An Interview with Matt Reeves (and Kodi Smit-McPhee)

The fans of Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One" may not be as numerous as the swarms adoring "Twilight" but they are at least as passionate, passionate enough to embrace a movie with subtitles


about a 12-year-old girl who doesn't wear shoes and has a taste for human blood and who falls in love with a boy as ostracized and lonely as herself. So these diehards were a little ticked off, to put it mildly, when a Hollywood studio decided to remake and "Americanize" the movie. They weren't even placated when Matt Reeves, held in high esteem by many for his "Cloverfield," took on the job.

But they needn't have worried. It's one of the best films of the year.

I had the chance to talk with Reeves and one of the film's stars, Kodi Smit-McPhee, along with a small group of other journalists at a round table at the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of weeks ago.

Be forewarned. One of these guys can really bend your ear. And it's not Smit-McPhee. But in a good way.

Q: Was this an easy decision for you to decide after "The Road," Kodi and for you Matt, this is your first film since "Cloverfield..."


Kodi Smit-McPhee: Well, the thing is my dad reads the script then the cool ones he passes on to me...and I read the script and it was pretty amazing. I didn't know it was a book or a movie.

Q: What do you think of who you're playing?

KSM: I really like the character. I love abstract stuff. I love how he kind of has a whole world going on in his mind...and I can go into that whenever I want.

Q: In your previous movie you play somebody who's in danger of being eaten by cannibals and in this movie you play someone in danger of having his blood sucked out by a vampire; do you see a pattern? Like are you an actor or an hors d'ouvre?

KSM: (polite laughter) You can choose patterns if you want.

Q: I thought the film actually was brilliant. And I was a big fan of the I wasn't sure how this one would turn out. But I will say I think it's as good if not better than the original.

MATT REEVES: Thank you

Q How much pressure did you have? ‘Cause I know there's a huge fan base for the original film.

MR: It's weird, when I first got involved I had just finished "Cloverfield" and it was January 2008 and I was actually trying to get a very personal film, "The Invisible Woman," made, and I was trying to find a distributor for it. I met with Overture [the studio that released the film]. Overture said, you know, this film ["The Invisible Woman"] right now is a little too hard to make, but we're trying to get the rights to this film "Let the Right One In" and it's an amazing story and you should take a look at it.

And they sent me home after that meeting with a DVD and I was thinking oh, I don't know, do I want to do a remake? And I watched it and I was so blown away...and the weird thing about it is the script that I had written that I was trying to get found its sort of basis when I was doing "Felicity with J.J. [Abrams] and we had to come up with pilots for other shows, and his pilot was "Alias," and mine was this sort of personal story about a 12 year-old boy, moves with his family into this apartment complex, and he has this encounter with a neighbor who is the same age, also the product of a single-parent family, so they have these very tender encounters in the courtyard. So when I started watching the movie that night I was like, "how strange is this that it's in the same emotional world?' But I didn't know anything about the movie. So here's this weird relationship between these two kids, which reminds me so much of the kind of thing I'm interested in doing, and it turns into a vampire movie, and I was like "this is amazing; this is incredible."

And what I loved about it was that it was taking this genre and...I didn't start out [my career] with an interest in doing genre films, but the thing that I love about it is that you can take the metaphor for whatever it is - whether it's a giant monster running around the city, destroying the world,


 or something like this - and you can sneak something in under the metaphor. And so what really blew me away was that they had taken a vampire story and they had managed to make it a story about the pain of adolescence.

I was so taken with that and I called them up the next day and I said, "I really don't know if you should remake this movie; it's so good...but I'm really drawn to it." So I ended up reading the novel after this and all the studios were fighting for the rights and Hammer [the revived British horror studio] got the rights and Overture was so passionate about it that they partnered with them and wanted to finance it. I couldn't let it go so I called the book's author, John Ajvide Lindqvist, and I said, "you know, there's a remake and I'm interested in doing this and I want you to know why I'm interested. And it's not because it's a great genre story, though it absolutely is, but because it really resonated with me so much personally." He wrote back and said "I actually was excited to hear that you were interested in doing the remake because I really liked Cloverfield; I thought it was a new spin on an old story." And he said that was what he was trying to do with "Let the Right One In."

All of this was way before the film came out; I agreed to do it; I started writing it; and in October when it came out in the U.S., I had already written a draft of the script, and there had been a huge response to the [original] film. And on the one hand I wasn't really surprised because I think it was incredible; I think it was a masterpiece. But I didn't know what kind of release it would get, and I suddenly started thinking oh, there's now gonna be this laser focus on what we're doing. And what I decided to do in terms of the pressure, since I was so far along the line, and I had decided that our best chance was to do it as sincerely and as much a labor of love as possible, was that I blocked it out. Every once in a while I would look on the interview or something...

Q: They always say the only movies you should remake are the bad ones to make better.

MR: Right. And Tomas [Alfredson] said that too, he took it as a personal thing at first, as if it was suggesting that somehow his film wasn't amazing, which of course it was. To me it was an opportunity; I connected to it personally and I saw this story that I could put into another context; to take Lindqvist's story and apply it to a time in America that I could relate to -I grew up in the 80s - it was a weird sort of thing to say that here's this remake that feels so personally to me.

Q: Kodi, you won't be able to see the movie in theaters. When you were reading it, when you were preparing, when you were shooting, was there anytime it got under your skin?

KSM: No. Because it's just...actors shouldn't be scared. If anything it was totally the opposite because I got to see the effects...the fake bodies and blood and stuff.

MR: One night he was literally asking me, "I would like to stick around longer."

KSM: I don't really care if I can't see it in the cinemas because I'm gonna see it probably many times during the premieres and stuff and my friends will probably find some way to get in.

Q: How problematic is your adolescence? Matt talked about how he connected because of his painful adolescence, I think that's the phrase you used..

MR: Well I was talking about the pain of adolescence, yeah.

Q: What pain do you have as an adolescence?

KSM: There are just things I get confused about sometimes. Like, I'm here in America and I have friends here and stuff and then I miss my friends back at home and I'm juggling it all. And then I go home and I miss my friends back here and I just don't really know where I want to be. But I just right now want to go back home -I 'm having fun doing all this, but I'd like to go home and relax, ride my bike...and do normal stuff.

Q: You come from an acting family, right?

KSM: Yeah. My dad's an actor...and he's the one that got me into it and I wouldn't really be here without him. He's so confident. As soon as he came to America he said "I'm gonna get a job in ‘Sons of Anarchy'" and he finally got kind of a main part he's the chapter's president. So he's in it for 7 he's kind of been there through the whole thing. So, he got that. And my sister's an actor; she's on HBO's "Hung" and she's 18 and she's still working here. And when we're all working here we don't go back home, we stay as a family.

Q: How old are you now?
KSM: I'm 14

Q: And where is home back in Australia?

KSM: Melbourne.


NEXT: "Cloverfield" sequel? Creepy sexual subtext?

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