Interview: Radha Mitchell (THE CRAZIES)

James Wallace

by: James Wallace
March 4th, 2010

Australian actress Radha Mitchell has done her fair share of horror films, starring in movies like PITCH BLACK, SILENT HILL and ROGUE. Mitchell can currently be seen in THE CRAZIES, director Breck Eisner's sensible remake of the 1973 film by the same name.

Mitchell plays Judy Dutton, town doctor and wife to sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant). Along with her husband, his deputy (Joe Anderson), and a young girl (Danielle Panabaker), Dutton must attempt to make it out of her small town which has come under threat of a toxic virus quickly transforming the townspeople into emotionless, homicidal "crazies."

We recently spoke to Mitchell about THE CRAZIES, including the social consciousness of the film, how this remake compares and contrasts to the original, what sets this horror remake apart from others, the scariest scene to shoot, and what attracts her to the horror genre in the first place. Check it out after the jump!

GATW: You’ve been in a few horror films at this point...SILENT HILL, ROGUE, PITCH BLACK. What is it about this genre in particular that attracts you?

Radha Mitchell: I just think that generally these sort of movies explore themes and issues and emotions that are often kind of, perhaps unsavory or pushed to the side in culture which is kind of interesting to me. And in this case, I was just impressed when I spoke with Breck [Eisner] on the phone about what his vision was for the film. And the script itself was very dense and obviously just as action driven...a lot of it. So, what really just excited me about it was the conversations I had with the director before we started shooting the film.

He was referencing NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and yet he was still talking about have a very theatrical kind of style in terms of how THE CRAZIES was going to be represented. I just thought that would create an interesting tension.

GATW: This is obviously a remake of George Romero, a man who implants a social consciousness in every one of his horror films. What do you feel the social consciousness of THE CRAZIES remake is and how may that pertain to the current state of the world?

RM: Yeah! I think there’s kind of an obvious parallel...there’s obviously a paranoia which he’s kind of justified about what would happen if there was some kind of global pandemic. In this case, it’s something that happens out of a chemical weapon that is in the wrong place at the wrong time and everybody in town is victimized by that. And I guess it is something that we’re familiar with when you look at swine flu, when you look at bird flu and the effect that’s had in China and just how these things get around the world so quickly.

And I think the movie also kind of alludes to the idea that we’re all statistics in the matrix. If something does go wrong, I think that our individuality is not as important as the survival of the species. You know, that’s part of it. And I don’t we’re even equipped for that kind of disaster and I’m not quite sure where we would begin. I think this movie certainly asks the questions; What did we do? What would we do? And what will we do?

GATW: What I find to be the most interesting element of the film, and what I think Romero showed perfectly in a lot of his films, is this notion of lawlessness and anarchy. A total deconstruction of what is acceptable in society. In THE CRAZIES, as people transform into these violent beings, the “normal” citizens also turn to violence and, as a result, also lose what makes them human. Furthermore, this idea that the structures in place to protect us often crumble and turn against us. Which is the notion I think you were just talking about with individuality and survival.

RM: I think it’s so much in the mood of Romero to question authority as well. The authority that’s supposed to protect you but so often people are betrayed by their governments. And I think that’s a big part of what the story is exploring.

GATW: Were you a fan of the original CRAZIES? Had you seen it prior to your involvement with the remake?

RM: I’d seen it. You know, the concept is great and the themes are the same. I think we’ve kept all that’s good about that movie and maybe just given it more of a budget. Some of Romero’s movie, while it’s a great movie, is a little rough around the edges. There’s a few things that I’m glad are no longer in the movie and then there’s a few things that I wish were in the movie! There’s some weird scenes in the original that I thought were really great! And they may have just been a bit too weird but I would have probably wanted to reinclude them if we’d kept some of the characters from that original story.

GATW: Whenever a remake is announced nowadays, especially a horror remake, you often get grumblings from people who see them as pointless and hollow. But with THE CRAZIES, it seems many are pleasantly surprised by this remake. What do you feel sets this film apart as a horror remake against others of the genre?

RM: Well, I think there’s an elegance in a way in how this movie is put together. It was shot by an Italian cinematographer so it has the look of somebody with that sort of European vision. And Breck I think has just been very clever in the way he’s paced the movie so it’s really kind of fun to watch with an audience. Everybody reacts at the same time, which is kind of what you want from a horror movie. But it’s somehow elevated in that it’s an intelligent horror movie.

GATW: It’s a horror film that is very based on this building tension, which often involves isolation in these confined settings, be it a car wash or your unfortunate circumstance of being strapped to a gurney as a Crazy with a pitchfork inches towards you. I’ve often wondered, in shooting a horror film, does it ever come off the page and get kind of realistically creepy or scary for you in the moment or on set?

RM: You never does! (laughs) It certainly gets tense. So there’s a tension in that sense. Especially when the characters are becoming more and more so as the story progresses. And when Joe’s character goes a little crazy...there was certainly a tension on set dramatically because we were trying to maintain that mood. So, it was very focused and intense. But in terms of actually tense...well, to be honest with you that truck stop was pretty scary. Because it was empty and we were shooting it at nighttime and it was a massive, massive space that was completely empty. And so it was a little creepy wondering around there alone in between being called to set to scream. That was creepy!

THE CRAZIES is currently in theaters nationwide.

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