Zachary Leeman chats with Into the Grizzly Maze screenwriter Jack Reher…
Predator and prey. It’s a frighteningly simple notion and one the movies have long exploited sometimes to great effect. Being hunted is scary, plain and simple and worse is not knowing whether you are the prey.
Into the Grizzly Maze is a new film, available now on VOD and in theaters June 26th, where a group is hunted by perhaps one of nature’s scariest predators in the movies and real life: the grizzly bear.
Maybe it’s our imaginations getting the best of us or maybe it’s real life stories about playing with fire like that of Timothy Treadwell, but the grizzly bear can be a terrifying figure and screenwriter Jack Reher has written perhaps one of the scariest grizzlies to inhabit a man vs. nature story. It could also be one of the better predators in cinema history. See the film for yourself and find out.
For now, read below an interview with screenwriter Jack Reher who wrote the original script for the new movie starring Billy Bob Thornton, James Marsden and Thomas Jane.
Zachary Leeman: Where did the original inspiration for this film come from because it’s quite a unique idea?
Jack Reher: I had always been intrigued by the life & tragic death of Timothy Treadwell. The dude was profound & eccentric. He loved bears but he was reckless. I remember way back when he first passed and I was co-writing a film with David Aaron Cohen (Friday Night Lights), I chatted with him about the possibility of doing a film around his life. Rights were always an issue. Then years later, Grizzly Man came out and that was that. It wasn’t until I was laid up in a cast and on crutches, watching Jaws that I thought, what better time to delve into a thriller in that vein. But not in a campy way. One that was intelligent & really tapped into an emotional core of terror. Most of the country is landlocked. Not everyone has access to an ocean. But the WOODS are everywhere… Most everybody has a story about camping.
ZL: This film has an impressive cast: Billy Bob Thornton, James Marsden, Thomas Jane, among others. How did such a cast come together for this movie? Did you have a hand in casting at all?
JR: Early on, Adrien Brody wanted to star & produce it. He loved the script. His manager at the time, Jere Douglass, had read something else of mine and said, ‘Whatever you write next, bring to us, so we can take a look first…’. So I finished a draft in about 4 days. Sat on it for a couple. Polished it. Then emailed her and told her I wrote something about two brothers in the woods… It was a few days later when she called and said Adrien wanted it. Now, at the time, I was not repped. So I was just doing odd rewrites and whatnot, doing the networking thing.
We had several discussions about casting Beckett and when Adrien was in Toronto for TIFF, he met up with Gerard Butler, pitched him the idea of them teaming on screen and Gerry was down to consider. Back in LA, I had a quick meeting with Gerry and he was in the midst of shooting Law Abiding Citizen… he said he really liked the material, but he just couldn’t be the guy who died anymore. P.S. I Love You, he died. 300, he died. Law Abiding Citizen… he was going to die. And in the first draft of Red Machine/Into the Grizzly Maze, Beckett didn’t survive. Sorry. Spoiler… (the film is on VOD right now before the June 26th theatrical release…).
Shortly after all this, I got repped. My agent got David Hackl interested in the project and sent it out. It was about 3 days and Hadeel Reda (16 Blocks, Harbinger Down, Heartbreakers) optioned it. Right away, new casting ideas started and the rest is history. Marsden ended up playing the role that Adrien wanted to play. Tom Jane landed the role of Beckett. We had some outstanding contenders for the females as well. Emily Hampshire (12 Monkeys), Missy Peregrym (Rookie Blue) and Bitsie Tulloch (Grimm, Concussion) were brilliant in their auditions. Really tough call for the producers to make.
ZL: This film went through some title changes and seems to have been complete for quite some time. What are the reasons for the delays behind this flick?
JR: Not sure why the title changed. Red Machine was pretty clear from the beginning. Treadwell was terrified of a bear that he nicknamed ‘big red machine’. Even in this short video, he talks about it. David Letterman asked him about the Red Machine a few times on his show the last time he was a guest before he tragically died. As far as the delays, I really have no idea. We had a lot of producers on this movie.
ZL: Is what is onscreen close to what you originally wrote? How much did this story change through time?
JR: I think the core idea is still there. Of course things will change as production nears. All the cast signed onto my original script and then the story began evolving as people interjected their ideas. It’s the nature of the film industry. Filmmaking is about collaboration. Entertaining all ideas while making a product for audiences. I’m proud of the film I originally wrote. It got a strong cast. I think the film is fun. It’s a ride.
ZL: This is mainly a VOD release which seems to be becoming more and more popular even for films with big names. Do you think VOD has helped movies or oversaturated the market? Do you think we’ve reached a point where there is little difference between a VOD release and a wide theatrical release?
JR: The market is completely over-saturated with studio fluff.
I think VOD is a good thing nowadays. It helps smaller films gain their footing. There have been some excellent films released in theatres that didn’t get any love at all box office wise but are awesome films. I remember watching Big Eyes over the holidays and wondering where the crowd was? Such an exceptional film. Underrated. Larry & Scott wrote the hell out of that. One of my favorites of last year.
VOD before a limited theatrical allows for a greater campaign rather than a go-for-broke ideology of “Let’s hope our film does some business…” Going to the movies is expensive for a family or a couple of teens. Factor in sodas and a bucket of corn. 30 bucks. Easy. VOD allows a film to be seen in home theatre comforts at a one-time premium price for a short window which whets an appetite. It was kind of nice just recently watching Maggie on TV without having to venture out.
ZL: What upcoming movies are you working on that you can tell us about?
JR: I’m adapting a supernatural novel which is pretty cool and my psychological thriller – Wet House is currently being set up and packaged at Cannes.
Into the Grizzly Maze is available now on various VOD platforms.
Many thanks to Jack Reher for taking the time for this interview.
Zachary Leeman – Follow me on Twitter