Candi's Corner: Interview with new Evil Dead Director Fede Alvarez

Friday, April 5, 2013

*Please note- if you have not seen the original Evil Dead movie and would like to see it before watching Fede Alvarez’s version, you will be slightly spoiled reading this interview! You’ve been warned.

As my journey in the movie industry continues, from acting to writing to reviewing, I find myself talking to the most interesting of people. However, I’ve met very few, where I can see in their eyes and from their body language and facial expressions, the look of cynicism. Many are passionate, yet because the odds seem very much not in their favor in this merciless business, you begin to notice more of the jaded, the cynical, the unhelpful, and the unkind.

Upon meeting Fede Alvarez, Uruguayan director of the new Evil Dead movie, which premieres today (4/5) in widespread theatres, he appeared to be none of these things. When I first did my research on Fede, the beginning of his story reminded me a little bit of the famous Schwab drugstore Hollywood story from the Golden Era. That story where Lana Turner was discovered sitting at the counter and then in the blink of an eye became a super-starlet. Fede’s Schwab drugstore was YouTube, where his 2009 short, Ataque de Panico!/Panic Attack!, caught Hollywood’s eye and then in the blink of an eye he became the director of the new Evil Dead

After sitting down and listening to Fede talk, I know that he is a different sort of writer/director - one grateful for the opportunities he has been given and very hard-working. His luck, confidence, education, excess of talent, and candidness will continue to serve him very well in the next stages of his career. I was lucky enough to gain from Fede’s forthright knowledge and wisdom during a round table discussion (thanks Le Anne and Ann-Marie!). Listening to him surely made me understand why the producers and writer/director of the original Evil Dead movie gave him the freedom and chance to craft his own vision of a horror cult classic. I hope that his words will make you ponder and laugh just as much as it did for me, and if you are a writer/filmmaker as well, give you the jolt that you may need to create work bound to no one but yourself. Please enjoy the no holds barred roundtable Q&A interview with Fede Alvarez below!

Q: How excited were you to actually get to work on Evil Dead?

A: In the beginning it was exciting and scary at the same time. I was like, “Oh shit!” But, I mean, it’s awesome, particularly…at the very early stages, somehow I end up at Bruce Campbell’s [played the lead character of “Ash” in the original Evil Dead movie] house in Miami, staying with him for a week. We’re at the pool and he’s telling me all the stories, it’s just insane…it’s so bizarre and it’s super surreal, but awesome! I’m a big fan of Sam Raimi’s [legendary director and writer of the original Evil Dead] films, since I was a kid, and when you know his movies and you just looking for Ted Raimi [producer of Evil Dead remake and executive producer of the original Evil Dead; Sam’s brother; also legendary director, writer, actor, producer] in every movie, and you’re looking for the car and you kind of know his entourage of actors…. You enjoy his movies in a different way. So if you don’t know that universe, maybe it’s different, but knowing that universe, I really enjoy his films, so working on one of those and being a part of that family has been great. I really became close with Bruce, and Rob [G. Tapert, executive producer/producer of the original Evil Dead movie], and Sam, so it’s been a blessing. It’s amazing. 

Q: Was it tough to find a balance there between what you loved about the original [Evil Dead] film and what you were trying to say with your film?

A: The whole process is tough. Writing film is definitely tough by itself. It’s not easy. If it were easy, there would be awesome films every weekend and there’s not! So it’s really tough to make any film. In general, it’s hard to write a new film. At the end of the day, it was a challenge, but because I am a fan of the originals [Evil Dead movies], I naturally wanted to bring so many things from the original films. I think they were trying to stop me at some points from bringing so many of the other things, but for me it was important from a spiritual point of view to have a lot of references from the original film. The fans will spot some of them, but not all of them. I knew that all we had to do was tell a story where it didn’t matter if you had seen the original films or not, you will get it, you will understand, and you will be a part of it. Once we started showing the movie to audiences we realized that a lot of the fans loved it and the references to the originals. 

