Red Eye: Interview with Director Wes Craven

Wes Craven’s New Direction

“This guy is a legend. Most of us grew up watching his movies. As soon as we heard Wes wanted to do it, we knew we had to make it happen. From there, everything went ahead very smoothly”.
–Producer Mason Novick

Wes Craven takes a new direction in “Red Eye,” a suspense thriller set within the confines of an airplane at 30,000 feet. Mostly known for such classic horror films as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the “Scream” franchise, he now adopts a quieter and subtler approach to “Red Eye,” though, as always, still keeping the audiences on the edge of their seats.

On Changing Genres

This is definitely not a horror film; it’s a psychological thriller. There aren’t people chased by a maniac with a butcher knife, and nobody wears a maskexcept in presenting himself as one thing, and then turning out to be something totally different. After all, you never know who is going to sit next to you on a plane.

Getting the Screenplay

Carl Ellsworth’s screenplay came into the hands of Marianne Maddalena, my longtime associate, who read it quickly ad thought it was wonderful. But at that point, I was exhausted. We were filming “Cursed,” and I was planning my marriage, too. At first, I said, I can’t; Im too busy,’ but Marianne insisted, Youre going to love it.’ She was right, I read it and loved it.

I am always most attracted to a project by the script, and the first time I read the script, I felt it was a page-turner. It just compelled you to see what was going to happen next. A director can do nothing, if he does not have a good script.

On the Narrative

Carl’s script was remarkably well constructed and very original. I felt it was a great opportunity to show my stuff in something other than a horror movie, and yet the story had all the elements for suspense and the kinds of surprises I enjoy using to keep people on the edge of their seats.

The story of “Red Eye” is built entirely around two principal characters: Lisa Reisert (played by Rachel McAdams), a young businesswoman, and (Cillian Murphy), the mysterious guys who sits next to her on the plane.

On Rachel McAdams

I had seen Rachel in “The Notebook” and “Mean Girls,” and knew she was an actor of enormous range and great charisma, not to mention a fantastic beauty. Working with her was an enormous pleasure. She always came in totally prepared and was able to convey the deep and powerful emotions of this complex character very quickly. From the moment you see her on the screen, your eyes are riveted on her. She’s vulnerable and smart. She has a combination of beauty and wisdom and talent that is quite remarkable.

On Cillian Murphy

Cillian had immense enthusiasm. He was bright, he was funny, and he had those blinding blue eyes. I got a sense of intelligence and intensity. It was clear he very much wanted the part. I mean, if someone comes 5,000 miles to meet on a role, you know he’s really committed.

On Cynthia’s Character and Actress

Cynthia, an unwitting participant in the plot, was tailor-made for Jayma Mays, who make an impressive screen debut. The role of the person manning the hotel in Lisa’s absence was only sketched out in the script. We weren’t sure how it should be played. Then Jayma came in to read, and she had this energy and air of innocence that made you want to hug her. She was so down-to-earth and real, just a breath of fresh air, so we cast her as Cynthia.

Cynthia ends up being the point person at the hotel, and, of course, all hell breaks loose, and Cynthia is right in the middle of it. She is a little bit of comic relief, but she also comes of age through it all, and demonstrates her own kind of valor and grit.

Ambience on the Film’s Claustrophobic Set

We all got to know one another very, very well. There were some close friendships formed. We had a group of poker buddies in one section, and there was even a couple who celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary while we were shooting. It became sort of familial in a way.

Creating Turbulence on the Air

Anytime I wanted to have turbulence hit the plane, the special effects experts were able to rock that set from a mild bump to a wild roller coaster ride. It was a great combination of production design and mechanical design.

To shake up the plane and its passengers, the effects group built a hydraulic deck measuring 105-feet long and 24-feet wide. The mock-up of the 767 was built on the deck, which in turn rested on a cushion of 50 specialized air bags, each capable of lifting 8,000 pounds. By inflating and deflating the airbags, we could raise and lower the deck, and we had hydraulic rams connected to the sides of the platform, which could shake it to simulate turbulence.

Wes Craven’s Short Resume

Crave has been challenging audiences with his bold, often spine-tingling visions since the release of his first feature film, “The Last House on the Left,” which he wrote, directed, and edited in 1972.

In the three decades since that controversial film, Craven has demonstrated his craft as a filmmaker with an unbridled imagination and the ability to both terrify and touch audiences.

Craven’s career has been marked by both creative and commercial milestones. He virtually reinvented the youth horror genre in 1984, with the classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which he wrote and directed. Although he didn’t direct any of its next five sequels, Craven deconstructed the genre a decade later with the hit “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” which he wrote and directed. The film became one of the rare horror movies to receive a nomination for Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Craven scared up a new generation of young horror fans, reaching a new level of success with the irreverent, genre-bending “Scream’ franchise. The first “Scream,” released in 1996, grossed more than $170 million at the worldwide box-office, and won the MTV Movie Award for Best Feature. Craven followed up on the original with two hit sequels: “Scream 2” in 1997, and “Scream 3” in 2000.

In 1999, Craven broke his mold as a master of the horror genre, with the true-life drama, “Music of the Heart,” based on the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Small Wonders.” Meryl Streep earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as the violin teacher, who changes the lives of her inner-city pupils through music education.

Born in Cleveland Ohio, on August 2, 1949, Craven holds a Master Degree in Writing and Philosophy from John Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland.