinary psychological journey for me, as an actor, to embrace this walker between worlds. And, as a mad and slightly cryptic prophet, akin to obviously the essence of the game, this has been just a delight to play.
Q: How many played the game before you knew you were going to be in this movie?
Radha Mitchell: I’m not a very good player, to be honest. I’ve tried to play the game and especially to get familiar with the characters better. I mean, it’s really an amazing game, having just a limited sort of knowledge of it that I have. And it’s got a real sense of sort of poetry and melancholy and things you don’t expect in a video game. And then I guess that’s what’s attractive to me about it. But, in relation to actually getting through the game… <laughs> I’m always stuck on the fence. I can’t get off the fence. But I mean, I’m sure everybody has a different experience. And Christophe, I think he’s been known to spend like two to three days straight in his room, playing the game without leaving, without going to the bathroom.
Q: Laurie and Sean, can you talk a little bit about your characters?
Laurie Holden: Cybil is a woman who grew up in Brahms which is a small town outside of Silent Hill. She’s a bit of a lone wolf, in the sense that her mom died when she was thirteen and there was never really a father around. It was a very religious community, Brahms, so I think that because my mother was such a woman of faith and she passed away in a really painful way, it really scarred Cybil. And she’s really kind of denounced any sort of religion just because of what happened to her mom. Because of that I think that she’s been a bit of an outsider, doesn’t have a lot of friends. But that’s okay for Cybil because she’s found her calling and that is to serve and protect. And, really, she wants to save children. And there are different things that have happened in her life. She wants to be kind of like the mother of saving the children. So that’s Cybil.
Radha Mitchell: It’s interesting the way the relationships are constructed in the film. Say, even the relationship between our characters, is not stereotypical. They’re buddies and, you know, they’re on the journey together. But it’s interesting tension between the two characters. And, ultimately, you know… I can’t give way the plot. <laughs> But, all the characters are quite sort of fleshed out and mysterious and…
Deborah Kara Unger: They’re also all psychologically and metaphorically interwoven beautifully. What Christophe has done has been really quite inspirational for all of us as actors and the crew as well. Visually, for the crew, they’ve had a blast.
Sean Bean: I play Chris DaSilva. And he’s a sort of quite a successful businessman. They live in a nice house. Things seem to be going well, apart from the child. And I spend most of the time chasing around trying to get on different playing levels, different time levels. But he’s a good guy, a regular sort of guy with bit of money, wears nice clothes and drives a BMW. <laughs> It’s all materialistic.
Radha Mitchell: It has the nostalgia, their relationship does, as is in the game in that they’re sort of separating in different dimensions. And they’re kind of passing each other by often in the movie. They don’t actually connect. So it’s kind of, I guess, like the average relationship … <laughs>
Q: Horror has a new respect now. If you look at the calibre of talent that is in horror now, it’s not the whipping boy anymore. There was a time when it was sort of slumming or considered a poor man’s genre. And, in fact, it’s not. And I want to find out how you feel about contributing to the genre and if there was anything in particular that you guys are bringing to the table?
Radha Mitchell: Well, it’s a masochistic pursuit, especially in this film. <laughs> I mean, I think there’s something very elegant about the way that Christophe is directing horror. And, you know, his inspiration is coming from a very highbrow kind of level in art. And sort of, I guess, bondage. <laughs> If you’re into horror I would say this is the movie to watch because it’s elegant horror. That’s my understanding of it.
Laurie Holden: I think of this more as a nightmare fairytale. It is elegant and I think of this as kind of a cross between Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s Inferno. It’s very high art and frightening and violent and sexy and elegant all at the same time. Which I think is Christophe’s genius.
Radha Mitchell: And, specifically I think, Christophe has made sort of clear decisions to make sure it’s not cheesy. So there’s none of that kind of, you know, … action movie kind of stuff we’ve seen in a lot of American films. And so she’s obviously playing it…
Laurie Holden: We actually work together with our imagination. We have to use our imagination all the time because, you know, we see things that we haven’t really seen before. So, in working together, we create this wonderful thing through our imagination that helps create this world around us and hopefully makes it believable. But it is interesting…
Radha Mitchell: As opposed to having a gun and so on and, basically, as I say, it’s not your typical movie where everybody’s killing the monsters. And, I mean, there’s some of that, but it feels very real. And there’s been a clear decision to make us, in the situations where we’re facing these incredible – like you saw today — that as if we’re really there, it’s really straight. There’s no inside humour in the film … like winking at the audience. It’s very serious. So it’s as if it really happened.
Q: Sean and Radha, your daughter goes missing and obviously at a point in the movie you guys are together, why haven’t you gone looking for her, like a united front?
Sean Bean: I think it’s because she thinks it’s a good idea for Sharon to confront her fears by going there and I wouldn’t go along with that. I don’t think I’d agree to that. I’d say, “Well, you know, I think we can get help through …” And we do things, you know, in other ways. And, you know, I’m a bit pissed off … she took her without my permission or without even consulting about it.
