Urban Legends: Final Cut
A Conversation with
Jennifer Morrison and Joseph Lawerence
feature by
Loey Lockerby, 22 September 2000

For some reason, slasher movies seem to showcase tough female leads.  From Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween to Neve Campbell in Scream, the woman-in-peril role has taken on whole new dimensions in the twenty-odd years since the genre's debut.  Now, we can add Jennifer Morrison, the star of Urban Legends: Final Cut, to the list of young women who outsmart crazed murderers and outlive most of their co-stars.  Morrison plays Amy Mayfield, a film student whose movie about a serial killer becomes all too real as members of her cast and crew are offed by a mysterious figure in a fencing mask.  This is Morrison's first major role, although she has some experience scaring people – her most notable previous work was as the ghost who haunts Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes. 

While most of the Urban Legends cast is made up of newcomers like Morrison, there is one veteran in the bunch:  Former child actor Joseph (a.k.a. Joey) Lawrence, star of the popular sitcoms Gimme a Break and Blossom.  Now twenty-four, Lawrence is working hard to put his wholesome TV image behind him, playing Graham, the crass, Machiavellian son of a wealthy Hollywood mogul.

On September 11, Morrison and Lawrence sat down for streaming-video roundtable interviews at iJunket.com.

Question:  Joseph, how did your Hollywood experience influence your portrayal of a film brat in this film?

Joseph Lawrence:  Well, my Hollywood experience was sort of an unorthodox one.  I came from a really great family that gave me a lot support, was around me at all times.  And, you know, I never fell into the traps and the pitfalls that unfortunately a lot of people fall into.  But it was kind of fun to play the antithesis of that in the Graham character.  I think it was 'cause this guy kind of got caught up in it and was really affected by it.  And it altered his personality growing up in it, so it was fun to jump into that.  But our experiences as individuals were different.

Q:  Jennifer, you starred in last year's Stir of Echoes.  Was that experience different or similar in any respect to your experience in this film? 

Jennifer Morrison:  Oh, very different.  In this film, I was, like, the person having to deal with everything.  In that film, I was this thing scaring everyone. [laughs]  So in that film, it was a lot of very, very tedious technical filming, and lots of time in hair and makeup, and dealing with trying to create a very abstract character.  And in this film, I was dealing with a really solid human being, dealing with all of these things, that was actually alive, which was different than being dead. [laughs]  And so in that sense, you know, it was kind of a total flip side.

Q:  Joseph, you've had a lot more experience than most of your fellow cast members here.  How did it feel being the veteran?  Did you give any advice to your fellow actors? 

JL:  You know, I think they really knew what they were doing.  Yeah, I've been doing this a lot longer.  But, you know, no, I mean, not really.  I didn't go out as much as some of them did.  But we kind of stayed at the hotel and hung out and stuff.  But, you know, when I work, I love to go up there and work.  And then by the end of the day, I'm kind of tired, so I just go home and crash.  But that was the only thing that really, you know, I kind of did that was different.  But everything else, everyone kind of knew what they were doing.  And I think it shows.

Q:  So Jennifer, what was it like starring in your first Hollywood feature?

JM:  It was really exciting and really scary at the same time.  I'm one of those people who just dives into everything.  I'm like, yes, OK, I can do this, and this is my job.  I just kind of take everything as it comes.  And it didn't really hit me until I got to the hotel in Toronto and we went to the table to read and everything, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I have to be the reason people want to see the next scene!"  'Cause I'm in, like, every scene.  And I was like, realizing that pressure, you know.  And I mean, I was really serious about my character in the first place.  But there's an added pressure to really making sure that, you know, every specific detail of her life and everything was understood in my head, so that when I was presenting something in a scene, it was really right on.  There's no leeway for not knowing something at that point.  So it was definitely both the pressure and really exciting and fun at that same time.

Q:  This would be for both of you.  Culturally, people seem to enjoy scary movies in the same way that we enjoy urban legends.  Why do you think it is that we love to be scared?  And is that something you thought about while you were working on the film?

JM:  I think it's interesting, because I always shied away from scary movies when I was younger until I started working on a lot of, you know, doing Stir of Echoes and stuff.  I started having different interests in it.  There's that adrenaline thrill, I think.  It's almost like riding a roller coaster, you know, when you're watching a movie and you get that same kind of excited thrill of the anticipation of something.  I mean, even watching this movie, knowing what's coming next, 'cause I'd read the script a million times.  I was sitting there with my agent going, "Oh, my God, what's happening next?"  It's like, "Jennie, you know the script!"  But there's something that we love about that little feeling you get inside when you get excited.  There's that total terror tension going on.  So I think that it's kind of a rush.

JL:  Yeah, I just think so many times, people in real life, we are scared of real things.  And I think that you go to a film and you know it's not real, and I think that's the whole point of it.  So we can go in there and enjoy ourselves and enjoy being scared, whereas so many times in life when we're scared, we can't enjoy it.  Because it's really scary, you know.  So I think that's the fun of it for me, is that you go in there and scream and get nervous, and at the end of it, you walk out, and for that hour and thirty-five minutes, life just kind of stopped.  And then, you know, it'll kind of start up again, so, yeah.

