Interview: Matt Reeves, writer and director of Let Me In

Matt Reeves pictureDisc Dish had a lively conversation with filmmaker Matt Reeves, co-creator and writer of TV’s Felicity, helmer of the 2008 mad monster movie Cloverfield and, most recent, writer/director of Let Me In (DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.99, Anchor Bay, released Feb. 1, 2011). (Read our Blu-ray review.)

The acclaimed coming-of-age vampire film stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Richard Jenkins (Dear John) and is based on the novel by Sweden’s John Lindqvist. Let Me In is actually second film based on Lindqvist’s 2004 book, following the 2008 Swedish version Let the Right One In.

Disc Dish: Okay, we’ve got to start with your working with Hammer Films, the venerable British studio that got back into production with Let Me In. They’ve certainly had some experience working with all things vampiric.

Matt Reeves: Hammer was great! Apparently, they had been following John Lindqvist’s novel since before the original Swedish version of the film came out and they were excited to get the rights to the novel. Maybe the Swedish producers were acknowledging Hammer’s heritage! And think they understood and appreciated that I was focusing on the coming of age aspect of the story. Of course, as producers, they had questions about direction and the screenplay and all that, but I also know they were excited about me being a writer/director because they wanted a sense of authorship in the piece.

DD: I sort of imagine a bunch of ominous-looking, well-suited older men like Peter Cushing lurking around the set…

Let Me In DVD boxMR: Maybe we shouldn’t ruin that image! Yes, yes….and Christopher Lee was always there keeping an eye on everything!

DD: Let Me In is based on a Swedish novel, it’s a remake of a Swedish film and it maintains a kind of barren, Swedish sensibility. So what are your feelings on Sweden?

MR: One of the great byproducts of the film is the Swedish connection. I had gotten in touch with John in Stockholm and he told me how much he enjoyed Cloverfield and how much that film’s story resonated with him and that if I had any questions for him while I was writing the adaptation, I should contact him. I wrote him a couple of times while working on the script. He actually ended up seeing the movie in London the day it came out and he really liked it. And he was psyched that there was not one but two versions of his first novel!

DD: Have you ever met Lindqvist in person?

MR: Yes, while my wife and I were in Europe promoting the movie, he invited my wife and I to stay with him and his wife in Stockholm for a couple of days. It was exceptionally sunny while we were there and I know it isn’t always like that. So beautiful there.

DD: You’ve said that Let Me In like Cloverfield is “a fresh take on an old tale.”

MR: That was the appeal of the story! In the novel and first film, I saw the vampire story as a metaphor for the pain of adolescence. It was very fresh and also quite personal. In a genre film, they sneaked something in under the surface. With Cloverfield, I took an idea of something almost ridiculous — a monster destroying New York — to tap into something that audiences could relate to. I wanted to take a fantasy, a nightmare fantasy, and make it real. I wanted to do that in Let Me In, to put a metaphor, a subtext, beneath the surface of a genre film and make it real.

DD: Am I crazy or can most of what’s coming out Hollywood be considered genre cinema, with the exception of The Social Network, perhaps?

MR: The Social Network is definitely an exception! When you’re David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, I imagine you can pull that off. But, yes, we’re in an environment that’s not friendly to dramas any more. I think of some of my favorite films from the 1980s — Ordinary People, Kramer vs. Kramer, Raging Bull — and they were all character-centric dramas. They were all movies about characters. But that’s just not the case today. So the trick is to fit the drama and character into an overarching genre story.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.