The Orphanage: Juan Antonio Bayona Interview
Pan's Labyrinth creator Guillermo Del Toro oversees The Orphanage; this year's critically acclaimed supernatural thriller. Garnering international rave reviews it's even been dubbed as the scariest film since The Shining, and with comparisons to The Sixth Sense and The Others, we decided to catch up with director Juan Antonio Bayona to see what all the fuss is aboutů
LF: How did you get involved in The Orphanage?
JAB: The first thing was I loved the script; I thought it was quite a unique mix of different genres like horror and drama or even melodrama. It reminds me of horror movies I really liked from the past; movies from the sixties or the seventies. Especially I remember Jack Clayton's The Innocents and Our Mothers House which are two ghost stories that don't need to be horror movies.
Right now if you talk about a ghost story everyone will think about a horror movie; but ghost stories don't have to be big on effects. I remember Our Mother's House was also about growing up, about childhood, you can find a rhyme between horror and poetry. It's something very specific from these movies from the sixties and the seventies and I wanted to go back to these stories.
LF: Did you read a lot of ghost stories growing up?
JAB: When I was a child everything frightened me. I was very very scared; so shooting a horror movie is very overwhelming; it's a therapy! But I remember that I started to enjoy reading when I was a child, discovering Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, or Bram Stoker's Dracula. I was maybe 9 or 10 years old reading Dracula and I didn't want the book to finish.
LF: This is your first feature film - how different was it to making a short film?
JAB: I feel very lucky that since I left film school ten years ago I've been shooting a lot different stuff; music videos, short films and a lot of commercials. The first day of shooting I was on the set with my usual crew from all these works and I was very quiet, very calm because it was like a usual day.
I'm very grateful to all the producers of the movie. Normally when it's a first [feature for a] director they try to impose people on you; to encourage you to have people that they consider as highly experienced. I didn't have that problem; I worked with my full crew; also their first movie. I'm very proud of what they all did so it was the perfect deal. I remember Guillermo [Del Toro] telling me it was perfect because I will never get a 'no' from them.
LF: What was it like having Guillermo Del Toro producing your movie?
JAB: We have been friends for 15 years, its good having a friend who is a director attached to the project, a friend trying to help me. He's a very sensitive guy, very generous. He is also a director who has been produced by other directors and so he knows perfectly what you are going through and what your worries are. He never intended to suggest an idea more than once and he understood perfectly that he was going to be there just to help us. He was always there when we needed him; it was a nice relationship. I know that we talked about the script a couple of times. He was never on the set; he saw the first cut and he loved it and he was very encouraging all the time.
LF: Have you been surprised about the international success of the film?
JAB: It's the film that has made the most money in Spain! Excellente! You never think about the release of the movie when you work on the movie. I was asked if I'd feel pressed with a 300 million budget but I never think about the money when I'm working with an actor.
I would probably feel more confident and calm if I had a 300 million euros budget and not a 3 million euros one; I would be sure I would have everything I need to work. At the same time I think it's dangerous if you have everything you want.
LF: What do you think it is about a horror film that appeals to people?
JAB: They are looking for experiences that they don't normally find. Horror movies give them this experience with the security that after the screening they can leave and talk about it. Nobody gets onto a rollercoaster without knowing they can get off the other end!
What I like about horror movies is they deal with universal emotions and the first time I read The Orphanage I thought it was quite a scary story but at the same time a very human story. The story deals with the relations of a character who can't deal with adult responsibilities. This is something that probably everybody can relate to; especially my generation who has grown up in Spain in first generation democracy. We've been over protected; and maybe we're still inside the egg trying to get out. [For example] In the movie Laura has to deal with motherhood; that's not an evil character.
LF: Are you proud of the way the Spanish film industry is growing in stature?
JAB: Very proud. Especially as I have some friends doing movies at the same time; we know each other from the short film festivals. It's very exciting right now; all the praise all of us are having in the international festivals.
LF: Do you think you'll ever make a film in English?
JAB: It always depends on the story. I need to find a story that deserves to be told in English and at the same time I am very attracted to doing a movie in Hollywood but very afraid of what Hollywood would do to me. If I find a good script and a good producer [yes]; but you've gotta be very carefulůHelen Cowley
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