Oren Peli Interview For ‘Chernobyl Diaries’
‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is an original story from Oren Peli, who first terrified audiences with his horror-thriller, ‘Paranormal Activity.’ The film follows a group of six young tourists who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an “extreme tour” guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago. After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon finds themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone. Directed by Brad Parker, ’Chernobyl Diaries’ stars Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal and Dimitry Diatchenko. The film is released in cinemas May 25th in the US and June 22nd in the UK.
How did the idea for ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ come about?
Oren Peli: One day I was just goofing around on the internet, and I found this website of this girl who was travelling through Pripyat on a motorcycle. She posted a photo-blog of her journey. That was the first time I came across Prypiat, the city next to Chernobyl, which was basically abandoned overnight and left like a sort of ghost town, printed in time and history, left pretty much unchanged. I just thought that it was extremely fascinating, very sad, and could also be the setting of a very creepy horror movie.
How important was it to capture the look of Prypiat?
Oren Peli: The authenticity of the look of the place was very important for us, because the city of Prypiat is almost like a character of its own, as well as the Chernobyl reactor. So it was very important for us to recreate the look and feel of being in an abandoned city. I think it was the biggest nuclear disaster ever, the actual Chernobyl event, and this town next to it, Prypiat, it housed 50,000 people, the people of Prypiat had to be evacuated overnight, they didn’t have time to take their belongings, so you have this city that is totally abandoned. If you go into an apartment, you’d find peoples personal items, their clothes, their photographs, they never had a chance to take any of that. And unfortunately many people didn’t get out in time. Many people are suffering the effects of the radiation for the rest of their lives.
The “extreme tourism” for this group gets a bit too extreme….
Oren Peli: Yeah. There’s a few problems, first of all they’re stranded. They’ve no way of getting out of there. They know it’s not safe to be there for long periods of time because of the radiation, so that’s another concern. They realise something has tampered with the van, they hear noises at night, it’s not a good situation for them. Extreme tourism in general is the kind of tourism for the people who don’t just want to go to Museums and look at the country side from a bus, they want to get an adrenaline rush and risk their lives doing crazy things. Those are the people that would go swimming with sharks, the things that 99% of us would be more than happy to never do (laughs). They’re the people that go for the thrills, and in Ukraine, one of the things you can do is go on a tour to Prypiat. It has to be an organised tour, you can’t just go and drive there, it has to be through a licensed tour company. What you do is you go with a guide, they drive you there, you get to walk around for a couple of hours in Prypiat. The guides know the safe areas you can go in the city, they have a Geiger counter, to make sure you don’t go into an area with a high level of radiation.
The film has a documentary feel to it. What was it like getting director Brad Parker on-board with this style of filming?
Oren Peli: The documentary feel, the style, we were sort of going for the early Paul Greengrass films, or ‘Traffic,’ ‘The Wrestler,’ ‘Children of Men,’ those kind of movies. Brad Parker totally got it, he was very on-board with the style. And he brought this amazing sense of visual understanding of how to create that. Also, a great understanding of the material and how to work with the actors to create this natural, improvisational feeling that we were going for to create the authentic feeling of the movie. We are always with the characters in this film, so you as the audience feel like you’re a part of the group. We only know and see what the characters know and see.
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