HAPPY DEATH DAY
Make Every Death Count
The principal cast of Happy Death Day consists of our protagonist, as well as
the people she comes across repeatedly throughout her daily journey. As
Blumhouse films keep a close eye on production efficiency, it was necessary for
the actors to be able to take on that challenge.
For Landon, it was a no brainer to turn to Jessica Rothe for the role of Tree, a
character who is in virtually every scene of the film. The director explains:
"Jessica is unbelievable because she had to run the gamut. She had to be the
uptight bitch, but then she had to be this vulnerable girl trying to figure out
her life. On top of that, she needed to be terrified while being hunted down by
an unknown killer...and then she had to be empowered and fight back. Her range is
Blum was equally thrilled to have Rothe sign on to the project. The producer
commends: "Jessica has auditioned for us a few times before, and we have tried
to cast her in other projects. We were extremely lucky she said yes to this
Lobdell echoes Blum's praise, noting he worried just who could tackle such a
didactic character: "I do not think anyone thought it was possible to get Tree
from the page to the screen until Jessica walked in the door. She handled the
horror, the comedy, the toughness, the vulnerability, the resolve and the
spontaneity with such aplomb."
Rothe was immediately hooked with the story's ability to capture her imagination
and allow her to experience and present such a range of emotions. "I love when I
read scripts that truly pop off the page, capture your emotions and allow you to
invest in the lives of the characters. This was one of those scripts for me. The
amazing balance of humor, horror, action and heart is something you just do not
The performer reflects on the exact moment she was positive she had to play
Tree: "I knew I had to do this film was when I read the 'Tree dies six ways
while looking for her killer and living her life like a badass set to upbeat pop
music' montage," she laughs. "This montage is everything that is brilliant about
the film. We watch Tree become an active participant in her life instead of a
victim, but it is fun-at moments scary-and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Tree is a true modern-day scream queen, and her transformation from bitchy
victim to badass heroine is one you do not get to see often. I knew that I had
to play her, get in her skin, move around and take her out for a spin."
"Our film is unique in the sense that the moments of heart-pounding suspense are
sandwiched with humor, everything from biting wit to fart jokes," continues
Rothe. "I have always found that the most effective films are those that utilize
the juxtaposition of contrasting emotions to heighten each other."
When Tree is woken up by her cell phone ringing at the beginning of our story,
the audience quickly discovers that it is her birthday. She is not thrilled
about it being her special day, and is dodging her father's phone calls...for
reasons that will soon allow for character sympathy. It quickly becomes clear
that she is not a nice person-and one that has many enemies that might be
interested in her vanishing. Landon sets up her personality: "Tree is initially
your stereotypical sorority girl. The world that she exists in is all about
appearances: She is focused on her looks, her body and her Instagram." He
pauses. "Still, you get a sense that deep down that is not who she truly is."
When bleary-eyed Tree looks around, she finds herself in the dorm room of
Carter-having slept in his bed after a night of drinking all the booze. Tree,
having no recollection of the night before-and mortified to be in a dorm with
someone younger than her-assumes she simply had a one night stand. Desperate to
get away from him, she heads for the door to start her looped day. As she keeps
waking up in the exact same place on the very same day, she comes to believe
that Carter is her only ally.
Landon turned to Israel Broussard to take on the role of Carter, and the
filmmaker was equally as thrilled about Carter accepting the part. The
performer, who made his feature-film debut in the comedy-drama Flipped, brings
to Carter an inexplicable amount of charm and honesty. Of his performance, the
director commends: "Israel is so engaging in the movie because he is the ideal
every man-he has this charming quality that makes you love him right away."
Broussard shares a bit about his interpretation of the character, who is equal
parts nerdish and dashing: "Carter does his own thing. He is very independent,
but has a good heart. He is different from the fraternity guys and the regular
college guys. At the root of it all, he is a sweet person with good intentions."
When Tree wakes up the third, fourth and even fifth time, she realizes she is
trapped in a horrifying time loop and confides in Carter to help her puzzle this
out. Together, they develop a system to unravel the mystery of her murder-in
order to put the terrifying ordeal to an end and save Tree's life. Landon
elaborates: "Carter is the only one who believes Tree. He tries to help her
solve her own murder, and is also trying to figure out how she got trapped in
Broussard reflects on how he approached reliving each day, as well as the
challenges that come with it: "Chris set us up mentally for where we needed to
be in each moment. For my character, it is the same thing every time. It is
truly up to Tree because she is the one having the different experiences. My
character's response is different only because of her actions-since she has
already lived through the day. At first, I am there simply to say, 'Hey, you're
Reflecting upon our heroine's different behaviors as each day goes on, Broussard
says: "Tree is a wild card. She can be crazy, but you get to see a bunch of
different sides to her each day."
Landon gives an example of her blossoming personality: "There is a scene where
Tree and Carter are at a diner, and she burps and farts in front of him because
he is going to forget about it anyways. Since she is so buttoned up and worried
about what people think of her on the outside, these changes were fun to
To play the role of Lori, Tree's studious and responsible roommate, Landon
enlisted actress Ruby Modine. Audiences first learned of Modine following her
breakout role on Showtime's critically acclaimed television series Shameless.
Modine introduces us to her character: "Lori is in the sorority and a nursing
student, and she is a bit more off-beat than the other girls. Tree is messy and
parties a lot; she is always coming home as odd hours of the day. Hence the way
Lori always throws at Tree the phrase 'She finally rolls in...'."
Rothe appreciates Modine's astute assessment: "Tree is a total slob, and Lori is
a neat freak. Lori aces all of her classes, while Tree is just coasting by. They
are ships that pass in the night-roommates who tolerate each other but are no
longer close friends."
Actor Charles Aitken, who recently starred in TV's The Knick, was selected for
the role of Gregory, the adulterous college professor who charms Tree. She only
enrolls in his class because she thinks he is attractive, and they end up having
an affair-one of the many scandalous things Tree will admit to during her daily
routine. Rothe shares: "Gregory is married, so the affair is not a good choice
on Tree's part. Her decision to get involved with him is in line with her
tendency to push boundaries...and truly seeing how far she can take things." She
reflects: "I also think there is a part of her that is self-loathing and feels
she deserves to be in pain."
For the role of the harsh and no-nonsense sorority president Danielle,
production selected actress Rachel Matthews. Matthews thoroughly enjoyed
inhabiting the brutally honest mean girl of Happy Death Day, divulging:
"Danielle was a fun role to play. Tree is definitely her 'frenemy.' She is her
best friend, but it is a love-hate relationship."
"Danielle and Tree do not trust each other, and they are always taking digs at
each other-especially Danielle," Landon expands. "You can tell that there is a
jealousy thing going on there, and that Tree has stolen countless boyfriends or
love interests from Danielle. They are always at war with each other, and yet
they have to pretend to be best friends."
The ensemble cast was completed by LAURA CLIFTON (Good Night) as Stephanie,
Gregory's suspicious wife; ROB MELLO (The Magnificent Seven) as Tombs, an
accused felon killer and wounded hospital guest; CALEB SPILLYARDS (Evan's Crime)
as Tim, one of the many dates Tree blew off; PHI VU (Pitch Perfect 2) as
Carter's mouthy roommate; and JASON BAYLE (The Big Short) as David Gelbman,
Tree's exhausted father.
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