TRUTH OR DARE
About The Production
Very Personal. Very Fast.
Truth or Dare Begins
In 2016, when writer/director Jeff Wadlow, the mind behind the wildly inventive
Kick-Ass 2 and the break-out thriller Cry Wolf, was considering his next
project, he met with master horror filmmaker Jason Blum to discuss potential
opportunities for collaboration with Blumhouse. Wadlow felt that their
track-record of innovative, blockbuster thrillers-from Happy Death Day and Get
Out to Split-made the production house an ideal option. It would be a short time
later that Truth or Dare would be greenlit as the next movie from a company
known for its innovation and risk taking.
Wadlow has long been interested in the intersection of thrills, action and humor
in his art. Whether he is telling the tale of a homemade-costumed vigilante who
gets caught up in a web of violence bigger than any conspiracy he can imagine-or
producing a pulse-pounding tale in which a disgraced air marshal must prevent
mass destruction-nothing is more intriguing to him than crafting a tale in which
nothing is as it seems. In the filmmaker's world, it is crucial to always keep
the audience guessing...
Blum notes that he has wanted to work with Wadlow for some time, and Truth or
Dare felt like the ideal fit. The producer has followed his career since Cry
Wolf, and Blum appreciated that his director so deftly handles the intricacies
of horror...and just how detailed Wadlow is with story mapping.
"I love projects where we have real parameters," Blum states. "Usually it is
budgets, but even a title can be a real challenge. Jeff had this terrific idea
based on a concept we'd been playing with, and he worked on the script. He is a
writer/director with a great deal of experience, and he was very comfortable
with our budget, as well as the amount of days he'd have and the scope we laid
out. He wasn't surprised by any of it, and that allowed him to excel. As a
result, we're doing more projects together-both on our television and the movie
The newest member of the Blumhouse team walks us through the genesis of Truth or
Dare. "I had a general meeting with Jason, and we really hit it off," Wadlow
says. "We were discussing different ideas, and he asked me to come back in a few
months later. He and [executive producer] Couper Samuelson wondered if I'd be
interested in writing and directing a movie called Truth or Dare." Working from
only a general concept, the producers believed that Wadlow would bring a
fascinating take on the idea, as well as deliver a genre-bending film that is
signature to Blumhouse.
Discussing his inspiration, Wadlow says: "I wanted to make a fun, smart, scary
movie with real stakes. Cry Wolf was my first bite at the horror-genre apple,
and when Jason and Couper came to me with this germ of an idea, I thought this
was a great opportunity to create a film that audiences could buy into."
Wadlow liked the idea of crafting a narrative that explores the lengths to which
close friends will go to stay alive...one that also asks the audience: "How far
would you go to survive this game?" The filmmaker admits that he's long seen
humor in horror. "We knew it would be crucial to walk the line and make the
stakes feel very real among these friends, but also give the audience permission
to laugh at the right moments. I've always tried to find levity in the dark
parts of my own life, and it was important to walk this tightrope between raw
emotion and real laughs."
Working from a story by fellow screenwriter Michael Reisz, Wadlow and his close
collaborators-Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs-put pen to paper to explore a
thriller that was as inspired by It Follows and The Ring as it was by Donna
Tartt's The Secret History. "We built something that we hope is as dangerous as
it is fun," notes the director. "We knew this game that the characters were
playing should be smart, tailoring its evil, and it should use cracks that exist
in their relationships to get at them."
The more that Wadlow and his fellow writers developed the narrative, the more
they learned that there are versions of the game of "Truth or Dare," that exist
in almost every culture. The rules give people the go-ahead to do what they
wouldn't normally do-like kiss a crush or reveal something deeply personal.
"Rarely are we given permission to do something that we shouldn't," Wadlow says.
"We took that aspect of the game, and then we added life-or-death stakes. We say
that not only do you get to do and say these things you wouldn't normally be
allowed to, but if you don't...you're going to die. That formed a sort of perfect
storm, providing opportunities for a lot of wish fulfillment...as well as a lot of
As they worked on the screenplay, the writers knew they had to solve two issues.
