This is not the movie I was expecting. Where did this idea come from?
Drew Goddard: I've always loved crime fiction and crime cinema. It's been a genre I wanted to explore for a long time. I think I felt like I needed to reach a certain level of maturity before I tackled it because the danger when dealing with crime is you can get almost fetishtistic with it and become the very thing you are trying to criticize or critique. I think I needed to get a little older, quite honestly. I've always had in the back of my head the rough sketch of this idea. And then I reached a point around 2016 where it was time to put pen to paper, as they say.
You're exploring the 1960s. What was it about the era and these archetypes -- the cult leader, the girl group singer, the FBI man -- specifically?
Goddard: I suppose it was two things. For me, the '60s have always been intoxicating to study and immerse myself in. I love the juxtaposition of the chaos that happened politically. You saw this real time of turmoil. In a five-year period this country watched JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy all get assassinated, in some cases on live television. You actually saw it. And then Richard Nixon took over. Which is fairly insane to think about today, something like that happening. Simultaneously you have this renaissance of pop music. Almost this beautiful birth of pop music in a way. I don't think those two things are exclusive. I think this beautiful soul music came about because of the darkness these artists were experiencing. I've always loved that, and I thought that was fertile ground for story.
With regard to the characters, honestly it started less about the '60s and more about film noir archetypes at the beginning. I took classic figures you see in crime cinema. You've got the junkie, the detective, the grifter, the lounge singer. And just took them and decided now that we've seen the broad strokes of these people let's show them as actual human beings and really explore their humanity.
I was a fan of Cabin in the Woods going into this, and there's an element of taking archetypes and putting them in a mysterious location that is similar. But it doesn't go the same way. Another shoe doesn't drop. How did you want to approach the mystery, and what do you like about putting characters in these enclosed environments?
Goddard: Every film is different. Every film has its own world. Cabin had a very almost postmodern approach that felt appropriate for that film. In this case, I didn't want it to be a film that dealt with other films. Even though I used the archetypes, that was more just as a creative jumping-off point. I wanted to live in the world of the genre and pay the genre respect, but I didn't want to make it about the genre -- if that makes sense.
So the approach was a much more almost, for lack of a better word, classic approach. I wanted to really take my time and get to know these people as people, and let the camera find the empathy in these characters. That very much dictated how we built this, how we shot it how we performed it. I guess I love closed spaces because -- especially when you have nefarious people -- nefarious people in closed spaces always leads to drama. And as a writer, it's very fun to write. That must have started on my days at Buffy [the Vampire Slayer], because we would have our small sets and then we would throw vampires and murderers into these small spaces, and it just made the series come to life. I think that was deeply ingrained in me at the start.