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WINCHESTER

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 WINCHESTER saga. 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 Producer 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 Predestination. But, 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 WINCHESTER forward."

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 Winchester 1906."

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 Daybreakers. They 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 Peter: "Weird."

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 vision.

"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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