They had to give the game real, life-or-death, stakes and they had to have
winners and losers. The story had to force characters to reveal their darkest
secrets...and push them as far as possible while trying to stay alive. Wadlow and
his team decided that through a series of exploitations-a deadly, heightened
version of what the game teaches us about ourselves-an ancient trickster demon
called Callux must move in for the kill. Sums Blum: "The game uses the personal
history of these kids against them."
They imagined a group of college friends who head to Mexico for one last getaway
before they begin their post-grad lives and head their separate ways. As with
any core crew, long-brewing romances and allegedly buried conflicts begin to
emerge as they prepare to say goodbye. When a handsome stranger cons our heroine
into getting her friends to play a supposedly silly game of "Truth or Dare,"
they awaken a trickster demon that is hell-bent on getting them to share their
darkest secrets or confront their deepest fear...and if they don't, they'll pay
the ultimate price. "If you want to live," says the director, "you have to
either answer as honestly as possible or do the one thing you don't want to do."
Ultimately, Callux forces the group to decide how far they are willing to go to
protect their friends. "Olivia and Markie's relationship is the central one in
the film, which is why it has to be tested," shares Wadlow. "Both of them are in
love with Lucas, and he's the third point of that triangle. They have to learn
what it is like to sacrifice everything for the ones you love, if they want to
make it out alive."
One of the more entertaining aspects of building the narrative was planting
seeds for the audience, allowing the story to move progressively into more
terrifying territory. Ultimately, every truth-or-dare sequence was designed to
highlight a flaw, weakness or secret a character had been harboring. This
ensured that it all felt organic to the character. Wadlow explains: "We show you
that this one character has a drinking problem and that one has a crush on her
best friend's boyfriend. As the game evolves, and more probing questions are
asked by-as well as more personal dares-it's my hope that the audience starts to
lean in, learning more about the players. This allows them to play along and
have fun, experiencing the dares, and having a reaction to the questions.
They're not only connecting with the characters but also enjoying Callux's
Sharing his inaugural experience working within the Blumhouse model, Wadlow
reflects: "Jason's the best kind of producer, as he is hands on when needed, and
understands what it means to be hands off. From our editor's cut to director's
cut-all throughout the process-he guided us to make the best version of what we
were doing. I appreciate that his attitude is that the film was ours to sink or
swim, and there were definitely challenges working with a budget that was a
fraction of my last film. But, ultimately, it meant our team had to be more
creative when figuring out how to tell this story. Jason has an incredibly group
of people working on his projects, and I'm so thrilled I got a chance to work
with so many of them.
Monsters or Victims?
Cast and Characters
Wadlow was most impressed that the casting team at Blumhouse, led by TERRI
TAYLOR, went all out searching for the perfect talent to embody the complex
characters. The casting department spent months finding the perfect actors who
deeply understood these roles and deeply wanted to be a part of the production.
Blum was impressed by just how quickly Wadlow was able to pull everything
together with the diverse group of performers. "We were able to attract such a
terrific cast, and that's a tribute to Jeff's involvement and the very strong
script," offers the producer. "Our movies also have a short production schedule
and they're shot in L.A; so that was also a big help."
To a person, Wadlow was moved by the commitment of his performers. "The cast did
an amazing job of bringing the characters to life, as well as introducing
personality traits that made you care about them even more," offers the
director. "They allow the audience to fall in love with the characters in these
dangerous situations, and that increases the tension three-fold."
As the production team began the process of casting, they looked to talent from
both the big and small screen. To portray Olivia and Lucas, they recruited
Pretty Little Liars' Lucy Hale and Teen Wolf's Tyler Posey. "We were so lucky to
get Lucy and Tyler," states Wadlow. "They are lovely people, and after having
gone through this grueling process together, I consider them great friends.
