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Director Daniel Farrand Talks Making THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE [Interview]

By Marina Antunes [04.05.19]


The grizzly murders of Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of members of the Manson Family are notorious, having not only grabbed headlines at the time they occurred but in the decades since, there have been numerous books, television shows and movies, both fictional and otherwise, that in some way feature the events surrounding the tragic deaths.


Despite that, no project has tackled the material quite like Daniel Farrand's (The Amityville Murders, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy) new movie The Haunting of Sharon Tate.


The movie traces the final days of Sharon Tate's life, played here rather well by Hilary Duff, mixing fact with fiction to create an interesting psychological thriller about a young woman dealing with the doubts and stresses of life and her relationships during the final stages of pregnancy.



I recently had the chance to pose a few questions to writer/director Farrand whose movie, manages to take a new approach to the story and plays down the sensationalism to focus on the rising paranoia of a young woman.


The Haunting of Sharon Tate opens theatrically and is available on VOD today, April 5.

Quiet Earth: The trailer doesn't really do the movie justice because it sets it up as another sensationalist take on the murders but The Haunting of Sharon Tate is more of a psychological thriller. When did you start working on the project and what gave you the idea to approach the story from Sharon's POV?

Daniel Farrands: Thank you for your questions! I think this movie is difficult to distil into a single line or even a trailer. I approached it primarily from the perspective of what Sharon Tate might have been like as a person, and how she might have been able to change her terrible had she been given signs or premonitions about the tragic events of August 1969. Sharon was quoted in an interview by reporter Dick Kleiner who interviewed her in August of 1968, wherein he asked her if she had ever had any psychic experiences. She answered that she believed she had, and then went on to describe a vision or nightmare she'd had wherein a dark figure woke her up in the middle of the night, and she followed him into the living room where she found either herself or her friend Jay Sebring tied up and cut open at the throat.

Whether or not Sharon Tate experienced any kind of premonition of her death, I thought dramatically it was an intriguing way to retell the story in a way that has never been done before. My entire modus operandi for this project was to find a way to empower these victims.



What - if any - source material did you refer to as background for getting into Sharon's head?

I re-read the book "Helter Skelter" to get the specifics of the crime, the days leading up to it, etc., but primarily I watched interviews with Sharon Tate and revisited a few of her films. I was struck by her sensitivity and the way her smile lit up a room, and I wanted to convey that kind of sweet, gentle, thoughtful soul in my interpretation of her.

Was it difficult to find her voice and writer from her perspective?

Voice is never an easy thing to replicate, but I felt that from having watched enough of her interviews and read a biography on her life that I could bring that sense of purity and kindness to this character. I also peppered the script with actual quotes from Sharon, which I felt gave her a very real voice since the words are her own.


How long have you been working on the project? Were there challenges on getting the movie made? Was telling people that you're making a movie about the Tate murders a deterrent to funding the project?

I started writing the script while we were in post-production on my first feature film as a director, The Amityville Murders which was also based on a real case. The producers of that project were looking for something else and I pitched them my idea for "Sharon Tate," which they immediately responded to. I wasn't aware or even conscious of the 50th anniversary of the crimes, nor had I yet heard about Quentin Tarantino's film (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

I pretty much went with my own concept of revisiting this horrible tragedy, but from a completely different point of view. I had no interest in making another Manson Family movie, nor did I want to portray them as anything more than phantom-like characters who are bent on causing death and destruction. I think what they did was an act of evil that trying to humanize them in any way would only serve to exploit the story further. I was interested in Sharon and her friends and putting them in a situation not unlike an early Polanski film.

I love Rosemary's Baby, The Tenant and Repulsion and I tried to imbue the film with that kind of dark, paranoid sensibility. Since none of the film is set in reality, I was given a much wider arena to explore creatively and to find ways to hopefully engage the audience and establish a world in which Sharon Tate might have been able to change the outcome of that awful night.


Did you always intend to direct?

After The Amityville Murders, as I mentioned, the same producers and I were discussing other ideas for films that might follow a similar trajectory. I suppose they felt I did an adequate enough job to offer me another film, which was very much appreciated.

I really felt a tremendous responsibility, as did everyone in our cast and crew, to approach this material with a great deal of care and sensitivity. It's by definition a scary movie, but in the end I felt we were dealing with questions about life and about fate that sort of went beyond the standard conventions of the genre. At least that was the intention.



Hilary Duff does a great job of capturing the essence of Tate but the role is unlike the types of roles she usually plays. How difficult was it to cast Sharon and what ultimately convinced you that Duff could pull it off?

Hilary was suggested to us by one of our producers, and as soon as we met I felt that she was a great choice for the role. She embodies that kind of natural, unpretentious, caring "every girl" much like Sharon Tate. She has a caring soul, and loves animals and children, and I think those qualities, more than anything, made her the right choice. She had never done a genre film like this, and I think it was a daunting task for her, especially knowing that she would be judged just for taking on such an iconic role. I have to give Hilary a lot of credit for her bravery and commitment to the project.


What was the most challenging scene to shoot and/or write and how did you overcome it?

I think one of the most challenging scenes to shoot was the re-creation of the night of the murders.

It was extremely difficult for all of us, cast and crew alike, and there was a terrible dark cloud hanging over the set that night. It was not like a normal horror movie where everyone kind of laughs and has a good time whenever a gory special effect is done. This was something different. I felt we were stepping into some very dark places and it probably didn't help that there was an eclipse that night that essentially turned the moon red.

We got through that night, but it was anything but fun and games. Everyone was very affected by the experience, and it certainly brought the horrible reality of that night to life in a very real, visceral way.


I notice that you're working on a similarly themed story but this time about Nicole Simpson. Interestingly, you didn't write the Simpson movie. How did you come to get involved with that project?

This was something that, again, was developed by the producers of the first two films and they wanted to move forward with a third right away. I was so immersed in post-production on the first two films that I honestly couldn't tackle another script at that point

We had two talented writers take the reins and we went into production shortly after they delivered what we thought was an intriguing script. It's also pretty controversial in that it explores a little-known "subplot" to the story, and while certainly not exonerating the real killer, it raises some interesting questions about what might have happened on June 12, 1994.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate opens theatrically and is available on VOD today, April 5.



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