Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS | ©2012 Lionsgate

Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS | ©2012 Lionsgate

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS opens Friday. Produced by Joss Whedon, directed by Drew Goddard and written by both, the highly intelligent horror movie is about five college students who go to the title location and, in the tradition of horror movies about cabins and woods, have a whole lot of experiences they neither expected nor wanted, although there’s much more to the story. The film got a quick greenlight from MGM and was filmed in 2009 – and then sat in limbo when MGM got into financial troubles. Lionsgate came to the rescue and is releasing CABIN on, appropriately enough, Friday April 13.

Surprisingly enough, despite the amount of time between CABIN’s production and its debut – even with some film festival screenings in there – relatively few spoilers have hit the blogosphere. Fran Kranz, who plays Marty, the most stoned but perhaps the most perceptive among the group of friends, observes with a laugh, “I think the full experience has let us know how good we are at keeping secrets, you know what I mean?”

Kranz is also known to Whedon fans as Topher Brink, the genius techno-geek who is much more sensitive than he initially seems in two seasons of DOLLHOUSE. The Yale-trained California native had one of his first film roles in another cult favorite, DONNIE DARKO. He’s currently in New York, in the midst of his Broadway debut in the revival of Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN, directed by Mike Nichols, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield (of upcoming SPIDER-MAN reboot fame). As if all this weren’t enough, Kranz also plays Claudio in Whedon’s low-budget film version of William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and stars alongside some of his erstwhile DOLLHOUSE colleagues in the independent romantic comedy LUST FOR LOVE.

Speaking by telephone, Kranz sounds supremely happy about all of it, starting with CABIN IN THE WOODS.

ASSIGNMENT X: Seriously, has it been tough not to give out spoilers, since the movie is so cool and the wait has been so long?

FRAN KRANZ: Sometimes I find myself giving little bits away to specific people if I feel they need it. I’m just trying to get as many people to see the movie as possible, so if someone’s really resistant against horror films, then maybe I’ll give them a little more – I’ll let them in on a little bit of the comedy, or vice-versa. I drop little things here and there. But the movie’s so cool, because you can’t just say one or two or even three things that’ll ruin it. I think it’s something that needs to be experienced. It escalates in such a brilliant way, and one of the main tricks of the movie is in the first scene. You’re immediately introduced to the [notion] that this movie is not what you expected. That’s no secret. So I think it’s great in the sense that it’s something that you’ve got to see. It would take me awhile to ruin the movie for you, and even then, I feel like you’d want to see it, because it’s just hard to believe that’s what the hell this movie is about, or where this movie goes. I think it’s crazy that way, but entertaining at the same time.

AX: CABIN was made between seasons one and two of DOLLHOUSE. How did you get involved with the film?

FRANZ: Well, you see, that’s proof Joss is the best of the best at keeping a secret of all of us. Because I knew he was making a horror film – I’d heard about it, it had sort of come up – but [DOLLLHOUSE] was my first time working with him, it was the first season, and I was focused on DOLLHOUSE and I certainly wasn’t about to ask him, “Hey, can I audition for your movie?” [laughs] I obviously wanted to, but I wasn’t about to do that. But one day, [director] Drew Goddard did come to the set and I was filming that day and I came over and I saw that he was showing Joss possible locations for the cabin where they were going to shoot the movie in general. And I forget where exactly it was, but one of them was the original Camp Crystal Lake, where they filmed the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. And I’m a huge horror film fan, so I completely geeked out. I was like, “Oh, my God, you got to go there. Are you kidding? That’s crazy. It’s got a history, you’ve got to go there.” [CABIN was eventually filmed in Vancouver.]

I had no idea what the movie was about. And that’s how I met Drew. And months later, when I had the part, when we were in Vancouver, way, way down the road, Joss finally told me that he had Drew come that day specifically to see me, because they were already talking about me for Marty and I thank my lucky stars that I did in fact come up to him and show my geeky side, because I think for that role in particular, I think it was important for Drew and Joss to have someone that was passionate about the work and someone that cared and someone that was excited, and I certainly was all those things, and I think Drew needed to see that, because Marty is a pretty special character, he’s not just your slacker stoner. And Drew and Joss loved that guy, and I think it was important that they found an actor that loved him, too. And thankfully, I showed I was capable of that that day.

But after that, it’s not that I got an audition right there. I got an email like I always do for an audition and that’s when I thought something was weird, because I knew they knew that they were making the movie, but I didn’t understand if [Joss] realized I was going to audition for it, and I asked my agents about it, and they said, “Just go in and audition, do your best job and don’t mention it.” But to me, it was like the elephant in the room. Every time I saw Joss, I was nervous. I was like, “What do I say?” And finally he broke the ice and said, “Hey, you did a really good job and I want you to read for Drew.” And then from there I got the script and one thing led to another and I finally got the job. They saw how much the movie and the role meant to me, and I really believe Marty needs that, because the actor needs that energy for that role. It’s a passionate role [laughs].

Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS | ©2012 Lionsgate

Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS | ©2012 Lionsgate

AX: Do you see any similarities between Marty and Topher? They’re both very bright and eccentric …

KRANZ: It’s odd. As an actor, I really try and disappear into each role and work for each role and not make them work for me, but I went straight from Topher to Marty back to Topher. We shot CABIN IN THE WOODS in between the two seasons of DOLLHOUSE and I think I had a couple weeks in between each shoot. It was back to back to back. So I think I sort of disappeared into both, but if someone could point out some Topherisms in Marty or some Martyisms in Topher, I wouldn’t doubt it and I would hear their arguments. I do think they’re both really intelligent. They’re Whedon characters – they have that Whedon voice to them. Early on in DOLLHOUSE, people were starting to say, “Topher’s the Whedon voice, it’s the Joss role, and you hear his witticisms through the character.” And certainly with Marty that was the case – having been more knowledgeable of Joss’ work, I could see that in Marty. He was that wild card, he had his finger on the pulse, he was the suspicious one, the conspiratorial one, and he had the funny lines.

AX: There’s also one other thing …

KRANZ: I guess I could say there’s more similarities between Topher and Marty than I can say right now, let’s put it that way [laughs].

AX: How is Drew Goddard as a director?

KRANZ: Drew is so wonderful, he’s so passionate. He loves horror films. He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of horror and the genre and you’d never know he was a first-time director, because he loved the project so much. We would get on set and he’d get dirty, he’d get bloody, he cared so much that it was contagious and inspiring and when we first got up there, he gave us all these classic horror films to watch, THE EVIL DEADs and FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN, all these great horror films. He was so in love with the project, I think passion and authorship – he knew what he wanted, he knew his subject so well, and I do think that can trump experience. You never would have thought he was a first-time director. And in that sense, I was also so passionate about the part that I had sort of desperately needed him. I looked to him for his enthusiasm. When I would tire out, I would turn to him and he would re-energize me, because I cared about it so much, but I also needed him. I needed his passion, too, because doing a horror film is hard work. You beat yourself up. You do throw yourself into these situations and you’ve got to play scared, you’ve got to play tired, you’re very dirty and it’s long night shoots and it beats you down. So to have the kind of endurance of Drew so close by – I’m very thankful for that.

Fran Kranz in DOLLHOUSE - Season 1 - | ©2009 Fox/Joe Viles

Fran Kranz in DOLLHOUSE - Season 1 - | ©2009 Fox/Joe Viles

AX: How did you feel about the way DOLLHOUSE ended?

KRANZ: You know, I was thankful that we got to end it. Obviously, we wanted more seasons, but I was thankful to Fox for letting us actually end it and not just cut it – they could have just stopped the show in mid-production. I’ve heard stories – people don’t even finish scenes. They’re in the middle of set-ups and they get canceled, and just the lights get turned off. So obviously, I would have loved to have more time. The world [Whedon] created is full of possibilities. It could have gone on forever. I’ve got to assume that’s why there are comic books. Fans loved it and it was a fully-realized world with so many opportunities. So it’s always a shame to close the book on that, but I thought Topher had such an amazing arc. From Point A to B, there was something that none of us I think ever expected, and I’m so thankful to the writers for giving me that opportunity. It was amazing.

AX: And I wanted to ask you also about LUST FOR LOVE. Did you and Dichen Lachman while you were both doing DOLLHOUSE say, “We must do something else together” or …?

KRANZ: We all loved each other so much. They’re some of my closest friends, and so we’ve done a lot of little things together, but yeah, LUST FOR LOVE is really a bigger project, just raising money on KickStarter and we had so much fun doing it. Enver Gjokaj is in it, Miracle Laurie’s in it, Felicia Day is in it – I can’t even remember everybody, but there are so many friends from the Joss world and the DOLLHOUSE world that are in it. We’re really excited about it. I’ve been so busy with DEATH OF A SALESMAN, I don’t know where LUST FOR LOVE stands right now [in terms of distribution], but I know we had the best time doing it. It was one of those great projects where you already believe in the script, but when each day ends, you find you have so much more. Because we elevated everything each day, and it was a wonderful crew. And [the cast from DOLLHOUSE] just keep in touch. We see each other as often as possible.

Related Article: Exclusive Interview with THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and DOLLHOUSE star Fran Kranz on MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and DEATH OF A SALESMAN – Part 2

Related Article: Movie Review – THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

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