Terri Taylor has been the in-house casting director for Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods. since 2013, a job that’s unusual at the studio level. Blum and Taylor have built a language and relationship that goes back even further, to the studio’s 2010 “Paranormal Activity 2.”
When she’s not working on casting Blumhouse productions, Taylor invests her time in mentoring other casting directors within the Blumhouse world. “She is my mentor,” casting director John McAlary says. The two first met in 2007 when he first worked as an assistant. “She oversaw the process on “Welcome to Blumhouse.” He adds.
With “The Craft: Legacy,” the reboot of Andrew Fleming’s 1996 classic, debuting on-demand on Oct. 28, Taylor talks with Variety about the type of actors the studio is looking for, and shares her process for matching talent to story.
You and Jason Blum go back almost 10 years. How has the relationship grown?
I met Jason in 2010 when I was at Paramount and the first “Paranormal Activity” had been released, and we started talking about the second one. That was our first collaboration. Between 2011 and early 2014, I cast six movies for Jason. That time was about building trust and getting to know his take, helping to build the Blumhouse model and helping to educate agents and actors on how we wanted to make scary, low-budget movies for wide release. By late 2013, Blumhouse had grown and Jason needed someone in-house to cast all of the Blumhouse films and oversee television.
For me, it was an exciting and incredibly rich opportunity to deepen my relationship with Jason and to have this position that none of my colleagues are doing in the audition space — and having a voice at the conference table in an executive capacity and as a department head.
Were you always a fan of horror, psychological thrillers and paranormal films?
I wasn’t. I could probably name five movies that I bought tickets to see in the theater, including “Cape Fear” and “The Sixth Sense.” I had so much to learn about the genre and its history. The Blumhouse stories are relatable because we see the family. The stories are about families in jeopardy, or families dealing with extraordinary circumstances. We search for actors who can approach the role from a human level, not some sort of overarching broad performance, but bring real human emotions and fear.
Applying that [persona] to scary movies has been very successful for us in keeping things human and relatable. We’re approaching “Paranormal 7” in 2021.
How do you tackle casting a franchise movie that has had so much success?
Casting a “Paranormal Activity” film is different than anything else we do. All auditions are improvised. We don’t have a screenplay, and we don’t provide slides. We just provide a fictional character description that says, ‘You are a coach, a father; you have two kids.’ We build upon that and pair actors together. There are times when we can see a [bigger] opportunity. An example of that was “The Craft.” We wanted to build that cast thinking it could be a franchise. “The Craft” is a cult classic.
What’s the pressure in casting a reboot that’s so synonymous with its original cast?
There is a fair amount of pressure. You never want to lose sight of how beloved the title is. We were faithful to the story the director and screenwriter of the reboot, Zoe Lister-Jones, wanted to tell — all while trying to meet or exceed the high bar set by the first film. There were major challenges because those characters are so specific and not necessarily ones we’ve seen before. We did a major search for Zoey Luna, who plays a transgender young woman. She fit so perfectly with the other girls, and that chemistry is hard to capture. We work hard to make sure we achieve that in our casting process with more than one chemistry read.