The secrecy within which 10 Cloverfield Lane is shrouded is highly unusual for 2016. Of course, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions is notorious for its creative privacy, including with 2008’s first Cloverfield. Yet in the decade of Twitter, Instagram, and more social media apps than there are hours in the day, for the whole existence of a movie to be hidden—never mind casting announcements, posters, and the trickle of off-the-cuff interview questions—is an achievement unto itself.
Thus when Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, director Dan Trachtenberg, and writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken entered a Manhattan ballroom this past weekend, it felt as if a CIA document with the classification of “Top Secret” was being cracked open in a room full of anxious press. And in some respects it was exactly that, as the cast and filmmakers talked about the challenges of making this film, its major influences, and of course its relationship to the budding “Clover-Universe.”
“You know when we wrote an original screenplay, it was not intended to be a sequel at the time,” Matthew Stuecken said about the writing process of the film, and how it evolved when their original script landed fortuitously at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.
“Cloverfield wasn’t in our minds when we wrote it. During the development process, the idea came up that it could be in the ‘Clover-verse,’ and honestly when we first started thinking about it, we were a bit surprised. But the more you think about it, and now that people will start seeing the movie, it makes a lot of sense in terms of tone and the twists and the turns, and the thriller aspects. So we got really excited, because we knew it was the right choice to make.”
Additionally, Dan Trachtenberg—who makes his impressive debut as a feature director with 10 Cloverfield Lane—sees the potential of the Cloverfield brand lending itself to both more stories in the narrative world created by his film… or in completely unrelated, other genre ideas.
“Yeah that’s definitely a question for J.J. and not me,” Trachtenberg began when considering the anthological potential in the Cloverfield franchise. However, he then elaborated, “But I think the cool thing about this movie in and of itself is that it feels like there could be a sequel, and it would be awesome to make a direct sequel to just this movie. But it’s also kind of badass if there weren’t. If this were its own thing and the [characters] goes through the journey that [they go] through and that were it. That is so cool to kind of leave to your imagination…. But it would be fucking awesome if we got to make another movie, of course, in success.”
He continued, “But I think the movie has a real Twilight Zone feel to it and it would be cool if there were more, and for them to all have that vibe. And I think J.J. does see this as a platform now to tell more really unique and original stories as this one was. And that’s what’s so exciting.”
In finding the unique rhythm and vibe for this particular story, the filmmakers also had plenty of interesting aspects to break their silence on about this particular movie, including what Trachtenberg considers his movie’s best special effect: Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance. Indeed, it is a mostly non-verbal role, but it is also a tense one that begins in almost the first scene with a hobbled heroine named Michelle (Winstead) is tied to a pipe and yet still instantly figures out ways to escape her mysterious circumstances.
“What I loved most about her, I think, was that she was kind of badass from the beginning,” Winstead said. “I think in reading roles, I generally see a lot of female roles that if they’re badass, they have to be weak at the beginning in order to grow and find their strength, and something happens to them that makes them find it, and then they persevere on. But with her, she was smart and strong, and capable from the get-go as I think a lot of women are. So, I think it was cool to be able to see that play out. As soon as she gets there, she’s active and she’s thinking about her next tactic, and her next move. How she’s going to get out of this situation. And there’s not a second of the movie where she’s passive and she’s not trying to figure this thing out.”
Also for Winstead, she later confirmed this included one of the most physically challenging stunts thus far in her career: spending days crawling through an air vent that was quite literally built to suffocate her—and in which the only path out was forward.
Says Wisntead, “There’s a scene, a couple of scenes, where I’m in an air vent. And that might have been the running joke, because we had to reshoot a couple of scenes in there. So everyday, they’d be like, ‘You’re gonna’ have to go back in the air vent today.’ They just knew that that was the thing that would get me.”
At this point, Trachtenberg helpfully revealed to Winstead that he had told his production designers that he didn’t “want a movie air duct; I didn’t want it to be like Die Hard where you have plenty of room to move around.” It sounds like it was a mission accomplished, because Winstead confessed there were moments where she thought she did get stuck (especially when it came time to climb up and out of the vents).
“I just had to figure out how to wedge my body sort of like a hamster.”
Goodman, who was reliably dry in his deadpan, also had a very intriguing insight into his survivalist Howard.
“He comes at it from his own particular point-of-view, which happens to be Looney Tunes…. But no, he has his own perspective on things and he’s always right, which never ends well for anybody.”
Goodman also commented on the film’s high-stakes consideration for secrecy.
“We would get the rewrites written on toilet paper in urine that would slowly come to light in a microwave. The unfortunate thing was when we had to eat the script.” After pausing to allow the room to swallow its laughter, Goodman concluded, “I have now broken the confidentiality agreement, and I will now be part of the waterfront around 65th street if you want to visit.”
But the joking aside, Trachtenberg discussed the novelty he hopes the Cloverfield Lane secrecy offers audiences.
Says Trachtenberg, “I also think it’s so exciting to harken back to a time when we only found out about a movie by its trailer. I remember vividly going to the movies to see Dave, that awesome Kevin Kline presidential movie, and the trailer for Jurassic Park played, and I was like, ‘What is that movie?! It looks so awesome!” And to recapture that and also have this thing where it’s coming out two months after the trailer dropped, which is so exciting and very necessary for a movie like this I think.”
The secrets will spill for everyone when 10 Cloverfield Lane opens tomorrow March 11 nationwide.