Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman
Are No Longer Strangers
by Brad Balfour
Sometimes there are interview opportunities and then there are interview opportunities. Consider the circumstances that came up with covering this sort-of horror/suspense film, The Strangers. A great trailer suggests a film that ratchets up the personal anxiety through the assault of three strangers who threaten and eventually attack a couple – in this case played Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman – late at night in an isolated suburban home. Supposedly “Inspired by A True Story” (so the film is tagged), it stimulates another round of fear for unknown vacation towns that was stirred by Funny Games. Great fare to start off the summer season.
After being a crucial member of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the star-girlfriend in Armageddon, Tyler established her presence among the genre-geeks. But marriage, child-bearing and a pending divorce took her out of the spotlight until the release of this film and the upcoming The Incredible Hulk. Speedman had garnered fan creds as the werewolf/vampire hybrid in the Underworld series as well as parts in various genre flicks as Anamorph, Weirdsville and wacky sequel to xXx.
So when a film like this is made by an unknown, first-time director [Bryan Bertino] with two actors who – for very different reasons – haven’t been out of the spotlight for awhile, interviewing the stars together is usually a pain. It can dilute the dialogue and allows the two actors to mess around rather than offer some insight that we, as interviewers, are supposed to look for asking the questions. Well, we got a bit of both, a little fooling around and some insightful comments.
Liv Tyler: Oh my God, talk about fears! [Doing this] is more terrifying than this movie was.
Did you sit down and watch a bunch of horror flicks to prepare for this film?
Scott Speedman: Bryan got us to watch a bunch of stuff, right? What did he want us to watch?
Liv Tyler: The things that I watched… Rosemary’s Baby, and we both watched Halloween.
Scott Speedman: Yeah Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween was a good one to watch.
Liv Tyler: What was that weird one? There’s the three… It was a really dodgy movie… Two girls get kidnapped?
Scott Speedman: What is that one?
Liv Tyler: Yeah, they’re in the city and they get taken to the country and it’s really disturbing, and they’re like naked…
Scott Speedman: Oh yeah? That sounds really cool!
Liv Tyler: Never mind! We did watch other movies…
Scott Speedman: Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Liv Tyler: Didn’t we watch A Woman Under the Influence?
Scott Speedman: We were supposed to… [laughs]
Liv Tyler: When I was a kid I was pretty obsessed with horror movies. It was my favorite thing to watch. I remember seeing that for the first time and being like, “Okay! I’m done with the horror movie genre!” It really scared me so much.
Scott Speedman: They’re fun movies… I don’t know…
So you have no problem having a horror film on your resume?
Liv Tyler: We both read the script [of this film] and fell in love with it – it’s really a drama – and it’s a story about a couple going through a not-so-perfect situation, and they just so happened to be happened upon by these three people.
Scott Speedman: Bad people.
Liv Tyler: Very, very bad people.
Did you read stories in the paper similar to this one?
Liv Tyler: Well there was a story a year ago, but the movie was possibly going to come out a year ago, and I remember a story in the paper right at that time that was quite similar.
Scott Speedman: Really, what do you remember; where was it?
Liv Tyler: I don’t remember. I have two stories but one is too personal to talk about because it is terribly sad – but it’s not about me. The other one is about my stepfather Todd Rundgren [the New York Dolls producer and legendary musician] who used to live in Woodstock and two people broke into his house in the ’70s. They tied him and his girlfriend Bean, who was pregnant with my brother Rex at the time, to a chair and held them at gunpoint. I think one of them pistol whipped Todd which is horrible. There was nothing stolen. There was really no reason. It wasn’t a crime of passion. But things like this happen a lot and often they’re really random.
How did director Bryan Bertino keep you in the mood so you weren’t stressed out during the shooting of the film?
Scott Speedman: It felt like we were stressed out the entire time. That was what was so tough and exhausting about it, was keeping up that fear and anxiety level every day. It takes place over five hours the whole thing. If that to me is our job, he can’t really do anything to get us there. I feel like that’s our responsibility to get there every day.
Liv Tyler: He really created an environment that was really specific to what he wanted. He would give us music to listen to and show us photographs, and that house was THE house he dreamt up in his mind. He was really clear about that and talked us through it extensively. Then he just kind of let us go. There were moments when he was cautious about not interfering because he would see us so upset and disturbed and he didn’t want to get involved. He created everything for us and then just stood back and watched in a way. He was very clear with us not to be campy in any way humorous, but very real and bleak and absolutely terrifying.
Were you surprised by his self-assurance considering this was his first time directing?
Scott Speedman: It was kind of nice to have that. That’s what you don’t want with a first time director, is somebody who’s not cock-sure. It was nice to have somebody so confident.
What’s it like being in a movie made for under $10 million.
