EXCLUSIVE Interview: Producer/Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick Talks THE FINAL WISH & Sequel Possibi
From the mind that brought us FINAL DESTINATION, comes a new tale of terror from screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick (pictured above), THE FINAL WISH. Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., the film follows Aaron Hammond (MICHAEL WELCH), who, following the death of his father, returns to his hometown to help his devastated mother (LIN SHAYE) and to confront his past demons. Upon arriving home and sifting through his father’s belongings, Aaron comes upon a mysterious item that is far more sinister than it appears. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Reddick about what inspired the film as well as what his plans are for the film going forward should it have a sequel. Check it out below...
BT: First off, thanks for taking the time to speaking with MOVERS & SHAKERS UNLIMITED...Could you tell me what provided the inspiration for this feature, THE FINAL WISH?
JR: Absolutely! Well, the interesting thing is, I started my career at New Line Cinema - which, in my opinion, is one of the best movie studios ever....
(Continuing)...and back in the day, when I worked there, you could write treatments (outlines, basically) for movies without having to write scripts.
JR: (Continuing) This prospect of doing treatments was quite useful [in my career as a screenwriter], because a lot of times, one studio [using your script] may want to take your story in one direction, while another studio may decide to take it in a completely different direction. So, as a result, I got into the habit of writing a lot of treatments for stories that I wanted to tell. In that same way, the script for this film started as a treatment that was inspired by stories such as "The Monkey's Paw," which go by that saying: "Be careful what you wish for..."
Additionally, [in regards to this film] I'd also been fascinated by the story of the Jinn - specifically the figure found in Middle Eastern mythology. The reason being that I enjoy telling stories that tap into our universal fears [as people] and also how these fears can come back on us somehow.
BT: I see...
JR: Therefore I wanted to create story that was a little personal for me, because like the character of Aaron, I left home - right out of high school I went to college, then went to New York and never looked back. So, like the lead character [in this film], I felt guilty, in a way, leaving my family behind to go and pursue my dreams...
JR: (Continuing) A journey faced by Aaron in THE FINAL WISH; however, the only difference [between him and I] is that he goes off and leaves his family to become a lawyer (unsuccessfully), but returns home, following his father's sudden passing, to help his mother handle the estate.
JR: Michael Welsch, plays Aaron, and Lin Shaye, who's an amazing actress, play his mother - who, as a character, holds some grudges against Aaron for not being there...
JR: (switching gears) Now, as previously stated, I love the idea of the Jinn, and also [having the freedom] to take it (the film's story) as dark as I wanted. Initially, the story began as a treatment - one of a few that I was working on at the time. However, among those various stories that I was working on, this one was my favorite, so I reached out to some friends of mine - William Halfon and Jonathan Doyle, who are really strong writers - to collaborate with me on the script. They then took the story that I had outlined [for this film] and helped to flesh it out further. The process was quite fun! It was certainly more adult than most of the stuff that I've done before...I mean, [don't get me wrong] I still like killing teenagers on film!
JR: It never gets old! (Laughing)
JR: Yet, in the case, of this film, I just sat down with William and Jon, and worked on the script until we all had something that we were really happy with...
BT: I see, I see...
JR: [Around this time] Timothy Woodward, Jr. has hitting me up on social media to see if I had any projects available, but at the time I was kind of tied up in various things [due to being a one-man show]; consequently, I was having a hard time being super responsive to him [on social media]. Nevertheless though, Timothy was persistent, which [is a quality that] I love about him. He's a good ol' Southern boy who just doesn't take no for an answer, but...(Laughing)
JR: ...he sent me some trailers for a couple of his movies, and I was like, "Wow! This guy has a really great visual style, and he also has some really good actors in his films too!" Upon sharing these sentiments with him, he, of course was like, "So now do you have something available?!" (Laughing)
JR: Relenting, I was like, "Al-right...I'll meet 'ya for lunch." (Laughing)
JR: About 15 minutes into the lunch - which included the other writers and fellow producer, Thommy Hutson - Timothy "sold us" that he was indeed the right guy for the film. He was so passionate and had so many great ideas that we were all convinced that he needed to be the person to direct this film.
(Commenting further on Timothy's ideas) What I like about him - and how it's translated to this film - is the fact that he takes the things that an audience would "expect to see" in certain genre films [like this one] and not do them; instead, doing what might be expected in a different way. For instance, for THE FINAL WISH he approached it as a gothic fairy tale. So [in my opinion] the film takes on the vibe of a film like SUSPIRIA - a film that's not a straight forward horror movie, but rather has the look and feel of descending into this fairy tale world - once the Jinn is released. [On Tim's part] I thought it was a really smart choice [to approach the film in this way], because [in all honesty] it made the film special. Unlike, say, a Blumhouse movie, where someone is slaughtered every 10 minutes...
JR: (Smiling) ...or has cats coming out closets every few minutes [as a jump scare]...
BT: (Smiling) Right, right...
JR: This film, in contrast, is more a character piece - one which really puts its characters through hell and takes them to some very dark places....In a fun way.
(Commenting further on the cast) Lin Shaye, I've been a fan of forever! So getting her was just a dream come true! Michael Welsch, [whom I had mentioned before as the actor playing Aaron] had actually worked with me on [2008's] THE DAY OF THE DEAD remake. The same remake that I joke that "everybody loves," but many people hate...(Laughing) Still, I think it's a fun movie...(Laughing)
JR: Yeah, you don't touch George Romero stuff...(Laughing) Anyways, Michael Welsch was in that movie with me a long time ago, and I just thought that he was such an amazing actor. I wouldn't say that he's under-rated, seeing that we works so much, but he's a superstar in my mind! So, getting him in this project as well as Tony Todd - who I hadn't worked with since FINAL DESTINATION - was a great get...
