If you've been following ABC's The River , you know some messed up stuff has been happening ever since the crew of the Magus set out to find Dr. Emmet Cole. In an effort to find out what awaits them as they head deeper into the Amazon, we tempted executive producer Oren Peli with a night of pizza, The Exorcist on Blu-ray (his favorite horror movie) and talk about his Paranormal Activity series. Did we scare up any spoilers? Read at your own risk!
TV Guide Magazine: With the Paranormal Activity movies, you get about 90 minutes to pace out the story. Here, you have eight episodes...how did that work out?
Oren Peli: I would say that the first couple of episodes set up the tone very nicely, and then it kind of stays steady, maybe even slows down to let you take a breath. And then the last episodes are...it gets pretty nutty toward the end of the season.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you building things in to scenes to keep us confused or aware of things that might not be there?
Peli: One of the advantages of this found footage format is that you can have deliberately badly composed frames. Here we can put a camera in the weirdest angle and it kind of throws you off. You never know what you are supposed to be paying attention to. It's deliberate chaos.
TV Guide Magazine: When did you wrap The River?
Peli: We finished shooting in Hawaii around Thanksgiving. Now we'll just wait and see...
TV Guide Magazine: But you're happy with how it all turned out?
Peli: We're getting good reviews, the network is very excited about the project, but you never know. The average viewer could say, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen" and become insane fans or it could be, "This is too weird, I'm going to watch CSI."
TV Guide Magazine: Did you have to tell the cast that they might not all make it out of the season alive?
Peli: They know that the Amazon is a dangerous place. So they have to be very nice to us. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Did you guys ever run into the crew from Hawaii Five-0 while filming?
Peli: I actually never got to the set. I was there for the pilot in Puerto Rico, but I never made it the Hawaii location.
TV Guide Magazine: But that's half the perk of getting a show like this!
Peli: I know, I know! [Laughs] We were so smart, moving the show to Hawaii. Then I ended up filming a movie in Serbia, during the winter, while they were all out in Hawaii. They did very nicely without me, but if we get a second season, I am definitely going to get there!
TV Guide Magazine: Was that The Chernobyl Diaries?
Peli: It's all under wraps, but we shot in Serbia and Hungary in November.
TV Guide Magazine: What is it about The Exorcist that appeals to you so much?
Peli: Most of the movie is directed as if it's just a drama. There's no gimmicky things. The content is very over-the-top and insane, but they present it to us in a very subjective way.
TV Guide Magazine: It's a movie, as opposed to a horror movie.
TV Guide Magazine: Has that influenced you as a filmmaker?
Peli: The approach I have taken with the found footage stuff. We just have a steady camera. That is the most subjective way of showing you what is going on. We actually had a nod to The Exorcist in Paranormal Activity, there was a clip [on a computer screen] of a woman thrashing on a bed. There was more than got cut. It was a lot longer...the woman actually bites her own arm off. But we figured it was just too much. It didn't fit the style of the movie.
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, there's not a lot of makeup effects in the Paranormal movies. Or really in The River...
Peli: We have some for the wounds and stuff like that. And instead of aging, we have to de-age characters for some of the flashbacks.
TV Guide Magazine: Would you ever consider doing a remake of The Exorcist?
Oren Peli: No! I don't like remakes. I like movies the way they are and there are enough original ideas [out there].
TV Guide Magazine: I have to ask...when Lincoln cut his hair in The River's third episode, was that because Joe Anderson had actually cut his hair?
Peli: No, I think we just wanted to give him a haircut.
TV Guide Magazine: He looked so much better afterward!
Peli: I think we all though the same thing. [Laughs] I think during the pilot, we all thought he would look better with short hair.
TV Guide Magazine: When you got the deal to do The River, did the actors from the Paranormal movies hit you up for jobs?
Peli: I don't think anyone from two, or from one. Maybe Katie Featherston. She had a meeting with the producers...and you know she is in The River, right? For a few episodes. [Ed. note: She factors heavily in tonight's creepy outing.]
TV Guide Magazine: They've announced that there will be a fourth Paranormal Activity. What will be your connection to it?
Peli: Producer, just like I was with parts two and three. I don't think I'll be a writer on it, but I'll be in the creative meetings, work with the director — or directors — and the writer. There are a lot of collective decisions about direction and story ideas, but someone else will do the writing.
TV Guide Magazine: Will it go forward? Because this story could pick up at the end of part two with the search for Katie and baby Hunter. You could even use news coverage as the found footage.
Peli: Yeah, there's a lot of things we can do, but I won't tell you what they are! [Laughs] Usually when we have those meetings, there is less than 10 people who know what we decide upon. We had some leaks on PA2, so I don't even tell my agents. We don't even hint at all.
TV Guide Magazine: So I guess there's nothing you can tease about the rest of The River's season, huh?
Peli: Nothing! [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: You are the king of keeping secrets.
Peli: I have been taught well. There is so much misinformation out there. If you give people even a little bit, it gets blown out of proportion then you have to go put out fires. So it's much easier to say "no comment." [Laughs]
The River airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.
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