They're artists, and their ability to convey emotion is so authentic, so finely
tuned. They have been working since they were kids and brought all of that
experience and talent to our film; they delivered intense, thoughtful, funny,
Auditioning isn't just for the cast, it's also for the actors to see if they
want to work with the director. "During her audition, Lucy blew us out of the
room," lauds Wadlow. "She's insanely talented, and we knew we had our female
lead as soon as she finished the scene. Tyler was cast last, as that character
was one of the hardest to figure out. Lucas has to have an edge and be strong
and tough, but he also has to have this sense of openness and vulnerability at
the same time. No one embodies that more than Tyler Posey."
The heart of her tight-knit group of friends, Olivia cares more about helping
the world at large than she does about taking care of herself. She wants to
spend her spring break building houses for the less fortunate, but her best
friend, Markie, who she's known since she was little, convinces her to go on
vacation to Rosarito Beach in Mexico. When Olivia and her friends get back-and
terrifying moments can no longer be brushed off as coincidences-she has no
choice but to accept that the game is real, and that it's followed them home.
Now it's up to her to convince her friends that this is happening; if she
doesn't, people are going to lose their lives.
What interested the actress was the deep bond between the young women who are
the core of the story. Hale reveals: "Whenever I read a script, I come up with a
backstory for my character. I imagined that Olivia and Markie grew up on the
same street. Their parents were friends, and they took dance classes together.
They've been through all of the stepping stones with each other. They fight like
sisters, but at the end of the day they're blood and will always have each
Hale appreciated that Wadlow allowed the game to get more and more twisted. One
of her more memorable moments of production was when the characters try and
trick the trickster demon who's forcing them to play. "Everyone thinks, 'all we
have to do is tell the truth and we'll be fine!' But they find out that if two
people choose truth, the next one has to do a dare. It gets very dark. Earlier
in the story, Markie tells Olivia, 'I'll break your hand if you touch me again!'
When Olivia is forced to take a dare, she has to do it, or Markie will die. It
just escalates from there."
Lucas is not simply Markie's boyfriend, but he shares an unspoken crush with
Olivia. They've known each other since they were freshmen, and have made peace
with the idea that they're just going to be friends. A good guy with a strong
heart, Lucas can be tough when he needs to be. That makes for quite the
compelling character, because he's about to be in a situation where he's got to
make some life-or-death choices. The first person to believe that Olivia is
telling the truth is Lucas, because he gets his turn after her. When you get a
turn, you realize that this is not a hoax. This is not a joke. This is happening
Posey reflects that Lucas is just as unbelieving as the rest of his group that
the events are going down...until the game burns the question into his forearm.
"Even though Lucas doesn't know how to handle everything that's coming at them,
he's good at calculating and being methodical. If Olivia's the brains of the
group and the leader, he's the idea guy. He's trying to maintain peace in the
group as they learn to deal with what's happening."
The actor particularly loved Lucas' trip back to Rosarito-alongside Markie and
Olivia-to find the root of evil and stop the game once and for all. "Our
characters return to Mexico to talk to this woman and survived a massacre, and
try and figure out a way to break the curse," explains Posey. "While we're at
it, we're trying to convince the same creep that brought us out to play 'Truth
or Dare' to begin with to cut his own tongue out!"
Although Markie appears from the outside as if she's got her life
together...inside she's a bit of a hot mess. She's dealt with real tragedy in her
life. Not only is she barely holding it together in her relationship, she lost
her father after his suicide years ago. Oliva's been her rock, and their bond
will become the central relationship that is tested.
For Violett Beane, known for her work on The Resident and The Flash, the chance
to play such a complex character was a welcome one. The performer notes: "Markie
is a complicated friend who pushes Olivia into going to Mexico. She's dealing
with a lot of stuff in her personal life, and she isn't ultimately the best
girlfriend to Lucas. But she cares so much about him, and they work through
What fascinated Beane about the story is that it layered long-simmering drama
between two best friends with supernatural terror. "At first, Markie doesn't
believe the game is really happening because Olivia exposes a secret of hers.
She can't believe that Olivia would do that just because someone dared her to.
