#INTERVIEW: LUCY HALE & JEFF WADLOW ON “FANTASY ISLAND”
By David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Today might be Valentine’s Day, a day filled with love and passion. But today is also the day Fantasy Island hits theatres. Co-Writer/Director Jeff Wadlow takes the reins on the film adaptation of the classic television series where a group of people are brought to a beautiful tropical island to live out their wildest dreams – except they turn out to be closer to nightmares. Lucy Hale (from Pretty Little Liars and new series Katy Keene) stars as Melanie, who realizes quickly that justice and revenge might not be exactly what she hoped for.
We had the chance earlier this week to speak to Hale and Wadlow in a conference call (the pair’s first ever!) with other journalists to discuss the challenges of bringing Fantasy Island to the screen and their love for the Horror genre.
What drew you to Fantasy Island and remaking this classic TV show into a film?
WADLOW: I had an idea for a story that was loosely inspired by Fantasy Island. [Producer] Jason Blum heard it, called up Sony, got the rights and then he called me and said “Why do something inspired by Fantasy Island – let’s just do Fantasy Island!”
HALE: We were on [a different project] and Jeff came up to me and said “I have this Script I want you to read. It’s a character that I think is different for you and I think you’d kill it.” And all he had to say after was “Fiji. Two months,” and I was in. But I read the Script and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it.
What do you look for in your actors?
WADLOW: I look for actors who bring themselves to the role. I always say I cast the actor, not the character. In the Script, there’s just a sort of sketch of a person and I’m looking for a real person who is going to bring something interesting that I could never have imagined to the part and really flesh it out and make it their own. Then I’m going to start rewriting for them and thinking of new ways to express the character on screen through wardrobe, dialogue and blocking. And a lot of that comes from the actor. I think it is really important that an actor takes ownership of the role. I don’t like actors who say “Oh yeah, just tell me what to do.” I don’t want to tell you what to do. I want to tell you what I’m trying to do and then I want you to play [this character] with me.
How do you challenge yourselves to continue to bring fresh and exciting elements to this genre?
WADLOW: There is never a moment where you’re not being challenged in some capacity. What I try to do is look for surprises on the set. I always show up every day with a plan so that if everything goes well, you have a plan to rely on. But I still want to be surprised. My favourite moments in every movie I’ve worked on were moments that I did not plan.
HALE: With this Film and Truth or Dare [which was also co-written/directed by Wadlow], we’re hustling the whole time and there’s so much to get done in a little amount of time. It’s always fresh and new and you just don’t know what’s going to happen and whether it’s good or bad. It just is what it is. But I think with Fantasy Island in particular, we were in a climate and a new place where most of us had never been before. We never spent time there. We’re trying to dodge rain storms, we’re hiking up mountains, there’s bugs and people are getting sick and…you just didn’t know what was going to happen. And that’s enough to keep it fresh.
From a character standpoint, Melanie is unlike any character I’ve played before. She’s very complex, layered, damaged and tormented. I loved stepping into her head but that was a challenge for me because our moral compass is so different…Never in a million years would I do the things Melanie does. My idea of revenge is much different.
What draws you to the horror genre?
WADLOW: I’m drawn to the genre the same way I’m drawn to Action movies I’m very interested in the dialogue between the film and the audience, how we are choosing the sequences, images and sounds to create an experience, and how we create tension and then release it. I love doing that with Action movies and I love doing it with Thrillers and Horror movies. It’s just a difference of scale and you have to be much more focused and smaller with a thriller to create that intensity.
Do you find that you ever borrow from your Pretty Little Liars character Aria, especially when acting in horror films?
HALE: I feel like if they brought that Show back, it should be made into a Horror film! It has all the makings of it! But there were so many suspense and Thriller elements from that Show that prepared me for Truth or Dare and then Fantasy Island. But all three characters are so different and I never try to play the same thing twice. But I do feel like after being chased and stalked by someone for eight seasons of a show, I definitely have my Horror Face down!
Sony Pictures Canada release FANTASY ISLAND on Friday, February 14, 2020.