— by Jennifer Vineyard, MTV.com
It’s difficult to talk about M. Night Shyamalan’s tricky new thriller, “The Village,” without giving away the tricks. The writer/director’s films are famous for their twists, and this one may be the twistiest yet. We can’t in good faith tell you much more about the movie than you see it its trailers. Basically, it’s about a remote farming community on the edge of the woods — the boundary between the simple folk who live there and the mysterious, scary creatures they fear. The rest, we leave to the cast and director to share, because if they break the rules of “The Village,” they only have themselves to blame.
MTV: How do you describe “The Village,” without giving away its secrets?
M. Night Shyamalan: It seems like a normal community in 1897, but yet they’re doing very odd things. The existence of the creatures, this is just part of their daily life. They go take a bath, they get the food and follow these rules, because [the rules] keep you safe from the creatures. There is a truce: They don’t go into the woods, and the creatures won’t come into this valley, where all this is. The safe color [yellow] should be worn upon approaching the forbidden lines — wear this color and you’ll be safe. Take away the red and you’ll be safer. When you hear that bell, run for cover, because they’re really coming.
Sigourney Weaver: I hope people try to avoid reading reviews and things like that in case someone is mean enough to give away a secret, because I think it is a great experience to go into the theater and have Night tell you this story without your knowing anything, so if people try to tell you, say, “No, I don’t want to know.”
Bryce Dallas Howard: Of course, it’s valuable to give everyone the experience of coming in there freshly and not knowing anything about it, so they can enjoy the surprises and twists and turns, but I actually believe — and Night said this before we started filming — that this movie is best on its second viewing.
William Hurt: It isn’t the story twists that actually grab you. What grabs you is something a lot deeper. It says a lot about community, it says a lot about fear, it says a lot about how parents want to keep their children loved and safe. How we are valiantly trying to find lesser fears with which to prevent greater ones, and how we carry those scars with us and they reinvent themselves, and we can actually work through them in this amazing, audacious way by continuing to accept the ultimate risk, which is to create your culture as you see fit.
MTV: How did you come up with the idea, and how essential was the casting?
Shyamalan: I think that ultimately this became a kind of adult, emotional version of “Little Red Riding Hood” in a way. It didn’t start that way, but it bloomed into that, starting wanting to make a movie in that time period, and the choice to do a female lead [which became Howard’s role as Ivy].
Howard: I’m actually, fortunately, not carrying the film; it’s really Night who is carrying this film, and it’s his baby. But he seemed to have a sort of crazy amount of faith in me, because he saw me in a play and, without auditioning or meeting me, just offered me the role. And if he’s going to be insane, he’s going to be insane, so I’ll just do my best, you know?
Joaquin Phoenix: One day, when we were shooting “Signs,” I said I always wished that I could play a character who didn’t speak. I was tired of dialogue, I wanted to see what it was like to use my physicality, and once I got the script, I [said], “He actually — he listened to me!” Every single sentence means something.
MTV: You did a lot of work to prepare for these roles … the boot camp, for instance, where you had to live like it was 1897. Did that give you a new respect for the hard work of what is supposed to be a simpler life? What modern conveniences did you miss?
Hurt: The only thing I missed was more of it! Wish we had been there more. It was one week. It was a great week, and a lot of value in the film shines because of that week. We were able to build and enhance the bonds, which gave us the confidence to drop show and go for the heart of the matter.
Weaver: I think we just had a good time. Frankly, it’s one thing to catch a sheep and wrestle it down to the ground if you’re going to do it once or twice, and another thing to become a shepherdess for your whole life. I think we had a tremendous respect for the people who knew these crafts, for instance, spinning, all those old fairytales, where you spin flax into gold, it was one of the hardest things we had to learn. Luckily, I did not have to spin on camera — it wouldn’t have come out right.
Howard: I just tried to do as much research [on the blind] as I could. The first thing I went to was the glazed-over look. And then I went to the Lighthouse in New York City and met a lot of blind people who were looking me in the eye, which was really bizarre. Being in the town, Ivy is not blind, and I had to play it that way.
Adrien Brody: I spent a lot time with people who are similar to Noah. I don’t just consider him mentally handicapped, and I didn’t want to do anything in a cliché way; he’s a very complex character. He’s an overly emotional, overly sensitive human being with a very childlike perspective, and it’s hard to live in a community that’s close-knit and not fit in. Everyone is affected by fear except him. He’s excited about things that might make people afraid, excited about the creatures that might live in the woods.
MTV: Is it the fear of the unknown — twists included — that make it so exciting?
Weaver: Sometimes seeing things is more disturbing. When the wedding is interrupted and we find all these [mutilated] animals, the sight of the animals was so much more disturbing than even reading it in the script — whoever had done this to them, and why, [was] so bewildering. Things like that come alive more for you in a film. It’s very affecting.
Shyamalan: People left the towns in the 1880s and 1890s because of industrialization, and were fed up with the corruption and the filth and everything starting to happen in the cities and went to go do their own thing and moved to areas that weren’t inhabited, but what if something bad happened? It’s kind of exciting. There’s just no real way to completely protect someone. There’s just no way. You always are at risk. It’s a scary thing to admit. You can do everything you can, but your loved ones will always be in jeopardy. I have to keep doing things that scare me, and this certainly scares me.