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Q&A – Steve Zahn Says A Perfect Getaway Forced Him to Pay Attention

A Perfect Getaway Forced Him to Pay Attention” width=”560″/>

It’s the summer of the plot twist. Think about it. Moon, Orphan, and now A Perfect Getaway. At first glance, this last movie looks like a standard thriller, but the surprise in this one is a game-changer: It’s not so much a whodunit, as a howdunit, as Steve Zahn explains to AMC News. 

Q: Your character is teased for not having any “situational awareness.” But really, it’s the audience who’s being teased…

A: People are smart, especially with this genre. You know you’re supposed to watch things, even if you didn’t know [there’s a twist coming]. When I first got the script, I was really blown away by it. I was like, “I have to start paying attention.” You can solve this. And you’ll be right, sometimes. But it’s not about being right. It’s about how. “If I’m right about this, then how… ?” And then the film answers it. It’s brilliant. It actually answers questions as you’re thinking them. “What about…?” “Oh!” You know?

Q: How do you stay ahead of the audience then?

A: The tendency is to be too complicated, to add too much, which
doesn’t really work. If you simplify, it’s harder, but that works, if
you can pull it off. It goes all the way back to Psycho. Movies
with twists like that are memorable because they’re so simple. What’s
great about this is you keep bopping from person to person — maybe
it’s this person.

Q: There’s lots of “red snappers,” as Timothy Olyphant’s character calls red herrings…

A: There’s a bunch, right? There’s a guy struggle thing between
Tim’s character and mine. My guy is completely out of his element.
Actually, I would be in my element in this situation. It’s my kind of
thing. But he’s a screenwriter, which is something I’m attuned to — I
have plenty of friends who are screenwriters, and they’re pretty
interesting, smart people who kind of fall into that stereotype.
They’re cynical; they’re a little ahead of other people as far as
intelligence… but what kind of intelligence has value out here? Being
able to gut a pig, or being able to come up with something interesting
to say? We never can find our common ground because of that.

Q: And he’s really hard to kill.

A: And he’s really hard to kill. [Laughs] And he is. I tried killing him three times, for real. It didn’t work.

Q: How did you try to kill him?

A: With a straw.

Q: Like what, spitting something through a straw at him?

A: That, and I tried stabbing him with it. It didn’t work. He was like, “What are you doing?” Don’t use a straw. I learned that.

Q: It takes place in Hawaii, but you shot it in Puerto Rico. How did that affect the various layers of pretend that happen here?

A: It was more bizarre. It’s always bizarre to shoot something
that’s supposed to be taking place somewhere else. Most of the scenes
that were tight, everything was fine, like the rain forests. But the
shoreline is distinctively different. So we shot images of the coast
where this actually takes place and superimpose that in the background.
So you’re on a cliff, on a beautiful ocean, and you have a green screen
in front of you, because it didn’t match that coast. I thought that was
fascinating. And I was like, I’m double acting: I’m acting that I’m
this person, and I’m acting that I’m looking at a beautiful coastline,
and not the one that’s right there. Very strange. Film is a strange
thing. Especially here, when you had to know how the camera was moving,
and if it was a close-up, you really had to know. You had to minimize
everything. The slightest look could give away something.

But the environment, I think, makes you focus really specifically on these characters. It’s like The Thing. It’s in the Arctic, and no one watching can relate to it, so everyone’s in the same boat — characters and audience.

Q: You’ve been breaking out of the typecasting that usually placed you in the role of funny sidekick.

A: I moved to New York to do theater, and I got cast in a play that
was funny, and then I was the funny guy. I did a movie that was funny,
and then I was the funny guy. I look at it like, I’m just a character
actor. If I get cast as the stoned sidekick, fine. But I just want to
act. I want to keep working. Longevity, you know? But is it a great
thing to go do Rescue Dawn with Werner Herzog? Yeah,
absolutely. I’m always seeking out different things. And I knew,
consciously, this would be good for that. It’s getting more exciting
for me now.

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