It’s fairy tale adaptation madness out there. We’ve got two new TV series exploring a conglomeration of iconic tales, two Snow White movies going head-to-head and much more. How to stand out in such a whirlwind of retellings? Throw a pot-peddling witch into the mix.
Director Duane Journey’s Hansel and Gretel & the 420 Witch is a modern retelling of the beloved fairytale which finds a rebellious Gretel (Molly C. Quinn) and her clean-cut brother Hansel (Michael Welch) going up against a local witch (Lara Flynn Boyle) that lures her victims in using a new blend of marijuana called Black Forest Night.
Not only did we get the chance to talk to Hansel himself about working on the film, but we’ve got five exclusive stills to boot! Check it all out for yourself below.
Movies.com: You rose to fame via Twilight, but you’ve definitely kept yourself busy with other projects, too. Why add this one to your growing resume?
Michael Welch: I was really drawn to the originality and creativity of this project. I think Edgar Wright really created a new genre of filmmaking by mixing a bunch of genres together and really paying tribute to them seriously, but almost creating a whole new world and I feel like that’s what this movie does. If we do our jobs right, the feel of the film should be very quirky and funny, but also very scary and disturbing as well. So ultimately we’re just trying to make a really entertaining movie and I think we’re doing that.
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Movies.com: How about taking it from the title? I hear Hansel and Gretel & the 420 Witch and my mind gravitates towards Harold & Kumar plus horror.
Welch: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s right. We took the very basic story of Hansel and Gretel and took some of the original elements and really just created a whole new thing. It hopefully is a very funny take on the story. It’s certainly a very modernized take on it. Molly [Quinn] and I have definitely modernized the Hansel and Gretel characters and have brought some of the tendencies of this generation to these kind of old school characters.
Movies.com: I kind of hope it’s nothing like this, but have you ever seen Evil Bong?
Welch: I’ve heard of Evil Bong, but no I have not had the pleasure of seeing Evil Bong, no. [Laughs]
Movies.com: [Laughs] I’m hoping this is going to be a more honestly horrifying way of doing a film like this.
Welch: It’s interesting because in one way we’re almost bordering on super camp and in another way it’s a very serious horror film, so it’s kind of a tightrope to walk and a lot’s gonna depend on the music and how it’s cut together, which is the case with all movies anyway.
Movies.com: How about your character? Have you seen the Hansel and Gretel episode of Once Upon a Time or have you been following Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters at all?
Welch: I actually didn’t do any Hansel & Gretel-specific research. I didn’t watch any of the Hansel & Gretel projects because I really wanted this to feel like just a real guy that you would meet in your everyday life and in a way, separate it from what’s been established about the Hansel character up to this point. The parents are absent from our lives, which is the case in the original Hansel & Gretel so I’ve sort of had to raise my sister and I take care of her and I support her and I love her, but at the same time, I’m also a young man trying to find my own way and kind of getting to the point in my life where maybe I’m getting sick of this whole set up and so that’s kind of given the character somewhat of a sharp biting sense of humor, which is his way of dealing with life.
Honestly, the main thing I watched in preparation as far as figuring out what kind of tone to bring to this character were old episodes of Arrested Development for Jason Bateman’s performance. I felt like he really brought something subtle and wonderful to that role, which is a guy who is trying to be a rock with all of this insanity going on around him and has very little control and the one thing he does have control is his way of dealing with life, which is a very dry sarcastic sense of humor, which is how he gets through his days.
Movies.com: How was working with Lara Flynn Boyle? What kind of witch is she?
Welch: [Laughs] She is a crazy witch. There’s a lot of different directions you could go with a witch. She’s not the Denzel Washington in Training Day witch. She doesn’t have everything under control. She is very emotional and erratic and you never really know what she’s gonna do next or how she’s gonna react to things. Very lonely and appears to be someone that’s kind of looking for a sense of approval in life and then just reacts really harshly when she doesn’t get it. So, less Denzel Washington Training Day, more Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, let’s say. That’s a terrible analogy, but it’s what I’m gonna go with.
Movies.com: How about her look? What should audiences expect?
