Brothers Mark Waters (director, Mean Girls) and Daniel Waters (writer, Heathers) have teamed up on the fantasy-comedy Vampire Academy, in theaters Friday. The two discuss their new film, their own cult classics, and more.
MARK WATERS: So brother Dan, you wrote every teenager’s mother’s favorite teen film, Heathers.
DANIEL WATERS: Yes, brother Mark, and you directed everyone’s favorite PG-13 Heathers rip-off, Mean Girls. I’m cool that I’m haute couture and you’re ready-to-wear…that I’m Joy Division and you’re New Order.
MARK: Let’s compare box office, Mr. Cult Favorite….and nobody knows the bands you are referring to, so quiet. Us old men have banded together to hopefully create another teen classic for a new generation, Vampire Academy.
DANIEL: Oh man, that title. I mean, if you have read the book, you know how wonderful the material is, but other people just stare at you like you just dumped Harry Potter and Twilight in a blender and pushed a button.
MARK: Your first draft of the screenplay felt about that long. But why do think it has been so hard for us to graduate from high school cinema. What keeps bringing us back?
DANIEL: High School is one of the few core experiences that everyone has gone through. Not all of us have gone to war or had a baby or tracked down the killer who massacred your family, but we’ve all gone to high school. The emotions are so raw and vital at that age with scars to last a lifetime.
MARK: Everything seems like it’s of life and death importance. I understand that even more now that I have two growing daughters…
DANIEL: And that I have never actually matured has been beneficial to me in writing these kinds of movies. In high school, the stakes always seem so high…
MARK: Did you seriously just say “stakes?” A good segue to our new film where everything just doesn’t seem life and death, it actually is. Everyone at the St. Vladimir’s school is some sort of vampire or half-vampire…what I like about the novel and the movie is that everyone is pretty chill about that fact. There’s no one on campus running around squealing, “Oh my God, vampires sucking blood!” Here it’s completely natural for a student to walk over to the clinic instead of a cafeteria to bite into a human feeder.
DANIEL: Yeah, it was incredibly important to make the crazy seem normal. When you think about it, every private school has its odd customs, traditions, and taboos.
MARK: It’s okay to make out with a guy, but if you let him fang into you while you’re going at it, that’s bad. Then you’re a blood whore.
DANIEL: I love when Cameron Monaghan as Mason asks Rose, “Is it true about you and Jesse? Not just hooking up, fanging up?”
MARK: Quoting your own lines—nice. Like Tina Fey’s script for Mean Girls, the dialogue in your teen films is very stylized. What do you say when people tell you, “Teenagers don’t really talk like that?”
DANIEL: I say, “Who cares?” Even when I was a teenager, I never wrote the way teenagers really talk…just like adults don’t “really talk” the way they do in a classic film like Casablanca. My high school experience, everyone’s high school experience, everyone’s LIFE experience for that matter is wishing you had said that perfect thing at that perfect time. I try to create that fantasy. Shakespeare’s Juliet is 16 and, while it’s been a while since I read Romeo and Juliet, I don’t think she says “whatever” or “totally” once.
MARK: I can tell you that from the director’s chair, young actors love to be challenged, to be given killer lines that take time to wrap their mind around. Unlike other young actors I’ve worked with who will remain nameless, Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry would never go out partying after work, but would immediately hunker down to start working on the reams of labyrinthine dialogue they had to navigate for the next day’s work.
DANIEL: Back to vampires, people keep trying to draw us into a battle with Twilight.
MARK: Hey, I really like Twilight. This isn’t Twilight. And Bella Swan isn’t Rose Hathaway, who’s probably the most feisty female protagonist ever created in the YA world. That doesn’t make Rose necessarily better or worse than Bella, but definitely different.
DANIEL: It’s sad that there are so few female protagonists out there that people keep feeling the need to compare them. The line I keep saying is that nobody goes around saying, “Hey, Iron Man has a better sense of humor than Wolverine.” They’re completely different characters.
MARK: But let’s not be afraid to brag about just how great our female protagonists are and the greatness of our lead actresses that play them. With Zoey’s Rose Hathaway and Lucy’s Lissa Dragomir, we get an amazing exploration of female friendship where the guys are just the side dishes.
DANIEL: They have a bond where Rose knows what Lissa is seeing and feeling. Lucy has a nice line: “I hate having a best friend I can’t lie to.”
MARK: Quoting again. But it is such a fun and dramatic dynamic that you could do a whole movie about the bond alone. Who needs vampires? I love that Lucy has a sweetness and spirit that perfectly matches our princess while Zoey is as tough, loving, protective and hilarious as Rose is in the book.
DANIEL: I made the mistake of saying in an interview that Zoey was an “in your face”-type person. When we went back to London to shoot that crazy dream sequence, she would sneak up on me, like an inch way from my cheek and sinisterly whisper, “Hi Dan, am I too in your face?”
MARK: From the moment they auditioned, they slipped into their characters’ dynamic. I remember Lucy didn’t know Los Angeles, and Zoey took her under her wing and drove her home after they had tested together.
DANIEL: Yes, I hope Zoey and Lucy go on to be healthy, mature role models like our other leading ladies: Winona Ryder and Lindsay Lohan.