SITGES – “Horror is being given the respect it deserves and good directors are getting to direct,” Elijah Wood said at Spain’s Sitges Festival, where he opened up his fanboy heart at the European premiere of Eugenio Mira’s “Grand Piano.” Starring Wood and John Cusack, “Grand Piano” was picked up by Magnolia’s Magnet for U.S. distribution at Austin’s Fantastic Fest.
“I think genre cinema is quite massive in terms of its spread, it’s a pretty wide array of films. I’m always attracted to things that are slightly off-center, looking for unique experiences and interesting challenges,” Wood went on.
“They more often than not exist these days within the context of genre,” he added, admitting to being “a huge fan of genre in general” and citing revenge thriller “Blue Ruin” and “The Conjuring” as two films he admired.
Wood has put his money where his mouth is in teaming in 2010 with Daniel Noah, and Josh C. Waller to launch the genre-skewing L.A production house the Woodshed, rebranded last month as SpectreVision as it moves into music.
SpectreVision has a pretty wide array of genre films. It is executive producing, for instance, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” now in post, an Iranian ghost-town-set black-and-white vampire story, shot entirely in Farsi and written and directed by U.S.-based Iranian Ana Lily Amirpour.
It has just completed school virus horror-comedy “Cooties,” with Alison Pill and Rainn Wilson, written by Ian Brennan (“Glee”) and Leigh Whannel (“Insidious,” “Saw”) and the feature debut of Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion. Artsploitation will shortly release Jason Banker’s docu-feature “Toad Road,” also exec produced by SpectreVision, which weaves horror into its thriller narrative.
Wood was in Sitges for yet another kind of genre movie, however, psychological thriller “Grand Piano,” which is written by Damien Chazelle (“The Last Exorcism Part II”) and produced by Adrian Guerra and Rodrigo Cortes’ Nostromo Pictures in Barcelona, just up the road from Sitges, plus Spain’s Atresmedia Cine and Telefonica Studios, and sold by L.A.’s The Solution Entertainment Group.
As at Austin, where the film had its world premiere, “Grand Piano” won plaudits at Sitges in part for its technical virtuosity, both Mira’s majestic sweeping single-setting dolly and crane shots and Wood as a virtuoso concert pianist. Forced into premature retirement by stage fright in “Grand Piano,” he discovers when he makes his comeback in Chicago that there’s a madman (Cusack) somewhere in the gods who will shoot his brains out if he plays even one note wrong.
“That was me,” Wood confirmed at “Grand Piano’s” press conference, explaining that the fleet fingers flying across the ivories were nearly always his own.
“All the music was pre-rendered in animatics in almost demo-like form. It was, for all intents and purposes, fully finished. We’d listen to and I would play along. It was almost like Automatic Dialog Replacement, but for physicality,” he told Variety.
Wood’s remarkable hand-synching – he admitted to having piano lessons as a child – will be seen on commercial release from Oct. 25, when Paramount releases “Grand Piano” in Spain.
(Emilio Mayorga contributed to this report.)