Staci Layne Wilson / HORROR.COM: I'm glad to hear that you are familiar with the original. And that you're a fan. I've talked to a lot of horror directors and a lot of them are doing remakes — I'm sure that you're aware, there are a lot of horror remakes out there — and a lot of them say "Oh no, I never saw the original. I'm not interested in that. I only care about my own interpretation". But it looks like you did actually build on the original and fill it out; I mean, even the visuals are a lot more filled out, and lush, and beautiful. Is that what you wanted to do, make it more of a visual film?
John Moore: Yeah, I mean what we can't forget is The Omen, when it was made originally, was a relatively cheap movie. They didn't have a lot of resources whereas I had more resources and was determined to use it to make it as visceral a movie as possible. And again, all credit to the original that has had such effect and such power, psychological power, that stays with them so long. Yet, like I said, they didn't have much resources. So I thought, again, just to make our movie as exciting and visceral as possible. I wanted to make the visuals have a great impact. And that's not to say, and I'm sure what you've seen will bear this out, we didn't go down a blood and guts route with our...the movie is relatively bloodless as in the original one. It's not that kind of movie, we stayed very true to the psychological shock of the set pieces.
Q: Yeah, that's true. But I like how you heightened it and filled it out a little more. Like when the nanny hangs herself; now she makes her announcement, falls, hits the end of the slack, then she hits the house, and her shoe dangles, then it falls, then it hits the punch bowl. That sequence of events adds drama, and is more effective to me as a viewer.
John Moore: Well, thank you. What I was trying to do there was to... because it's such an event for Kathy whose story you'll see is much more relevant in the remake. That really is a turning moment for her. Things start to go very wrong after that. So I tried to shoot the scene from almost how she would remember it, all these sort of bizarre details that would play in her head over and over and over again. This is how I wanted to represent the scene. So it's all about really what she would she would see and what she remembered.
Q: I think that Julia and Liev are both really, really good casting. Because those are pretty strong, unforgettable roles. Were they your first choices?
John Moore: Julia was my absolute first choice. And Liev was neck and neck with one other actor. So I'm happy to say I got the actors I wanted. I wanted Julia because of what I and a lot of people think about her is there's a real innocence and just a sort of childish willingness to her. You really can use that to sympathize. I personally found, believe me it's not a criticism it's just an observation of the original film, I found Lee Remick very cold and hard to sympathize with. That worked for that film for that actress but I wanted this Kathy to be very sympathetic and for people to feel the tragedy of her death. So I thought Julia would do that brilliantly and I think she has. And like you say, big boots to fill for both of them. You know, to do what was done in the original and yet make it your own. It ain't easy.
Q: Yeah. It looks as though, also, that Liev and David Thewlis have terrific onscreen chemistry together.
John Moore: Don't you think so? Absolutely! I was delighted with those two guys. I mean, they hadn't worked before together and the first time we did a scene with them it was great. The whole crew was buzzing. These guys are a really good onscreen team. So I was absolutely delighted with that. Our, as you call them, support cast is excellent as well.
Q: I thought that David Thewlis actually had a real David Hemmings vibe going on, from what I saw. And you kind of have the scarf around the neck — although it's a different scarf — and you're kind of, you know, giving a nod to that, which I like.
John Moore: Yeah, definitely.
Q: Of course the music is indelible in the minds of so many horror fans. Is it right to say that you do have some of Goldsmith's themes retained in there?
John Moore: No. What we did is, we hired the composer is Marco Beltrami, who I've done a movie with before and who's done a bunch of stuff…
Q: A lot of horror movies.
John Moore: Yes. But intriguingly, he was a student of Goldsmith's.
Q: Oh, OK.
John Moore: He was actually one of his proteges. He worked with Goldsmith for years and years. They actually were very close friends until Jerry died tragically. So Marco, if you listen closely to the score, what you haven't heard yet obviously, but towards the very end there is a motif of Goldsmith's that he utilized in the score.
Q: OK. I had read that there was some of that in there, but from what I heard today there wasn't the choral singers and the Latin chants and all that.
John Moore: You would have only heard temp-pieces. But certainly fans of the original music will be comfortable with our score. It uses a lot of the soundscape that Goldsmith would have used, so it's very much in keeping with our attempts to reflect the original movie.
Q: And what about the actual landscape? The aspect ratio? What made you decide to go with the one you did, and how did that work for you?
John Moore: Well, normally I shoot widescreen I shoot 240:1 but I went 1:85 on this picture simply because I think this picture is much more about what is going on in people's heads than what's going on around them. I think it's a better ratio for getting up close and personal.
Q: You also did another remake, Flight of the Phoenix, which I saw and enjoyed. Do you feel like you're comfortable wearing those shoes?
