What drew you to this story?
First and foremost it was the idea of a girl solving her own murder, which I thought was really cool.
But then, on an emotional level, I was very drawn to the idea of telling the story of someone who had suffered a painful loss - that has ultimately given her somewhat of a mean girl personality - having to examine her life in a crazy way to discover she has to change and treat people better in order to deal with her past.
That is a universal message.
Yes, and especially for this young audience, because there is so much anonymous cruelty on social media. So I thought it was a really nice message to hide in a horror movie. How we treat each other matters.
Carter plays a key role in this film. Can you speak about that?
Yes, I saw in him the opportunity to create this whole romance by having Tree wake up in his dorm room and not in her sorority house. I thought it was funny for her to wake up with a stranger and feel it had been a one-night stand that went wrong.
That allowed the movie to start off with a punch, being in an uncomfortable and relatable situation that many people go through.
And Tree, who is at the centre of it all and is stuck in a time loop that has her waking up in Carter’s dorm room and then dying at the end of the day, is determined to solve her murder to break this curse and continue with her life. How did you find the right person to play this complex main character who is in pretty much every scene of the film?
The search was tough, precisely because she has to carry the whole movie and her range had to be so wide.
And I’ll admit there was a moment when I was starting to get stressed out with the casting - and thought that maybe she just didn’t exist - until I saw Jessica Rothe’s audition, because she was amazing. We had an immediate rapport, and she just understood the character so well.
Happy Death Day has a lot of humour in it too. Knowing that you encouraged your actors to improvise, were you surprised by how some of those moments ended up making it into the final cut?
It happens all the time! There were jokes that didn’t quite pan out as expected, and then jokes that happened on set, which got the biggest laughs in the movie. That happens to directors too, because sometimes you are forced to shoot a scene in a different way than planned and it ends up making that moment better.
What part of the whole process of making a film do you enjoy the most?
I love the whole process for different reasons. I like the writing because it is where everything begins and you really get to explore things, and I like the solitude of that as well. But then the film-making is so much fun because you get to work with so many talented people.
And the edit is amazing because it’s when you really discover what your movie is. You are never totally sure until you are in that room.