A funny thing happened at the premiere of “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday: Several minutes into the movie, the screen abruptly froze on an image of Colleen Camp, who plays Jack Black’s nosy neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett, and her little dog, too.
Eli Roth jumped out of his seat and went into director mode to downplay what turned out to be an issue with the back-up projector, according to a Universal rep. “During a really, really scary scene, if we all hear Jack Black burping, it’s probably not going to work as well,” Roth explained to the packed house. “So if you can all bear with me, I think that we need [child star] Owen Vaccaro to stand up and lead us in a magical spell for us to restart the movie.”
Some of the younger audience members protested, despite the promise of an impromptu magic show. “We’ve only seen three minutes,” Roth said. “I know it seems like a long time, but trust me, it’s just three minutes. Owen!” he called out to his petite lead actor. “He didn’t know that he would have to do this, but I screwed it up,” Roth added. “Owen … is going to do a magical spell for all of us to restart the movie so that the projection goes perfectly. So, Owen, if you can lead everyone in group participation. … Just go!”
Vaccaro rose in front of the impatient crowd. “From Saturn to the sun … turn the movie back on!” he shouted while waving outstretched arms. Instantly, the opening credits rolled once again and Roth deadpanned: “Take two!”
Earlier, on the red carpet, shortly before Black crooned a classic by the Turtles (“We’re happy together/ So happy together,” Black sang during a group cast photo), Roth explained his inspiration for the abrupt departure into PG-rated material.
“A lot of my favorite directors — Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson — they started off with hardcore horror movies, then they went into ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Lord of the Rings,’” Roth said. “I always in my mind wanted to have that kind of career trajectory, and it was time to prove it. If I think about it, I didn’t start off with hardcore horror. The gateway movies — the gateway drug films — were the Amblin films: ‘E.T.,’ ‘Raiders [of the Lost Ark],’ ‘Gremlins,’ ‘Goonies,’ ‘Poltergeist,’ other films like ‘Time Bandits,’ ‘Dragonslayer’ — and I realized that there isn’t a PG scary movie anymore. The movies for kids are PG superhero or animation, and those things are great, but where’s the movie if you like scary movies, and you want your kids to like scary, you can take them to … and it’s going to give them the thrill of going to a haunted house?”
It happened to be Emmys Eve, but that’s one award show Roth has no interest in watching.
“None whatsoever, honestly,” he said. “I don’t mean that in a flippant way. I’m very happy for the people that are involved and the people that are nominated, but it’s very disconnected from what my favorite shows were. So I just have no interest in it really. I watched, obviously, ‘Stranger Things,’ but I loved ‘Fauda’ and ‘The End of the F***ing World,’” he said.
Cate Blanchett trailed behind her director on the red carpet. Due to the blazing September sun, she slowly crept along in a double-breasted, checkered pantsuit and shades, using her hand to shield her complexion. The two-time Oscar winner and veteran movie star seemed unaware that the Emmys were on Monday. Not that Blanchett has ruled out doing TV in the future; quite the opposite, in fact.
“Oh, for sure,” she said of her potential interest in the small screen. “I went to a theater school and one of the first gigs I got away from the theater was working in television,” she recalled. “And at the time I was making it, it was really fast. I think that now television is much better resourced because you can tell longer-form stories. And there are certain stories that I’m developing where you ask yourself, which is fantastic: ‘What’s the right form to tell the story in?’ The right form to tell this story in — ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ — was a movie. But there are some stories where you need to sit with characters, and character arcs, and narrative arcs, that can only be told in television form. So absolutely, yeah.”