Shock Till You Drop had the chance to talk with Sasha Grey and David Guy Levy about their new movie, Would You Rather. David Guy Levy directed the film and Sasha Grey is one of the film’s stars.
Would You Rather tells the story of Iris, who in the wake of her parent’s death, struggles to make ends meet while caring for her terminally ill younger brother. Shepard Lambrick, a seemingly philanthropic aristocrat, expresses an interest in helping them. When he invites Iris to an exclusive dinner party, she accepts. Also attending the dinner party are seven more desperate individuals. They soon find themselves trapped in Lambrick’s mansion and forced to play a sadistic game of Would You Rather, where the winner will be awarded untold amounts of money. As the game progresses, the dilemmas Iris and the other players face grow increasingly deadly.
David Guy Levy shares some insights in to the creative process, talks to us about casting the film, and about directing genre great Jeffrey Combs. Sasha Grey fills us in on the nuances of her character, Amy, playing a wild child, and what she brought to the role.
Shock Till You Drop: Amy, your character in Would You Rather was a wild card. Was she fun for you to play?
Sasha Grey: It definitely was, in that David Guy Levy, and I had a lot of fun creating the character and bringing her to life. I was excited to play a character that had nothing to do with me, or my image, as it’s known.
Shock: Did you audition for the part or were you cast based on your involvement in past projects?
Grey: I don’t remember if it was a casting director that recommended me, but I do remember there were a few other people up for the role. I sat down with David and we discussed the character and I told him I really wanted the role. It went back and forth over the course of a week or so, and I got the part.
Shock: There’s no exploitation of violence in the film. Had Would You Rather been more focused on violence for the sake of violence, would you still have been interested in it?
Grey: That was all David’s doing. He had a very methodical vision for how the film would play out. A big thing for him was not to show everything. He wanted it to be very suspenseful and leave the horror up to the viewer’s imagination. Had it not been that way, maybe I would have said no. I didn’t really want to be that girl running through the forest with her dress torn. Yeah, that definitely would have effected my decision.
Shock: Did you enjoy working with David, as a director?
Grey: He was fantastic to work with. I hadn’t seen his previous film, so I was a little nervous. I just asked as many questions as I could before we began filming and during the process. He was really easy to talk to and he let me provide input. As long as it made sense, he kind of let us experiment and try different things.
Shock: Did you guys primarily stick to the script, or did you make a lot of changes to the character as you went along?
Grey: For the most part, everybody stuck to the script. You kind of have to in a film like this, where it’s all really laid out. I think that each person brought nuances to their character, though. I think that my character, Amy, was always the outsider, but I tried to make her even more unlikable.
Shock: Most, if not all of your scenes, take place in one room on a small set. Did it start to feel claustrophobic, being stuck in a small space for long hours?
Grey: It did, but we were really fortunate to have a great cast and crew. Everybody seemed to get along and everything gelled. There was no drama. When you have that many people in a confined space, things can get uneasy. But, we didn’t really have that. We shot in the middle of the summer, so it was hot, but other than that, I think it went pretty well.
Shock: What can you tell us about your upcoming film Skinny Dip?
Grey: I don’t think that film is going to happen. I would love to work with Frankie Latina in the future. Danny [Trejo] and I both stay in touch with Frankie. I did just finish a film called Open Windows; Nacho Vigalondo directed it. I was in that with Elijah Wood and Neil Maskell.
Shock: That’s too bad about Skinny Dip.
Grey: Yeah. It happens.
Shock Till You Drop: How did your experience directing Would You Rather differ from your first feature film?
David Guy Levy: My first film [A Love Affair of Sorts] was kind of a surprise, because I had just produced the film Terri with Azezel Jacobs. Azezel knew that I had always had directing ambitions and he was the one who challenged me to make a movie. We had an idea for a film, but no script, and two weeks later, we were improvising a movie. Azezel edited the movie for me. Then, a distribution company saw the film and wanted to put it out. My last film was always kind of experimental, for me. But Would You Rather was always a commercial endeavor. It was intended for a larger audience, any audience, really. My last film was sort of an experimental feature that became more than that. A Love Affair of Sorts was made for about $1,000. Would You Rather was made for about half a million. The two experiences are miles apart.
Shock: Sasha said that you gave the cast a lot of creative freedom. Do you think that helped the outcome of the film?
Levy: Yes. I choose people to work with because of what I thought they could bring to the table. When it came to casting Sasha, I knew that the pieces fit together. She wanted to make some character and wardrobe choices and I let her go with it because she made the right choices. With each actor, there might be one or two things that I didn’t go with, but 99.9 percent of the time, they are going in the right direction and I would let them run with it.
Shock: Something that I was really impressed by was the way that you steered away from exploiting violence.
Levy: The script sort of left it open to interpretation. I’ve always liked movies without monsters. I like movies with real people. We knew that we wanted to make a movie that could be so simple but the things that were said would be very powerful. When we came up with Would You Rather, we knew that we were making a movie about the game Would You Rather, but we wanted to tell it in a way where the ideas were scarier than the images. I’m a firm believer that I can show you someone’s hand being blown off or someone cutting his or her eye, but when I show you that, it’s limited to what I decide to show you. If I don’t show you and I leave it up to your imagination, it’s going to be so much greater than what I could have shown you. This movie is letting people’s imagination take them places that I could never take them, especially on our budget. I think that the approach is paying off because a lot of things are left up to the viewer.
Shock: What was your level of involvement with the casting process?
Levy: I had a lot of autonomy when it came to casting. With some of the characters, I had the actors in mind before the script was even written. For Julian Lambert, we knew we wanted Robin Taylor, so that role was written for him. As the film was written, we sort of wanted to have people in mind for the characters. For Conway, we had envisioned John Heard. So, when he agreed to do the film that was great. For Cal, we thought that Eddie Steeples would be good for the role and he ended up being a fan of the script. The last piece of the puzzle was Shepard Lambert. We had no idea who could capture the character that was written. We had a lot of doubts about the people that were being suggested. Finally Steffen Schlachtenhaufen sent me a YouTube video of Jeffrey [Combs], who hadn’t been on any of the lists, and for the first time, I thought, this is the Shepard Lambert. We had the script sent to Jeffrey and within a day he had responded. Not only did he say that he would do it, he thanked us. He said it’s rare that he gets to play a character that he can really dive in to. It turned in to kind of a thank you note. It was the coolest beginning of a relationship, and I cherish that. He came in to production with such an energy and that rubbed off.
Shock: I thought John Heard was perfect as Conway. He is such a versatile actor.
Levy: He was great. The scene with the drinking was heartbreaking. When we were watching it on the monitors, we were asking ourselves “Are we really getting performances this amazing?” That’s when we knew this was going to be something special. When we shot that scene between him and Jeffrey, we knew that we were in for something special.
Shock: Horror fans have responded really positively to Would You Rather. Are you interested in directing another genre picture in the future?
Levy: I would love to. I’m not against being labeled a genre director. I think it’s fun. Those are the movies I like to watch. As a producer, a lot of the stuff that I’ve done has just been a job. This is the first time that I really felt like I was having fun. I’m ready to do it again. So, it just depends what the next idea is.
Shock: We are looking forward to seeing what you do next.
Levy: Thank you.
Would You Rather is now available on VOD and is enjoying a limited theatrical run.