When it comes to being the epitome of creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, the Addams Family has always reigned supreme. Though it’s been 26 years since Addams Family Value, the sequel to the 1991 film, The Addams Family, was in theaters, and 55 years since the TV series first aired, that hasn’t stopped the Addams Family from becoming pop culture icons, especially during the Halloween season.
Now in 2019, the Addams family have returned as a new animated film from Sausage Party directors Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan. Ahead of the release of the film, we had the chance to speak with both Conrad and Greg about THE ADDAMS FAMILY and what it was like to bring Charles Addams original vision to life.
Thank you both for speaking with me today! To start things off, can you talk a bit about how this animated reboot of THE ADDAMS FAMILY came to be?
Conrad Vernon: I got a call from Gail Berman at MGM asking me to come in to see if I would like to take a pass at THE ADDAMS FAMILY. At the beginning I was thinking how I love the Addams Family, I grew up on the TV shows and I love the movies, but why do we need another Addams Family and what am I going to do to make it different? I stepped in with trepidation and started developing it and that’s when I decided that we would go back to the original Charles Addams cartoons for inspiration. If [the film] was going to be animated we could do it exactly as [Addams] first envisioned it. As we started to progress in the story, Matt Lieberman and I started racking our brains on what we could do that would make this movie stand out and be unique. I thought about the origin story and how we never knew how Gomez and Morticia met, we never knew about their wedding, we never knew about how they found their home or where Lurch came from, because he’s not blood related, he’s their butler. I thought that would be interesting to kind of explore some of that stuff. The more we started getting into it, and the more we finally decided that this would be an immigrant story on top of all that, I just knew there were too many elements there that were really interesting to me so I decided to step in and direct. That’s when I got in contact with my Sausage Party friend, Greg Tiernan.
For you, Greg, how exciting was it to come on-board for this new iteration?
Greg Tiernan: It was super exciting because I’ve always been a huge Addams Family fan. Like Conrad, ever since I was a kid I watched the original TV series, so when Conrad called and said, “Hey, you wanna do this party again like we did last time?” I said it depended on what it was. He said, “It’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY” and I said, “Yeah, that’ll be great!”
I think it’s great that you both decided to lean into the original designs from the comics.
Conrad Vernon: Yeah, when all the designs came out online, half the people were going, “I can’t believe this – look at Gomez, he doesn’t look like Raul Julia!” And then the other half said, “Uh, do your homework, this is what Charles Addams originally envisioned him as.”
I think what’s also important is that a new story was created so as to not fall back on what was previously showcased in The Addams Family films from the ’90s.
Greg Tiernan: It gives it an identity of its own by going back to the source material which was so long ago. The iterations since, quite understandably, evolved into brilliant iterations but they also moved a little bit further away and a little bit further away and a little bit further away [from Charles Addams creation]. For us, it sort of tied in with Conrad’s idea of the origin. If we are going to go back to the origin as a story point, let’s go back to the origin of the actual creation of this family as characters in the world and that took us back to Charles Addams.
Conrad Vernon: We walked that very tough line of making sure that fans got their satisfying dose of Addams that they remembered but also made sure to make it new enough that the new generation will have something in it for them as well.
When it came to the actors that would lend their voices to these iconic roles, you were able to get a star studded cast that included Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, and more. Can you talk a bit about that?
Greg Tiernan: As with any movie, of course, your not going to expect that whoever happens to be your top choice is going to either want to do your movie or be available, so we really lucked out that pretty much every one of our top choices said yes, which was absolutely amazing. We had a great list, a short list, of people that we wanted to approach and each one knocked it out of the park. We knew, right away, as did they, especially with these iconic characters and the 90’s movies, that [fans] had an idea of what they wanted in their head. They think of Gomez Addams as Raul Julia and Morticia as Anjelica Huston or if you go further back, Gomez as John Astin and Fester as Jackie Coogan, not Christopher Llyod. Everybody has their own idea of it but each of those actors, at those specific times, really made those characters their own and put that out into the social psyche. It was a hard job for these actors to now take that over and not be influenced by what came before but each and every one of them….we were just absolutely amazed. They are all brilliant actors, of course, but each and every one of them, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to those who came before, were brilliant. These guys are now The Addams Family.
My day job is an interior designer and I’ve never been a big fan of the DIY shows on HGTV which was why it was so funny that Allison Janney’s character, Margaux Needler, is a host of one of those shows. Can you talk about bringing her “villainous” storyline to life?
Conrad Vernon: Yes, working with Allison Janney was the best. She’s so funny and she’s so good and really personable. She’s really fantastic and really embodied the character. Originally, we just had her in the beginning being this nosy busy-body in the neighborhood who enlists herself as the one who could get rid of the Addams’. Then, in the writers room, Cheri Oteri had said, “She reminds me of one of those people who re-do houses on the DIY network” and we thought that was hilarious. Plus, it gave [Margaux] the power to actually intimidate people because she was a big star. That was the process of inventing the character and then Allison came in and gave her life.
Lastly, what were some of the challenges you faced in bringing this film to life?
Greg Tiernan: I think the main thing was because the Addams, as a movie, hasn’t been around for an entire generation, there are 20-year-old’s who haven’t seen it or haven’t been exposed to it as much as we were in the ’90s. We had to walk that thin line of making sure we introduced these characters and what they were all about to this new generation while not making it a yawn fest for the people that were already familiar with the characters.
Conrad Vernon: It was making sure that we also entertained adults. There was a hesitation to make this too adult and to make sure it’s for kids. We really had to push hard to keep the adult factor in it but I think that paid off.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY arrives in theaters everywhere this Friday, October 11th.