Fran Kranz has been testing the waters of all sorts of acting situations over the past 15 years. Sitting in a Boston hotel room last week to talk about his role in the horror film “The Cabin in the Woods,” Kranz, 30, fondly remembered working on “Donnie Darko.”
Fran Kranz has been testing the waters of all sorts of acting situations over the past 15 years. Growing up in Los Angeles, he played King Lear in a high school stage production. His first TV job was in a guest spot on “Frasier.” His first big-screen job was in the cult classic “Donnie Darko.”
Sitting in a Boston hotel room last week to talk about his role in the horror film “The Cabin in the Woods,” which opens Friday, April 13 (naturally), Kranz, 30, fondly remembered working on “Darko.”
“I’m the clown at the end,” he said. “I’m in the car with Frank the bunny rabbit. I’m the clown that gets out and says, ‘Frank, what’dja do? You killed her, Frank!’ And then Jake Gyllenhaal points a gun at me and I run away. It was my first movie, and it was all-night shoot, and it was so surreal.”
“The Cabin in the Woods” also has a bit of the surreal going on, as well as science fiction and slasher sensibilities, lots of nervous laughs, and a script co-written by Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dollhouse”) and Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” “Lost”).
Kranz plays Marty, one of five pals who head off to a remote cabin by a lake where ... well, you know, things go wrong.
“Marty’s the fifth wheel of the group, since the others are kind of coupled off,” said Kranz. “He’s a pothead, and kind of a conspiracy theorist. He’s that kind of slacker-stoner friend, a common stock character in horror films. But Marty is also a very loyal friend, and he’s smart. He’s not what he appears to be on the surface. A lot of his suspicions come out of a concern for his friends. As an actor I think it’s important to find something heartfelt that you can latch onto, as opposed to just the silliness of all the pot smoking.”
But there sure is a lot of pot smoking, and though Kranz hasn’t exactly been typecast as a druggie, he’s certainly played similar roles before: onstage in “Bachelorette,” and onscreen in “Orange County.” Still, to prep for his part in “Cabin” he had to go through some offbeat coaching.
“I actually had a pot-smoking class,” he said, laughing. “The other actors had lessons in scuba diving and motorcycle riding. But I would go to the production office at 9 in the morning and just roll joints and smoke different types of fake pot. And I took it home with me to my hotel room. It was like my homework. I had to get good at it. I must’ve rolled about a thousand joints.”
Page 2 of 2 - Kranz also went through an odd audition process, though he didn’t even know it was happening at the time.
“I was doing ‘Dollhouse’ with Joss Whedon,” he recalled. “I knew he was going to do a horror film, and one day Drew Goddard, who directed ‘Cabin in the Woods,’ came by to talk with Joss about possible locations for the film. They were looking at (photos of) different lakes, and one of them was where they shot the original ‘Friday the 13th.’ I’m a big horror film fan, so I wandered over and said, ‘You should go there, that’s where they shot ‘Friday the 13th.’
“Later on I did a regular audition, and much later, after I got the part, Joss told me that he had Drew come to the set that day specifically because they were thinking about me for the role of Marty. He wanted Drew to meet me, and I think it was kind of a blessing that I happened to come over and geek out about horror films because Drew sort of saw a kindred spirit.”
“Cabin in the Woods” was actually shot in 2009, but its release kept getting delayed, first when its distributor, MGM, went through major financial hassles (the company filed for bankruptcy), and later, when a decision was made to transfer the film to 3-D (which was eventually abandoned).
“The long delay was really tough,” Kranz said. “I loved the movie and was proud of it, and I had high hopes for it, so it was discouraging.”
He finally saw it last summer, sitting in a screening room with Bradley Whitford, who costars as a mysterious lab worker.
“I was so nervous because I cared so much about it,” said Kranz. “And I was nervous sitting with Bradley, wondering, ‘What’s he thinking? What’s he thinking?’ He would chuckle now and then but he was pretty reserved. Then toward the end, he turned to me and said, ‘We’re in the greatest movie ever made.’ That was awesome!”
The Patriot Ledger