[cont] The people that have never seen the originals, sometimes they even have a bigger blast because suddenly they’re exposed to a whole new universe, just at once, “BOOM!” right in your face, and they’re like, “What?!”, and they don’t see any of the things coming. Sometimes the people that haven’t seen the originals have an even bigger ride and that happened when we test screened the movie, having 50 percent of the audience who knew the original movie and the other 50 percent had no idea about the original movie. That other 50 percent had a blast – we got very high scores from those people. So it was very bizarre, but we ended up striking a line there where you didn’t need to see the original to understand and enjoy this one. You know when you like a movie and you wish you hadn’t seen it so you can experience it again? Every time I sit down and I’m gonna show it to somebody, like Oldboy, which is one of my favorite movies, I always envy them like, “Fuckers, they haven’t seen it. They’re gonna have such a blast that I’m not having because I’ve seen it a hundred times.” So, for a new audience, I think, they’re going to have that. It’s the first time they’re going to be exposed to the story and they get so shocked. They don’t any idea what’s coming.

Q: How was it to transition from making a short film on YouTube to going to a feature film? 
A: It was awesome. I wouldn’t say it was harder because I think... by definition, I think what’s harder: to make a 15 million dollar movie or make an alien invasion movie for $300.00 dollars? I think the latter is harder. For any filmmaker in general, the “how to break in”, how to do something to get people’s attention where you have no resources, no money and you’re trying to make films, that’s the hardest part. To transition itself wasn’t tough in the making…. [In making Evil Dead] suddenly you’re surrounded by great artists, you’re surrounded by great actors… so in many levels it’s easier. The toughest part is the Hollywood game you have to play. It was just a different thing, because shooting is shooting, and when you’re shooting and you’re on set it’s just the same, it doesn’t matter. You suddenly have better artists around you, but shooting itself is the same thing you did all your life if you’re a director. The hardest part is how to manage to get Hollywood to make a film in a different way, when there’s an industry that’s existed for 100 years and suddenly you come in and you want to do things in a different way. How do you gain their trust? How do you convince them that it’s a good idea?...
Fede- “You know what, let’s not do CGI, let’s do everything real!” 
Hollywood- “What?” For them, it looks great CGI. They don’t see any problem with that. 
Fede- “Why don’t we get every actor to read and audition for the role?”  
Hollywood- “You can get any actor you want, just give him/her the role….” There are so many things that are a part of how they make movies over there and that was the bigger challenge. 
I think we really succeeded because we managed to do a movie in a different way. It was completely approached in a different way that most adult horror film remakes haven’t been done in the past. That was tough, but I think we succeeded.

Q: You originally got signed to do just any picture with Ghost House [Pictures]. When did the decision get made that you were going to transition to the Evil Dead remake? 
A: It was a blind deal and then that blind deal ended up turning into making an adaptation of the short [Ataque de panico!/Panic Attack; available to watch on YouTube] into a feature. We’re actually still developing that and may be my next feature, which would be this super hard R violent alien-invasion movie, because I always though alien-invasion movies were done in a friendly, PG-13 way. I want to see the real one, the brutal one, the realistic one that’s never been done before. Through the process of developing that film we just had so much fun sitting at the table, talking with Sam about how the movie should be and just talking in general about scenes and ideas. Then Sam offered me to make an Evil Dead 2, out of that relationship. I said yes, but said that the film was being written by an American writer. But he gave me a chance to write it myself, because Evil Dead is a filmmaker’s film. What makes the original great is that it’s a guy with his friends, going out to the woods, going bananas, trying to make the scariest movie ever. That’s kind of the spirit. So he thought, Evil Dead would never work in a studio system of five different writers writing drafts and eventually getting some director that comes in, shoots the film, makes the cut, and just disappears… that’s why he never did it [a remake] in the past. He wanted somebody that would stay until the last minute and that’s the way we did it.

Q (courtesy of Tinsel & Tine/Candi’s Corner!!!!): How intense was the casting process and what were you looking for in the actors/actresses that were chosen?

