death note movie clip

Adam Wingard has made a name for himself with horror movies like You’re Next and The Guest and his latest contribution to the genre made waves when Netflix swooped in to rescue it from turnaround after it was developed at Warner Brothers. Based on the manga, which itself had been adapted in anime and live-action in Japan, Death Note arrives on Netflix this Friday.

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) finds a notebook that says it can kill anyone whose name he writes while picturing their face. The demon Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) makes sure to point out all the other rules listed. Light and Mia (Margaret Qualley) start researching deserving war criminals and prisoners to kill. But an investigator named L (Lakeith Stanfield) starts piecing it together, hiding his face and true name. Wingard spoke with /Film by phone out of New York about Death Note, and gave a preview of his next film, Godzilla vs. Kong.

If fans go back and watch some of the anime and Japanese live-action Death Notes, are there different versions of how people use this notebook from Ryuk?

Yes. Our film is very much a different take on it. The characters themselves have different backgrounds and motivations and things. Even the approach to the Death Note is very different. In the original, almost exclusively the deaths are associated with heart attacks whereas ours takes more of a Final Destination approach for the first half of the movie when it’s still kind of fun and games for Light. Obviously as the movie goes, the consequences get real so the deaths become more realistic as well.

Was it your idea to elaborate on the deaths or was that already in the script?

It just seemed like movies are such a visual medium. Heart attacks themselves are not that interesting to look at. We do have one in the movie, but we even manage to have the heart attack happen at the top of a staircase so the guy falls downstairs as well because in the terms of Death Note, nothing is that simple. That was basically the idea behind it. It was always open to that in the original source material, but we just thought this was the opportunity to experience the Death Note through Light’s eyes. From his perspective at the beginning of the film, it’s very much a fun exciting thing so the deaths are much bigger and operatic. That’s very much told from his POV as the Death Note’s still a fun or exciting thing for him early on before it gets serious.

Death Note Clip

Why do they attribute the deaths to the name Kira? If they just left these deaths random, then they’d be untraceable.

Well, I think they wanted to give it a name because their whole idea is that they’re not just trying to stop random crimes all over the place. They’re trying to come up with a God-like entity that would strike fear into people as a deterrent from crime. In some ways, Kira is designed to prevent crimes before they happen to scare people into preventing it before it happens.

Ryuk always has an endless amount of new rules they have to follow. Have there been different rules in every incarnation of Death Note?

No, somebody actually told me today that the original films, which stick very close to the original source material, were actually contractually obligated not to change any rules. Our film, we don’t really change any rules, but we do add some rules. For instance, the rule where if you don’t use the notebook for seven days then it reverts back to Ryuk and he can do whatever he wants was one of ours. That was mainly because we wanted to make sure there was a rule in there that forced Light to have to use the Death Note regardless of if he had changed his mind or if he had grown a conscience. The stakes would always be there in terms of forcing him to go forward. There’s no turning back, in other words. There was a few little rules like that that we added just to add more complexity to the situation. We didn’t really change anything.

Is there room for new rules in a sequel if someone else gets the Death Note?

I doubt that we would add any rules but I think that it would probably be more like we would be exploring even more of the rules within the Death Note itself because there’s a lot of interesting ones that we just don’t have time to get into that apply plot-wise. For instance, there’s one really cool rule where you can work with Ryuk where he can take years off of your life but it allows you to be able to know somebody’s name just by looking at somebody’s face, which obviously is a really valuable thing to have. It also has consequences to it. That’s not necessarily a direct rule, but it’s more of a Shingami thing. There’s lots of stuff like that to get into and play with.

Death Note Netflix

At some point they’re looking at rule 80-something so we don’t necessarily know rules 5-75 are.

Well, there’s a lot of red tape in the Death Note, but they’re all online. Some of them are less consequential than the others. At a certain point, it just has to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s.

Ryuk always has a loophole, doesn’t he? There’s no getting one over on him.

No, not at all. To me, I think it’s actually implied that Ryuk actually wrote the warnings in the Death Note to just fuck with Light anyways. Ryuk in the original source material is probably the most clear carryover. We try to keep him visually very similar and personality-wise. I’d say he’s pretty close. He’s maybe a little bit more scheming in ours, but he still has that same kind of attitude, which is he wants to be amused. He doesn’t really care about what’s going on. Ultimately, our take on him is he’s most amused by people getting murdered, so he has an added investment in people dying because that’s what amuses him or entertains him. That’s what he’s always gearing the Note towards.

Is it really a case of with great power comes great responsibility?

Yeah, this is definitely an exploration of good and evil and what’s in between. What’s the gray area in there? That’s the whole point of it. Each character almost represents a different aspect of that, including Light’s Dad. Even he’s not really willing to turn Light in. The whole thing is just sort of a breakdown of all those things.

Light even asks the questions. What if he gets bad intel? He can think he’s taking out someone who deserves it, but people post false information online to mess with people.

Exactly. It’s the whole vigilante thing where if there’s no rules or oversight then what’s going to keep them from misusing them?

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