Q:  Joseph, what attracted you to this film?

JL:  Well, for me, it was coming back off, like, three years of not working, and being away, and kind of stepping out of the limelight there.  It was an opportunity to kind of come back and just play a part that people wouldn't necessarily associate with me.  Because they all think that I walk [around] with ripped jeans and whatever.  So, yeah, it was, you know, this guy is kind of a dark character with a lot of problems.  And I think it was a good first role for people to see me in.  And it was good for me as an actor to kind of just be able to play something a little bit different, 'cause that's kind of what I'm looking to do right now is just play different roles in different things and experience situations with different characters.  You know, I'm trying to flex my wings a little bit.

Q:  So Jennifer, any directing aspirations now that you've played a film student?

JM:  Oh, yeah, I've always actually had directing aspirations.

JL:  When you're an actor, it just lends itself to directing, I think.

JM:  Yeah, when you're around on set, and especially for me with this film, having been on set as much as I was and really getting along with [director and editor] John Ottman so well.  And his mind working as an editor really helped me understand how things piece together in a film, and it really helped me develop my character, getting along with him so well.  Because I was able to kind of pick up things and understand the way he looked at things, and understood things, and pieced them all together.  And so I've definitely got a really strong grasp on that and would like to pursue that eventually, yeah, definitely.

Q:  Why do you think women are so often the protagonists for slasher and horror movies?

JM:  Wow, there's lots of different potential answers for that.

JL:  For, like, fifty years of guys being them. [laughs]  I think it's time for girls.  It's always a guy.

JM:  Well, this was a totally different kind of woman protagonist, though.  I mean, she's intelligent, and she's with it, and she's creating something.  And that was what really drew me to the character in the first place.  You know, a lot of the women who are in these kind of films are, like, running around in wet T-shirts and screaming…

JL:  We tried to get a wet T-shirt… [both laugh]

JM:  It wasn't in my contract, you know…Gosh, you know, I don't know.  That's a really tough question to ask.  It pretty much evens out if you look at all of them, maybe because we tend to think that the killer's always a guy or something.  I don't know.

Q:  Were there any real-life spooky happenings on the live set or did everything go [according] to script?

JM:   I had a couple of pretty crazy little incidences.  We were filming in a forest for a while.  I was walking back from lunch, and there was no one walking back with me, which was really odd, because the ADs [assistant directors] are usually like suctions to us, you know.  And I don't know how I managed to sneak away - I didn't mean to.  But I was walking back alone from this forest, and I was absolutely scared out of my mind.  Because it was like everything that can possibly happen in a horror movie was going through my head as I was walking through.

And then the only other thing that was funny was, I was in bed one night, and I was living by myself, filming a horror film, so I was always kind of like subconsciously on edge about things.  And it was, like, one in the morning, and it sounded like someone was opening my door.  And I get freaked out in hotels, because so many people have keys…

JL [deadpans]:  It wasn't locked.  I didn't know.  I was trying to… [both laugh]

JM:  But, you know, all the maintenance people, all the cleaning people, they all have keys, so you kind of get freaked out.  So I fly up in my bed.  I'm like, "Don't come in! Don't come in!" and I'm screaming.  And then I wait, and I don't here anything.  And it's like, God, what happened?  So I get out of my bed, and I'm really scared to walk over there.  And someone had slipped my call sheet through the mail slot instead of under the door, so it had made extra noise.  And I was just imagining the poor hotel guy who put the thing under the door, and here's this girl screaming at the top of her lungs, "Don't come in!". So I had a couple - I think it was totally affecting me a little bit more subconsciously than I realized.

Q:  Jennifer, do you think the audience can really identify with your character in the movie?

JM:  I think so.  She's really real.  She's really down to earth and just kind of, you know, this kid who has a dream of being a director, and is fighting to make that work, and make that happen, and has all these obstacles, and all of the wild things that happen in the midst of all of it.  But in terms of who she is, and how she relates people, and gets along with people, and lives from day to day, she's just a really down to earth kid.

Q:  What's on the plate for both of you next?

JM:  Right now, actually, I'm working on an independent film in Chicago, called Design.  Davidson Cole is directing it, and Daniel J. Travanti is playing my father.  And Edward Cunningham's playing a very important character in my scenes as well.  It's been a really great, great experience.  It's interesting to work on an independent film compared with a big studio film.  But I've absolutely been loving my experience in that.  So I'm in the middle of working on that right now.

JL:  I just wrapped an indie down in Florida, which is kind of a dark movie.  It's called Abe's Secret, which is…I don't know.  You never know how they're gonna turn out, but it was a lot of fun to do.

JM:  No matter how they turn out, they're always a great experience.

JL:  I think that for me right now, it's more about the experience as an actor.  And then hopefully you'll be able to get to that point one day where you have enough success, where you really have to start worrying about how the whole project comes out.  Because as actors, it's great to do great work.  And I think on the other side of it is, you want to try to be in those movies that everyone can't wait to see, you know.  So, man, I hope I get there.  But for right now, I think it was a great experience.  And I'm looking forward to seeing how it'll turn out.

Click here to read Cynthia Fuch's review.



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