When we’re introduced to Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford‘s white-collar characters in the opening scene of The Cabin in the Woods, it becomes wildly apparent Drew Goddard‘s film is not your typical horror picture.
They’re tasked with delivering an exceptional amount of exposition, which Goddard and Joss Whedon let them deliver with a pure sense of glee. Unlike Jenkins’s previous horror film performance, The Father in Let Me In, this is a character who is about as Average Joe as they come, and he just happens to have a not-so-Average-Joe occupation.
Here’s what Jenkins had to say about comedic exposition, the brilliance of unexpected filmmaking, and why his character Ted in Burn After Reading deserved getting axed to death:
To start, the opening scene of you and Bradley would usually be a third act twist. When you see a spin like that in a script, do you know it’s something different?
Yeah, you do. You never know how it’s going to turn out. I mean never. Never ever. I read it and the next day said I wanted to do it. I had never read anything like this. It’s not something…when somebody told me it was a horror film, well, that’s not really my world. But I read it and just loved it.
I see the movie as a comedy first.
Yeah, it is. It’s very funny. That’s the way Joss and Drew write dialogue. It’s beautifully written, exposition and all that stuff. It’s just hard to do. It’s really hard to do. I am really glad that it’s getting released for Drew. It’s really going to be great for him, I think. It’ll be interesting. I mean I don’t know how many people….I have no idea. It’s all new to me, this world.
I actually do, too. I mean we brought four friends to the South By Southwest festival and they just absolutely loved it. But it’s just…you know, how will you compel people to go see it in the first place? I don’t’ know. I think it’s one of those movies that word of mouth is going to help.
Yeah, exactly. As you said, you and Bradley deliver a fair amount of exposition. Did Drew discuss the importance of their sense of humor in making that exposition more naturalistic?
Well, we kept in mind that these guys do this, this is their job. It’s not an extraordinary day. It happens every year. You know, this is what they do. We wanted to keep it as, [Laughs] you know, a day at the office. The beginning of it, for example, when we are talking to each other about…I mean Bradley is talking about how they childproofed all the drawers in his house. And, you know, these two guys have worked together for a long time. They are friends, they have families, and that’s really all you need to know about them. You really don’t need to know anything else.
But the way it’s done, it’s so fantastic, so cool. It’s like they take exposition and they don’t waste it on exposition. They make it really an interesting part of the film, not just something you have to say so the audience will understand A, B, or C. It’s such skill to do that; great skills to do that. I think what I love and really the office pool is just ingenious. I mean it’s just ingenious. And the young girl asking me, “Well, how come I didn’t win it?” I mean it’s just so beautiful.
There’s really a firm handle of tone, where the film pokes fun at certain conventions but isn’t exactly meta. Do you not see the movie as a satire of the horror genre?
I knew what they were doing. But it’s like you really have to play it and just do it. You can’t wink and nod. I knew what they wanted, I just didn’t know how to put it all together. You know, Joss was over in one stage doing all the creatures, and Drew was…they had already filmed most of the kid stuff when Brad and I came in. So I just didn’t know how he was going to put it all together. And I just thought it was seamless.
You mentioned how Goddard and Whedon handle dialogue. Is this one of those scripts where when you read a certain line you think, “I have to say this.”
No. You’re always thinking, “I hope I say this well.” I think fear kinda engulfs most of the actors. But it was exciting to do it, and it was…Because I worked with Matt Reeves in Let Me In. And it’s another thing I had never done…I just hadn’t. And then working with Drew, it’s like these guys are so talented; unbelievably talented. So, again, I say it again, it’s great for the movie that it’s going to be released, but I think it’s just really great for Drew.
I actually re-watched Let Me In a few days before seeing Darling Companion, and that character in Reeves’ film couldn’t be more introverted, and I don’t think Martin is about as extroverted as you can get [Laughs].
[Laughs] He is another one of those characters you read and you go, “I’ve gotta do this. I’ve gotta do this.” I had worked with Larry Kasdan in Silverado, and I think I had three lines in it or something. I told him when we were doing Darling Companion, I said the only movie that I ever sat there and went, ‘God I wish I was in this movie’ was The Big Chill. Because I had gone to school with Kevin [Kline]. I didn’t know him real well. But JoBeth Williams and I were friends. We were apprentices together in a theater in Providence. And all these actors my age were up there being amazing. And I just thought, “Oh my gosh.” So then I got a chance to work with him and I jumped at it. I always wanted to work with Kevin. I know him, but I never worked with him.
Yeah, he’s great with group dynamics. He gives everyone their moment.
He’s fantastic. This movie is kind of where he is in his life now. It’s not an edgy movie. It’s kind of free of angst. But it’s a throwback film. I just love the dialogue. I love the way he writes. I love the way that every character in the movie is a person. Dianne Wiest, God, she’s just so fantastic. These are great, great actors he’s got himself. And the young guy, Mark Duplass, who I had not worked with before, and Mark…I just love those two guys. You know, you do things, first it’s script, but it’s also directing and who’s in it. And this one was great fun.