Dan Trachtenberg Explains The Origins Of '10 Cloverfield Lane'

When the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane was unleashed, everyone was wondering how JJ Abrams somehow snuck a new Cloverfield movie into production without anyone noticing. Later the mega producer set the record straight confirming that the film was not a sequel, not Cloverfield 2, but a blood relative that shares some thematic and genre connections, but functions as an anthology film which isn part a larger idea (that may involve more Cloverfield movies).

Then came rumors (originating on reddit) that the film was actually a low budget contained thriller that's slapped with a Cloverfield title as an afterthought and that director Dan Trachtenberg and crew went back to reshoot a different ending for the film which would connect it to Matt Reeves' original film Cloverfield. I can now confirm on the record this is just not true.

I interviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg this afternoon and he revealed the origins of the project, how an Academy Award-nominated writer/director almost made the movie before he got involved and puts some of the internet rumors to bed.

Note: the following story contains NO spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane beyond whats seen in the first trailer. So feel free to read it before you see the movie.

Damien Chazelle whiplash behind the scenes

When the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane was released, so many people were in shock that a new Cloverfield film had somehow been made under the radar that they might not have noticed that Damien Chazelle, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of Whiplash had a screenwriting credit on the film. So how was Chazelle involved in the project?

Bad Robot bought a spec script called The Cellar years ago, and Trachtenberg tells me that Damien was originally developing the project with the company before he went off to make his dream project, Whiplash. Dan, who has never read the original spec, says he remembers reading Damien's draft of the project when he came on board and "thinking that the JK Simmons role in Whiplash certainly had its similarities to our movie."

Damien Chazelle was developing it for the company, hoping to make his feature directing debut with the project, but had to depart the project when the chance to make his dream project Whiplash came about.

"Damien was brought in to develop it even further and make it into something that, now we can look back and say, make it into something that fits into the Clover-verse."

the cellar script

It was during this time that the script began to transform from a more typical contained thriller into more of a mystery box genre bottle film. Much of the story was completely reworked (enough that Damien earned a screenwriting credit).

Dan Trachtenberg directing 10 Cloverfield Lane

The production of the film was able to stay under the radar because it shot under the a working title, Valencia, which was never intended to be the final title for the movie. Trachtenberg told me that that title is a reference to a line in the script that no longer appears in the movie.

"The dinner scene began with Howard sitting down and giving this very menacing speech about the siege of Valencia and it was all about being a traitor. And it was shot all in one long continuous take with the camera slowly pushing in and it was an awesome moment for Goodman."

But in the editing of the film, the monologue got cut in a filmmaking decision that Trachtenberg likens to a classic story from the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"We were trying to shave time off the movie and keep the momentum going and thats certainly a section where it starts to slow down before the characters collide again and then one day we found this brief moment where he sits down and gives this crazy menacing creepy look. And we though just that look would say as much as any of the words in that speech. And I love that we found that, because to me its like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, that we all know the story behind: where Indy shoots the swordsman and was originally supposed to have a choreographed fight scene but Harrison Ford was sick and they came to the idea that he would pull out his gun and shoot him instead. We pulled out the gun by pulling out John Goodman's look.

10 Cloverfield Lane

As for how the film came to be titled 10 Cloverfield Lane, it is true that the title came a bit later.

"It didn't have that title, but when JJ came up with the title 10 Cloverfield Lane, I thought it was genius because that name sounds like a Twilight Zone episode, and this movie is like one giant Twilight Zone episode."

10 cloverfield lane

As to the internet rumors about reshooting scenes in the movie to make it "more Cloverfield" or to give it a connection to Cloverfield, that's simply untrue.

"No, the movie you watch today is very much the movie that I read when I first read the script. The only things that I wanted to do when I came on board was, the script was very intense but I thought it could use some levity. I thought if we could laugh with these characters we would be more bonded to them so when bad stuff would happen it would matter more. And we adjusted some of Michelle's story, the personal part where she talks about where she is headed to. But the beginning middle and end of it was all there in the first script that I read."

That said, there are two very minor shots added to the film to connect it to the Clover-verse: a very quick insert shot in the movie that was added in post production which is a fun easter egg for those who participated in the viral ARG (augmented reality game). And a quick shot of a mail box (imagine something like the one on the IMAX poster) that was added in post after the title was finalized.

So the movie might not be the Cloverfield sequel that you wanted, but its also not a shoehorned spin-off. If you liked Cloverfield you will probably like this film. I might be biased because I'm friends with the filmmaker, but its a great movie. And I'm not alone 10 Cloverfield Lane is currently getting rave reviews, sitting at 92% on the movie review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Go see it in theaters this Friday!