A: It was intense. It was a lot of fun, but really intense too. Bruce Campbell was with me all the time, which was great, because it was intimidating for some of the actors to walk in the room and see Bruce Campbell there. Also, because he would scare everybody out of the room, he would start talking to them explaining what it is. He would go, “Have you ever been under five hours of makeup every day for three months?” Having to sit in a chair for five hours and then when you finish having to sit for two hours more to get rid of it…there’s so many things. You’re covered in blood all day. They beat you up. The director is in a frenzy trying to make the scariest things possible, as violent as you can, beating the hell out of them on so many levels… for the actors it’s very tough. I always talk about this as some sort of joke, but believe me, for them, they are, my God, sometimes I feel bad about it [laughter in the room]. It was very, very tough, so I was looking for not just the best actors I could find, and everybody read for this role, you have no idea. Every young actor in Hollywood wanted to be in this movie because there was a good buzz about the script, Sam was involved… so many people read for us. But at the end of the day it was about finding the right actor and finding the people who had the balls to do it. There are people in Hollywood that you know they can be great, but they’re not up to the challenge. Or maybe because they’re at such a level already where they’re like, “Oh, I’ll be in my trailer…” kind of thing and that’s doesn’t work in our movie. Everybody was on set all the time, very independent at heart, it’s a studio movie that was completely independently made. You have Rob Tapert’s production company making the film in New Zealand, so he’s completely away from the Hollywood system. So it’s super independent. So there wasn’t any room for any divas or prima-donnas. They wouldn’t have survived the shooting, they would have quit. They loved the movie [the actors/actresses], thank God. But during the making of it, it was just so tough. It’s no work in a coalmine, but it’s tough. 

Q: (courtesy of Tinsel & Tine/Candi’s Corner!!!!): What/who are your influences as an artist? Where do you take your influence from art or from other horror directors of the past?

A: As a filmmaker, when you’re creating something, you’re ripping off everybody, that’s what you’re doing. Some directors will deny it, but I think that, at the end of the day, in any creative process you rip off everything that you’ve loved of the past, and you mix them into something new and that’s always a new film. So we’re kind of quoting all the time things from other movies that we loved. There’s a lot of The Exorcist, of course… there comes a structure of the film, having half of the film, which is completely realistic, in a way, and doesn’t have anything that gives away the supernatural aspect of the story, and then in the middle you hit the crazy bottom… she starts vomiting… and you go, “What?” and you go to a completely bizarre place. That’s something that I love about the structure of the film [The Exorcist] because it’s kind of misleading. You think it’s gonna be one thing and I could feel the audience go, “Ahhh, it’s one of those…”…I’m a big fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He could have done so many weird choices in the effects universe, but he didn’t. He decided to go old-school and make it all practical effects… in that movie they are pushing walls in, they’re talking, and if you don’t notice the wall in the back has been pushed in to give a sense of oppression… they did a lot of those very 50s and 60s visual effects, a lot of the zoom-ins and other very old-school effects, that’s something that I love about that film. What else… The Omen. The realism of how the characters approach the supernatural. It doesn’t matter how much they try to prove to Mr. Thorn, he still insists “He’s just a child for Christ sake!” and they want him to kill the kid. It doesn’t matter how much they have to prove, they really have to push him and push him and push him…. it’s a great story of how you turn somebody that doesn’t believe in anything, that is a completely serious politician and you take him to a place where he is about to kill his own child. It’s really a great journey.

Q: I don’t know if this was intentional, but I kind of almost saw Evil Dead as Evil Dead 3, now they’re breaking off the Army of Darkness movies, as the next one is going to be Army of Darkness 2. Was that all intentional?

A: Yeah, it was, because I didn’t want this film to overwrite anything that was done before. I didn’t want this film to take the place of the original Evil Dead in its mythology. I wanted this film to say something different from the original. So there’s nothing in this film that will overwrite the original, even if you may say, “Oh well the book…”. No, because the book doesn’t burn in the original film. It’s thrown in the fire and does some crazy things, but it was never really consumed in the original film, if you watch it again. The book is always there. We were very careful of not saying something in this film that would override or contradict something of the original film. Here [in the remake] we had more options. In my mind, in the original first film, it’s one thing, and then the second and third [originals] is another film. It’s kind of rebooted. It’s not about Ash going with his friends, it’s about Ash going with his girlfriend just to have this romantic getaway, which is completely different from going with your friends, and then he plays the tape and she turns… and then all these new other characters come in. So, it’s a quite different story, if you re-watch again you can see that it’s completely different. In the first film, everybody dies. He’s coming out of the house and the camera runs to him and he screams… so he never left the cabin. The car’s still there…so in a way you can take my film as thirty years later.

