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In order to protect the story and its secrets from being revealed in the blogosphere, the script to the horror thrill ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ was kept under tight wraps and the filmmakers wrote fake sides when auditioning the remaining principals, which of course became its own entertaining exercise. Remembers Joss Whedon, “In Curt’s case, it was a pterodactyl movie; in Holden and Jules’ scene, about tentacles in a Jacuzzi; Marty had a monologue about something made entirely of claws. So basically, it was take the exact character that you’re looking for and then put him or her in a different movie.”
The search for the younger roles wasn’t easy, as the filmmakers required actors who could play authentic, real characters as well as the stereotypes they are forced to become. The casting team was prescient enough to cast Chris Hemsworth in the role of Curt before his quick rise to movie stardom in ‘Thor’ and Whedon’s upcoming ‘The Avengers’.
Explains Drew Goddard, “Chris has a presence that’s impossible to deny, and you could feel it the moment he walked into the room. He can inhabit that star quarterback role that’s so common in these types of movies, but he has an instinctual ability to find the character’s humanity without playing the stereotype, which was crucial to casting this role.”
Remembers Hemsworth, “I got the part and I was speaking to my agent and he’s like, ‘Congratulations. This is great.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, has anyone read the script?’ And they’re like, ‘Nope.’ It was all on the bet of Joss’ and Drew’s reputation that this was going to be a good thing. And then I read the script and loved it. I think it’s a real talent to be able to write an emotional, high-stakes story and weave comedy through it. They’re impressive, talented guys.”
Both filmmakers agreed that one young adult role – Dana – had to be filled before the rest of the ensemble could be cast around her. Their search was long and frustrating, yielding no viable options, until their luck took a turn with Kristen Connolly. Whedon remembers, “The moment we saw her on tape there was no doubt in my mind at all. Her audition tape was so good we could have put it in the movie.”
“Dana’s just a regular person who doesn’t start out thinking that she’s really a bad-ass,” says Connolly. “What’s cool about Joss is that he makes heroes out of the people who you wouldn’t expect. Dana’s just a regular kid whose strength comes out of her love for her friends and out of necessity.”
Actor Fran Kranz, who worked on Whedon’s series, “Dollhouse,” impressed the filmmakers with the depth of his audition for the role of Marty. “Most actors came in to audition and it was one dimension. It was just, ‘I’m the guy who smokes pot,’” remembers Goddard. “But Fran was able to find that loneliness and innocence within the part that we thought was so important to the film.”
In a reversal of traditional horror movie morality, which usually stipulates that the druggie friend be an easy, unwitting victim, Marty’s stoner paranoia helps him sniff out the truth behind the cabin. “He ends up seeing through the manipulation of the control room guys,” says Kranz. “He senses something weird is going on.”
Adds Whedon, “Marty is the one who everybody discounts. Everybody humiliates the fool and makes fun of him; he’s the jester who gets kicked around. But he’s the guy who senses what’s going on.”
In the role of Holden, whose character becomes the stiff intellectual of the group, the buff, good-looking actor Jesse Williams seems like an atypical choice, but Goddard reveals this was exactly their intention. “We wanted to play against type, to drive home the marginalization that can happen in these movies. Jesse knew how to inhabit the awkward introspection at the core of Holden, which plays in direct contrast to his matinee-idol charisma.”
“When he puts on the glasses to play the nerdier version of himself,” says Whedon, “Jesse completely transforms. It’s some of my favorite footage from the whole film.”
For his part, Williams enjoyed being cast against type. “Holden’s a smart guy and he plays it safe,” says the actor. “He’s not a huge risk taker, and not really the alpha male kind of role. It was fun to play, especially some of the awkward moments with Dana, Kristen Connolly’s character.”
Rounding out the principal ‘Cabin’ cast, Anna Hutchison committed enthusiastically to the “hot blonde” role of Jules, bringing depth to a character who is objectified by the control room bosses.
Remembers Whedon, “Anna totally got the irony of the violence and sexual situations. Everything excited her. She’d face plant like a stuntwoman. She’d throw herself all over the place. We’d tell her not to and she’d do it anyway. And every take there was something new – an ad-lib or a moment of spark, energy. She gives a huge amount as an actress.”