How Parker Finn’s ‘smile’ went from broadcast to cinema overnight
[This story contains spoilers for Smile.]
Nobody’s smiling more these days than filmmaker Parker Finn.
Finn knows well that his directorial debut smile, held a magical race. Originally greenlit for a Paramount+ exclusive, the Sosie Bacon-directed horror film told the story of a curse that manifests itself in the form of a smile at every turn and resulted in a boxing match-up for a $17 million box office roughly $216 million budget. The decision to forgo Paramount+ and release the film in theaters was largely due to the first test screening, which took place three months into post-production.
“They always forewarn you that horror regularly gets lower scores than other genres and horror films with a grim tone. smile It has a lower score than that, so they were willing to look at it through that lens,” Finn said. The Hollywood Reporter.
Unlike most modern blockbusters, which are covered in tedious detail by the press throughout production, there was no available information about the film, which meant that test audience reactions were not mixed.
“It was a sold-out show in Burbank for 270 people, and when the movie started playing, you could feel the electricity in the air,” Finn recalled. “The audience was screaming at the screen, so it was clear that the community environment and nature of it was amazing. To Paramount’s credit, they understood this and supported the film in such an incredible way.
in a recent conversation with THRFinn also hints at potential smile sequel and how he obviously won’t take the approach.
So is there something in the water at Paramount right now? My persistence Top Gun: Maverick and all the other number one movies this year?
(He laughs.) This is a good question for them. Paramount certainly had a remarkable year, and I’m very happy about that smile should be part of it.
smile he had to go to Paramount+ until his first drug test. What happened from there?
Yes, we were greenlit, budgeted and planned to be a Paramount+ film, and I was excited to be able to make a film with a studio as a first-time filmmaker. I was given a lot of funding for my first film and we decided to make the best possible film. And then we come to the first screening test, which is about 12 or 13 weeks, and they always warn you in advance that horror scores lower than other genres. And horror movies that have a bad tone smile has a lower score than that, so they were willing to look at it through that lens.
And this was absent during the first screening test [existing] marketing or knowing what the film is about. It was a sold out show in Burbank for 270 people and you could feel the electricity in the air when the movie started playing. The audience was screaming at the screen, so it was very clear that the community environment and nature of it was amazing. To Paramount’s credit, they realized this and supported the film incredibly by creating this wonderful marketing campaign. They’ve been really supportive and it’s beyond surreal to see what the film has done.
Who do you credit with a brilliant viral marketing campaign that created creepy smiles at baseball games and more?
All the departments at Paramount are incredible experts at what they do, and they’re really good at thinking outside the box. Marc Weinstock is at the top of Paramount’s marketing department, and he’s there for a reason. Brian Pianko is the head of creative advertising, so all the professionals that work there are amazing. When the idea of putting smiles on baseball games came up, we talked about it five or six weeks before it happened. And I just liked that they wanted to make it really partisan and not thumbs up. They said: “If people understand, they will understand. If they don’t, no harm, no sin. It won’t cost a ton of money to do this. And Smiles first came when we were in Austin for our Fantastic Fest premiere, and it was so amazing and rewarding and exciting to see it go viral.
And so, for the rest of Sosie Bacon’s life, complete strangers would give her their most uncomfortable smiles on the street. How guilty or responsible do you feel?
(He laughs.) Guilty? Maybe a little. And maybe a little responsible. Sosie has been a very good partner through it all, so I think she will handle it very well. [Writer’s Note: When asked about this, Sosie previously told THR, “Honestly, I don’t mind that. I just don’t want anyone to yell at me to smile. Women get told that enough.”]
Sosi also told me that during the casting, there were no people who created their scariest smiles. Is it true?
Well, none of the smiles in the film come from cast characters. So the casting plays were about who could nail it, but for some of the supporting roles, we wanted a smile. I knew the smile was something we could use later, but more importantly, I had to make sure the performances were as they should be.
Soci’s performance speaks for itself. He was more than deserving of this role, and his last name has no bearing on the strength of his work. But did any part of you realize he had a fear streak?
As a horror fan and both parents, I certainly enjoyed it all, but it wasn’t part of Sosie’s lineup. I had already seen what he could do as a performer; I was a big fan Easttown Mare, I had just watched this movie before starting it. But when we first met, here’s what he brought to our conversations and what he thought about the script, the character and the challenges he was looking forward to as an artist. He was looking for something that would really scare him as a performer.
So he was saying all the right things and it was very clear to me that he was right for the role. He’s been an incredible partner throughout this process, and he’s had to do the practically impossible. The places he had to go were so extreme, these levels of tension and anxiety and fear and melodrama. And he is in almost every scene. Our return was basically his return. So it was a grueling role to take on, and he took it on with such humility that I’m incredibly proud of what he’s accomplished.
You gave us the final ending for the girls that you didn’t. At first you tried it on for size and didn’t feel it, hence this sudden deviation?
While developing the script, I felt a very strong influence for the film to take its worst logical conclusion. It fit the story I was telling and I hoped it would feel earned. So, I knew from the beginning that we were always heading towards where we would end up, but how we got there changed a few times along the way. I wanted to do what the audience didn’t want, but it was important for me to achieve an emotional catharsis before taking this very dark turn. So I was hoping to have my cake and eat it too.
The hospital scene with Sosie, Kal Penn, and Jack Sochet that bothered the team the most?
(He laughs.) It was fun and practically achieved. Of course, there’s some softening on it, but it was fun to have both a version of Cal Penn that looked like Cal Penn and a version without a face in the shot. (He laughs.) There were many pictures of us posing with the two of them at the same time that day. There’s something really exciting about working with practical effects and doing something over-the-top on set. It’s always one of those times when the whole team gets together and looks at the monitor. Tearing a famous actor’s face off isn’t something you do very often on set, so it’s pretty fun. So once you put the movie together, it makes it really tense and scary, but during the day it’s kind of a blast.
How much have you thought about a sequel directed by Joel (Kyle Gallner) that picks up where you left off?
I think there are still many interesting things to explore in the world smile. There are definitely stones that I didn’t turn over on purpose. And then there are other things that I wanted to film at one point or another, but for some reason they didn’t. So these things are always exciting for me, but if there’s more smile, I would never want to repeat myself or go back from the same place. I want to make sure that there is an interesting, fresh new path that the audience is not expecting. I also want to find new ways to scare and annoy them. But in terms of how it might tie into the first one, if we were, I’d like that to be surprising as well.
Well, Parker Finn, congratulations smilesuccess and I will see you in a year or two Smile$.
(He laughs.) I love it. Thanks.
Available digitally, Smile will hit Blu-ray/4K on December 13th.