In Travis Stevens‘ sophomore feature film, JAKOB’S WIFE, we are introduced to Anne (Barbara Crampton) a minister’s wife who feels like her life and marriage to her husband, Jakob (Larry Fessenden), has been shrinking over the past 30 years. After a chance encounter with “The Master,” she discovers a new sense of power and an appetite to live bigger and bolder than before. As Anne is increasingly torn between her enticing new existence and her life before, the body count grows and Jakob realizes he will have to fight for the wife he took for granted.
During the SXSW World Premiere of JAKOB’S WIFE, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to speak with horror legend Barbara Crampton where they discussed everything from the inception of the film, the importance of a vampire powersuit, and more!
Hi Barbara, it’s so lovely to speak with you again! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about how this film came together and what it was like to work so closely with Travis Stevens and Larry Fessenden?
Barbara Crampton: Initially, I didn’t know that I was going to be working with [Travis & Larry]. I found the script five years ago, it won Best Screenplay at Shriekfest, and Denise Gossett [founder of Shriekfest] reached out to me on behalf of the original writer, Mark Steensland, because he thought that it would be a good vehicle for me. And he knew that I had started to produce. He though, well, you know, what the heck, why don’t I reach out to hear? And I didn’t know Mark from Adam but I read the script because I knew Denise, and I really liked it. So I reached back out to him and I said, you know what? I would like this story, I like what it’s saying, I like its themes, I’d like to work on this. Over the next year or so I was meeting with different production companies to see if I could get somebody to work on it with me. I took it to Bob Portal at AMP Alliance Media Partners, and he loved it and brought it the rest of his team and they all loved it. We began then the development phase of working on it over the next two years before we felt ready to look at directors. We were meeting with directors and we all said, why don’t we talk to Travis and check out Girl on the Third Floor, which we loved. So he was one of the people that we talked to and he said, don’t talk to anybody else, I want to make this movie with you guys, I want this to be my next film, I want to direct it. He loved the story and the themes as much as we did and it was just a good fit. Travis has been a producer for a long time, but he loves feminist stories and he loves splatter and he loves humor. We were just thrilled when he came on.
Then everything happened very quickly after he came on board and we developed the script a little further with him, particularly because he wanted to talk to Larry and I. I’d always thought that maybe Larry would play a good Jakob. I’ve known Larry for a long time, our histories are similar, our careers are similar in a way that we’ve both been part of the horror genre for a very long time, and been acting, but you know, he’s been producing and writing and doing other things and I’m a new producer, but we just thought it might work for him. Travis talked to us both about our individual marriages and our relationships and how we dealt with our spouses and so a lot of the stuff you see in the movie is really from our own life. That was really fun and great because we all know each other so well, we’re all friends, and there had to be familiarity in this movie and a comfort and you have to feel like these characters are really lifted. Working with Travis and Larry really allowed us all to feel like we have been together for a long time, we know this couple, we know who they are, we understand who they are, we understand their struggles and their relationship from the very beginning. It was great that we’ve all known one another so well and it all came together for us all to work on it together.
What I loved about this film was seeing Anne’s transformation from where she starts at the beginning of the film to what she becomes at the end. And it’s not just Anne’s attitude, it’s everything about her, including her outfits. Can you elaborate a bit more on your Anne’s transformation?
Barbara Crampton: We wanted to illuminate the fact that this is a long married couple and their union is unsatisfying, mostly for Anne. And when this tragic happening occurs, it enables Anne to recapture her youth and gain a zest for life that she never knew she had before. Both physically and emotionally that had to come through, so emotionally I mapped it out in the script, where I was in the script and, also, she doesn’t find her voice right away when she’s bitten by the vampire. She finds her voice because of the choices she makes through the rest of the story. So that had to take some time and we had to escalate that to the story. Yvonne Reddy, our costume designer, worked really closely with Travis and me in finding clothes and outfits that would illuminate all the different things that she goes through in her path to full power (laughs)! So her outfits get more vibrant, more fun, but they also get stronger. By the end of the film she’s wearing these glasses and this blue sweater with this hood and it’s like a powersuit in a way. It’s like a vampire’s powersuit. So that was really important, you know, those transformations were important. Also, with my hair and makeup, I don’t wear any makeup in the movie, that’s just me raw, minus the things added to make me look a little older, but I’m not wearing any concealer, I’m not wearing any lipstick, it’s just me. We wanted her to appear more youthful as one does when you get bitten by a vampire. Our makeup artist, Mary Czech, is a wig specialist. She suggested that we use my own hair in the beginning of the film and then find a great wig for my character to wear. I went on the hunt for the perfect wig and was able to find one in San Francisco, and that became the character. I used my real hair in the beginning, and then the wig for the rest of the film so that we could keep the hair looking perfect (laughs).
One of my favorite scenes is when we see you drink blood for the first time while dancing around the living room and rearranging the furniture. Can you talk a bit about the importance of that scene?
Barbara Crampton: She’s really enjoying herself in that moment. She has this thirst for blood and she doesn’t have any people blood yet, so she’s drinking animal blood, and it gives her something, it gives her some nurturing nourishment and food, and she’s feeling excited about life and she’s feeling young again. And she has some new power and can lift up a chair with one finger, which was a really fun scene to do. That was a very important scene for the story to just illuminate the fact that Anne is now, for the first time, enjoying her life.
Rounding out this interview, I must know – what is your favorite vampire movie?
Barbara Crampton: I like Daughters of Darkness, Let the Right One In, the original Dracula, there’s so many of them. My favorite horror movies change and morph over the years, but Delphine Seyrig plays the titular vampire in Daughters of Darkness and she’s so beautiful and strong and composed and she’s female! There’s just something about her characterization that is so sensual, and also powerful and welcoming at the same time. I thought she did an amazing job with that characterization, so I have to say that’s probably my favorite.
JAKOB’S WIFE will arrive in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital April 16th. For more on JAKOB’S WIFE, check out our review here.