Fantasy, Interview, Movies 2015-05-11

Robin Tunney, Andrew Fleming and The Craft

A team of student outcasts find power in The Craft

Fans of behind-the-scenes stories got a treat Friday night. The NuArt held a midnight showing of The Craft, a 90’s movie about a coven of teenage witches. The showing was arranged by Kory Davis, a young Los Angeles producer and a 90s movie enthusiast. He’s put on shows before at the NuArt, but this time was a special treat. Kory was able to get director Andrew Fleming and lead actress Robin Tunney to come to the show! The Q&A was a fantastic look into the making of the film. For those that weren’t there, well, keep on reading! We’ve broken their stories down from the first ideas to the final wrap!

Getting It Off The Ground

Andrew Fleming, it turns out, never intended to direct The Craft. He just sort of fell in love with the story. In his own words:

Andrew Fleming: Peter Filardi, who wrote Flatliners, wrote the first version of the script and I was brought on as a writer. And I brought in a bunch of story elements and ideas and we worked separately. And I was just going to write it and then let somebody else direct it. But, it “cast a spell on me” and I decided I wanted to direct it and I ended up directing it. Sorry, it’s a really bad joke. It’s late you guys! It’s late.

Robin Tunney: It doesn’t seem like it’s the first time you’ve told it. Like, it worked the first time…

Casting

For her part, Robin Tunney had just finished filming Empire Records a month prior when she got the call to do a screen test for The Craft. Unfortunately, there were a couple problems, largely to do with the fact that on Empire Records she shaved her head.

Robin Tunney: I had no idea [that she would get the call to do The Craft] and I had grown my hair out a bit… and then I decided I was going to bleach it blonde, and then they told me they wanted me to go do a screen test for The Craft. And I really wanted to play Bonnie. I didn’t want to play Sarah, I wanted Neve’s part. And I was like “Well I have platinum blonde hair, I have to go get my hair made brown”, and they turned it green and I had bright green hair. And I was like, “there’s no way they’re going to cast me in this movie as a catholic school girl”, so I put a wig on for the screen test and no one at the studio knew that I didn’t have hair!

Andrew Fleming: I knew.

Robin Tunney: It was like my big dirty secret. It was this bright green hair underneath the wig.

In addition, Tunney didn’t want to play the role of Sarah in the first place! It was already known that Fairuza Balk was also auditioning and she was a lock for Nancy, the goth witch who becomes drunk with power during the film. Because of this, Robin Tunney wanted the role of Bonnie, the scar-covered witch. This role eventually went to Neve Campbell, which forced Andrew Fleming, by now the official director, to find a way to talk Robin into taking the role of Sarah.

Robin Tunney: And, um, they eventually cast me as Sarah…

Andrew Fleming: I had to talk Robin into playing the lead instead of playing the other part.

Robin Tunney: I was like “She’s the good girl! You’re going to want to stuff her in the locker and tell her to shut up! I don’t want to play that girl!” It’s so much more fun to be bad and Fairuza was clearly going to play Nancy and I was like “I’ll be somebody else!”

Oddly, if it wasn’t for a fluke, Robin Tunney would never have landed the part at all. Kate Winslet was auditioning for the role of Sarah as well. Fortunately for Tunney, Winslet had just starred in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. This was a film in which was about an actual murder and allegations of a lesbian relationship. This seemed to have poisoned Winslet’s chances with Columbia Pictures, the production company behind The Craft. With that, Robin Tunney was in.

The Green Light

Initially, the studio was unsure whether or not to go ahead with the film. Usually this is where a story is told about people who believe in the project fighting the good fight. Instead, something very different happened:

Robin Tunney: They [Columbia Pictures] didn’t know if they wanted to make the movie and they brought us all out to do a screen test. We filmed two scenes, like all together and apparently the studio, they were fast-forwarding through all the speaking scenes. But the thing that made them go “We want to make this movie” was us all in Catholic schoolgirl outfits walking to a Morrissey song with our boobs shaking. They’re like “That looks good!”

Andrew Fleming: And they’re like, “We get it.”

