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February 2017

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 18 POST FEBRUARY 2017 fter directing such blockbusters as the 2011 Oscar-winner Rango and the first three films in the multi-billion-dollar mega-franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, Gore Verbinski knows a thing or two about how to helm a huge production full of cutting-edge visual effects. And he also knows how to make a truly effective and spooky hor- ror-thriller, such as his 2002 smash, The Ring, which grossed $250 million. Now the Oscar-winning filmmaker brings all that experience to bear on his latest film, A Cure For Wellness. A chilling and mind-bending psycholog- ical thriller, Wellness stars the gifted and charismatic Dane DeHaan (Kill Your Darlings, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Lockhart, a driven Wall Street stockbro- ker who is sent by his firm to a remote Alpine medical spa on a mission to retrieve the company's CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener), a patient at the spa, who has told his staff that he has no intention of ever returning to New York. Lockhart arrives at the tranquil san- itarium where the residents are sup- posedly receiving a miracle cure. In fact though, they seem to be getting sicker. As he investigates the dark and baf- fling secrets behind the spa, he meets a young woman, the beautiful Hannah (Mia Goth), a patient herself. He also gets to know another patient, the eccen- tric Mrs. Watkins, played by Celia Imrie, who has done some detective work of her own. Soon, Lockhart is diagnosed with the same condition as the other patients by the institution's director, the ominous Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs), and finds that he is trapped in the alpine re- treat. Lockhart begins to lose his grip on reality and has to endure unimaginable ordeals during the course of his own "treatment." Behind the scenes, the film reunites Verbinski with cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, ASC, who shot The Ring and The Lone Ranger for him, and his longtime co-editor Craig Wood, who cut all three Pirates films, as well as The Lone Ranger and Rango. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Verbinski talks about making the film, the challenges involved and his love of post. What sort of film did you set out to make? "A contem- porary Gothic horror story that's classical- ly boned, but which takes place in our world. We're living through some increasingly irrational times, and I think we're ripe for diagnosis, so the whole idea began with the notion of a spa in the Alps, a wellness center that doesn't actually make you well — it makes you sick." The whole long driving sequence up the lonely mountain road to the spa at the beginning felt like a great homage to Kubrick's The Shining. "It was, and I'm glad you noticed that, as I'm a huge fan of that film, along with Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant, Joseph Losey's The Servant and Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now. I love their styles, their looks, the slowly building tension and the narrator's voice is like a character, with its sense of the inevitable. There's always this sense in those films that something's not quite right, that something doesn't fit and there's that force at work that you have no control over. We knew that this was going to be a genre piece, and so we played around with the concept of inevitability. It's the sense that there is a sickness, a sort of black spot on your X-ray that won't go away, and there's also the denial. Lockhart is far younger than all the captains of industry who come to this spa, and at first he resists. But then, like those other movies, you feel there's this force pulling the camera and protagonist down the corridor, that there's no escaping it." There are a lot of visual effects. How early on did you incorporate them and post? "Right from the start, when we con- ceived the script and began with a blank page. You start imagining how scenes might cut together, and what you need. And location scouting was also very important, and then integrating all that with the VFX. We didn't build many sets, and while all the VFX are done at the end, they're conceived at the very beginning." Is it true you shot it all on-location in Germany? "Yes, most of it was shot on-location in Germany, as we found the perfect set- ting for the spa at Hohenzollern Castle, in the Alps in southern Germany. The castle is so isolated from the landscape around it, and it looks really ominous as you drive up to it. And then we used an abandoned military hospital outside Berlin for all the interiors. Then we did some additional filming in Switzerland and shot plates in New York for a day." What were the biggest challenges in making this? "The toughest thing was that Bojan and I didn't know any of the crew, who were GORE VERBINSKI: A CURE FOR WELLNESS POSTING A CHILLING AND MIND-BENDING PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER BY IAIN BLAIR A Editorial took place at Verbinski's Blindwink studio.

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