10 Cloverfield Lane, the J.J. Abrams produced science-fiction thriller starring John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, had a stealth-like opening. News of the film, which opened in theaters this weekend, first leaked out in mid-January with the Super Bowl trailer teaser.
First-time director Dan Trachtenberg told journalists at a press conference last week in midtown-Manhattan, “It’s so exciting to harken back to a time when we only found out about a movie from its trailer.”
Paramount and Bad Robot amped up interest in the twisty thriller by drawing on the connection between “10 Cloverfield Lane” and the 2008 monster-in-New York apocalyptic thriller, “Cloverfield,” also produced by J.J. Abrams. The hit film earned $170 million on its modest $25 million budget.
Trachtenberg told journalists that “10 Cloverfield Lane” is not a sequel, but rather has a spiritual connection to “Cloverfield.” As for whether it would be a franchise, Trachtenberg said that was a question for J.J. Abrams, “but it would be cool if there were more.”
He added, “I think J.J. does see this as a platform to tell original stories like this one.” The film’s strong opening this weekend of $25.2 million from 3,391 locations demonstrates that the sci-fi mystery connects with audiences.
10 Cloverfield Lane – ‘Monsters Come in Many Forms’
The movie’s tagline, “Monsters come in many forms,” leaves it to audiences to imagine who or what the title refers to. The movie’s premise is simple: John Goodman plays Howard, a loony tune survivalist who kidnaps Michelle (Winstead) and imprisons her in an underground cellar equipped for an end of the world scenario. (John Gallagher Jr. plays another kidnap victim in a smaller but critical role.) Howard tells Michelle he’s saving her from monsters and the apocalypse.
The movie makes you ask the question: what is true and what isn’t? Also, the director said, it “poses the question to all of us: What would you do? I think we all hope that we would react the way Michelle reacts. She feels authentic and real with just a little bit more resourcefulness that maybe I actually have. But I do think the idea that she immediately launches into survival mode is something that I really relate to whenever something happens, even just bad news. I immediately flip into okay, well if I do this, if I just do that. I never really wallow in fear for too long, and I think that’s an exciting thing to see a protagonist do.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead – ‘Michelle Was Badass From the Beginning’
Winstead, who was so terrific in “Smashed,” has a breakout role as the strong and brainy Michelle, who uses all her resources to escape. What she loved most about the character, she told journalists, “was that she’s kind of a badass from the beginning. I generally see a lot of female roles where if they’re badass they have to be kind of weak in the beginning in order to grow to find their strength. Something happens to them that makes them find it, and then they persevere on. But with her, she was smart and strong and capable from the get go, as I think a lot of women are, and so it was cool to see that play out.”
She also appreciated that Michelle always focused on her next move or tactic. “How’s she going to get out of this situation? And there’s not a second of the movie where she’s passive or where she’s not trying to figure this thing out. So I was really excited to get to play somebody whose brain never stops working the entire film.”
The tight script by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, and the terrific performances by John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead ratchet up the tension until the shocking surprise ending I won’t give away.
John Goodman – Busiest Character Actor in Hollywood
The busiest character actor in Hollywood, Goodman is a hoot and as sharp and droll in person as some of the characters he’s played onscreen in movies that include “Trumbo,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Big Lebowski.” The actor is in five movies this year, according to IMDb. Variety just announced he’s set to play Ed Davis, the former Boston Police Commissioner, in “Patriots Day,” about the Boston Marathon bombing.
A journalist noted that Goodman, who’s lost a lot of weight since making “10 Cloverfield Lane,” has played some angry characters lately, and wondered if he sees any comparisons between Frank King in “Trumbo” and Howard in “10 Cloverfield Lane.”
“I don’t have to act,” cracked the actor, adding, “I don’t see much of a comparison between Frank King and Howard outside the fact they occupy the same unfortunate body.”
About playing the scary Howard and why his performance is so effective, the director noted, “The cool thing about his menacing role in this movie is that I think it’s so much more intense, because he’s funny at times and because he so lovable by nature. So you’re not only scared by him, but you really enjoy being scared by him, which is something very unique to John.”
Commenting on the secrecy surrounding the script and rewrites, Goodman joked, “We would get the rewrites written on toilet paper in urine that would slowly come to life in a microwave. The unfortunate thing was when we had to eat the script.”
“You weren’t supposed to talk about that,” Trachtenberg said.
“And now that I’ve broken the confidentiality agreement, I will now be part of the waterfront around 65th Street if you want to visit,” Goodman said dryly.