Why The Stars Of Let The Right One In Never Got To See The Script

For his 2008 Swedish vampire movie, "Let the Right One In," director Tomas Alfredson was working with two first-time child actors, Kâre Hedebrant and Lina Leanderson, on some very adult subject matter. It wasn't just the fact that this was a horror film. Author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote the novel "Let the Right One In" was based on, also wrote the film's screenplay, and in adapting his book, he sanded off some of its rough edges.

The character of Håkan (Per Ragnar), guardian of Leanderson's 12-year-old vampire, Eli, was portrayed as a pedophile in the novel, while Eli came with the backstory of having once been a boy who was castrated. The movie only hints at these things, with the androgynous Eli telling next-door neighbor and newfound friend, Oskar (Hedebrant), "I'm not a girl," and Oskar walking in on Eli changing clothes, only to catch a quick glimpse of a scar in a telling area.

Even still, "Let the Right One In" features horrific deaths, such as when Håkan halothanes a stranger, hangs them upside-down from a tree, slits their throat, and drains their blood into a bucket for Eli to drink. Owing to this, perhaps, and his own preferred working methods, Alfredson adopted a unique approach while working with the child actors on "Let the Right One In." The kids never actually read the script.

Alfredson elaborated on his process in a 2008 interview with Shock Till You Drop, archived via the Wayback Machine. He spoke first of how difficult it was to find the right kids for the roles, saying:

"It was a huge thing to do. It took nearly a year to find those two kids in opening castings. We don't have professional children's actors in Sweden, so that was a very big thing to do. If one of the children wouldn't work, the film wouldn't work."

'They Learned By Ear, Rather Than Eye'

Alfredson forewent traditional readings with the kids, and even when they were shooting, he was guiding them by reading to them and keeping them in their own play world. He explained:

"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. 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."

Anderson said Hedebrant and Leanderson's parents read the script and "had made their approval," and the kids did have some idea of the overall story. But apparently, this is the way he usually likes to work "for artistic reasons."

It's certainly one way of achieving a more naturalistic feel, since the actors are doing what people might do in real life and saying things entirely from memory or in a more spontaneous manner, as opposed to reading them off of cue cards or having the script right in front of them at a table reading. Of course, the full nuances of the kids' delivery of the Swedish dialogue might be lost on American audiences, who are paying more attention to the English subtitles. But hearing the way Alfredson and his stars worked on "Let the Right One In" offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of a modern vampire classic.

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The post Why the Stars of Let the Right One In Never Got to See the Script appeared first on /Film.