This week’s summer scare is The Gallows, from the prolific folks at Blumhouse Productions. Four students (Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Pfeiffer Brown and Reese Mishler) break into their high school the night before a school play, only to find that a spirit from the play’s previous performance might be coming after them.
The characters share first names with the actors in the first film from Chris Lofing and Travis Cluf. The cast and directors gave a press conference to discuss The Gallows and Nerd Report was there. The Gallows opens Friday, July 10.
Q: How did you discover this cast and how did the cast feel about the audition process?
Travis Cluff: We had limited resources abut we had a friend of ours who came down from Fresno and helped us out, Carollyn DeVore casting. She set up some things and we came down here to Hollywood to cast our four main characters. We saw over 200 people in two days. We really were looking for people who could relate to the characters automatically off the bat so that it wouldn’t be that difficult of a transition into their character. We knew some of them right away. Some, we had just seen so many people that our minds were mush and we had to look back at their video tapes.
Ryan Shoos: Which one was I?
Travis Cluff: You were right away. The second you asked if you could point the camera at yourself, we knew you were the one for us. Reese, I remembered Reese as being someone who caught my attention. Pfeifer was just too cute to pass up.
Pfeifer Brown: Aw, thanks. But really, why’d you pick me?
Travis Cluff: No, seriously. We thought she was just great. She had a great personality. We really just thought you were great. That’s all there was too it. Cassidy on the other hand, there’s a story that goes with that.
Cassidy Gifford: They actually don’t want me here.
Travis Cluff: We love Cassidy and I will tell you that she has been a tremendous actress in this film. I’ll just say it. In the original version of this film, we had a different person. After we had met with Dean and Jason and the folks at Blumhouse and discussed what we were going to do to enhance the movie, and to film the things we wish we could have filmed the first go round when we didn’t have anything, about three weeks before shooting we met with all our four main actors. One of them had lost a lot of weight and looked very, very different. It was a really tough decision for us. It was really a hard time for us thinking all is lost and what do we do? That very day when it was apparent we were going to have a make a change, Beau Swayze at Management 360 said, “I have a girl that I think could be great.” They looked her up on line and I said, “All these pictures, she’s with Kathie Lee Gifford. Are they friends or something.” They said, “No, that’s her daughter.” We met with her that night. She was great. Her mom was there too. We still saw some more people and we ended up coming back to her because she was great, she earned it.
Q: What did your mom think of that?
Cassidy Gifford: It’s funny because when I first met them, we were just on our way to dinner and I got the call from my manager, Beau. He’s like, “Even if you just have five minutes, just come in and say hi.” My mom needed to use the bathroom so of course she came in. So she was going to the bathroom and we sat for I think five minutes. Very quick, I went home, I sent a tape to audition. I didn’t hear for two weeks. Tape auditions, you kind of just wipe your hands of it and hope for the best. You normally think that they’re going to go with someone that they meet in person. I went in for a callback with all three of these guys. You guys all lived together, were best friends. I was already nervous for the callback and then I’m going in and they’re already best friends. We hit it off immediately.
Pfeifer Brown: She was the greatest addition that we ever could have gotten.
Q: What do you have in common with your characters and how are you different?
Ryan Shoos: Keep in mind that we started filming this four years ago.
Pfeifer Brown: We were all fresh out of high school.
Ryan Shoos: I was much more immature then. I’m not that mature now, but it was so easy because as soon as you tuned into being that kind of jerky jock making fun of people, it was so easy. If you’re surrounded by all these people, immediately you just have material here and there. So I just fed off that for days and weeks, and apparently years. It kind of seeped into my regular life. Now I feel like I’m turning a little bit and I’m becoming a man.
Cassidy Gifford: I hope I’m not anything like my character at all.
Pfeifer Brown: She’s not.
Cassidy Gifford: I hope not. I guess I kind of describe her as the girl that we all kinda knew in high school. But then ultimately, I think the only similarities, I think fear is fear when it comes to human nature. For all of us, even though we all started out as completely different characters, ultimately we’re all faced with the same things and that brings us together. It’s just human nature to be terrified and that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in completely different ways.
Pfeifer Brown: My character was head of the drama department and I can relate to that. I was never head of the drama department but I was always very artistic and singing and on the dance team and in school plays. So I was able to feed off of that relation but my character, Pfeifer, was a complete perfectionist and always on time and organized. I am not those things in real life. I am so horrible at being on time. Organization is not one of my strong suits. Way more laid back in real life, in the classiest way possible. But yes, I could relate to my character because I’m passionate about acting and singing in real life just as I was in the movie.
Reese Mishler: I could relate very well to my character. I played football for a while and ended up breaking my pelvis so I couldn’t play anymore after that. I was very shy when I was a kid. I still am. I got held back in school because I didn’t speak. So playing somebody that was extremely nervous and had this incredible stage fright, I understood. That made total sense to me. I remember whenever I started to do theater in high school, I was the exact same way. I was scared to even walk out on stage. I would hide behind a tree and wait for them to say, “Get out there.” I can totally relate to being the scared kid who has to grow up and learn to face their fears so you can become a real adult.
Travis Cluff: Chris and I were crafting the most wholesome scares. We were going for no blood and guts. We really were shooting for a PG-13. But the fact is, the movie was too scary for that. One thing that was funny is the least likely person to cuss in this group is Cassidy. We actually kept her F bomb. That’s the one F bomb in the movie.
Cassidy Gifford: I tripped. I just ate it. The first night I tripped face down on the step.
Chris Lofing: She starts laughing and apologizing because of her F word slip.
Cassidy Gifford: And then we kept it but I was mortified because I thought you two were going to hate me forever because you will never hear these two say anything bad in the entire world. They’re the most endearing, wonderful people on the planet and of course, I’m already the new kid and right on camera, our first take.
Pfeifer Brown: Sweet little Cassidy.
Nerd Report: Did you use any gallows humor to break the tension on the set?
Travis Cluff: All the time. It surrounded us everywhere we went. There were several lines, we had to drop a few of them, no pun intended. “How’s it going?” “Oh, just hanging.” There were several lines, but it was very funny. Yes, it was loaded with gallows humor.
Nerd Report: What are you hoping to do next?
Reese Mishler: I’m going to go back and do some theater. That’s where I come from so I’m working right now at South Coast Repertory down in Costa Mesa. It’s been great to be able to get back out there and do some more theater, do some off Broadway stuff.