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FINAL DESTINATION: Devon Sawa Interview
By Steve Biodrowski
March 16, 2000
A child actor on stage and television from the age of eleven, Devon Sawa lept to the movie screen screen with his appearance as the on-screen incarnation of the world's most famous friendly ghost in CASPER. Various films followed (WILD AMERICA, S.L.C. PUNK!), including a return to the genre with the outrageously over-the-top horror comedy IDLE HANDS, a film that failed to find an audience in theatres despite Sawa's hilarious performance as a pot-smoking slacker who right hand becomes possessed by a demonic force (much of the action seems like a deliberate homage to a similar predicament in EVIL DEAD 2).
Less than a year later, Sawa is back on screen in the somewhat more serious supernatural thriller FINAL DESTINATION, directed by James Wong from a screenplay co-written with partner Glen Morgan. Sawa plays Alex, a character whose premonition saves him and some classmates from a fatal plane crash. However, as a series of incredible accidents wipes out the survivors one by one, Alex comes to realize that Death is unwilling to be cheated.
FANDOM: HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?
Devon Sawa: I started off in theatre at the age of eleven, and worked my way up to commercials and TV shows. At the age of 15 I sent a tape down to CASPER, not knowing anything about it, not knowing that it would be some Universal blockbuster. I guess because my head was so big and my face was so white, they decided to fly me down. My grandmother was with me at the time. We walked into the biggest set at Universal at the time, this big mansion built on this huge set. We met Steven Spielberg, and my grandmother didn't even careshe was too into the setbut I shook hands with him. I did that movie and basically worked my way up from there. I took a break after WILD AMERICA because I had trained to hard to be categorized into the teen market, which I found myself deep into. I'm breaking into the young adult roles now.
THIS IS YOUR SECOND HORROR FILM IN A ROW. ARE YOU A FAN OF THE GENRE?
I was when I was younger. Me and my friend used to go to the video store and just pick out the cheesiest-looking cover you can imaginelike two girls with chainsaws. I was a big [Freddy] Kruger fan and FRIDAY THE 13TH fan. It kind of died out for a while; now I find myself in all sorts of horrors, and I'm on the shelf in cheesy covers, with a hand. But I was a horror fan when I was younger.
JUDGING FROM YOUR WONDERFUL HOMAGE TO BRUCE CAMPBELL IN IDLE HANDS
, YOU MUST HAVE RENTED EVIL DEAD 2
Of course, and ARMY OF DARKNESS. Those are classics. We used to practice that. It's funny: at the age of thirteen-fourteen, I got a trampoline and we used to grab people's hair and flip each other. Then five or six years later I'm doing this part where I'm flipping myself down the stairs. It wasn't a trampoline, but...it was like training: 'One day, I'm going to get this part!' In IDLE HANDS, I wanted to chase the hand with a gunsort of like an Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny thing, the hand scampering along. It would have been funny; they wouldn't go for it, though.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SETH GREEN (SCOTT EVIL IN THE AUSTIN POWERS
MOVIES) ON THAT FILM?
Awesome. Never have I laughed so much on set. You could be in the worst moodsick, hangover, you name itand he will turn your mood around like that [snaps fingers] by telling you jokes. He's sweet, and he's got good energya very cool guy to work with.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE UNWARRANTED DEMISE AT THE BOX OFFICE OF IDLE HANDS
It's an unfortunate situation. There's nothing I could have done about that. With Columbine, it's hard to bring out a movie about a kid running around killing his friends...and have it be funny...two days after the unfortunate incident in Colorado. I still like the movie; I thought it was well done. It had a good video release, and I'm proud of the movie. That's all that really matters. Hopefully, no planes will go down [for FINAL DESTINATION].
YOU SUPPOSEDLY READ THE SCRIPT FOR FINAL DESTINATION
ON A PLANE.
My agents and manager have a tough time getting me to read scripts. I'm twenty-one, and reading scripts is not my favorite thing to do. But there's no in-flight movie on the Vancouver to L.A. flight, so I decided to do all my reading there. I pulled out the FINAL DESTINATION script and found myself peering out the window and staring at the engine every five minutes. It was kind of weird, reading about a plane crash while on a plane.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE AN EXPERIENCE TO FILM THAT SCENE.
That took a week and a half to shoot. They had this mock 747 built on a hydraulic gimbal, and one guy controlled it with a joystick. We had eighty people in there, and this was like something straight out of Magic Mountainit was quite the ride. We had the nose to the ground for two days, just hanging there by our seat belts. It got intense, and there were times when the cast said, 'We've been hanging here for two hours, and we need to take a break, because we're just not feeling good.'
The realism of the shaking and the side blowing up and people getting sucked out was scary. Every time I get on a plane now and feel a little turbulence, I remember what it was like to be on that 'plane' because it looked so real. I think it's the most realistic plane crash on film to date. Unfortunately, we won't be showing this on any planes; we did not shoot an 'in-flight' version.
WHAT DREW YOU TO PLAYING THE CHARACTER OF ALEX?
I liked the rainbow of emotions that this character had. It was a roller coaster. He starts off as a kid who's not the most popular: he's not a dork, but he just had his own thing going, and wasn't into the whole popularity thing at school. Then the plane crashes, and suddenly he's dealing with all these people and he's got to figure out Death's plan and how to cheat death. He's up and down and all over the place. That was very appealing to me as an actorall those colors to work with.
HAS WORKING ON THE FILM CHANGED YOUR PHILOSOPHY ABOUT FATE OR PREDSTINATION?
No, not at all. When I was shooting the movie I would try to believe as much as I can in the whole 'Death's plan' just so that, going into a scene, it felt eerie. But after the film stopped, I believe in living day by day and not worrying about your fate or when Death is going to take you.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A PREMONITION YOURSELF?
Yeah, winning the Oscar! Somebody get the Academy on the line! [laughs] No, I've never had a premonition.
HOW WAS JAMES WONG AS A DIRECTOR? YOUR CO-STAR KERR SMITH SAID HE DIDN'T GIVE MUCH DIRECTOR TO ACTORS.
He gave direction. Maybe Kerr was just so damned goodhe didn't need direction. Me, take twelve: 'Devon, we'll let your stand-in do it.' No, the shots he was doing, the way he had the whole world skewed, just everything put together was brilliant and phenomenal.
THE FILM, AS SCRIPTED, ENDED WITH THE DEATH OF ALEX.
Yes. They tested the movie. It tested high at that point, but I guess the audience was into the whole thing so much...they didn't want me to diethey weren't into the fact that the main character was dying. They [the filmmakers] wanted to add some cool stuff at the end. It's not that it didn't work; they just thought they could make it work better. They believed in the movie and they wanted to make it stronger.
THE NEW ENDING LEAVES THE STORY OPEN FOR A SEQUEL.
It sure does: The Arrival
HOW IMPORTANT IS BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE TO YOU?
I'm definitely happy when I see the movie and it's good. Of course, box office gross is important as well, because it gets me my next job; it gets me closer to what I want to do. But I haven't been having too much luck with that box office thing! You just can't tell with the American public. They like one thing one day, and the next day they're onto something new.