Q: In development was there anything that you knew you had to do to please the fans?

A: Sam gave me the best advice in the beginning of making the movie, which was basically that “you have to make the movie that you want to see in the theaters.” Don’t think about what I want to see, don’t think about what Rob wants to see or Bruce wants to see, or what the audience wants to see, or what the fans want to see. You gotta go crazy and start thinking that way. He was right, because if I asked all of them, they would probably have wanted a different movie, each one of them. Their job was just to let me do my film, the one that I loved. They knew that I was a fan of the saga, and that I knew the saga and I knew every film. I knew enough about the film. So Sam’s master plan was that instead of choosing some Hollywood director to do this film, instead find one of those guys that are in the audience, get them on stage, and now you make the film and do the film that you like. Suddenly, I realized that the audience enjoyed my film in the same way that I did. A lot of people laughed with me, in the moments, because they get it, they get what we’re doing. So at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that you can do. You have to make the film that you believe is the best version of it, because if you make it for somebody else, it’s probably going to fail.

Q: As a fan of the genre, and you’re working with all of these big names and you’re going up against all of these Hollywood issues that you mentioned earlier, can you talk about the process that you went into as a fan? What was it like?

A: It’s something I never expected. There’s one thing that I fought, and I think a lot of fans also feel this way, in that Hollywood makes these bad movies, in that do they choose to make bad movies before they make good ones? Do they have these great scripts and say, “You know what? I’m not going to make that movie. We’re going to make that one, just to make money. It’s not like that. They have to make a lot of movies. There are a lot of people working in that industry and there’s not a lot of good stuff! The movies that are out right now, the guarantees, those are the best scripts out there. Imagine where are the bad scripts….so it’s definitely something that I was always bitching about. “Why are they doing that instead of doing this?” But that other option doesn’t exist! You have to come in and do it yourself. They are very eager and desperate for new talent and new ideas. That’s something that really changed my perspective. My perspective before was, “Oh, they’re the enemy. They love to make these bad movies.” Nobody tries to make bad movies. Nobody has the attention to make bad movies. They always try to make good stuff. It’s just it’s so hard to find.

[cont] There are very few writers these days, like real scriptwriters that do it as a craft. I come from a place where I studied it and I have a Master’s in screenwriting. I was really committed to writing. There used to be a classic school in Hollywood of people that were devoted to writing…back in the day when there were New York writers, just journalists that went to Hollywood to start writing. They were really professional writers. That doesn’t exist anymore and it’s a shame. They want that. They need more of that. They need more filmmakers that really love the craft. I know a lot of young filmmakers in L.A. and they always ask me if I made Panic Attack as a strategy to get to Hollywood. It’s just terrible because you cannot make a short with the goal of getting something. You have to make a short for the passion of making it. If you’re trying to get something else, oh God, it’s just like you’re selling your soul to the Devil and it’s never going to work. There’s a new generation of people that just want to do it because they think it’s cool… all that is really not helping. You get a lot of bad actors. You get a lot of bad scripts. You get a lot of other things… there’s just people that wanna work in the industry and they don’t really care about filmmaking itself. You have to love your films. You have to love the craft of filmmaking and that’s something that at least I feel that way about what I do. I’m really passionate about my shorts and every bad word that I read about crush my heart. Sometimes I really try and make good films and sometimes you cannot blame them. It’s up to our generation to change that. We’re the generation that has to go and write movies with more passion, and really care about it. A lot of the films that come out, the other generation they go to shoot it, they go home, they don’t care, you know…it just goes through the studio system and that’s so unfair. Hopefully that’s going to change in the future.

by Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor - Candace Smith

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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