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May 2006
The Omen: An Interview with Director John Moore

The Omen: An Interview with Director John Moore
By Kara Warner
June 04, 2006

John Moore is another director who came from the world of commercials just like Michael Bay, and for his first film, "Behind Enemy Lines", he scored a sleeper hit with Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, who somewhat what shed his comedic skills to be serious for a change. On his next film, "Flight of the Phoenix", which is a remake of the original, reviews were tepid and we couldn't tell if Moore has the stuff to stay in the game. Well, with his third film coming up, Moore will hope that three's charm, or better yet, 666. In recreating a classic, Moore has assembled the cast of Live Schreiber, Julia Stiles, and screen legend Mia Farrow to be in the remake of the horror film, The Omen. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Moore talks about the cast in the film and how the use of gore wasn't necessary in this horror genre.

There are a lot of reaction shots...

JM: You listen to somebody like Liev (Schrieber) who's smarter than I am, because he was constantly saying to me, "Let me show it. Don't say it". And he's right, and it makes for better movie making, because most of our lives are spent thinking and not talking. There's a lot of silence, we're thinking, we're emoting all the time. That's what sets him apart from most actors, that unique ability to convey a complex thought through a look on his face; very few people have it. Gene Hackman had it, in my opinion, I've worked with him before. With Gene, it's like, "I'm going to kick your ass". Not a lot of people, in my experience so far, has asked about the title of the movie. It's become like a brand name, like a logo. I was guilty of that. I said "fuck this". I'm going to research the word and know the meaning of the word. Of course it means, a warning, so it actually means something good. The Omen is an ignored warning, it's a sign. So when you think about that, for a lot of the movie, Liev's character is trying to read these signs. To answer your question, that's why the reaction shot is used a lot. You don't get to do it movies these days because everyone wants it quicker and quicker. In television, with "CSI", nobody has to contemplate anything. It's a long winded answer, but he has to figure it out. We decided to buck the trend and show an actor going through the process.

This is your second remake...dream cast. How did you get these actors?

JM: Two things, it's a testament to how good the original script was. It's a story that actors were really interested to tell, like a part in "Death of a Salesman" or "Hamlet". They want to try their take of that. So no doubt the material was attractive. To be quite honest, I thought the only way I'm going to get these guys is don't do the Hollywood bullshit thing, have your agent call my manger, make me an offer kind of thing. So I picked up the phone and I called them all, one by one. I'm nobody, who, John Moore, what? I think they enjoyed the fact that I didn't read any of them. Traditionally you come in and read. I offered them the part on the phone. I said, "If you'll do it...please come and do this". No crap, you'll have fun and all the bagels you can eat. There wasn't a big payday for any of these actors. This is a relatively small budget movie. So the material, and what I hope is the personal touch. It's not done nowadays. It's all power players and managers who keep artists from material they want to do.

All these actors are amazing, but they're not many names...

JM: This is like the planets lining up. It happens once in a while, to get all these guys. You just don't have David, or Mia, or Live. Pete Postlewait, when he turns up in the embassy, "We haven't much time Mr. Thorn". That's like, whoa, what the fuck just happened, the way he can't let his hands down. To be around that education, because I haven't done actor heavy movies, I was a bit afraid that I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. I can crash airplanes like nobody's business. I'm your man if you want to crash airplanes, but the actor stuff I was scared of. They helped me out.

British all-star actors, Mia calls Liev the Olivier of his day, is it hard to tell them what to do?

JM: It is hard and you have to stay the course. It's intimidating to go up to a guy, the first day with Gene Hackman I changed his performance. Somebody was like, whoa, you told Gene Hackman what to do. He's going to kick your ass. But they're actors, they want to be directed. Really good actors want to serve the vision of the movie. Either way, as an instruction, it's helpful, even if it's something to discuss, it's better than going "great, move on". So I think you have to swallow hard, put on your helmet and pads, and get in there.

How did you know Mia would be perfect?

JM: I didn't know I just hoped. I thought she might get tickled by the role. She's offered twenty movies a week. She decides not to do them, but she is offered twenty movies a week. She's Mia Farrow. I hoped the movie would tickle here, the idea of the movie. After that, we only had one note, Blalock should be deceptive. In the original, Billie Whitelaw comes in and she's bad, she's evil. With Mia, we thought it wouldn't be credible if she starts to boss Cathy around. You know, act from another century. I think this is why she's so good. She plays this whole, "Hi, nice to meet you." But it's chilling when she turns.

Big fan of the original...why eight minute prologue?

JM: The text didn't need it, but this take needed it. I was keen for this movie to be taken very seriously. There's sub-genre of "hey, we're not really serious horror movies". Like "Saw", I think you pay five bucks to see a movie like that, not ten. I used the open sequence to help imbed the movie, make people sit up and take it seriously. Because the premise of the movie is that the antichrist is coming now, no foretelling, foretelling. ???? (Inaudible) has spent his life chasing this demon, and now he sees that everything is lining up, and he makes this slightly dry, but desperate appeal to the Pope and to the cardinals. It's now fellas, games on, its showtime. I think that tends to make people follow the fable a bit more, because they've got the story in the back of their head.

Back story of the Thorns, original movie made that play out...

JM: I made the decision to cast Thorn younger. I had a credibility issue of him immediately being the ambassador to Great Britain. It's such a senior role. There's also an opportunity to kick off the fun a little earlier. You see Damien's hand at play a little earlier.

No gratuitous gore...

JM: No, there can't be in this movie.

Did the studio want more to cater to demographic audience?

JM: To be honest, it would be easy for me to tell a good lie and say that was the case, but we were all on the same team. I had made three movies with the same team at the studio. We know each other well and there wasn't a divergent opinion about that at all. I don't know what's going on with those fucking dumb ass "dude I used a hundred gallons of blood and you only used eighty". Don't pay ten bucks to see them. I'm to start a movement. Pay five bucks, have a good time for eighty-three minutes. There's not enough, you come away with...to have gore in "The Omen" or have death by Ipod, it would have just debunked it. The thing about the deaths, if you deconstruct it, it is a film about killings to clear the path, a domino effect. You have a hanging, an impaling, a beheading, an immolation, they're all ancient forms of killing. That kind of echoes the notion that this has been going on for eons. You can't really break those rules when you're killing someone in "The Omen". By the end of the fifth movie they ran out of inventive ways to kill people, some guy got killed by his toaster in the fifth.

The beheading is kind of gory...

JM: We've seen beheadings on the telly so I think there's something to that.

Would you ever remake the sequel?

JM: I wouldn't personally want to be involved, but I can see why it's a tantalizing proposition. It's reflecting the mood of the country in the end. So I could see that there is a tantalizing prospect there, but they'll get someone smarter.

THE OMEN opens on June 6th, 2006 (6-6-06)


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