Locking In: The Spierig Brothers Come Aboard
"This is a ghost story. A scary haunted house ghost story. What's unique
about it? It is based on a real
person. There's a real house that still exists. A real situation. A story, a
history, with a lot of modern
connotations as well. These ghosts haunted Sarah Winchester because of that gun,
a real invention.
THIS is about the real woman," says Peter Spierig.
A woman, adds his collaborating twin brother Michael, who "always felt like a
woman out of time.
"We saw her as a person that was plagued by the legacy of this gun...an
intelligent, progressive thinking
woman who's been misconstrued as a crazy person."
That was the lure for The Spierig Brothers to become involved in the
To Michael's memory, their part in the project began in 2012. "What initially
happened was, we read a
script. It was called THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE written by Tom Vaughan with
Brett Tomberlin. There were elements to that script that we liked. We were like
this house sounds
incredible! So, we visited it. Peter and I fell in love with the house, did the
infamous house tour - a big
tourist attraction. We came on board and worked on the script for the better
part of two years, developing
ideas, continually researching and going back to the house. We then brought on
board Tim McGahan who
made a deal with our Executive Producers Benedict Carver and Daniel Diamond and
we began to put the
cast of the film together. Once Helen Mirren came on board that opened the
floodgates: Jason Clarke and
Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson, Bruce Spence, Eamon Farren - all of these wonderful
actors joined and that
was true joy.
"Helen solidified the film."
The Brothers had previously teamed with Producer McGahan on their film
Peter notes, their history together actually goes back much further. "Grade 6.
We go back to grade
6! We went to him and said 'Let's figure out how to do another one together.'
Tim helped propel
Adds McGahan, "There is a bit of a shorthand here! We've worked together on
TV commercials and
this is our second film together. We understand each other, almost preempt each
other's decisions. Their
previous films have always been about creating worlds." Lifetime friendships
aside, "The Spierigs are
great world creators and this story needed that...the way they do it is what
really helped set the scene of
What drew McGahan to the script "was a thriller with more depth, more
substance, a human being
grappling with guilt and how she tries to reconcile it," he says. "I liked the
idea that it was a true story and
that Sarah Winchester had this incredible opportunity because of the Winchester
Rifle fortune but there
was a catch - the guilt that came from all of the people that died because of
it. And when you're dealing
with a real story and real characters you've got a responsibility to be true to
(the essence) of their story.
The reward is a story that's well grounded. There's honesty and truth in this
one and I think audiences
will pick up on it."
Producer Tomberlin's involvement actually preceded the trio. "It started
about 11 years ago when we
were looking for a project that was an actual supernatural thriller," he says.
Being a graduate of Santa
Clara University he was familiar with the Winchester Mystery House that was
nearby. "It was such an
iconic world brand we thought about acquiring the rights." He soon learned other
producers and directors
were pursuing it, including "Stephen King, who ultimately made Rose Red about
the Winchester House."
Once the rights were acquired in 2006, the project was in development for
another seven years until
"we stumbled upon the Spierig brothers who were coming off of Predestination and
wanted their own take on the script, which we ultimately developed."
Working with two directors at the same time was a first for Helen Mirren,
with numerous television and
film productions to her credit (not to mention all of her theatre performances).
"I think with any directing teams you do need that deep psychological
understanding of the other person,
which obviously, in the case of twins it becomes much stronger and it's
fascinating seeing how that plays
out," she says. "It is really like speaking with one person and it comes out of
two different mouths. They
do fulfill different roles as well. That's very clear."
As for achieving that shared vision between twins co-writing and co-directing
such a twisted supernatural
thriller, Michael Spierig summed up the process for both he and his brother
As filmmakers, "we get asked that a lot - how the dual directing thing plays
out?" he muses. "I guess
because we grew up together and sort of fell in love with the same movies, we
really do have a shared
"Because we also write, we collaborate so early in the process, throwing
ideas back and forth, there's
never two different thoughts going in different directions. We plan so
carefully, we storyboard
everything, discuss everything in such detail, there's never any sort of
confusion. It's very much a 50-50
collaboration. Occasionally we split up and shoot separate units at the same
time, which can be helpful.
But yeah...it's weird."
"I do not believe in anything I cannot see or study."
...Dr. Eric Price
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