Radha Mitchell: I think at a certain level for Rose, it’s a way to assert herself in a way, in their relationship. I don’t think that’s the primary reason, but, part of it is I can make a decision and I know it’s right without necessarily consulting her husband because she has this instinct about it and …
Q: Do you find it sort of challenging you to strike a balance between doing movies like this and doing smaller, independent films?
Radha Mitchell: Yeah, I guess it is. … to be able to do some intimate films and then bigger films. And it’s very exciting to be in a film where the director comes with an idea, this big idea and I know that’s something that can come to life. And you can be part of a big concept. And also I really enjoy doing films that are sort of character-based and are about the nuances of relationships. So to be able to do both is perfect.
Q: How hard is it to get a level of bloodiness the same every day so that it matches, and then how bloodied up do the rest of you get?
Radha Mitchell: There’s an art and a science to it. And there are people whose heads are on the line to keep each hair, you know, as deconstructed as it looks right now. It’s a lot of design. How long does it take? It took longer in the beginning. I think it can be done in about forty minutes now, the whole look. And it’s great because I don’t have to wash my hair. I can just go to work every day like this.
Sean Bean: I don’t get any blood on me at all I don’t think.
Laurie Holden: I get pretty bloody. She gives … I do have to say, the crew has been amazing. Hair and makeup has been unbelievable on this journey because the continuity that they have to keep up with us through the varying degrees of gore and dirt, it’s astounding. But, also the set designers and the location managers, we have the most amazing sets. I think Silent Hill fans are going to be knocked out because, visually, our sets look so much like the video game. And it makes our job so easy because we just show up and we are in Silent Hill. We are in that world and we are just so blest to be surrounded by such great artists.
Radha Mitchell: There’s like a new set every sixty seconds or something. Constantly the sets are changing and they’re huge. And so today it’s just sort of a sample of that. But we’ve been all over the city and around the city in these different studios and these huge sets. And it’s true it puts you in the space.
Q: Did you research your characters, or do you do what Sean did and basically work from scratch?
Deborah Kara Unger: Working with the script from Christophe is not working from scratch, as Samuel [Hadida, producer] said. At that point it was so fleshed out and psychologically so rich that, that is definitely what appealed to me. Plus I had a relationship with Christophe that precedes that, and immense respect for him. That said, certainly, I am the curious lurker who goes on all the sites and listens to discussions. Because there are themes in the psychological motivations of the characters and their conundrums and their dissent journeys really do fascinate me. And I’m sure on a subliminal level that was constantly enriching the performance. For most it was where Christophe had already brought it with the script. And then the strong and the powerful influences and arrogant and subtle influences of various… the world of art, the world of mythology. There are so many specific influences that we had private discussions to enrich – in the case of Dahlia to enhance the essence that had been explored in the game. Absolutely.
Laurie Holden: Well, I played the game after I got the part and met Cybil. And then, you know, what’s wonderful about the movie Silent Hill is that they honoured her visually. I look like the character and really capture her essence. But, as Sean and Deborah were saying, that Christophe and Roger Avery together sat down and created a back story for this character, which really helps flesh out this character. So hopefully her fans and the gamers and the audience will get to know her a little bit better and hopefully be touched by what she represents in the film.
Q: You guys have been talking about your back stories. I was wondering if that’s something that you worked out with Christophe or if it was actually something we’re going to see it too in the movie? Is this just for yourselves or for yourselves and the audience?
Deborah Kara Unger: Oh, a little bit of both.
Sean Bean: You know, it’s just good to invent something, believe in it so that it’s always there. But regardless of whether it comes across on the screen or not.
Q: What’s your favourite part of your character’s back story?
Sean Bean: He’s got a nice car. <laughter> Very nice. Very smart. And he’s got good taste. And, you know, he’s a successful guy and … you see a lot by where they live, how they behave with each other. But, like I said, we don’t spend a great deal of time together in the film. I’m just searching for her and she’s searching for our daughter so, that’s my back story anyway.
Q: There’s been some really bad horror movies made from video games. Were there any reservations of doing one?
Deborah Kara Unger: To me, no. Not with Christophe. No. He’s fantastic. I was excited. My fingers are crossed of course. But, no, not with him.
Q: Laurie, how much ass do you kick in this movie, and how do you like kicking ass?
Laurie Holden: We kick a lot of ass and I loved every minute of it. I really had the time of my life. Absolutely.
Q: You trained for it particularly?
Laurie Holden: Yeah. I have a trainer and the stunt coordinator has been just so amazing marking out the fights. And I met with a detective so that I learned, accurately, how a detective, police officer moves and everything and how to work with all my props and weapons and it’s just been so much fun.
Q: Would you do more action stuff now?
Laurie Holden: Oh, yeah, absolutely, right away.