She wants to believe that it could have been for jealousy reasons. It takes
Markie a bit longer to believe, until she's forced to break Olivia's hand."
Filling out the rest of the group are Tyson, who is getting ready to go to
medical school. As much as he feels that he's God's gift to the world, Tyson's
friends give him a pass because of his witty ways. The production selected Nolan
Gerard Funk, known for his breakthrough role in Riddick and recent turn on TV's
Counterpart, to play the morally questionable charmer.
Tyson is dating Penelope, who also lives with Olivia and Markie. Played by
Grey's Anatomy's Sophia Taylor Ali, Penelope is the life of the party-sweet,
fun, beautiful, and down for anything. Still, the fact that she parties a bit
too much might just be her downfall.
Last, but not least, is Brad, who is the heart of the group. Struggling to come
to terms with his sexuality, he hasn't come out to his parents yet. His dad is a
no-nonsense police officer, which has created a lot of tension in Brad's life.
Ultimately, it's an issue he's going to have to work out throughout the course
of the story.
Brad is portrayed by Hayden Szeto, whose breakout role was in The Edge of
Seventeen, and his performance impressed his fellow performers. States Hale:
"Brad has kept this secret from his dad for a very long time, and his biggest
fear is being truthful with his dad. That's why this movie's so interesting: we
have all these secrets that are weighing on us. Once we tell them, it can help
in a way...even though it's such a twisted dark game."
Landon Liboiron, of the Netflix series Hemlock Grove, was cast to play Carter,
who deceptively brings Olivia and her friends into the game. Wadlow explains how
the character was supposed to be a new beginning for our heroine. "For Olivia,
this feels like a sign that it is time to move on from Lucas and stop pining for
him. She thinks, 'I'm going to take a risk.' When the night is winding down and
she meets this charismatic, friendly, considerate guy at the bar-and the group
is pondering what to on their last night in Mexico-Carter says, 'I know
someplace we can go...'"
The director reflects that it is hard to describe Carter as either a monster or
a victim, because he is a bit of both. He is the reason why the characters find
themselves in this mess, but he didn't want to be in this situation either.
Ultimately, that is the beginning of Olivia's character arc. "At the beginning
of the game, Brad asks her, 'If you could choose to save your friends, but let
the entire population of Mexico die-or save the entire population of Mexico, but
your friends would have to die-what would you choose? By the end of the movie,
she has a very different answer than the one she provides in the beginning.'"
Cast set, the performers fulfilled Wadlow and Blum's objective of providing the
audience with fully rounded characters to care about. The director offers his
logic: "If you push someone who is already morally questionable into a
compromising situation, you don't care as much about the outcome. We wanted to
portray multidimensional characters you connect with and like. These aren't
placeholders waiting to die, like they often are in horror movies. What makes
very human, real moments all the more heartbreaking is that the game is using
them against our characters, and there's very little they can do to stop
it...other than play."
You're in the Game:
Shooting the Thriller
Wadlow's team finished a draft of the screenplay in fall 2016, continued
development with Blumhouse for about six months, and then wrapped casting
approximately a year ago. Their prep began in April 2017, then they shot Truth
or Dare immediately after.
The director describes a particularly interesting exercise to get his story
ready for filming: "After we had written the script, we listed all of the truths
and all of the dares and gave them values on a 10-point scale. Then we listed
them in order that they occur in the film, and we made sure the values went up
as the movie progressed. That attention to detail allowed us to have a film
where you feel the tension, constantly rising."
Alongside a key crew that included collaborators such as director of photography
Jacques Jouffret, Wadlow's A-camera operator on his second film-and Michael Mann
and Peter Berg's go-to operator; co-producer and first assistant director JAMES
MORAN; production designer Melanie Paizis-Jones, who served in that capacity on
Whiplash, The Purge and Insidious: The Last Key; and costumer Lisa Norcia, of
The Purge and Whiplash fame; Wadlow's team was ready for a well-planned shoot.
