(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t seen “Happy Death Day.”)
Filming a death scene is hard for any actor, but “Happy Death Day” star Jessica Rothe, who plays the main character in the new horror movie, had to watch her own demise 11 times — although it was shot many, many more.
“We filmed so many of them,” Rothe told TheWrap. “The hardest [death scenes] were the one where I get tackled into the fountain, and the bus hit. It was all incredibly technical and so even though it was a mixture of me and my stunt double doing work together, we had to make sure that no one got hurt while still nailing the comedy of the kills — it was very important.”
“Happy Death Day” revolves around Tree, a college sorority girl who wakes up in a boy’s dorm room on her birthday but gets murdered that same night. When she dies, she finds herself back in the same bed, and finds herself reliving her death day over and over again. She uses every day to find out who murders her — and why.
“We block shot all the same scenes in two days,” Rothe said. “At first, I was terrified of doing it that way. Those scenes are so important in establishing Tree’s evolution in that movie, and doing them back-to-back was helpful because we were able to measure where we were and where we had been, if that makes sense.”
And her character goes through a big transformation throughout the film — from “despicable” bratty college student to a sweet girl who just had a wall up to protect herself.
“I was given this freedom to play this despicable character and because I knew she would redeem herself, we got to dive in and play with how narcissistic and cruel she could be,” Rothe said. “Many times, people who are self involved or bullies, it stems from a place of hurt and insecurity within oneself. It’s not that she’s a bad person — she’s kind of built this tough wall to protect herself.”
Because of the time loop Tree is stuck in, many have pointed to the similarities to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.” And the filmmakers didn’t want to miss out on calling that out, and actually reshot the ending to add in a little quip about the 1993 classic.
“We actually added that, because we realized we have to put something in about ‘Groundhog Day,'” said Rothe, but “I bet Tree doesn’t know who Bill Murray is.”
“Happy Death Day” was directed by Christopher Landon and also stars Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine and Rachel Matthews. Blumhouse CEO Jason Blum served as a producer on the project.