Welch: We have great special effects makeup people working on this. Actually, one of the guys that worked on one of my favorite films called Repo! The Genetic Opera, which is not very well known, but for people who do know it, they’re obsessed with it and he had just come off another project with all those same people working together again on something new and he was showing me some pictures from it because he knew I was a fan and I just got so excited. I’m thrilled to have them on board. They’ve done an incredible job. The old version of Lara versus the young version of Lara, they barely look like the same person. They sit her in the makeup chair for about six hours a day when she’s got to be the old lady and it looks completely realistic and totally different, so I think people will buy that very easily.
Movies.com: I also read something about a hell hound and a zombie helper -- are those characters created with practical makeup and effects?
Welch: They have used several different, I believe, Doberman Pinschers, I’m not really sure, something like that, to play one character. Each dog sort of specializes in their own thing. Like one of the dogs knows how to growl really well and the other one knows how to jump or something, I don’t know. [Laughs] So they are using real dogs. Now, when the dog turns into the beat version of itself, I haven’t actually been on set for any of that, but I assume that that’s gotta be all CGI. I don’t know how else they could do it. [Laughs]
Movies.com: And what about the production design? It’s a modern retelling, so are most of the sets everyday locations or did some require some heavy modifications?
Welch: I think the modern-day element is in the setting and it’s in the characters and in the story itself, so one of the ways that we’ve connected with the original intent and the original feel of Hansel & Gretel is through costumes and set decoration. For instance, my costumes have all been, on the one hand, very modern, but also with a very sort of woodsy kind of feel to it so it’s a lot of deep, dark colors that very subtly give it an old German, woodsy feel. And the sets are the same. We found this amazing house in Pasadena owned by this sweet old man that is perfect. It looks exactly as you would picture the kind of modern, old, German witch’s house. It’s very cool, and you put it all together and, again, hopefully we’ll have a nice cohesive feel that creates this world for us.
Movies.com: So you’re just about to wrap and the film first went into production earlier this month. How’s that kind of quick pacing for you?
Welch: Yeah, we’ve been shooting I guess about four weeks. It’s been a pretty quick shoot. I’ve definitely had situations that were a lot worse as far as the pacing of the production. I finished a movie in nine days once, so 21 days is not terrible. It’s certainly not the 150 days we had on the last two Twilight movies, [laughs] but totally different projects. So, yeah, it’s fine. I don’t mind working like that. I don’t mind working quickly. I’ve worked in television a lot over the years and in that case, you have to produce a whole hour every eight days, so it wasn’t too much of a problem for me, but you definitely have to be cognizant of the kind of production you’re on and the resources that are available and the luxuries that you’re gonna have as far as time goes to figure things out. In a case like this, you’ve got to show up prepared and you’ve gotta just knock it out and move quickly, which I don’t think is the worst thing in the world either. Sometimes it can be nice to move quickly and just get it done.
Movies.com: As prepared as I imagine you were, this is a film shoot and things do go wrong, so were there any really high hurdles you had to get over?
Welch: There definitely were a couple weeks, just based on elements that were not in our control, where we ended up falling behind pretty significantly. I know for one of those weeks we had to take an extra day and film when we weren’t planning on it. Today I think there’s some pickup shots that we need that we haven’t had time to get so far. I think it’s just working in a compacted schedule with all of the special effects, makeup and actual special effects that we have to do is definitely more difficult because that stuff just takes so long to set up.
If you were doing a straightforward dialogue-driven production, you’d be able to move a lot more quickly, but we’re trying to do that compacted schedule that’s usually reserved for straightforward dialogue-driven productions and squeeze in a special effects-driven film into that schedule, so it’s definitely been difficult to do that.
Movies.com: This might be a question for a producer, but what’s the plan from here? Any plans for distribution or maybe genre festivals?
Welch: I’m not sure what the status is on the distribution. What I can tell you is I know that we at least have distributors that are interested and I’m pretty sure we have foreign distribution locked down already. Beyond that, I don’t know what the plans for the film are going to be at this point. I know they want to get it out this year – 2012, so they want the process to be pretty quick as far as editing and getting the film out there. I don’t know if we’re gonna be going the film festival route just because of the timing. Their goal is to get the film out no later than the end of the year, so I imagine we’re just gonna go straight for distribution.