BT: Ahh yes, the great Tony Todd!
JR: So we got Tony Todd to come in for a role [which was great]....[Also while I'm on the subject of Tony Todd] if we're ever fortunate enough to do a sequel, I've kind of been nudging the director saying, perhaps we should focus on Tony Todd's family and bring Lin Shaye back? (Smiling)
JR: You know? (Smiling) I mean, I've got some ideas [of where we could take the story next]...Especially, as a filmmaker of color too, I'm also always trying to get diversity into my films.
BT: Of course.
JR: Typically though, it's always a big fight [to have diversity] for most of my projects unfortunately, because we typically shoot in Canada...(Laughing) Apparently, [based on how my films get cast] they don't have diversity in Canada...(Laughing)
JR: (Laughing) [Which is ridiculous because] I know they do, but it's just cute when they (a studio) shoot a FINAL DESTINATION movie that takes place in New York and I have to remind those making on the casting decisions for those films, "Remember, New York is the most diverse city in the world!" Then, afterwards I see the cast, and I'm like, (sighing) "Everybody is white. Even in the background!"(Laughing)
JR: ...and my mom's white [so don't get me wrong], I love white representation too, (Laughing) but it's always my goal to get diversity in. For instance, there is definitely some in this film too, but [to further highlight my mission to have diversity] I'd love to have a movie focused on Tony Todd and his family [should we get to do a sequel].
BT: Absolutely! So what you commented before about Timothy, in terms of his ability to subvert expectations, is a great segue to my next question. Seeing that this film deals with the legend of the Jinn, were you concerned that it would be confused with other horror properties (i.e. THE WISHMASTER, JINN, etc.) that have tackled the same subject matter? If so, did that play a major role in selecting Timothy as your director?
JR: You know? It's funny...I, personally, didn't worry about it as much, because this film doesn't show the Jinn a lot, like in THE WISHMASTER; however, I will say that there was a company in Latin America who were originally interested in making this film, but then WISH UPON came out, so they passed on doing the film because they felt it was too like it. Of course, I had to explain to them that WISH UPON was about a magic Chinese box and a bunch of high schoolers and therefore had nothing to do with the Jinn. Still, they refused to take on this film because they thought it was too close [to WISH UPON]...
(Continuing) ...when I sat down with Timothy, Lin, William, and Jon, the first thing that we agreed on was that didn't want to have "a lamp;" in other words, we didn't want to be like ALADDIN....
BT: (Laughing) ...and that film is actually coming this year!
JR: (Laughing) Yeah! So we all did some research and found mythology about ancient urns that were used to capture evil spirits and were buried in the Middle East. From this mythology, we established the idea of an antique collector acquiring this mysterious urn, and suddenly it's not ALADDIN! (Laughing)
BT: Gotcha, gotcha.
JR: Also, Timothy was very mindful of how the Jinn was seen - only showing the entity a couple of times, to the point where its presence is known without showing it. Lastly, another thing that Tim does is that he doesn't spell out what's was going [in the film]...So, if someone is just walking into the film "cold" (not knowing anything about the film), they would know that "something has been unearthed," but wouldn't truly understand what it is until later on in the film.
JR: Therefore there is a little air of mystery surrounding the story as to what exactly is making the wished come true.
BT: I see, I see. Now, with that being said, I recall you saying that you would like to see the story continue with Tony Todd's character and his family. Is that for sure the direction you'd like to see the sequel go?
JR: Well, that's one of the many ideas that we've talked about. Honestly, we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves...The great thing is, audiences so far have responded really well to the film, we've gotten reviews, and Fathom [Events] is doing a 750-screen release on the 24th [of January], so [there's a good chance it might continue]....
(Continuing) Also, not to pimp [the film], but if folks go to Fathom Events [website] and type in THE FINAL WISH and their zip code, they'll be able to find the screening happening near them. It's a one-day nationwide event, but as I understand it, before its release On Demand it will be out for another week in theaters, so we're very blessed that it's getting a good push theatrically - especially in comparison to my last couple of films that have gone direct to DVD/Bluray. So again, I feel that there's is a good chance we might get to do a sequel...
(Commenting further on possible sequel) You partially want to see how the audience reacts to the current film, and to see what they like. For example, with FINAL DESTINATION 2, I did a lot of the stuff I wanted to do in the sequel, but I still had to be mindful of what the fans responded to. So, with that mind, we - the other writers, the director, and myself - have talked about so many ideas of what to do next. Considering that some characters do survive by the film's end, there have been talks to follow some of those characters, there have also been talks to follow a new group of people, so there are so many directions we could go honestly.
BT: Ok, I see...
JR: (Laughing) Timothy actually wanted to do this film as a period piece, which for this first film, I was like, "No." However, now that's this film is done, he has actually revisited that idea should he have the chance to do the second one. Not "super period," but more specifically, the 60s - because of the music and the inexistence of certain technological conveniences like cell phones, etc.
BT: Gotcha. Well, Jeffrey, it was a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to the new projects that you have going forward. Keep in touch!
JR: Absolutely! Thank you for having me and stay in touch!
THE FINAL WISH releases in select theaters on January 24, 2019.
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