15 years later, the name most closely associated with 2008 ground-level kaiju movie Cloverfield—and the weird little patchwork assemblage of pseudo-sequels it’s acquired over the years—is pretty clearly that of producer J.J. Abrams. After all, Abrams was already a big name when the movie deployed its surprisingly powerful viral marketing push in the summer of 2007, having already scored big wins with Felicity and then especially Lost—whereas his long-time collaborator Matt Reeves, the film’s actual director, was still more than a decade out from becoming something akin to a household name with movies like the Planet Of The Apes revivals, and then especially last year’s The Batman.
Still, it’s Reeves who’s most consistently stepped up to promote Cloverfield over the years, waving the flag for his unlikely early blockbuster as the film’s various anniversaries have come and gone. Take, for instance, a new interview with Syfy this week, in which he talked about the film’s breakneck production speed, as well as finally, definitively, confirming the various hints the film (and its elaborate marketing apparatus) dropped about the movie’s monster.
Addressing the first point first: It turns out that, yeah, Cloverfield really was as rapid-fire and improvised a project as you might expect: Reeves reveals that Abrams tasked him to begin filming before writer Drew Goddard was even close to finishing the script, as they embarked on an ambitious 12-week shooting schedule with a director who’d never worked on anything of this scale before:
I was saying to J.J., “Well, why don’t I wait until Drew’s done with the script?” And he was like, “Well, you can’t.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because we’re shooting in 12 weeks, and that’s just how this is happening.” And I was like, “Oh, my God!” I had never done a VFX movie, I’d never done a genre thing like this — a giant monster movie.
Reeves details the filming of certain key scenes—including that bit where Lizzy Caplan explodes, noting how they only had a few takes to capture the bloody aftermath. He also confirms, to what is hopefully the final satisfaction of everybody, exactly what’s going on with the film’s monster.
You have to figure how to direct the monster, so to speak. So you have to understand what’s going on with them emotionally. And for me, the big secret was that the monster was a baby and was experiencing separation anxiety. The reason the monster was freaking out is because they were having fits based on looking for their mother. And so, [the monster] was just as afraid as the main characters, because it seems like there would be nothing more terrifying than the human element fighting this giant monster element and, actually, both of them are just terrified. That’s a mess. That’s not good. So that part of it was absolutely something that we talked about in the development of the creature and in terms of how I shot it.
It’s alien. In fact, at the end of the movie, you can see the moment when it comes to [Earth]. It’s another one of those little Easter egg moments, but when we revisit that footage where they’re on the Ferris wheel at the end, you can see the meteor flying down and hitting the ocean. That’s actually the beginning of the baby being on Earth.
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Cloverfield turns 15 today. There’s a new 4K Ultra HD edition of the film out to commemorate the anniversary.