By Madison Silva
Opening on Valentine’s Day is Blumhouse Productions’ “Fantasy Island,” starring Lucy Hale and directed by Jeff Wadlow. The film is based on the hit television series of the same name from the late ’70s, but with a darker twist. The guests join their steward, Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), on Fantasy Island with the promise that their wildest dreams will be brought to life. Unfortunately, living out their greatest fantasies comes at a cost.
Prior to the release of the highly anticipated film, Academy Art U News took part in a roundtable discussion with both Hale and Wadlow to talk horror, work ethic, and what went into the making of “Fantasy Island.”
What draws you to the horror genre?
Lucy Hale: I think it all starts with how I’ve always loved watching [horror]. My character has a great line in the movie. She says, “That’s why we ride rollercoasters and watch horror movies, to feel something.” I think that when watching horror movies, you’re so present. I love not knowing what is going to come next. I’m definitely a thrill seeker and that’s why I love watching them. Making them, well, I’m grateful for any job! They are super fun to make. There’s so much that goes into making any film, but what went on behind the making of “Fantasy Island” was absolutely insane.
Jeff Wadlow: I am drawn to the genre for the same reason I’m drawn to action movies. I’m very interested in the dialogue between the film and the audience. How we’re choosing the sequence images, how to create an experience for the audience, how to create attention when releasing it. I love doing that with action movies, but I also love doing it with thriller/horror movies. It’s a different scale. You have to get much more focused [on] a thriller to create that intensity, but it’s still about that dialogue.
What has your transition been like, going from television to film? Has that experience changed how you’ve approached your acting?
LH: It hasn’t really changed how I prepare for a role. I think I approach it in the same way. Blumhouse movies are a lot like the TV I’ve done because we have little time to accomplish what we’re trying to do. TV is very fast-paced. I’ve been lucky enough to do two Blumhouse films and we’ve accomplished a lot in a little time. That’s mainly the biggest difference for me. Most of my work has been in TV and you get to live with the character a lot longer, and it becomes a part of you in a way. For film, you get a lot more rehearsal time. For “Fantasy Island,” we got the luxury of having one to two weeks of rehearsal, which for TV you never get.
What have you liked best about working with each other?
LH: Jeff is the hardest working man in Hollywood. I’m indebted to him because he’s given me not only one but two shots at taking on characters I’ve never played before. Not only does he direct, he produces and he writes. He wrote “Truth or Dare” and wrote “Fantasy Island.” He writes really great characters and understands the genre more than anybody.
JW: That is very kind. I, in many ways, would say the same thing about Lucy. Her work ethic is amazing. I like to work hard; I like to approach each day almost like it’s a professional sporting event and we’re out there to win, and Lucy is a superstar athlete. I love that about her. She’s a brilliant artist. She has a profound ability to connect with an audience. She has [the] ability to elicit empathy from an audience in a way that is really unparalleled.
What are the ways that each of you challenge yourself? How do you find fresh elements to bring to this genre?
JW: Making a Blumhouse movie is just a continual process of being challenged. There is never a moment when you aren’t being challenged in some capacity. What I try to do is look for surprises on set. I show up every day with a plan, so if everything goes to sh–, there is something to rely on. My favorite moments in every movie I worked on were the moments I did not plan.
LH: Like Jeff said, we’re hustling the whole time and there’s so much to get done in a little amount of time. It’s always fresh and new, and you don’t know what’s going to happen—good or bad. With “Fantasy Island,” we’re in a new climate and a new place where most of us hadn’t been before. We’re trying to dodge rainstorms, we’re hiking up mountains, there’s bugs and people are getting sick. We didn’t know what was going to happen. I think that element was enough to keep it fresh.
Melanie is unlike any character I’ve played before. She’s very complexed, very damaged, layered, and tormented. I loved stepping into her head; that was a challenge for me. Our moral compass is so different. Accepting the things she was doing and saying was the biggest challenge for me.
What drew you to “Fantasy Island” and remaking this classic TV show into a film?
JW: I had an idea that was loosely inspired by “Fantasy Island,” and Jason Blum heard it. He called up Sony, he got the rights, and he called me. He said, “Why do something inspired by ‘Fantasy Island,’ when we could just do ‘Fantasy Island?’” So, I started writing it with Chris Roach and Jill Jacobs who co-wrote “Truth or Dare” with me. When we finished the script, it was actually Cooper Samuelson from Blumhouse that said, “Why not have Lucy Hale play Melanie?” It was a stroke of brilliance, I have to admit.
LH: We were on Ryan Hansen’s Youtube show, [who’s] actually in the movie. Jeff came up to me and said, “I have this script and I want you to read it. It’s a character that I think is different for you. I think you’d kill it.” All he had to say was Fiji for two months and I was in. But then I read the script and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Like I said, I love the genre and these movies are just so fun to make. It was a challenge; it was something I hadn’t tackled before. I loved working with Jeff and I loved working with Jason.
Is there an overall message that you want to convey in this movie?
JW: Don’t live your life in regret. You have to move forward, and you cannot be consumed by the past.
“Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island” opens in theaters on Friday, Feb. 14.
This interview has been edited and condensed.