John Moore: Well, I hope I don't become an expert. I mean, I did it in both cases because I thought they were terrific stories. God knows I'm probably condemned in some way now. I wouldn't say there's a knack except you know, remember that what you loved about it, you need to keep loving about it so it doesn't mean you need to run away from it. It's like you were talking about horror directors, you know about being, well disrespectful is a strong word… but being like disregarding of the original material. I would say: do the opposite. If you love it, then love it. Show that you love it. And I think then people will respond to it.
Q: The dogs in the original, the rottweilers, are rather indelible. I was looking at your storyboard a little bit this morning, and it said that there were rottweilers… but in the beginning when the nanny hangs herself it's what kind of dog?
John Moore: It's a German shepherd. I put that in because I like...I kinda did that for fun. Because to me it was a very powerful-looking dog. Whereas rottweilers, while they're attacking you, very savage. But you know what, when they're just kind of sitting there, they're actually quite cute. Whereas the German shepherd is so angular it seems like a much more powerful way to scare somebody.
Q: I like the amber eyes too, that was very effective. Do you also have the scene, I imagine you do, in the zoo where the animals are all freaked out about Damien?
John Moore: We do, we have a variation of that, yeah. Which ups the ante just a little bit. Again that's basically the way in the movie, like you said, everything is still there and is more visceral. Probably, that's the audience we deal with these days. People want more.
Q: It's true. Have you worked with animals before much?
John Moore: Some actors… [laughter]
Q: You have animals and kids in this one!
John Moore: Um, I've done my time. I was a commercial director. I've worked with babies and kittens. It's never easy, especially when they're attack dogs.
Q: Right, you've got the attack scene in the cemetery?
John Moore: Yeah. That was very difficult.
Q: What was it like shooting that day?
John Moore: It was very difficult because, you know, you can't reason with a dog. A lot of the time things we thought we would achieve with stunts and things like that, we actually ended up getting with the real actors which was great. And then other times, you know, we'd have to have the dogs restrained on wires which meant expensive post-production but safety has to be paramount. And one of the shots I couldn't believe we got, Liev volunteered to have the dog, in the scene where the dog grabs his arm and pulls him through a fence, and Liev did all that himself. And actually cracked a rib doing it. So, you know what I mean, the swings and roundabouts, you win some, you lose some.
Q: And you shot this in Prague?
John Moore: We shot most of the movie in Prague. We did a little bit in Italy.
Q: Did you enjoy that experience?
John Moore: Yeah. I mean, Prague is a wonderfully varied place. I shot my first movie in the Czech Republic so I love that region of the world. I was very comfortable there, very happy.
Q: Did it double for London?
John Moore: Yeah, it doubles for London and Rome.
Q: Oh really? Rome looked really good to me in the scenes that I saw.
John Moore: Cool.
Q: So, what are some of your favorite horror movies? Are you a fan of the genre or just the original movie?
John Moore: I'm not a fan of the genre. I was definitely a fan of The Omen, The Exorcist. One that may not belong in this genre but [a scary one] is Jacob's Ladder. Night of the Hunter, again I don't know if it's strictly in the genre but it frightened the crap out of me.
Q: Definitely a scary movie.
John Moore: But I'm not a big genre fan, I don't have a collection.
Q: I noticed that you did put like a nightmare sequence I guess for Kathy's character, which brings to mind Jacob's Ladder. That's something different. So you enjoy the mind games and the imagination in cinema?
John Moore: Definitely. That's what was big fun for me on this film. And you kind of find your way as you're going along. But being able to affect people's psyche, it's actually great fun. I mean I've never done this kind of movie ... to sit with an audience knowing the fright is coming it's a great rush.
Q: Have audiences seen this full movie yet?
John Moore: No, we did what they call a friend and family screening. You know, 30 or 40 people. But enough so that you can watch them in the dark.
Q: Is there any concern on your part with people being very familiar with the original and what they might expect as far as they know the ending and that kind of thing?
John Moore: Well, you know there's always plenty of haters out there. Most of it's online. It is disturbing to see "this fucking asshole must die" written beside your name. Somebody who hasn't even seen the movie. But I don't know what to say about that. I hope people won't get upset. I know the fans of the original will not be disappointed because I'm a very big fan of the original and I worked on the movie with fans of the original. That's all I can say with my hand on my heart, they won't be annoyed or disappointed. I can't do anything about the haters.
Q: Do you spend much time online looking around?
John Moore: No. I made the mistake about five minutes ago.
Q: [laughter] You went to IMDB and looked at the message board, right?
John Moore: Yeah. You know, it's not to be recommended.
Q: Well, if it means anything I'm a longtime horror fan and write for a lot of genre sites, and I really liked what I saw.
John Moore: Thank you very much. It does mean a lot. Thank you.