Back when it was sitting on a shelf, I doubt anyone involved in The Cabin in the Woods expected to one day be discussing it as a modern classic of the genre. Fast forward to last week and I was sitting in a room with Fran Kranz talking about that film and its legacy. The occasion was the release of his comedy noir Murder of a Cat, in which he has a starring role, but here and there The Cabin in the Woods came up (including some off air geeking out on my part). It makes sense, considering Kranz is a veteran of Joss Whedon‘s world. Kranz was a pleasure to speak with, jokey and friendly in equal measure, even if that loose atmosphere led to a lot of us just making each other laugh. Anyway, below you’ll see the highlights of my very loose chat with Kranz. Murder of a Cat, directed by Gillian Greene and also starring J.K. Simmons, is in theaters now and is a cute mystery hybrid and worth checking out. Enjoy!
Here is the best of my interview with Kranz…
On the different experiences he had with a starring role and the film finally reaching theaters
Fran Kranz: It’s funny, you know you get so involved in the script, the shooting, post production. This movie more so than any other, I spent more time involved with it. I got the part maybe a year before we shot it, you know? We pushed the date so often for different casting, always people mentioned for different roles. Anyway, I’d been involved with this movie for a long time so it’s really nice and bizarre and surprising to hear that someone would watch it and not know who the murderer is. The whole idea of the nuder mystery became so lost on me a long time ago, so it’s kind of nice and surprising to hear that as an audience member, you can enjoy that aspect of it. You watch it and you think “I wonder who did it?” You know, that’s cool. (Laughs)
How he played such a potentially off-putting character
FK: You know, I really embraced the off-putting. You said it, he lives at home with his mom and is eating mac and cheese, that does feel like a really tired thing. But, I think my sort of thought was to make it interesting by embracing the cliche. Make him not be likable, embrace him being unappealing. I wanted to make him obnoxious and the reality of what that would be, that he’s this sort of bizarre and elitist overgrown child who’s hard to be around. So, the challenge for me and Gillian (Greene) the director was to sort of find a way to root out the appealing parts of my performance. You know, I talked to the writers of the movie and asked them what their inspirations were. Outside of the noir stuff, they had mentioned Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, so I went there. I tried to embrace that kind of slovenly and unattractive side of him, as much as possible. My hope was that the audience would see that they weren’t shying away from who he was. I like to climb out of holes, you know? Also, I think it’s sort of easy once you kill his best friend, then you ought to root for him.
On working with J.K. Simmons, the likely frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year
FK: (Laughs) Well, this is the movie he will be nominated for, Murder of a Cat. That’s what I say is going to be the big surprise, how Whiplash gets overshadowed by Murder of a Cat. No, he really is unflappable and shows it off in Jason Reitman movies especially, like you said, and in Spider-Man too. He’s so good at that and I ruined so many takes by laughing. I’m a big laugher, you know I laugh on stage in the play I’m doing like every night, it’s terrible! He is just stone and it’s really incredible. It just made matters worse for me because I already was laughing and he would just sort of stare me down, so it just got worse and worse. There were scenes where, I’m sure it wasn’t funny to Gillian and the editors, I’m sure I cost a lot of money and ruined a lot of takes, probably hurting the movie immeasurably! I did make J.K. laugh a couple of times though.
How he’s seen The Cabin in the Woods become a beloved film from a repeatedly shelved project
FK: Ugh (in reference to when I mentioned the time when the movie was going to be delayed again and post-converted into 3D), I forgot all about that! At the time too, there was only a small group of people knew what the movie was, you know what I mean? Everyone else was groaning that they were making a 3D movie, but for the people involved we were like what the fuck? You can’t. What were you making 3D? There’s maybe one or two sequences in the movie where that even works. I actually, personally, I was coached to say things differently at the time, but now that it’s out who cares, I think that was always a distraction and lie to sort of take eyes off the movie. I think it was because MGM was bankrupt, didn’t know what to do with the movie, couldn’t sell it, and they needed to sell it, so the idea of 3D was just a stalling tactic for what was just a screwed studio. It was hard for me to watch that movie and think that this should be 3D! (Laughs) Yeah, I love what it’s become, but I guess I’m selfish, since at the time I wanted to know where our $300 million box office gross was, you know? (Laughing) I mean, I’m a total jerk and wish it made more, but you’re right that it retains a nice status and lives in both worlds now of being both cult and a hit. It’s great.
On working with Joss Whedon in the past and what he hopes happens for both of them in the future
FK: I email Joss every couple of months, accidentally, with accidentally in quotations. And then I say oh sorry, I meant to send that to someone else, just so he’s reminded that I exist still. (Laughing) You know, I’m wondering why I’m not in The Avengers also! (I had jokingly asked why he wasn’t in the film) Um, in terms of Agents of Shields, there was a rumor that I was going to be in it, but that wasn’t true, and you know, all he has to do is pick up the phone and call me. No, I’d do anything for him. To be honest though, I’d rather be in one of his original things. You know, I say this right after I say Cabin in the Woods made more money, but I would rather originate something in his more independent film space or a television role and play a new sort of character in the Joss Whedon universe than play a superhero in The Avengers. He can do just about anything he wants now and that’s a scary notion, since he’s one of the more creative people going. I can not wait for him to do be done with his Avengers stint, even though they’re really cool movies and he’s upped the ante and raised the bar for big blockbuster and superhero films, I do think he’s far more valuable when he’s doing something that he’s created on his own.
Be sure to go seek out his film Murder of a Cat, as it’s a pretty enjoyable movie. Give it a shot and see what you think.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!