Spoilery Interview with 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Director About Easter Eggs, How It Connects to The Original, and More
Hopefully by now you've had a chance to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, the excellent directorial debut from filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg. I spoke with the director last week about the timeline of when The Cellar/Valencia became a Cloverfield movie, and he gave me a surprising answer. (Check out part one of that interview here.) In this second part of the interview, I spoke with Trachtenberg about the connection this movie has (or doesn't have) to the original Cloverfield film, Easter eggs that fans should keep an eye out for on second viewing, what the original ending looked like when he first came on board this project, a possible sequel, Y: The Last Man, and more.
There are very light spoilers ahead, but before we got started, in typical Bad Robot fashion, Dan warned me that he couldn't get into too much detail about the absolutely insane ending of the movie:
Just FYI, anything that’s specifically about the third act stuff, I can’t really speak to in print. That stuff can be taken from the article, and anyone can snag that from you and take it out of context and not label it a spoiler, so some of these things I still might not really be able to talk about.
That’s totally fine. I don’t really plan on diving too deep into it. When does this take place in the timeline compared to the ’08 movie?
It’s not on the same timeline. They’re separate freestanding stories.
Interesting! That’s cool. So I noticed the Slusho sign, the Kelvin gas station, and a letter with Bold Futura [a company from the viral campaign] on it —
Nice dude! Wow. You’re the first person to mention that to me. That’s awesome.
I was just wondering if you can tell me about all of the Easter eggs fans should be looking for when they go back to see this a second time.
I think, personally, I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of that experience. I’m impressed that you nailed that, and those are all right on. I’m trying to think about any more there might be. Bold Futura, I mean, that shot is just frames long, so that is so badass, dude. But there might be a few more than those, but those are definitely the biggies, for sure.
How much influence did you have over the script? I know you said [Whiplash writer] Damien Chazelle helped develop it and there are a handful of writers on this, but I didn’t know if you had tinkered with it.
I spent about a year working on the script after I came on. All of it was really there, it was a really intense screenplay and had all of the twists and turns. The big thing for me was really shoring up the main character’s story. I really wanted to make sure that none of her stuff felt expositional, that she was still a character that was told largely through action, but when we had those moments of insight that they really be heartfelt and hit us in our core. And the other big thing was bringing some levity to it. I really thought that if we had some laughs with these characters, we bonded to them in a really much more powerful way, and when insane stuff starts happening, it would matter so much more. So really making it a little bit more funny, which came through in the script as we developed it further, and continued into working with the actors and improv’ing and all of that stuff. Specifically with Howard [John Goodman’s character], I really wanted him to not only be menacing and sometimes erratic, but still convincing. That speech that he gives about building your ark after the flood has already come, that came from the development process and really wanting him to shake our perspective of what safety really is.
Goodman is so good in this movie. It’s the most nuanced work I’ve seen him do in a long, long time.
Oh man, thank you for saying that. I agree, dude. I think he’s so badass in it.
I love that you were looking at it from a character perspective with both Mary and John’s characters, because one of the first things I thought of when I walked out of this movie was, “Wow, these characters have honest-to-God complete arcs.” Which is something you just don’t really see that much these days anymore. It feels like a lot of times, that’s the least important thing in movies like this, genre exercises, and I was just like, “Thank God that you guys put the time in.” Mary’s character says at one point that every time stuff gets difficult, she turns and runs. And what happens to her at the very end, that decision that she makes…
It’s just such a full-circle kind of thing that fits perfectly.
Awesome. So glad to hear you say that!
So, would you be interested in doing a sequel? Have you talked to Bad Robot about maybe continuing the story in another movie?
I would love to. It always felt like this really cool origin story that was forged in the flames of one genre and then evolves throughout. I think that would be awesome, but I also think it could be equally badass to say, “No, this is it. What you just saw and being left with the final decision is what you know of that character” and throw the gauntlet down on it being its own standalone thing. That could also be cool. So I’d be stoked, honestly, either way. I can’t say that I wouldn’t be out of my mind excited to dig back and thrust Michelle into even more insanity and see how she makes it out.
What was the original ending when you first came on board?
The same. Very similar. The beats inside it — literally the geography and choreography of the set piece — were slightly different, but in large part, the concept of it was identical.
I know you directed some shorts and commercials previously, but what was the biggest thing you learned about leading a production of this scale?
Really being able to trust the collaboration and listen to all of the experts that I’ve hired in their specific jobs. If you are telling everyone what to do, then what they do will only be as good as what you can come up with. But if you listen to them, and embrace them, and engage them to take ownership about the specific thing that they’re doing, then what they’re doing — and the movie — has a chance of being even better than what you could come up with on your own. That’s something that can only come from hiring an awesome crew. That definitely was what we were able to do. I had a frickin’ awesome cinematographer, an incredible editor, composer, and production designer; working with all of them was one of my greatest joys when I look back. When I think about the movie, I don’t think about the actual movie, I think about the people I made it with and it was so much fun.
What’s next for you? I know you were working on a movie called Crime of The Century with [Fast & Furious writer/producer] Chris Morgan.
Still, yeah. I would love to finally make that. We’ve been developing that for a while, even before this movie, and I really do hope I get to make that. It would be awesome if that could be the next thing. It’s super awesome, super original, lots of fun, and I would be chomping at the bit to get a chance to make it. And then I’m reading stuff, so we’ll see. I’ve been so focused on finishing this movie and now releasing it that I haven’t really had that much of a chance to engage with new things.
What happened with Y: The Last Man? What’s the status on that? [For those who don't know, Trachtenberg was attached to direct a film adaptation of the comic at one point.]
That is done as a movie. That went away shortly after I started developing this. Not because I was developing this, but because as we were working on the script, the rights expired and Brian [K. Vaughn, co-creator of the comic] I think is now actually trying to make it happen as a TV show. I, like everyone else, of course thought how could it would be as a TV series when I first heard it was coming out, so now that is finally going to happen. I was definitely excited to make the movie out of it, because I think even that — there’s so much great TV, it would have been cool to have a property like that that operates in that way that’s so character-based and fun and exciting, that would have been so cool to bring to the big screen. The small screen has so much of it these days! But truly, I think it fits the small screen so well and will be such a cool show if they can make it happen.
10 Cloverfield Lane is in theaters now.