“Goosebumps” director Rob Letterman flew here from Los Angeles and felt right at home.
“It’s crazy how Atlanta is like, Hollywood,” he said during a recent interview to discuss the movie, in theaters on Friday. “We’d go out at night and because there’s so many things filming, you’d run into people that you know. You come out to Atlanta, and half the people you know are working here.”
Georgia’s film-friendly tax policies helped seal the deal, but the diversity in locations also made it an easy choice.
“We were looking at Louisiana. We were looking at Vancouver for a millisecond,” Letterman said. “When I came out with the production designer and started going around Atlanta, I just started falling in love with the locations.”
Filming took place in downtown Madison, a Decatur cemetery, a Cobb County ice rink, Inman Park neighborhoods and DeKalb School of the Arts. The movie is a fun, funny and not-too-scary adaptation of author R.L. Stine’s creepy-clever series of young adult books.
“It was a project that just existed in Hollywood for a long time, but no one ever figured out the movie angle,” Letterman said.
Rather than bring one title to the big screen, the movie encapsulates many of Stine’s characters into a rollicking new story. Dylan Minnette is Zach, who’s sort of bummed about moving to a small town with his mom, played by Amy Ryan. Things start looking up when Zach meets his cute neighbor Hannah, played by Odeya Rush, but Hannah’s dad is the mean and spooky R.L. Stine, the role that brought Jack Black to Atlanta.
When Zach stumbles onto Hannah’s dad’s library and accidentally opens his magic books, characters start tumbling out and high jinks ensue.
“The line for catering was the weirdest-looking thing,” Letterman mused, noting the beasts and ghouls lined up at mealtime on the set. Some of the characters, such as the giant praying mantis that stomps through town, are obvious CGI creations. Others came to life with the help of Atlanta’s talented cadre of makeup artists.
“If you want to do zombies right now, the best place to do that is Atlanta right now because of ‘The Walking Dead,’” Letterman said. (The zombie scene in “Goosebumps” is far less scary than anything on the hit AMC show.)
Given the intense popularity of the book series, Letterman knew he had to strike just the right tone with the movie. Stine, who appears in a cameo role in the movie, offered some guidance there.
“He’s the sweetest guy,” Letterman said. “He loves comedy. He loved Jack. He gave us his blessing. He talked about the tone, not to pander to kids. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.”
He also wanted a movie Mom and Dad would enjoy: “Taking my kids to the movies, I appreciate it when movies are entertaining for me as well.”