EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS
Assembling The Cast
As producer Devlin points out, no
matter how spectacular a film's visual effects are, "it's meaningless
if you don't care about the people involved. We took a lot of time and care to
establish the characters in our story, to present them as individuals and then
put them into a situation in which their isolation and peril is
believable," he explains.
Toward that end, the filmmakers began
casting only after securing a story and setting it in a small, remote town with
an underground network of abandoned mining tunnels where giant spiders might
easily breed and hide.
Never losing sight of the fact that
humor is part of the charm of this kind of film, Emmerich says that this
influenced the filmmakers' casting choices. "When you hire actors who are
adept at humor," he explains, "that nuance comes across. Even if their
lines are straight -- and in most cases they are -- the actors inject subtle
humor just by their delivery or their reactions."
After reading the script for Eight
Legged Freaks and watching Ellory Elkayem's short film, David Arquette
campaigned for the key role of Chris McCormick, a former resident of the town
who has just returned following the death of his father, the owner of the mine.
Chris is a quiet, introspective guy, somewhat tongue-tied in the presence of his
former flame, Samantha, who is now the town sheriff, but he finds his courage
quick enough when all hell breaks loose.
"David has a very natural
style," says Elkayem of the versatile actor. "You don't feel that he's
acting, but rather that he has become the character he's playing." That
ease works well for the Chris character, who appears fairly low-key for the
opening portion of the film. As Arquette describes him, "Chris has just
returned to his hometown after 10 years. He's dealing with the death of his
father and the hard decision about selling off the old mine, facing the woman he
once loved and lost, and he's just generally disconnected and emotionally
However, once the town is overrun with
gargantuan spiders, a more confident Chris emerges, and Arquette shifts gears
accordingly. Says Devlin, who likens Arquette to the silent film comedian Harold
Lloyd, "David has an amazing comic ability as well as the depth of a
well-trained actor. He came to prominence playing outrageous comic parts, but
has recently been proving his talent in more dramatic work as well. All of that
comes together in Chris McCormick, which is a traditional leading man role, but
in a very non-traditional story."
Kari Wuhrer, who plays single mother
and town sheriff Samantha "Sam" Parker, is also breaking tradition
with her role. The films that inspired Eight Legged Freaks were not known
for their strong female characters. Actresses in Them, Tarantula, The
Black Scorpion and the like were mostly required to scream, run and faint.
"When we were developing the film," says Devlin, "our intention
was not to duplicate those films but to honor them by updating them, and part of
that modernization was the inclusion of a strong female lead who is capable and
believable in action sequences."
"What's great about Kari,"
Elkayem adds, "is that she not only conveys total competence in handling
the action, but she is simultaneously believable as a parent, a sheriff with
strong ties to the community, and as a woman who was once very much in love and
might be again."
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