Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) at first didn't want to direct the Americanized version of the acclaimed Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, then decided he'd remain faithful, and now defends "Americanizing" the story of a young boy who befriends a girl who happens to be a 200-year-old bloodsucker. And he got help from none other than Steven Spielberg.
At the South by Southwest film festival panel "Directing the Dead," featuring four notable horror directors, Reeves assured fans that he defended the integrity of the Swedish film as soon as he got the gig.
"It's funny, the people who gave me the film to look at in the first place, they said, 'Take a look at this film. We think you might respond to it,'" Reeves said. "'We want to try and get the rights from the Swedish producers. Maybe you'll want to make the kids older. Who knows what you want to do?'" Reeves recalled for the audience on Saturday in Austin, Texas. "I watched it and said, 'Well, here's my response. Number one, if you make the kids older, you literally ruin the film. So please don't do that. Number two, I'm not sure you should remake this film' was my response."
Reeves ultimately did decide there was a good reason to "Americanize" the film. Coming out of the Cold War '80s, he felt, the time is right to challenge the country's political views, as represented by vampires.
"Reagan was talking about the evil empire at that time, and the idea that the evil is outside of us," Reeves said. "I became very drawn to the idea that evil is within us and that whole thing. It's details like that. People think an Americanization means you're going to come in and add lots of gratuitous stuff. In my case it was much more about context and how to honor the original story and find a way that it applies to the way that we live or that I live in my childhood and things like that."
When it came to working with child actors Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass), Reeves felt he needed a childhood fantasy expert. Luckily, he had an "in" with E.T. director Steven Spielberg.
"I'd never really had extensive experience directing children," Reeves said. "I met Steven Spielberg to talk about directing kids, and I was like, oh my God, it's Steven Spielberg, what's he saying? I have no idea, it's Steven Spielberg. He was very generous. I was really lucky, because Steven Spielberg is friends with [Cloverfield producer] J.J. [Abrams]. He'd seen Cloverfield and was like, 'Oh, that's a cool film.' I was like, 'Well, can I talk to you about directing kids?'"
That's the case for Americanizing the Swedish vampire film. Otherwise, there are themes that are just universal. "I related to the bullying and the idea of being a child of divorce and growing up in the '80s," he said. "I think it comes down to, in terms of doing a remake, what your intentions are. Whether you are interested in running roughshod over something or whether or not you are trying to bring something of yourself to it and being committed to and respecting where it comes from. I have such tremendous respect for that story. At the same time, it so resonates with me personally, and I thought, 'There's an interesting opportunity.'"
Let Me In opens Oct. 1.
What do you think? Is this something that should be Americanized?