Last March Screen Rant visited the film set of director Jon Cassar’s When the Bough Breaks, a story about a young couple who find a surrogate mother for there child… who ends up being psychotic and dangerous with an obsession with the husband.
Cassar comes from a TV background, having directed 65 episodes of 24, the 24 TV movie, and an episode the upcoming 24: Legacy relaunch (of which he also produces), among many other television series and projects. We spoke with Cassar about that high-paced TV work and how it compares to what he’s making with When the Bough Breaks.
We heard that you’re used to doing TV that you work really fast.
Jon Cassar: I do. You know what show I did so you have to work very fast on that show because we did the kind of quality I’m doing now in films. It’s the kind of quality so it’s how you get it.
Is there anything comparable to 24 in this film?
Jon Cassar: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I think that is what interested me in the script. There’s tension. Nobody’s black or white. Everybody’s got a gray to them, which was typically 24. We didn’t really have a good guy and a bad guy. Was Jack Bauer a good guy or bad guy? I don’t know. Somewhere in between. That’s a part in here. Another thing that attracted me to this, which is again like 24, was putting characters in a situation as a moral choice. There’s a choice to be made and for the audience to play along and go, “What would I do?” That was a 24 thing as well. With Jack Bauer, do you kill one or twenty or should you kill one at all? It’s the same thing. If there is a husband and wife watching the show and one person says one thing and one person says the other and they argue on the way home, then I did my job. This is definitely going to be that. I don’t know how much you know about the project but it definitely has those interesting conversations connected to it.
That was the thing with Gone Girl where everyone said if you’re not shaking in your relationship, this might be a hard way to survive.
Jon Cassar: That’s exactly true. Gone Girl is actually a nice example. We are not that movie but there are elements I think are the same in this film.
Are you drawn to this sort of material?
Jon Cassar: The funny thing is and any director will tell you, there are some that are specifically drawn to one genre. I think most directors will tell you that they are drawn mostly to a good story. They are drawn to good stories and they are drawn to good characters. This had both, although it had a storyline, which at first I thought was a TV movie. When I started reading it is started to see how in-depth they got and there was a dark side to it that I really liked. That’s why I got involved. Then I knew I could make it something a little bit sensual and thought provoking. I thought I could do something with it. In a way, that’s like 24 but that’s like any script that I look at. I want that first. I need that before anything else. I need that before genre, before what I think I can do visually. I need to know that the characters are strong.
I know that the producers look at the tax credit in New Orleans that made it an attractive place to shoot. How does Louisiana play as a character in this movie?
Jon Cassar: That’s a good question. The film was written for LA. Sometimes it’s am easy transition to go from one city to another another; and sometimes you go to a city and pretend that you’re another city. In this case, we could have done that but i think all of us agreed right away that we loved the idea of New Orleans. Instead of fighting it, we wanted to embrace it. We have John Boute playing at a party we’re doing. A local jazz guy we saw and so we put him in the movie. It was really fun that way. What happens in the film is that the house is a big character. The LA house was a big character. Houses here are very different than they are in LA, especially at the calibers. Very high end. There was a guest house. There was a pool. There are not of guest houses in New Orleans. As nice as the houses are in the gardens, they don’t have guest houses. In fact, we never found one with a guest house. They don’t have the pools that LA has. We had to adjust that. My concern was that we find a house that gives me that. A lot of the movie is that Anna is staying in the guest house and the Taylors are in the main house and them looking at each other and him looking at her through the window. She looks up at the bedroom when they’re making love. That was a big part of it and I couldn’t lose that. I couldn’t suddenly go to go to a garden home and say she’s living upstairs. That didn’t work. We went through a lot of houses and the one we found, the Taylor house, is just spectacular. As a modern house all of the rooms open up into each other, which is very LA. It’s not New Orleans. It was the perfect house for us.
What was it like working with Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut?
Jon Cassar: Fantastic. I had never worked with either. I heard wonderful things about them. When you do your homework as a director you find out who’s good and who’s bad. They were very good. In fact, I was blessed with the most amazing cast all the way around. Jaz is new. You don’t know her but you’re about to. I’m telling you right now, she’s pretty incredible.
What was it about her?
