Director Eli Roth has made a name for himself as one of cinema’s leading horror directors with films like Hostel and The Green Inferno terrifying audiences right around the world. But his latest film, The House With In A Clock In Its Walls is different to anything he has ever done before. It is still scary, but certainly not horrific, as Roth ropes things in and creates a film that wouldn’t be out of place if it was placed alongside the Harry Potter franchise on your shelf.
Telling the story of a young orphan named Lewis, played by Owen Vaccaro (Daddy’s Home, Mother’s Day), who is forced to go and live with his mystical uncle played by comedy legend Jack Black (School Of Rock, King Kong), where he soon learns about a world of magic that he had no idea existed. His journey into magic is also aided by his Uncle’s next neighbour Mrs. Zimmerman (played by Cate Blanchett – The Lord Of The Rings, Carol).
“The House With A Clock In Its Walls is about a boy, Lewis Barnavelt, who loses his parents and has to go and live with his uncle who he has never met before,” says star Jack Black as he gets into the nitty gritty of the film. “His uncle turns out to be an eccentric who is a warlock, whose best friend lives across the street, Mrs Florence Zimmerman, who is a witch but they are good witches and warlocks. And they are living in this house which has within its walls a hidden clock of doom, which we suspect is a doomsday clock with will destroy the whole world. And the whole movie is about this little boy, this witch and this warlock trying to unlock the secrets of the house and this clock before it is too late. The uncle is truly an eccentric, aside from witchcraft he is also a jazz saxophone enthusiast. And I am a musical guy but that is an instrument that I have never played before, so I was excited for that musical challenge. I just thought it was funny and it struck a chord in me… this saxophone playing warlock just sounded like a part I wanted to play. And I have always wanted to have powers so I felt a kinship with this warlock character right out of the gate.”
Black goes on to talk about his character’s philosophy on magic. “Well his philosophy on magic is that it comes from a person’s individuality. That every human being is different, in some way, we are all incredibly unique, that everyone of us is one out of a hundred billion trillion – we are like a snowflake… no two are alike. And tapping into that uniqueness is the source of all powerful magic.”
He is also quick to admit that one of the reasons he wanted to make the film was because Cate Blanchett was involved with the film. “This was a big deal for me,” he explains. “When I heard that Cate was involved with the project, when I first jumped on board, the very idea of getting to work with Cate Blanchett was exciting and daunting and thrilling and it really made the whole thing a no-brainer. If Cate was going to be part of this then I was going to be over the moon. And once it was a done deal I started telling people ‘I am working on a Cate Blancett movie. It is just this thing that myself and Cate Blanchett are working on and we will be doing a lot of scenes together. We are acting up a storm together.’”
And while he is a lot younger than his cast mates Black says that Owen Vaccaro is a big part of the movie. “He really is the key,” he says pausing and thinking for moment. “When you really think about it this is his story. Me and Mrs. Zimmerman are there to kind of help him along with his journey of discovery and into adulthood, he is learning as he goes an there are some very tough and emotional times and we have to be there as parents basically but we see the idea and world of witchcraft through his eyes and he is fantastic.”
His co-star Cate Blanchett also seems to have enjoyed her journey into a world of witchcraft and magic. “I play Florence Zimmerman,” she says. “She has a love of purple and she lives next door to Jack’s character. So you have a warlock and a witch living next door to each other and they have been long connected through their love of magic but they also have a mutual respect – and they do bicker and fight like George and Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolfe, but they have a deep love for one another and they understand each other and the pain that they have both experienced. There is a love between them as much as they tussle. But any time she goes to use her magic it comes out broken, which is often to comic ends, but she also doesn’t have the courage to do it by herself, so at the same time she is encouraging Lewis and Jonathan to step up to the plate and embrace who they really are, she needs their encouragement to do that herself. And I thought the beautiful thing about this film was that not one of these characters can tackle this problem themselves… they need each other to do it.”
Blanchett also says one of the highlights of working on the film was getting to work with Jack Black. “I don’t think I have encountered a bigger hearted, braver, more enthusiastic person who is also an actor. But it was so much fun. I think one of the things that Jack doesn’t get to do very often on screen is he is like an onion, you peel back a few layers and he just makes you weep. I think he tackles the broken elements of Jonathan in such a beautiful, beautiful way that it was very moving to work opposite him.”
The House With A Clock In Its Walls is in cinemas this Thursday.