Fran Kranz, best known for his roles in Dollhouse and Mike Nichols’ lauded Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, visited Philly this past week to enjoy the local cuisine and promote The Cabin in the Woods; a fun study of the horror genre from geek icon Joss Whedon and first-time director Drew Goddard.
I had a chance to sit down with Kranz and chat about Cabin, which suffered an unfortunate three-year delay due to financial difficulties at MGM. Although he’s anxious about the release after such a discouraging hiatus, he was happy to discuss his love of the film, his role, genre favorites, and Thor’s mighty hammer.
On Nichols’ Death of a Salesman and Cabin’s three-year delay:
It’s been an amazing experience. Philip Seymour Hoffman is playing Willy Loman and Mike Nichols directed. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s like an embarrassment of riches. Thankfully, I have this distraction because Cabin in the Woods means so much to me and it’s hard to not get your hopes up for it. I love the movie, I love the role … and it’s finally coming out. So, to be able to go on stage every night and lose myself in that is keeping me kind of sane.
I never lost faith, but a lot of people didn’t think it was coming out. I almost got to that point where it was embarrassing. I’d keep it to myself. I would be like “Oh my god, I know it’s coming out. It’s got to come out,” but when I talked about it, my friends would be like “Fran… [sympathetic chiding look]… it’s not coming out.” I was the crazy person who kept talking about Cabin in the Woods.
On Cabin in the Woods and Genre:
When I first read the script, I honestly walked away … thinking of it more as an action movie? Like an adventure movie? Obviously, it’s a horror film. Just look at it. It looks and smells and tastes like a horror film. It’s a horror film, you know? But it was so funny and out there … Someone once referenced Ghostbusters and I love that. I really latched onto that because, to me, it feels like it’s not a cult classic. It felt classic … I thought about The Goonies. [laughing] I just thought it was so fun. … It’s obviously gory and there are some scares, but it’s so funny that I think everything’s tempered out and kind of evened out.
On Being a Horror Fan:
I think it helped me get the role. Joss [Whedon] had me in mind for the role of Marty early on. I didn’t even realize … I just saw Drew [Goddard] when he came with some different photos of lakes for possible locations to shoot Cabin in the Woods and I remember geeking out because one of them was Crystal Lake from the original Friday the 13th. Little did I know, he was kind of there to watch me and here I am being like “Oh! Cool, man!” I think he saw a kindred spirit in me, which I’m thankful for … He wanted to have someone that loved the genre. I think it’s important for the role of Marty to be some actor that’s going to want to be there. You need to be passionate about the project.
On Genre Favorites and Inspiration:
Drew actually gave us a bunch of movies to watch and gave us homework. We got Evil Dead 1 and 2, we got Halloween, and we got the first Friday the 13th. We got The Descent … The Descent is one of my favorites of the last ten years. That was so badass and so scary. You always expect the female leads in horror films. There’s always the sexy heroine that makes it toward the end and then The Descent was full of like six of them. It was just a geek’s dream. It was great and it was scary as hell. Even the claustrophobia— Anyway, I loved that movie. Those other ones— they were such classics. I think Drew’s message was “This is the kind of movie we want to be like. We want to be one of these… part of the canon of great horror films.” and I think we pulled it off. It’s one of the great horror films in my opinion.
On his character Marty and comparisons to Shaggy of Scooby Doo:
Yeah, it’s funny … It’s so easy to say “Yeah, he’s like Shaggy,” but I honestly didn’t think about him … Obviously, I played a real high super stoner guy, but I wanted to make him real. It was nice to be cartoonish and fun … You see the stoner and you’re like “Oh yeah, he’s either first or second. If he’s lucky, he may be third, but that actor’s not famous enough. That guy’s dead.” [laughing] So I thought I could have a lot of fun with this guy because you want the audience to like him and laugh, but no one expects him to go far. At the same time … I also knew where Marty’s ultimate trajectory was and his ultimate arc, so I wanted to ground him with something and that was the loyalty. I feel like he really loves these guys. Even when he’s made fun of, he’s sticking by … He still wants to be there. And I saw that dog-like loyalty, man’s best friend, that fidelity, that blind faith … and I thought that would ground it. I thought that would make him funny but loveable whether or not it was very explicit. I thought about that as an actor. I wanted the love to be very important … You think you’d just have fun and screw around on set, but the movie meant so much to me when I was making it. … I really was putting a lot of heart and soul and effort into it.
On Co-star Chris Hemsworth:
I straight up asked [Joss] to be in [The Avengers]. It’s hilarious. I had no shame. … Chris Hemsworth is in Cabin in the Woods and he wasn’t Thor at the time. We were all kind of unknown guys— Hopefully, he can get his career off the ground. He’s struggling right now. He’s really struggling. I’m worried about him— I remember we were having lunch one day and he literally took a phone-call and came back and was Thor. And Red Dawn. In the same phone-call, he got both parts. I had the biggest man-crush on him. He was the coolest guy. We’d just go out and drink beers and I’d be like “Tell me more.” I loved him so much. So, I wrote Joss and I said “Look. I just wanna be killed by Chris. I’m not asking for a lot… I don’t need any credit. You don’t have to serve me lunch. I just show up, put on some weird camo gear, and get a hammer in the face— like a quick flash— just so I know and Chris knows and we all know.” Anyway no, I don’t think he responded to that e-mail.
On Working with Joss Whedon:
We have a really good relationship, but he’s loyal to a lot of people and I don’t take it for granted. I just try and do my best with him. He’s got loyal fans, but he’s also got loyal employees … They’re artistic people. They’re imaginative people. They like things outside of the box and that’s Joss. … Real artists want to be a part of that. You are proud to be a part of something that pushes the envelope or takes something conventional and changes and does something different …. That’s how Joss approaches genres. It’s like “Joss is doing comedy. Well, how’s he gonna do it?” or “Joss is doing horror. How’s he gonna do it?” Those are the things real passionate creative people are most proud of. The things that are original and different … It’s not lost on me how lucky I am.
On Keeping Cabin’s Secrets and the Film’s Reception:
I have a problem. Spoiling things. I really like the movie so I get into it. You wanna talk about it. I feel like people have been very respectful. I think a lot of people are keeping the secrets. I don’t think there’s just one twist, but a lot of the reviews I’ve read have done a good job or honor the secrecy of it and I think that’s because they actually like it. They’re like “Oh, I don’t know how to talk about it. It’s cool. It’s all over the place and I want to keep that to myself so you enjoy it and have your own unique experience, because it really is like a ride.” … It’s funny and it’s hysterical, but it’s kind of scary and it’s gory. It’s kind of chaotic, but in that sense, I think you just walk away very entertained.
Cabin in the Woods is currently playing theaters nationwide.