Interview: JJ Abrams Talks 10 Cloverfield Lane, The "Clover-Verse", Cannibal Airlines And More

J.J. Abrams is a busy man. Not only did he direct, produce and co-write Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but he still found some time left over in his day to produce a follow-up to Matt Reeves' POV monster movie Cloverfield.

Dan Trachtenberg's 10 Cloverfield Lane might not be a sequel (although Abrams seems to suggest one could still happen one day), so how does it connect to the original Cloverfield movie? Will God Particle be third film in the "Clover-verse"? And might Cannibal Airlines actually become a real movie? We also learn how Abrams found director Dan Trachtenberg, discuss the cleverly minimal marketing campaign, and get the details on Bear McCreary's masterful score. And the best thing is this interview is entirely SPOILER FREE, so don't be afraid to start reading now.

10 Cloverfield Lane

I began my interview by asking J.J. one Star Wars: The Force Awakens question, which you can read about over here. Now let;s get to the Cloverfield questions:

Peter Sciretta: In what aspects is 10 Cloverfield Lane a Cloverfield movie?

JJ Abrams: Well, there are a number of connections, some obvious, some not. Things that I want people to sort of find on their own. Some are thematic, some are genre. But what defines a Cloverfield movie is part of a kind of bigger idea we had. This is sort of part anthology and part a larger idea. And the fun of having a movie that is connected to Cloverfield, but not a literal Cloverfield 2, which is of course what we would have called it had it been a literal sequel. It would have been a more obviously titled sequel. This is something that hopefully if we get a shot to continue this idea that we have, we can have a lot of fun with and come clearer what constitutes a Cloverfield movie.

Cannibal Airlines

Peter: If this does as well as you hope it does, is God Particle the next one or is Cannibal Airlines in the movie the next one?

JJ Abrams: Well, that remains to be seen, but the Cannibal Airlines thing is a very funny little reference. It's sort of something that is part of another conceit. But we'll see if that comes to light. It'd be fun if it did.

Peter: I was kind of expecting it to show up in the A.R.G., like a fake trailer for it or something.

[J.J. Abrams laughs.]

10 Cloverfield Lane Connections

Peter: I feel like even though this film isn't shot in POV like Cloverfield, it feels, there's a lot of moments in it that you get the same POV feeling that Cloverfield had. Is that one of the connections? Is that something that you're gonna bring on hopefully to other movies?

JJ Abrams: I think that because the premise of this movie is so strong, meaning it is so singular in point of view, I feel like one of the many cool things that Dan did was allowed the audience to vicariously experience moment to moment what Michelle is going through. And part because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is so good. And that is there's no strategy behind that other than I think Dan telling a story very well.

Dan Trachtenberg directing 10 Cloverfield Lane

Peter: How did you find Dan? Because, I mean, this is a big movie to give to a first time director.

JJ Abrams: Well Lindsey Weber who produced 10 Cloverfield Lane with me knew Dan beforehand. When we were searching for the director, she brought him in. What I was mostly impressed by was the clarity and strength of his vision for how he would do this movie. He had a confidence that I think is apparent in the film. A strong sense of tension and focus and he did this really beautiful work with the actors, with the camera, with modulation. I think that the tension of the movie, it's not just creepy and scary, but there's a great sense of tension to the movie that I think is really all about what Dan brought to it. So I would credit Lindsey for finding him and credit Dan for what the movie is.

JJ Abrams and BB-8 on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Peter: During the making of this film, you were off filming your own... small indie movie, you were probably busy with that. How involved were you in this film?

JJ Abrams: Well, I was involved in the script stage. I was involved in what dailies sending in, notes or suggestions or trying to help whenever I could be of help to Dan and Lindsey who was on set all the time. In post I was like more involved in helping wherever Dan needed it. But again, this was something that really was Dan's vision and I was just trying to do what a producer does, which is help out.

bear mccreary

Peter: What can you tell me about the music in this film? Because I loved the score.

JJ Abrams: So do I. I'm so glad you said that. First of all, Bear McCreary with whom I've never worked and that Dan had never worked, I think Bear did an extraordinary job. He brought to the movie something that Dan really wanted which was a bit of a Bernard Herrmann feel. But brought to the modern age. I think that there's a very sweet sort of sad but ultimately really beautiful theme for Michelle. A creepy theme for Howard, Goodman's character. But he provided the movie with incredibly solid emotional foundation. And for a movie that takes place a great deal in this bunker, I think he gives the movie a scope and a scale that is really important emotionally. And I just, I really can't say enough about working with him. He was a terrific collaborator. Wonderful in meetings and open to adjustments. He brought a very strong point of view himself. And I think his orchestrations were terrific. I just think he did a great job.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Peter: One other thing I wanted to ask you, it's amazing how you were able to keep a lot of the footage out of the marketing for Force Awakens. And I believe that helped the experience. I feel like this film it's the same thing. You are not showing much. How does that work? Like do you have a contract with the studios to have control over the marketing? Like it feels like a lot of other filmmakers and producers feel the same way you do. But are unable to make it happen.

JJ Abrams: Well, you know, I can only speak for our experience with Bad Robot and the marketing department, the films we worked on. And what's been great is there's a relationship we have the marketing departments that feel like it's about mutual understanding and respect and strategy. And we get together very early on to discuss how we're gonna approach what I think it is. Obviously it's a hugely important thing, how you announce and reveal and hopefully pique interest in a story. And we made a very specific decision early on to not announce this movie a year in advance, six months in advance. We thought let's break the template and try something new. In an age of people knowing most everything about every stage of the prep, production, post and release of a movie. And the fun of saying here comes a movie. It will be in theaters in two months. Or three months. Not give people much time to conclude, you know, to pass judgment on a movie that they could already feel that they know everything about. But rather have some fun with a movie that I think is a fun movie worth having fun with and then surprise the audience.

cloverfieldpp122.jpg

Peter: Okay, I have one last question for you. Cloverfield felt like the beginning of a new thing... Is there anything you wish you could have done with the original Cloverfield but didn't have the chance at that time?

JJ Abrams: Well not really. That was Matt's movie. Matt Reeves and obviously you'd have to ask him. But I think he did an incredible job telling a familiar story, a giant monster in the city in a way that you've never seen before, in a way that was unique in its found footage style, but also in its comedy and given the budget of that movie, given the constraints of the style of camerawork, I think he told an incredible and wild story in a very unique way. And what more could you ask for?

cloverfield

Peter: Yeah, I think that has certainly resonated with a lot of people and that's why everybody's looking for a sequel ever since.

JJ Abrams: You know, it would be fun to do a sequel, but we just wanna make sure it's more than what people expect. That it's got something really worth people's time.

Peter: So a sequel isn't out of the question eventually?

Publicist: Sorry, that's all we have time for.

Peter: Okay, no problem.

JJ Abrams: I appreciate your questions though, man, and thank you for your time.

Peter: Thank you, JJ.

JJ Abrams: No, thank you.