Joss Whedon is a fan of Fran Kranz — he must be, considering he cast the actor in “Dollhouse” as well as the upcoming “Much Ado about Nothing.” The latest visit by Kranz to Planet Whedon is the subversive and sly “Cabin the Woods” (Whedon produced and co-wrote the movie with another old pal, Drew Goddard, who makes his directorial debut with “Cabin”). Kranz is on Broadway in “Death of a Salesman,” which costars Andrew Garfield of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” but we caught up with him by phone to hear about Joss as a boss.
HC: We should assume that you didn’t do too much research for your role as Marty, the paranoid pothead in “Cabin in the Woods” right?
FK: Everyone would like to think that, right? Like they just went out on the street and found me that way. Honestly, I did have to go to pot school. In terms of rolling joints, in terms of smoking from different pipes and different bongs … different various paraphernalia to see what we liked for Marty. I think you’d be surprised to realize how much thought went into what and how Marty smoked pot. In a way, it actually plays a crucial part in the movie. It sounds silly, but his marijuana smoking is a bit of a plot point…. It actually was taken somewhat seriously…. Chris Hemsworth had to learn how to ride a motorcycle. There was some underwater stuff. You know, it’s just that we were college students doing things that are somewhat typical, and I literally must’ve rolled a thousand joints. You’d think I’d be really good at it, but I’m not. I’m also out of practice — just for the record.
HC: Were you approached by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard for the role, or did you still have to read/audition for it?
FK: I was basically the opposite of approached. I knew it was happening and I wanted an audition, but I was just sort of doing my own work. Then one day, I got an audition. Drew had come to the [“Dollhouse”] set one day to talk about locations, and he was showing photos of different lakes and woods, and I kind of geeked out about that because one of them was the original “Friday the 13th” location. I even asked my agent if I should bring [the audition] up with Joss. He told me, “If he’s not bringing it up, you don’t bring it up.”
Then one day Joss came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you did a good job on the reading. I want you to come back in for Drew.’ But he stayed out of it for the most part until the very end. I think he felt that he’d be a distraction. Then after I got the part, Joss told me that he actually had Drew come to the “Dollhouse” set specifically to watch me and that he told Drew he felt like he’d been working with Marty already. It’s a huge compliment, but if I had known he liked me, I would have screwed it all up.
HC: What was your initial reaction to the twists and turns presented in the “Cabin” script?
FK: I was so happy! I didn’t have the role yet, but it made me nervous and anxious to know how good the script was, and that if I didn’t get the part it would kind of torture me forever. But yeah, I was so blown away. I’m a horror-film fan. It just seemed like such a wonderful combination of so many genres that it was so out there. And it was so up my alley, and then some, that it exceeded my expectations. I can’t say enough about the script. It’s hilarious, and by the end I was jaw-dropped. To get the part has sort of been the highlight of my career. This last month has been kind of surreal.
HC: Because they seem to work well together, were there similarities between Drew Goddard’s directing and Whedon’s?
FK: You know, that’s interesting. Joss really was respectful of Drew’s position as director and his authority on set. Joss was a producer and very much around on the set, but he was respectful of that specific kind of position. In terms of their similarities … yeah, there were some, and they did seem to work well together going back to their days on “Angel.”
You knew they were passionate about the same things. They had the same sense of humor and they liked the same things. They’re the kind of guys who could finish each other’s sentences — I mean literally that appears to be what they did in writing the script. They apparently went into a hotel room, and one took the top and one took the bottom — it must’ve been a really nice hotel room — and, you know, banged a script out over a weekend…. If two people can work that quickly together with such a high concept, using horror and comedy, and get it done that quickly, it just shows how in sync they are and what a harmonious working relationship they have. And friendship.
I mean, you know that they are buddies. They like to hang out, so it makes it easier for everyone else to hang out. In terms of a specific style of direction … I just find that they’re both passionate and intelligent. That speaks to me and brings out the best in me to listen better. It makes it easier to respect the person and trust the person for you to kind of clear your head and let them fill it.
HC: Do you keep in touch with your “Dollhouse” family?
FK: Oh, yeah. I just did a movie with them called “Lust for Love.” Most of the money, or all of it, was raised on Kickstarter. Dichen Lachman, Enver Gjokaj, Miracle Laurie, Maurissa Tanchareon Whedon (one of the writers on “Dollhouse”), Jed Whedon…. We’re all still very close. And then, not to mention, I did “Much Ado About Nothing” with Joss, and Amy Acker was Beatrice. That Whedon family sticks together. It’s a funny kind of group that’s very reflective of his fan base. You know his fans so loyal, and so are his employees. People are fans of him the same way that they’re fans of his work.
When I meet someone who’s worked for Joss, I assume I’m going to like them. Or when I meet a fan, I assume that I’ll like them as well. Then I find myself keeping fans around, and they’re like, “Dude, I gotta go. You’re weird.” But no, some of my best friends I made on “Dollhouse.” I thought we became closer because we were always in danger of being canceled. We were lucky to be there — and I know that’s not a great thing to say ’cause I was very proud of the show — but we never had stellar ratings, we were on Friday nights, there were writing disputes between (I think) the creative team and the studio or network…. I just saw this kind of coin spinning on the ground, and then it sort of fell flat. But we had fun while it was spinning.
HC: You’re part of the cast of a Kickstarter-fueled film. How do you feel about that fundraising method?
FK: That’s the first time I’ve been a part of that. I knew what Kickstarter was, but it kind of all blows me away with all the capabilities of the Internet. I just feel like the playing field has been leveled with the Internet. It democratized and created a kind of meritocracy for people to really choose what they want to watch, and it doesn’t have to be the mass-produced stuff. There’s no limit to what you can pull off with things like Kickstarter. Although part of me just wants to get some money for lunch. Just make a quick two-hour campaign or something. Like, “I really want to eat here, guys. It’s 12 bucks. Hey! We’ve reached our goal.” I don’t know, I thought it would be kind of funny, but it might rub people the wrong way. Or do it for parking tickets, you know?
— Jevon Phillips
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