When I got an email publicizing the release of a new 15th anniversary 4K disc of Cloverfield, my first reaction was, well, this can’t be right. Fifteen years? After doing the math I have some news: the good folks at Paramount did not miscount. It has, somehow, been 15 years.
If you were on the internet at all in 2007 and 2008, Cloverfield was an online sensation. What even was it supposed to be? The trailer premiered before the first Transformers and it didn’t even have a title. Even more strange, as Matt Reeves reflects ahead, there wasn’t even a movie. Reeves and his team just went out and shot a trailer, as opposed to putting together footage from a movie being filmed. After they shot that trailer, then they had to figure out what the movie even was going to be. This all led to wild speculation as to the plot of this still unnamed movie, going as far for there to be speculation that it was a Voltron movie because someone mistook the word “alive” for “lion.”
To celebrate Cloverfield at 15 (seriously, really?) we spoke to Matt Reeves. Reeves, as we know, is knee-deep in the Batman universe right now. The Batman keeps picking up a slew of awards nominations for technical and cinematic achievements, then there’s the series featuring Colin Farrell as Penguin, then of course the next installment of his movie. All while the DC films are going through massive restructuring with, now, James Gunn calling the shots. So there did seem to be an air of whimsy in Reeves’s voice as he talked about Cloverfield, which in retrospect kind of seems like a miracle. And will we see the Cloverfield monster again?
And speaking of James Gunn, I, jokingly, had some advice for Reeves for his next meeting with Gunn, which, apparently, is coming up soon. (Obviously, Reeves doesn’t need any advice.)
I just realized I have interviewed you for every movie you’ve directed since Let Me In.
Is that right?
So now we’re going back to pick up the two I missed. We have to do The Pallbearer next.
Okay! We can do that. [Laughs] When we do the re-release of that, we’ll do the 4K of that one. No.
I actually like The Pallbearer.
I did too. It was a very personal film for me. There’s a crazy story. There are fun stories to be had about that movie one day for people who don’t care about it. Okay, we’ll talk about that down the line.
You’re in the midst of The Batman getting all these award nominations, does it feel like whiplash to all of a sudden talk about Cloverfield?
Well, first of all, it’s head spinning in this sense: It’s been 15 years.
I can’t believe that either. I’m with you on that. I had to double-check that. There’s no way.
Look, making that movie was terrifying, but also really, really fun. And it was one of these things where it felt like, oh my God, this could be an utter disaster. We really didn’t know what we were doing. I entered, there was no script yet. Drew [Goddard] and I met and he had an outline, but then he and I started working on the outline and then we met every day. But I was preparing the movie from our outline, from his outline, that we didn’t have a script for.
So my production designer, I’d have to tell him each day, “Okay, so this is what we’re doing now.” He was like, “Wait, wait, I need to build sets though. We’re shooting in 12 weeks!” It was crazy. And so the experience of doing that … and then the trailer comes out and people are going like, “Wow, what is this?” And I’m thinking, as we’re doing it – because we’re very short into shooting at that point – I’m going, “I don’t know what this movie is yet.” And the whole world was going, “Hey, what’s this movie?” Which was thrilling and terrifying. So it was a very special experience. I look back at it… it’s a weird thing to think that it’s 15 years ago, but also I can feel that it’s 15 years ago that at that time it just felt like this crazy experiment.
Speaking of sets, I just thought of this… I hadn’t lived in New York very long when you were filming this and I couldn’t walk down the street without running into your production. Something called Slusho was everywhere. “Oh, I need to go to this bar.” “No, you cant walk this way, Slusho is filming.”
Is that right? We kept changing the name of our production! There was literally a time I was like, “Well, why don’t we just call it Cheese?” And then literally online, there were all these people going like, “Oh, production’s now moved to this street and it’s called Cheese.” And I was like, “How are they doing this!?” It was crazy! Yeah, again, another part of the crazy thing, that’s what happens when you put out a trailer before Transformers with no title for a movie that you haven’t made yet.
And that’s how people think it’s Voltron. That still is crazy to me.
[Laughs] Well, that, I think, is because I’m actually in the trailer, one of the voices saying, “Oh my God, I saw it. It’s alive. It’s huge.” It sounds like, “a lion.”
See, that’s what you should do next. You should make a Voltron movie and really bring this full circle.
Maybe that’s the next Batman movie.
Yes, Batman versus Voltron. You’ll get two fan bases with that.
There you go.
Was the marketing for this movie fun? Because I could see it being fun, but also I could see you being like, “Can I just tell people what this movie is?”
To be honest with you, it was really fun because you don’t usually have a situation where you go out and you shoot the trailer. That’s what we did. Like I said, that was an experiment to see whether or not we could even make a HandyCam VFX movie because they didn’t know if they could track the handheld camera. And so the whole thing was scripted and we went out and shot it. And a lot of that was, literally, I watched all these YouTube videos and my storyboard artists who I have used on every movie since Josh Shepherd, he found this going away party with these guys who were filming each other. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s some cool stuff.” We literally ripped off some of that in a way, going like, oh, this is the vibe. And so, to be able to go out and make a non-titled movie trailer where the head of the Statue of Liberty comes down, crashes the street and people go, “What just happened?” That was really fun. That was really fun.
Oh, I bet.
And then when they brought in the poster, half the Statue of Liberty without its head off, we were like, this is amazing. Because it was like, oh, these are perfect, they are in dialogue to each other. We’re making a trailer where the head of the Statue of Liberty has been ripped off and pitched down the street and here’s this poster without the head. So the marketing was amazing on that movie. And it was fun to be able to be so much a part of it.
It is surprising we haven’t seen the Cloverfield monster again. We keep hearing about direct sequels. Even as recently as 2021. Is this a possibility that it’s still going to happen because we’ve been hearing about it since this one came out, and would you be involved?
It’s Cloverfield, so I’m not allowed to talk about anything ever.
That’s the whole point of Cloverfield. But I’ll just say this, anything is always possible and I’m certainly excited about the idea of doing more. We’ve done a bunch now and I love it. It’s really cool. But I can’t really comment on actually what might happen in the future.
So with all the DC stuff going on, and James Gunn taking over, he’s a St. Louis guy…
Here’s my advice. As someone from there myself, anytime you want to get something done, St. Louis people love it when you drop St. Louis references.
Is that right? I’m going to be meeting with James I think later this month just to talk and so give me some…
Alright, so maybe if there’s something you like, but it could be better, say something along the lines of like, “Yeah, that’s pretty good, but it’s no Ted Drewes frozen custard.” There you go.
Okay. Ted Drewes frozen custard. Ted Drewes frozen custard is amazing? Is that what that is?
It is the most famous thing in St. Louis, other than the Cardinals.
Is that like Carvel ice cream in New York?
Oh, it’s better.
[Laughs] Sorry, I probably just offended you. But anyway, yeah, I hear you. I’m sure it’s better.
Anyway, if you want something done, there’s your line.
All right, cool.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.