Leatherface Producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman Interview

Horror movie producers scare up more than money. Lati Grobman and Christa Campbell talk about the true cost of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Lati Grobman and Christa Campbell stitched together Leatherface, the upcoming resurrection of Tobe Hopper’s romantic leading man from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Campbell Grobman Films, Lati and Christa’s production company, also brought Stonehearst Asylum, The Taking of Deborah Morgan, Embrace of the Vampire, Straight A’s, Reality Show, A Case of You and, my personal favorite of the bunch, The Iceman to the big screen. They also produced the documentaries The Resort and Brave Miss World.

Their next film, the psychological home invasion thriller Shut In, will premiere at the 2015 LA Film Festival and they’re working on a remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Campbell played Mrs. Leitner in the 2008 film.

The production partners already explored Leatherface in their 3D remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2013 and this time they promise that their new directors, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, are just the right sick fucks to dig into his past.

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Lati Grobman and Christa Campbell spoke exclusively to Den of Geek about their growing film catalog.

Den of Geek: Campbell Grobman Films has made something like 20 movies in the last five years, how much time do you spend on each?

LATI : Each film demands a different amount of time invested. With some movies (for example Experimenter and She’s Funny That Way), we would get it financed and be involved in a few other essential elements. On other movies, we are there from conception to birth (like Texas Chainsaw and Stonehearst Asylum). Not on all movies do we go to set.  We have our executive producer Rob Van Norden who we trust with closed eyes. We know that not only will he bring our films in on budget, but also with great production value. There is the team in Bulgaria now headed by Les Weldon who is an oily machine and we couldn’t have done anything without him. So to answer your question: it is team work. We should never get soley credited for any of our work.

Campbell Grobman Films has remade some iconic movies, Texas Chainsaw and Day of the Dead, do you worry about comparisons to the originals?

CC: We try to respect the original films and listen to the fans to see what they would like. When we hired Julian Maury and Alexander Bustillo, the fans were extremely excited because they all loved The Inside.  We knew they would be the best to do a Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

LATI: we will always disappoint some people and excite others, but in the next Texas Chainsaw I think we have a positive consensus. Gore is not always the point in horror movies (although there will be plenty!!), it needs to be psychologically challenging and twisted. Looks like we got it in this one.

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What is it about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that we keep going back to it?

CC: It’s one of those iconic horror franchises that we all love. The fact that the main character Leatherface, was based on the true story of a real person, makes it realistic and even more horrific

What is the biggest challenge in producing a movie like Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Is horror any different from producing, say, Killing the Warwicks?

CC: The biggest challenge with Texas Chainsaw is the obvious one. We have added pressure to make sure the film comes out good. We are rebuilding the Sawyer house and that is not easy.  If you were filming a scene in a “scary house” you could just scout one location and rent it, but in this case everything has to be exact. From the house to the look of the film, to the characters, it’s challenging.

LATI: Horror is not different from any other movie in the way that the story has to work. You need to be interested in the characters, to really care about them, to love them or hate them, to have feelings. Then comes the rest. Killing the Warwicks, another film we have coming, is maybe not categorized as horror, but boy, you will be horrified by what happens there. It’s a wonderfully sick movie. Adam Rifkin did a terrific job.

Is there a different approach to producing a remake of a film than producing an original work?

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CC: Again with a remake you have to be aware of the environment, the tone of the film, the actors you cast. In an original film, you have the freedom to literally say, ok we can’t find a gas station, so let’s change the script to an abandon school yard. It’s very different in the freedom that you have.

LATI: Ot’s definitely more pressure than producing an original movie because not only the studio expects it to be better than the last one, the audience too. And we gotta make sure it performs at the box office because we never want to say goodbye to leatherface .

Are there any properties that you are personally hungry for? Dream projects?

CC: If we tell you then we would have to kill you. Every producer knows not to discuss their projects until they actually own it. In this business once people hear you’re in negotiations on a film they come in and make an offer. So our lips are sealed.

LATI: Yes, sadly it’s a back stabbing business. A la Gwyneth Paltrow snatching Shakespeare in Love from Wynona Rider.

Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo are pretty hard core directors. What level of scary do you think Leatherface will be?

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CC: We are so excited to work with them, we loved The Inside. They are really talented and are having a great time already. It’s really nice to work with directors that are truly happy and passionate and excited. They are ambitious and have so many great ideas. It’s really refreshing.

What was the first horror movie that excited you growing up? Did any keep you up at night?

CC: I use to watch films over and over. I think I owned three. But Night of the Comet is my all-time favorite.

LATI: I had never seen one horror movie until I met Christa.

I loved The Iceman. Do you see that as a kind of bridge between your documentary works, serious psychological movies like Eliza Graves and the horror films?

LATI: To me it’s all about the story. That is what connects everything. If the story doesn’t grab you, it doesn’t matter if you watch your favorite genre, you will still hate the movie. In horror, if you are not utterly in love with the characters, you won’t mind if they are in danger, in romantic comedies if you are not in love with your heroine, you wouldn’t care that her heart is broken. Documentaries are a bit different because the story happens while you shoot, but the same rule applies. If there is no story to follow and you don’t care about the subjects, you’d be bored to death.

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What kind of contact do you have with the directors? What kind of input do you have in the creative process?

LATI: We respect our directors. We would come up with notes and discuss ideas but unless we feel super strongly about it, we let them go with their vision. When the movie is in the can, we would have big sessions of notes and suggestions of how to make the movie better (if needed). Some movies we are more involved creatively than others.

We try to come up with scripts that are good enough for directors to go an shoot. So we don’t get stuck in development hell.

How difficult is it to sell an unknown cast to a big studio?

LATI: Very difficult. Unless the script is high concept and is produced by one of the majors knowing they have millions to promote, it’s close to impossible. Franchises are different. The audience knows what they are going to get, the franchise is the star.

It was just announced that you’ve got Shut In opening at the LA Film festival in June. Where does this rate on the terror scale?

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CC: Shut In is a great film. It’s a thriller directed by Delivery‘s Adam Schindler and Produced by Steven Schneider from Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Devil Inside.  This is psychological horror at its best. The schedule was tight and the pressure was on. All we can say is Adam and Brian Netto delivered.