On a hot, steamy day in Toronto, at one of the city’s premier studios, the stage is set for the filming of Silent Hill, the latest adaptation of a video game, heading a multiplex near you come April. Under the imaginative direction of France’s stylish director Christophe Gans, the film tells of a mother, played by Australia’s Radha Mitchell, who searches for her sick daughter in the haunted, deserted town of Silent Hill.
A small, exclusive and intrepid group of online journalists visited the set of the film and our own Paul Fischer was one of them, as he interviewed Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Bean and a young and very nervous Jodelle Ferland.
Question: Radha, what was the attraction of doing this film and what are the challenges of playing a character in a video game?
Radha Mitchell: I think the major attraction to me was it was directed by Christophe Gans. And I saw that film and I was intrigued and fascinated ’cause I thought Brotherhood of the Wolf was a beautiful, exciting, strange and bizarre movie. Then I met Christophe and I was charmed, obviously, by him and I guess that’s what it was. So then, since we’ve been making the film, we see the vision and the script comes alive and it’s a very visual piece so when you read it you won’t necessarily understand what it is but, since we’ve been working on the film, every day has just been an assault on the senses. And I guess today was just a sample of that. And the challenges, I guess, I mean I’ve got to run around and call out “Sharon”… And do that in 50 different ways. So there’s that aspect. I also think Christophe has a really interesting take on the concept of the video game and you do have a sense of what it must feel like to be sort of stuck in this chase which I guess is the main challenge, keeping that interesting working ’cause a lot of the time we’re reacting to things that are not necessarily in front of us and the things that we’re imagining and we’ve got to, you know, imagine them at the same time. So we’ve constantly encouraged the first AD to make loud noises for us so we can all be scary. And so everybody’s had to become an actor on this movie including the crew.
Question: Talk about the way you move through this, since much of the film is about movement.
Radha Mitchell: I think Christophe is very specific in the way that he cast the film. He wanted actors who had sort of some sense of movement which is definitely part of the performances. I don’t know so much with my character ’cause I’m playing a more human character. But I think that was definitely part of the choices that people made as actors was to move in a particular way. And you’ll see that when you see the film.
Question: Deborah, can you talk about your character?
Deborah Kara Unger: I’m playing Dahlia. She been extraordinary because I think, to Christophe’s credit, and certainly the entire crew and special effects and design, he’s really, really captured the essence of her and then extended her into the psychological nightmare that would capture the imaginations of the gaming fans. So it was a much deeper exploration than I anticipated. Because I’m a big lurker on all the sites and I love the varying competing analysis on all the different characters, with Dahlia it’s been an extraordinary psychological journey for me, as an actor, to embrace this walker between worlds.. And, as a mad and slightly cryptic prophet, akin to obviously the essence of the game, this has been just a delight to play.
Question: How many of you have played in a video game and played it before and then just video game fans before you knew you were going to be in this movie?
Radha Mitchell: Honestly? I’m not a very good player, to be honest. I’ve tried to play the game and especially to get familiar with the characters better. I mean, it’s really an amazing game, having just a limited sort of knowledge of it that I have. And it’s got a real sense of sort of poetry and melancholy and things you don’t expect in a video game which I guess that’s what’s attractive to me about it. But, in relation to actually getting through the game I’m always stuck on the fence and I can’t get off it. But I mean, I’m sure everybody has a different experience. And Christophe, has been known to spend like two to three days straight in his room, playing the game without leaving, without going to the bathroom.
Deborah Kara Unger: Laurie and I both get stuck by the same store, which is really annoying. And I hear … ’cause I often hear footsteps now and, of course, the sound of destroying the monsters. I like to destroy. I am impressed by the people that get stones and aliens. I mean, who are they? That’s incredible.
Radha Mitchell: I haven’t got that far.
Sean Bean: I’ve not seen it. I’ve seen a picture. I’ve seen the front cover but that’s about it.
Radha Mitchell: But they showed you a photograph of a picture of your character for the game.
Sean Bean: Did they?
Radha Mitchell: Because they wanted the same colouring as the character.
Sean Bean: Who? I do? Yeah?
Radha Mitchell: Yeah.
Sean Bean: I’ll have to have a look at it.
Radha Mitchell: And it’s interesting because Laurie is playing Cybil and she looks exactly like Cybil in the game.
Laurie Holden: Well, I do now.
Deborah Kara Unger: She does now.
Laurie Holden: I had hair before this movie. They chopped it all off for Cybil.
Question: Laurie and Sean, can you talk a little bit about your characters?
Laurie Holden: Cybil is a woman who grew up in Brahms which is a small town outside of Silent Hill. She’s a bit of a lone wolf, in the sense that her mom died when she was thirteen and there was never really a father around. Brams was a very religious community, so I think that because my mother was such a woman of faith and she passed away in a really painful way, it really scarred Cybil. And she’s really kind of denounced any sort of religion just because of what happened to her mom. So because of that I think that she’s been a bit of an outsider, doesn’t have a lot of friends. But that’s okay for Cybil because she’s found her calling and that is to serve and protect. And, really, she wants to save children. And there are different things that have happened in her conventional life with marriage and kids. She wants to be kind of like the mother of saving the children. So that’s Cybil.
Radha Mitchell: It’s interesting the way the relationships are constructed in the film. Say, even the relationship between our characters, is not stereotypical. They’re buddies and, they’re on the journey together. But it’s interesting tension between the two characters. I can’t give way the plot, but, all the characters are quite sort of fleshed out and mysterious.
Deborah Kara Unger: They’re also all psychologically and metaphorically interwoven beautifully. What Christophe has done has been really quite inspirational for all of us as actors and the crew as well. Visually, for the crew, they’ve had a blast.
Sean Bean: I play Chris DaSilva who’s sort of quite a successful businessman. They live in a nice house. Things seem to be going well, apart from the child. And I spend most of the time chasing around trying to get on different playing levels, different time levels. But he’s a good guy, a regular sort of guy with bit of money, wears nice clothes and drives a BMW. It’s all materialistic.
Radha Mitchell: Their relationship has a certain nostalgia as is in the game in that they’re sort of separating in different dimensions. And they’re kind of passing each other by sol often in the movie. They don’t actually connect. So it’s kind of, I guess, like the average relationship … [laughs]. It’s like a metaphor for relationships.
Question: It seems that horror has a new respect now. If you look at the calibre of talent that is in horror now, it’s not the whipping boy anymore. There was a time when it was sort of slumming or considered a poor man’s genre. And, in fact, it’s not. So I want to find out how you feel about contributing to the genre and if there was anything in particular that you guys are bringing to the table in terms of this new horror?
Radha Mitchell: Well, it’s a masochistic pursuit, especially in this film. [laughs] I mean, and I think there’s something very elegant about the way that Christophe is directing horror. And, his inspiration is, you know, coming from a very highbrow kind of level in art. So If you’re into horror I would say this is the movie to watch because it’s elegant horror. That’s my understanding of it.
Laurie Holden: I think of this one as a nightmare fairytale. It is elegant and I think of this as kind of a cross between Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s Inferno. It’s very high art and frightening and violent and sexy and elegant all at the same time. Which I think is, you know, Christophe’s genius.