Jon Cassar: It’s actually the meeting I had with her. It’s interesting that good girls or smiley girls say they can be evil and then they act and they look like they are trying to be evil. Jaz has this ability to turn a switch and she’s unrecognizable. In fact, she would come in, in the early stages, we would have her look different. More innocent. Even some of the crew would say, “Is that the same girl?” She’s so different. She had the ability to change. In one dinner I had with her, she was playing around and I could see each it. I could see right away that this sweet young girl could actually become this monster that quickly. I have no idea what’s in her background that gets her there but she can get there. That’s the dangers of that. Sometimes the bad girl can play good, but the good girl playing bad isn’t bought. You don’t buy it, but Jaz has a great way if doug thay. And then I had Romany Malcolm, who’s fantastic, and Theo Rossi, who’s incredible, and Glen Morshower from 24. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s a very small cast but it’s a wonderful cast. To answer your question, Regina and Morris are incredible together. They are the backbone of the story. It’s their relationship that becomes the talking point of this film. What they do and how they handle the situation is going to be the controversial talking point about the movie.
Can you talk about casting Regina and Morris?
Jon Cassar: I had to give that (credit) to Clint Culpepper of Screen Gems. They are really making an effort to do that, not to make stereotypical African-American films. This is a thriller and it could have been anybody as long as the story was solid and about a husband and wife. It really didn’t matter what the race was. In my case, they were already attached before me. I have no comment on that except that I know Clint really liked them and he had worked with them before. They have done many movies with him. Morris had a deal with Screen Gems and that was part of it. I couldn’t be happier. When you’re handed those actors, it’s not like you are going to complain. I was very lucky about that.
Is the direction you are going into now as opposed to doing more TV?
Jon Cassar: I think at one point every director wants to move up to movies, except television is really a good place to be right now. Again, it’s good to be a good story. We’re potentially bringing back the Kennedys for another round with Katie Holmes. We’re excited about that. That’s a possibility after I did the first miniseries Again, good stories, good people, great projects are out there right now and more and more. It’s absolutely staggering how much great television there is. I can’t keep up. I used to able to say that I see everything but it’s nearly impossible now.
Is there anything that you binge watch?
Jon Cassar: I binge watch the Netflix stuff. It’s smart that the next episode starts right away. How brilliant is that. It hooks you into watching it. I know that’s how people watch 24 too. I’m little behind now. Once I start on a movie, my TV time gets reduced. It will go back up again once I’m finished.
24 was one of the finished programs to start airing in January with limited interruption and no repeats. What do you think of other networks following the same path?
Jon Cassar: I think Lost was one of the first ones to realize because they were on the same time that we were on. We realized it too. We got it right away. The second we missed a week and we didn’t have reruns and those shows did. That really pissed people off. You would be halfway through the show and then you go, “Wait a second. This is from last year. It doesn’t make sense.” If you are doing a continuous storyline, you can’t play reruns. If you are doing a procedure, no problem. If you are doing a continuous storyline, and you want people to come back, you have to be there every week. They have even gone one step further. They have gone into binge-watching and then they are all there. That’s another version of that but a more condensed version. We were the first ones to do it. We pushed it to January so we wouldn’t have the Christmas break and we got out of Tuesday because that day would be bumped by the President’s speeches, which is always on Tuesdays. If you wanted people to talk around the water cooler, you wanted a day like Monday. Some people didn’t watch it at all. Some people waited until the whole season was over and either buy the DVDs because in those days, it wasn’t streaming or taped them all and watched them all in one shot. They were some of the first binge watchers if you think about it. They saved up and watched them all together. The only about binge watching and Netflix is that the water gets taken away. It really hurts them a little bit. I can’t tell you how many times i would be sitting at a table and you say “House of Cards” and someone says “Don’t tell me. I’m only on episode 3.” So we have no conversation. In eight months time when everyone has seen them all but by then, it’s too late because you want it every week. That’s what generates the publicity. That’s the only drawback with that. You can’t have the water cooler talk and some of these shows have survived because of it.
What sets When The Bough Breaks apart from similar films?
Jon Cassar: It’s a really good movie and I made it. The characters are really great and they are fun to watch. It’s visually beautiful and that’s a big part of movie now. They have to be beautiful. Not that television isn’t doing it but movies are still a place to go and see it on the big screen. It’s a widescreen format so it really is huge. It’s a good thriller. These are the type of movies you want to go out with your friends and go see.
John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) are a young, professional couple who desperately want a baby. After exhausting all other options, they finally hire Anna (Jaz Sinclair), the perfect woman to be their surrogate – but as she gets further along in her pregnancy, so too does her psychotic and dangerous fixation on the husband. The couple becomes caught up in Anna’s deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late.
When the Bough Breaks releases in theaters September 9, 2016.