10 Sharp Facts About Let The Right One In

Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures

Ask any horror super fan to list their 10 favorite films of the last decade and odds are good that Tomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In will end up somewhere in the ranking. The Swedish vampire film, beloved by viewers for its eerie lighting, subtle horror, and beautifully strange young actors, turns 10 years old today, and it remains a crossover hit, drawing fans far outside of its native country and even some fans who don’t tend to enjoy horror films at all.

Let the Right One In’s journey to modern classic was a relatively smooth one, but it wasn’t without its interesting wrinkles. So, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, here are 10 facts about the film, from its director’s reluctance to adapt a novel at all to the unusual way its stars learned their lines.

1. TOMAS ALFREDSON WASN'T INTERESTED IN ADAPTING A BOOK.

Patrik Rydmark, Johan Sömnes, Mikael Erhardsson, and Kåre Hedebrant in 'Let the Right One In' (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

Let The Right One In began its life as a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, which became a bestseller in Lindqvist's home country of Sweden and soon began attracting movie producers interested in bringing the story to the screen. Ironically, director Tomas Alfredson was not among the people initially circling the project. He was gifted the book by a friend (something he claimed he usually objects to, because he finds book selection too personal for gift giving), and after letting it sit around his house for a while, he picked it up and became engrossed. After reading Lindqvist’s novel, Alfredson expressed interest in adapting it for the screen, despite a general belief that great books cannot be made into great films.

"I really think you shouldn't do films of good books," Alfredson told the Los Angeles Times. "The reason is that the depth of a good book is so much greater than you could possibly do on screen in 90 minutes. But this was sort of the exception."

2. ALFREDSON WASN’T INTERESTED IN WATCHING OTHER HORROR FILMS.

Before Let The Right One In, Alfredson was best known not for horror, but for comedy films and stage productions. When reading the novel, he noted he was drawn in by the story of Oskar not because he befriended a vampire, but because he was an isolated child who was also a victim of bullying.

"It's very hard and very down-to-earth, unsentimental," Alfredson said. "I had some period when I grew up when I had hard times in school ... So it really shook me.”

When approaching the story for the screen, Alfredson deliberately avoided educating himself about the horror genre, relying instead on other influences to shape the look and tone of the movie, including the paintings of Hans Holbein. For him, flooding his brain with other horror films would have been counterintuitive.

“I did the exact opposite actually because I did not want to know what other people have done,” he told Total Sci-Fi Online. “You see, I think that too many filmmakers watch movies by other directors to try and inspire themselves but, to me, this is totally pointless. I would rather get my influence from art or music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy horror movies when I see them on the television, but I am totally uneducated toward the genre and I never seek them out."

3. IT TOOK NEARLY A YEAR TO FIND THE LEAD ACTORS.

Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant in 'Let the Right One In' (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

So much of Let The Right One In is carried by the characters of the boy Oskar and the vampire Eli, and even though one of them is a centuries-old vampire, they both still had to be played by children who somehow had great chemistry. Alfredson knew that if he made one mistake in casting his two young stars, he could lose the whole movie, so he spent nearly a year working through open casting calls trying to find the perfect pair of children to inhabit the two roles.

"It was very complicated,” he said. “I wasn't just [trying] to find one boy and one girl; I had to find the perfect match to the same character. It is also very important they have good families and are stable persons. It is a big responsibility to carry a whole film on your 12-year-old shoulders."

Eventually, Alfredson found his instantly iconic stars in Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli, and settled on a somewhat unusual way of working with them.

4. THE KIDS WERE NEVER ALLOWED TO READ THE SCRIPT.

For his own “artistic reasons,” and because professional child actors are not a concept in Sweden the way they are in America, Alfredson settled on a method of working with his two young stars that might seem unusual given how accustomed many moviegoers are to seeing children working in Hollywood. In the audition process, and even during principal photography, Hedebrant and Leandersson were not allowed to read the script. Their parents read it to approve all of the content, but the two actors were fed all of their lines and scenarios by Alfredson himself as a means of focusing on creating very specific moments.

“They didn't read at all, and not during the shooting either. I never let them read anything from paper, so I always read it aloud to them, so they learned by ear, rather than eye,” he recalled. “They didn't know what it was all about really, but they started to make this puzzle every day. ‘Okay, I'm coming in here now’ because I think the best way to get the best out of a child actor is ... You really cannot say ‘you are disappointed with adults.’ They cannot do anything with that, but if you say, ‘You're very upset with this specific person right now in this very moment because you're very hungry and he's just taken your food away.’ You really have to take every and each situation for what it is, and not trying to make it into a bigger puzzle. That's my way to it."