Liv Tyler: The lower the budget, the lower your salary! That’s how it works. Capiche? We didn’t really care. It’s not about that. It’s an amazing, wild, wacky collaboration of a bunch of gypsies making a movie, no matter how big or small. I just did The Hulk and it’s the same thing, but there was a lot more stuff to blow up and a lot more time to do it. And actually, I wouldn’t say the catering was any better, frankly. We were in Toronto… Just kidding! But it’s the same experience.
I imagine your experience with this film gave you a lot more input than with The Incredible Hulk?
Liv Tyler: I actually had a lot of input in The Hulk too. I mean it’s a collaboration, but I don’t mean to be cocky about it.
Scott Speedman: Yeah… The Hulk is pink now! [laughs].
Liv Tyler: [Laughs] I mean it depends on who you’re working with, but this was different. It was just Scott and I and Brian and a small crew, and it was a very intimate and very small experience for all of us, and it was just really emotional for everybody. There wasn’t ever a light day. And for the crew it was emotional as well. There were days where I’d shoot certain things and I’d come outside and my poor hair and makeup people would have tears in their eyes or be shocked.
As for The Hulk, did you go back and watch Ang Lee’s movie to see what Jennifer Connelly did?
Scott Speedman: Are you playing the same person?
Liv Tyler: Yes I am, Miss Betty Ross. The story’s completely different. There’s nothing similar about the stories, or even the characters in many ways. I mostly went back and watched the television show which was one of my favorite things my mom and I used to watch all the time. I would say the essence of the image of that lone figure of Bruce Banner walking down the street alone with his little backpack, hitchhiking – the misunderstood hero having to move onto another town type of thing – was more of the overall feeling for the film. But the story is completely different.
What did you want to bring to the Bruce/Betty relationship?
Liv Tyler: Well I didn’t write the screenplay, but Edward Norton did, and I was really happy because I was offered the part and had to decide if I was going to be in the movie before I ever read the script. So the script was very well-written and he wrote a great part for me.
Did you get to meet the actor who played the original Hulk on television, Lou Ferrigno?
Liv Tyler: I did not. He came to the set one day, and I believe it was amazingly one of the only days in the three or four months where I had a half a day somehow, and I didn’t get to stay to meet him. I really wanted to.
Unfortunately, word has it that there is some acrimony now between Edward Norton and the producers. Was that evident on the set?
Liv Tyler: No, I mean this was a real collaboration for everyone, and Edward wrote the screenplay and they agreed to his story. He was really involved, as were we all, and I think the misunderstandings that happened were reached in the editing. I think that basically, at a certain point Marvel just decided to edit the movie that they wanted to, and possibly Edward disagreed with some of those things, but I can’t speak for them. It’s not a big deal. It’s the same movie. There’s nothing crazily different about it.
Would you revisit doing a horror film again?
Liv Tyler: Of course.
Scott Speedman: Yeah, absolutely.
Liv Tyler: This was a tremendous experience for me, and I would be thrilled to have another experience equally as good, if not better again.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were by yourself and were scared?
Liv Tyler: Oh yeah, all the time. Absolutely. That’s what’s so real about this movie. We’ve all been in bed at night, trying to relax, and all of a sudden you hear a [she hits the table] and you’re like, “What was that!” And it’s like, are you brave enough to go and check or not? Bryan used to always say that to us, “Imagine if you got up and went and looked and there’s nothing ever there and your girlfriend is in bed and suddenly one day you go out and look, and someone is there, with a mask on, standing with a butcher knife in your living room?
Scott Speedman: Yeah, that would suck. That would be really, really scary.
Is there anything you haven’t done in this business that you’d like to do?
Liv Tyler: Wow. I would loooveee to do a musical. That’s like the dream of my whole life. I always wanted to be a singer or get to sing in some kind of capacity. I haven’t been able to do that, and I’d love to do that. I worked all year – I just did three movies in a row, and I finished The Hulk in November and then took a little break because I was a little exhausted, and now I’m excited to see what happens next. And Scott, what is one thing you’d like to do, and what do you have coming up next?
Scott Speedman: Well Ms. Tyler, I mean for me I have no idea. Definitely NOT a musical! That is one thing you will never see me do is a musical. You wouldn’t be very happy about that! I’ve got a movie called Adoration [directed by Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan] coming out at some point, I don’t know when.
What are your singing fantasies?
Liv Tyler: I’m an actress and I like to act [so] I’d like to do a musical. I like the idea of the Old Hollywood singing and dancing. There’s something so fabulous and fantastic about that. Actually, I recorded a song [recently] with my friend. I don’t know if it will ever come out. My friend Evan Dando [of The Lemonheads] asked me to sing a Leonard Cohen song called “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 30, 2008.
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