Heavy Days Filming

Andrew Fleming: It was actually a very heavy shoot. It seemed like somebody cried every day. It was really not very funny… It was dark every day.

Andrew Fleming: There was a sequence where, it was like a dream where Fairuza stabbed you [Robin Tunney] in the chest… where you had to wear that armature-

Robin Tunney: It was my birthday… I had to, like, basically they built a fake body into the back seat of the car, with enormous boobs too. Thanks for that! And I was getting repeatedly stabbed, but my [actual] body was in the back of the hatchback and I was sticking my neck out… Yeah, it was like 12 hours in the weirdest position in the contraption and at the end of the day the crew was outside, like with a cake and I was inside the trailer crying because my back hurt. I was like “I can’t believe I’m doing this movie!”

Paranormal Experiences

Andrew Fleming didn’t want the stereotypes that had come with witchcraft in previous films. In particular, Fairuza Balk, a practicing Pagan at that time, was very concerned with realism. As a result, Pat Devine, a witch, was brought in as a technical consultant. Pat created the incantations that were spoken in the film. In addition, the Fleming and the cast visited actual rituals to make sure they got the details right.

Andrew Fleming: I was into it! I was totally into it! No, the whole idea was… the witch movies had always been like, they had black pointed hats and they were green and it was like “Let’s make a movie that’s like what they actually do.”

Robin Tunney: Authentic, yeah. And we went to, like, the spring “Manon” festival and yeah…

Andrew Fleming: We were into it!

Robin Tunney: I think Fairuza was really into having things be authentic.

Andrew Fleming: She was a practicing wiccan.

Andrew Fleming: The one [paranormal] thing that absolutely happened was that there was that one shot where they were doing the incantation on the beach. This is an overhead shot and we had said “Let’s build a ring of fire inside the highest tide line” and we did and the Ranger was there, but every time you guys did the incantation the surf came up. At one point it washed out the set. And the Ranger said the waves have never come up that high. And it was a calm night! And it’s in the movie! You can see it in one of those overhead shots! It washes out the ring of fire! I’m just telling you, this happened!

Robin Tunney: I was like a 22 year old smart-ass. I was like “He’s just trying to sell the movie! I don’t remember that!” I was tired…

After It Was All Over

Robin Tunney: It was like a bonding experience, and I don’t think any of us had any clue that the film was going to become sort of a cultural phenomenon. I mean, like people watched it at, like, sleepovers and different things… but we were making at as just young and excited and… the first screening it tested well and I remember Fairuza called me and she was like “I think the movie’s going to be… big!”

Andrew Fleming: We had, uh-

Robin Tunney: Pat.

¬†Andrew Fleming: Pat the witch, our technical advisor, and she gave us chants… and during post-production she wrote an incantation that said “I want this movie to be Number 1″… and it was Number 1 at the box office!

Robin Tunney: I remember after the film came out, it was coming out in Japan. All I wanted to do was go to Japan and I called Andy and I was like “We’re going to Japan!”, he’s like “They don’t want you in Japan. They want Pat the witch!” They [the Japanese] were like “Not interested.” Pat the witch went to Japan!

Andrew Fleming: Really?

Robin Tunney: Yeah. They sent Pat the witch.

Robin Tunney: There was that scene… there was a scene after I get date-raped [in a scene with Skeet Ulrich]. And I remember we were doing this scene, and it was with the girls where I come back to to tell them, and they didn’t include it in the movie, but Fairuza’s like “I’ve been raped too” and I was “Fuck, really?” but it was as the character! And it was like this complete… and she was really good! I was riveted! I was like “I didn’t know that Nancy was date-raped too!” But Andy was so great with us because he let us do, as far as like improvising anything, doing things, it was so free and you really felt like you had a voice. And I think, you know, being a 22 year old actress, everybody seems like grown up so they’re the ones that are, like, giving you the rules and I think it was just a really free, great experience. He was so good with us.

Andrew Fleming: I just didn’t know what I was doing, was basically it.

And with that, the NuArt screened the film! It was great to see Robin Tunney and Andrew Fleming in person and great to hear their stories!

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About the author

Erik Hentell:

I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.