Daniel Farrands has always loved horror films. Starting out as a documentary filmmaker, he has now delved into something even more astounding. And that is, bringing fact-based crime stories to life with some major twists in the stories. His first feature film, The Amityville Murders was released just two months ago and now, lightning strikes twice with his latest, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, starring Hilary Duff in the titular role of the ill-fated startlet. The film comes out on April 5 from Saban Films.
World Film Geek had the chance to talk with Farrands about his latest film.
Daniel, I have to tell you I absolutely loved The Haunting of Sharon Tate and I even enjoyed The Amityville Murders. I recently spoke with Diane Franklin about that one and I think lightning has struck twice for you.
Well, thank you so much. I mean it is great to hear because the subject is very sensitive and it’s something that when I approached it, I did so with respect to Sharon Tate. I certainly had all my heckles raised and if I couldn’t find the right approach to the story, then I wasn’t going to approach it. So thank you for saying that.
You’re welcome! So, you have a tendency to mix the fact-based crime story with a dose of the supernatural at times. What inspired you to tackle Sharon Tate’s story?
Well, people think it’s because this year marks the 50th anniversary of her death, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. I didn’t even process that when I began writing the script. I mean, it is a big anniversary and it’s like everyone wants to make a Sharon Tate-Manson movie. With that said, the last thing I wanted to do was make another Manson Family movie. That story has been glorified, glamorized, I mean done to death, even with the documentaries.
For me, I wanted to bring Sharon Tate as a person, and Wojciech [Frykowski], and Jay Sebring. Not many people even remember the others’ names. So I wanted to create a story that made them as people, as friends, having this exciting life together and how that life was peripherally interrupted. For me, I wanted to tell a story about how in a creative universe, and storytellers like to do this, write about righting terrible wrongs and my wish was for things to turn out the way they do in the film. Those people should have had a fighting chance. They should have never been through what they’ve been through.
I didn’t want to stick with anything or be pressured into saying this is how it actually happened. I wanted to do a re-creation of the story and the events leading up to it, but at the same time, what it would be like to re-create the story of our book. We knew how it intended to go, but could be we shift it? We can change it to show a different road.
I also was inspired in high school. They shot a movie at the high school I was going to. It was a film called Peggy Sue Got Married. Classic 80’s film and it was shot at the high school in California I grew up. The notion was ‘could we rewrite our history’ with what it was going to be and Peggy Sue Got Married was that film. I mean, obviously it is different in my film as it is much darker, but the theme is the same. Is it written? Is it something we can change?
And interestingly, Sharon Tate had given an interview with this guy named Dick Kleiner in August 1968, almost exactly one year before her death, published in Fate magazine. She said she had this dream, or vision, and she was asked what it was about and she described waking up in the middle of the night, seeing this creepy man following her and Jay Sebring and having their throats cut. In some aspect, what if Sharon did see her fate? And if she had a chance to fight it, would she take that chance?
For me, it was successful creatively. I mean you have these friends, living day to day, isolated in this house where the drama unfolds, but told in a new perspective.
That’s the one thing that hit me with the film. I agree, you always hear about Manson, but you never get a chance to see or hear Tate’s side of the story. And another surprise for me was actually Hilary Duff in the role of Sharon. I always tend to say there is going to be a role that will have an actor break typecast in a positive way. Many see Hilary as a former Disney, bubbly, type in many films and shows. However, I think this could be her breakout role as a bankable dramatic actress because she pulled it off nicely in the role of Sharon. What was she like on the set?
Aw man, thank you! That’s nice of you to say. She was great and I had to do whatever it takes to get her to that emotional state. And it was difficult, but she handled it like a total pro. She was there every day, ready to go, prepared. I think her previous works enabled her to tap into what she needed to for this movie. Ironic as that is. I mean she started at a very young age, but I could rely on her to deliver it without much trepidation.
There were times when I would be next to her for her scenes because she needed that guidance. I have to give her major props, lots of kudos for what she pulled off in this movie. She really did a great job and I appreciate you saying that. I mean, there are those who have criticized her for taking this part.
I think that’s because they haven’t actually seen the film yet but want to judge her already. It reminded me of Cher in the 80s when she did the movie Mask. I mean, the trailers came out for that and everyone would be like, ‘Cher? An actress?’
I love Mask and yes, she pulled that off too (laughs), silencing the haters.
I think people should sometime realize they need to expect the unexpected and don’t judge too much or you will be deprived. And what attracted me to cast Hilary is that she is a sweet natured girl and that’s what I thought of Sharon Tate. That was what I wanted her to bring to the role.
That’s great! There were also some great supporting performances from Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, and Pawel Szajda. What I found interesting was that Roman Polanski is only mentioned in the film, but is never seen or heard. Was that a conscious decision to not include him except for being mentioned?
Oh certainly! Because Roman wasn’t there when this happened. He was in Europe shooting a movie at the time. So I wanted to bring out that Sharon tried to reach for him or attempt to reach for him, but he wasn’t there. It’s that reaching out to another place, and the reality was that there were problems in their marriage.
There’s a line in the film where Sharon says, ‘you know how our arrangement works’ and ‘Roman lied to me and I believed him’. Sharon had actually said that in an interview. What’s interesting is the opening narration and the voiceover of Sharon towards the end? That’s actually stuff the real Sharon actually said. She even said she had these colored sunglasses that she loved wearing and will always wear. I tend to want to bring in the real people and say things they actually said in real life. But yeah, we didn’t need to make Roman a character, but just an inclusive person who she is attempting to reach out to. I wanted to make a movie that was very empowering and respectful to Sharon and her friends.
Finally, are there any new projects that you are working on that you can talk about?
You know, we’re working on one now. We’re actually doing the story of Nicole Brown Simpson and we have Mena Suvari playing Nicole. I mean I don’t know if this will be the trajectory of my career (laughs), but as a storyteller, we do have the chance to bring something different and see what it is like to right those wrongs.
That’s great! The Haunting of Sharon Tate comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital on April 5. Guys, if you want to see something different from the tragedy of August 1969 and see Hilary Duff in a new light, away from typecast, this is the film to see. Daniel, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you about the film and I hope it becomes successful.
Thank you so much!
A Special thank you goes to Katrina Wan PR and Daniel Farrands for making this interview possible.