How Drag Me to Hell's Sam Raimi got his two stars to slug it out

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

One of the highlights of director Sam Raimi's upcoming supernatural horror film Drag Me to Hell is a knock-down, drag-out fight between banker Christine (Alison Lohman) and a raving old woman (Lorna Raver) in a car and a parking garage.

Lohman told reporters that shooting the dramatic scene was no walk in the park: Raimi had to push her through the intense fight sequence. After being denied a third extension on her mortgage, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) attacks Christine (Lohman) and puts a curse on her.

"I had to scream my lungs out, being dragged out of the car," Lohman said in an interview Monday in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Sam on his megaphone screamed, 'This isn't f--king Barefoot in the Park! It's Drag Me to Hell! So scream!' And I was like, 'Oh, my God, he means business. He's in his suit, and it's on.' He's very tough on me, but he needed to be, because he wanted to make it look real, and I'm glad that he did that."

Not to be shown up, Raver was willing to get into the thick of the fight herself. "When we did the fight, both Alison and I wanted to do as much as we could ourselves," Raver said in a separate interview. "Our stunt doubles were there and worked with us. We'd sketch out what we wanted to happen next, and Sam would talk to them, and they would kind of show us how to do it so that, A, it looked real, because there's nothing worse than looking at somebody choking somebody when they're clearly not choking them. And, B, that we wouldn't get hurt."

That realistic choking was more than Lohman bargained for. "At times I'm being strangled," she revealed. "I'm not used to these kinds of films, so obviously I've never been strangled or dragged out of a car. So in this one part of it, I'm being strangled, and he said it didn't look real. And then I would do it again. 'Well, does this look real? Does this look real?' 'No, it doesn't look real.' So I thought: Are you trying to say that I have to really be strangled? And he just stood there looking at me like, 'Well, yeah!' So I had to hold my breath and make Lorna strangle me. We had to get nitty-gritty about it. It wasn't like I could be girly at all."

Lohman takes credit for the on-screen strangulation, but Raver gave credit where it was due for some of the sequence's bigger stunts. "Now, obviously, I am not the person who flies over the seat and lands into the dashboard, and all my teeth do not fall out," Raver said. "As far as a lot of the fighting—and that scene where I pull Alison out of the car—that's her. That's not a stunt double. So they taught us how to do these things. It's just a combination in the car scene, which is where it's very significant. In a lot of the things, we did as much of our own stuff as we could and that everybody felt we could do that was safe. There are a couple of things that are puppets that KNB built from a life cast that they did of me. There are some scenes in which it's not me at all. It's the puppet. So it was kind of a mixture of puppets, the stunt doubles and me. But in the fight, a lot of it is Alison and myself."

Though Raver has several decades on her, Lohman found her to be a formidable opponent. "Lorna's tough," Lohman said. "She's like not an older woman, in a way. I can't believe what Lorna went through, honestly. It was tougher than what I went through, in a way. She had a lot of stuff happening to her, too."

If strangulation and bashing out an old woman's teeth don't sound hilarious, don't worry. It's Sam Raimi, so it's still comical. "Seeing the final film, some of the humor was a revelation," Raver said. "You can read it and think, ha ha ha. You don't know whether or not it's going to come off as funny or 'Oh, my God.' Of course, that's Sam. That's his trademark, kind of, I guess, and where he puts the humor and how he introduces things that might be in the script that you wouldn't think would be funny, because of the way he shoots it or whatever little touch he adds, turn out to be hysterical."

Drag Me to Hell opens May 29.