They were joined by stunt coordinator STEVE RITZI-in his third film with Wadlow.
Along with ALAN D'ANTONI (stunt rigger on Baby Driver), Ritzi handled Truth or
Dare's extensive stuntwork sequences.
"It was important to both Jason and me that we only collaborate with key
creative crew that we'd worked with before, so they would understand the
parameters and the kind of movie we were trying to make," Wadlow notes. "Since
we were on a 23-day shooting schedule in Los Angeles-with only one day in
preproduction to take the cast to Mexico so they could bond a bit-we knew it
would be a very tight shoot. My editor joked that we shot 40 days in 23."
The movie begins when the characters are nearing the end of four years together
in college. To help the actors bond before the movie began, so you really
believed in their friendships and their shared history, Wadlow took them on a
road trip to Mexico for a 24-hour pseudo-spring break. "When we piled in a van
and went to Mexico together, I gave them all iPhones to shoot footage of each
other. It's really personal, and we decided to fold that footage into the film."
For the director, one of the scenes that was most intense to shoot was the dare
in which Penelope must walk the roof while drinking a handle of vodka. "We take
a character who has a drinking problem, and the game makes her finish an entire
bottle, while walking the perimeter of their roof, which is 30 feet off the
ground. It was visually interesting to shoot that, and difficult from a
technical standpoint, given how small our budget was and how short our schedule
was." Wadlow laughs, "I can't believe we spent five nights up there!"
Blum agrees with his director, noting he appreciated the skill and technique it
took from all involved: "My favorite scene is when Penelope is walking on the
edge of the roof. Not because walking on the edge of a roof is that original,
but it is the way that Jeff and Jacque shot it. The way they filmed it makes you
really, really nervous."
He wasn't the only one who was nervous, but under the watchful eyes of D'Antoni
and Ritzi, everyone could take an easy breath. Discussing the scene, Ali
recalls: "Filming up on the roof was a lot a fun, but it was terrifying. I feel
like if I would have filmed something like that on a green screen I'd have had
to simulate a lot of the fear. Being up there-as fun as it was and as
comfortable and safe as I felt-I still remember thinking, 'I'm on a ROOF right
now!' and I drew from my own fear of falling."
Art Imitates Life:
To capture the moments when Callux possesses his latest victim-asking the
infamous question of "Truth or Dare" and showing his devious smile, the
filmmakers turned to a familiar face. The director walks us through the
backstory: "Early on, I started to conceptualize what that would look like. I
wanted to avoid tropes we've seen before-the milky eyes and ashen face. I
thought about the spirit of the game and the mischief involved and decided that
the possessed-look should convey that mischief."
Since Wadlow was a little kid, whenever he doodles, he draws this evil smile.
That drawing inspired the look for the possession moments. He continues: "I
started pitching it to concept artists, and I talked to our visual FX supervisor
about it. We shot a test, and it quickly became apparent that this was the way
to go. Then, I reverse engineered it when you see the Callux demon face on
different pieces of art work, the wall, etc. I gave him the same smile, which
became the signature look for our villain in the film. After we showed the movie
to an audience for the first time, they loved it. This woman came out of the
theater, looked at me and said, 'Oh, my God, that's the smile! It's your smile!'
I never realized that I had been doodling my own evil smile all these years, but
I guess I was!''
Production wrapped, Wadlow reflects what he'd like for audiences to take away
from Truth or Dare. He concludes: "I hope people have a great time watching our
film...that they're scared, laugh and are intrigued. We want them to be
emotionally invested in the characters, and when the movie is over, feel like
they just witnessed the ultimate game of 'Truth or Dare.'"
For Blum, his latest thriller is the perfect example of what works with his
production company's micro-budget model. He ends: "When you have a great story,
great actors and a great director, the scares are a lot less important. What
makes a movie scary is what comes in between the scares, not necessarily the
scares themselves. What Jeff did, like the other great directors we've worked
with, is ensure that the storytelling that comes in between the scares is
A-plus, and that makes the scares really land."
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