5. ELI’S VOICE WAS SUPPLIED BY ANOTHER ACTRESS.

A number of techniques were employed to make Leandersson look and feel like a being who is hundreds of years old, many of them visual, but one very important creative decision came in the film’s elaborate sound design process. To make Eli seem even more ancient and also androgynous (the character is a castrated boy in the books, which is also suggested in the film), it was decided that Leandersson’s voice would not be used, and instead an older actress would dub all of her dialogue. According to the film’s sound designers, the crew took a vote, and actress Elif Ceylan was chosen to provide the voice.

6. A PEDOPHILIA SUBPLOT WAS CUT.

Lina Leandersson in 'Let the Right One In' (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

In adapting the novel for the screen, Lindqvist and Alfredson had to make some key decisions on how best to focus their story on the relationship between Eli and Oskar, which meant that certain elements simply had to go. Among these was the thread running through the book that Hakan, Eli’s elderly blood supplier, was also a pedophile. For Alfredson, this introduced too much thematic baggage into the plot to be handled properly within the film’s runtime, so it had to go.

“So that really gave another tone to the whole thing. That’s too often used as say ... an emotional special effect, without taking responsibility for what that really is,” he said. “It’s a really complicated thing to debate on screen, I think. So that would’ve disturbed the story a lot to have that."

7. A CASTRATION SEQUENCE WAS ALSO ABANDONED.

The revelation that Eli was not born a girl, but was instead a boy who was castrated 200 years earlier, is present in Lindqvist’s novel and is hinted at in one brief but memorable shot in the film. According to Alfredson, though, this was originally going to be explored in much greater detail through a flashback sequence that actually showed the castration taking place. When it came time to shoot the scene, however, Alfredson got cold feet because of certain elements of … realism.

“I tried to do a flashback scene, where we see the castration of Eli [the girl vampire] 200 years ago, with very close shots of a knife coming close to skin, starting to cut, and I said to the make-up guys that I want to do this,” he recalled. “They said, 'You can’t do this unless it is real animal, because if you are so close to the camera, you can’t use rubber or special effects,' so I said 'Okay, let’s do that then,' then I forgot about it, and the assistant director said, 'We have the pig here now.' I said, 'What pig?' 'The pig for the cutting shot. A living pig. He is outside together with the slaughterer.' So I went outside the studio and a butcher was standing with his knife, and this pig looking with his sad eyes. I said no. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if we killed him. That’s bad karma."

8. IT FEATURES A LOT OF VERY SUBTLE CGI.

Let The Right One In is a relatively small film, with few central characters and locations. It’s far from a massive, effects-driven blockbuster, but that doesn’t mean that Alfredson was shy about using computer generated effects to his advantage when the film called for it. The reason many viewers may not notice, though, is that Alfredson and his team employed CGI in often very small ways, to accentuate the strange movements and behaviors of Eli and to add to the eeriness of the wintry landscape at night.

"There is a lot of CGI in this film," Alfredson said. "I think over 50 CGI shots. And it’s a fantastic tool box to use, but it seems like almost everyone is using it too much. If there’s a car explosion, it seems like the car has to explode for three minutes, and has to be the biggest car explosion you’ve ever seen. And it’s not good for the material or the reality to it. So, we tried to hold back on that as much as possible. You can do so much with those effects in a subtle way. For instance, changing the size of the eyes by 10 percent. Just make them 10 percent smaller, and nobody could tell what you have done, but it’s really spooky when someone suddenly has little, smaller eyes. In one scene, they were bigger and so on. People can not really pinpoint it. If you make a car explosion for four minutes, everyone will know it’s fake and why."

9. ALFREDSON WASN'T HAPPY ABOUT THE FILM'S REMAKE.

Tomas Alfredson directs 'Let the Right One In' (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

Even as Let the Right One In began getting noticed from American critics and audiences, studio executives were already looking for a way to Americanize the story, and by the fall of 2008 Cloverfield director Matt Reeves had signed on to write and direct the new adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel. Even before that film, titled Let Me In, was released in 2010, Alfredson was outspoken about his misgivings, and actually turned down an offer to make the American version himself.

“Initially they approached me to do the remake but I decided not to participate in it," he said. "I am too old to make the same film twice and I have other stories that I want to tell. I think that it is a little sad. I wish that American viewers would just see the foreign language version! When I first got asked about the remake I said ‘Can you not just get everyone to see this one? It is a perfectly good film you know!’"

10. IT ALMOST BECAME A TV SERIES.

Even after Let Me In arrived in American cinemas, producers weren’t done with Let The Right One In. In 2015, A&E began developing a potential TV series, written by Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis. In the summer of 2016, TNT ordered a pilot for the series, but by the spring of 2017 the network had decided not to proceed with the pickup, and the project fell off the radar. At the time, it was reported that production company Tomorrow Studios was still interested in the concept and potentially shopping it around to other networks, so perhaps the idea still has a future.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can pre-order your copy from Amazon now for $20 before its August 27 release date.

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