How Fantasy Island Reimagines the Traditional TV Present

How Fantasy Island Reimagines the Classic TV Show

Don Kaye

Feb 14, 2020

Director Jeff Wadlow tells us why his Fantasy Island is a darker tropical getaway than the unique collection.

In Fantasy Island, 5 individuals land by way of seaplane on a mysterious tropical island the place they’ve paid handsomely to have their deepest fantasies fulfilled. For one younger girl, which means revenge in opposition to a faculty bully; for 2 adopted brothers, it’s a weekend of intercourse, booze, and nonstop partying. For the opposite two–a single girl and a traumatized cop–the fantasy seems to be, respectively, having the household you determined in opposition to and assembly the dad you by no means actually knew.

However because the island’s mysterious host Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) warns, some fantasies don’t play out because the friends count on and as soon as they’ve began, they will’t be stopped. Not solely that, however the friends additionally quickly uncover that their fantasies will not be solely terrifyingly actual, however join in methods they by no means foresaw. Who or what’s behind all of it? Is Mr. Roarke on the extent? And what’s Michael Rooker doing there?

As it’s possible you’ll know, Fantasy Island–produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Movies and directed by Jeff Wadlow (Blumhouse’s Reality or Dare)–is a reimagining of the traditional TV collection that ran between 1977 and 1984 on ABC. It starred Ricardo Montalban because the suave Mr. Roarke and, for many of its run, Herve Villechaize as his sidekick/assistant Tattoo. Whereas Tattoo just isn’t round for this iteration, lots of the collection’ emblems have been recreated, even because the film heads into darker, extra horror-themed territory than the present ever did (Roddy McDowall enjoying Devil in a single memorable episode apart).

Den of Geeok sat down with Wadlow, who co-wrote the film with common companions Chris Roach (Non-Cease) and Jillian Jacobs (Reality or Dare), to debate how his authentic thought for a film impressed by Fantasy Island become a reboot of the actual factor.

Den of Geek: You got here into this since you had an thought for a Fantasy Island-like film, however another person held the rights to Fantasy Island itself.

Jeff Wadlow: Properly, Sony owns the rights. I believe they personal all the Spelling library perhaps, as a result of [producer] Aaron Spelling owned the unique present. And I had an thought for a special challenge that was loosely impressed by Fantasy Island. I had simply completed Reality or Dare, had a extremely nice expertise with Jason. Jason wished to maintain working with me. He heard that I had this concept, and being the grasp producer that he’s, he went to Sony and he stated, “Can I’ve the rights to Fantasy Island?” They stated sure. They gave it to him. He got here to me and he stated, “Properly, as an alternative of doing one thing loosely impressed by Fantasy Island, let’s simply do Fantasy Island.” And I used to be like, “All proper, I am in. Let’s go.”

How a lot of your thought did you find yourself incorporating into this?

I would say quite a lot of it. I imply I had this concept that you can go to a spot that was a bit of bit scary and a bit of bit supernatural, and it might manifest your previous traumas, and it was a solution to form of have remedy. And that there was somebody who owned this place who was form of a Tony Robbins meets Danny Torrance sort of character. It was earlier than I even knew they had been doing Physician Sleep. He was form of my tackle Mr. Roarke, and it was my tackle Fantasy Island. So this concept that the fantasies are remedy, I would say, remains to be very a lot the case with the film that we made. After which the thought for this notion that they are all form of tied collectively on this shocking approach was additionally in my authentic thought, and one thing that we integrated into the movie.

I believe the unique collection now has that nostalgic, nearly campy sort of sheen to it, however if you look again at it, it is a lot darker than individuals would possibly keep in mind.

Yeah. I believe it received form of… tainted is the mistaken phrase, perhaps coloured, by Love Boat. As a result of Love Boat was on earlier than it. So I believe the cheese of Love Boat form of spilled into Fantasy Island. I imply to be truthful, Fantasy Island is a bit of tacky at instances, and in addition there was an acceptance of a lot decrease manufacturing values again then, so although I believe there’s quite a lot of nice concepts and quite a lot of nice performing, the episodes themselves do not actually maintain up, by and enormous, as a result of the manufacturing values are simply not Sport of Thrones. So it is onerous to take them severely. They begin to really feel tacky simply because they did not spend extra money realizing the narrative.

However I believe there’s something very darkish within the present. I imply individuals have stated to me like, “Oh, the place did you give you the thought to do a horror model of Fantasy Island?” And I am like, I believe it is already there, it is within the DNA of the present. When you’ve got an episode with Roddy McDowall enjoying the Satan, you’ve got the makings of an important horror film.

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Earlier than coming to see the film, I learn up a bit of bit on the outdated present…

Did you learn how the present was created? Did you see that anecdote?

Refresh my reminiscence.

It is superb. That is what I heard. Aaron Spelling was within the workplace of the president of ABC and he pitched 10 made-for-TV film concepts, as a result of made-for-TV motion pictures had been massive enterprise within the ’70s. The president of ABC handed on all 10 of them. So Spelling, a producer of mythic proportions, will get annoyed, says to him, “What’s it going to take? A film about an island the place you may go and screw whoever you need?” The president of ABC appears to be like at him and goes, “That is a reasonably good thought.” Spelling leaves, hires Gene Levitt, and he writes the TV film. It is a massive hit. They do a second one, it is a fair greater hit. They usually order it to collection.

By way of storytelling concepts, did you have a look at any of the outdated episodes or was all the things form of contemporary?

We did. We talked about our favourite episodes. The way in which I write with Chris Roach and Jill Jacobs, who’ve written the previous couple of motion pictures with me, is I attempt to deal with it like a TV writers’ room. Carlton Cuse is a mentor of mine. I labored on Bates Motel and The Pressure with him. I realized a lot from him, not nearly writing but in addition about producing and operating a writers’ room. So we deal with every script prefer it’s its personal little streaming collection.

So we received our writers’ room collectively, and we began speaking concerning the outdated episodes, those we appreciated. We then went on Wikipedia and went on-line, began summaries of all of the episodes, and we began writing down those that resonated with us. After which we simply began brainstorming distinctive ones as if we had been going to relaunch the present.

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It was crucial to me to make the construction of the present work earlier than we break it. The present, I am fairly certain, by no means did a single episode that includes two fantasies that crossed. Somebody, I am certain, would possibly bust me on that. However by and enormous, they didn’t cross as a result of they had been designed to be reduce down into half-hour episodes that may be repurposed and bought abroad. So even after they get off the airplane, it is like one visitor will get off and goes a method, one visitor will get off and the opposite approach. They’re by no means even in the identical shot.

So I wished to make the 4 fantasies work as if we had been simply doing a brand new present and a brand new episode, a brand new pair of episodes, earlier than we broke the construction and introduced them collectively. So we simply began itemizing our personal fantasies that we might do in a brand new model of the present. We picked our favourite ones, after which themes began to emerge, after which the story simply begins to talk to you and it takes on a lifetime of its personal.

Was it at all times 4?

We talked about three. It felt like three was not sufficient, and 4 at instances felt like too many. There was definitely a push at one level within the pre-production course of to perhaps drop one of many tales. However finally I felt that we would have liked all 4 of them.

Ricardo Montalban has this form of iconic presence in popular culture to sure generations. So when you concentrate on casting Mr. Roarke, are you interested by him in any respect and the way a lot you need to channel him or not?

Actually, my touchstone is Marvel. What Marvel does after they adapt a comic book e book property is that they establish the icons of the property, the signposts, the issues that you just affiliate with that character, they usually actually translate them to the display. However then all the things else is truthful sport, proper? They’ll change issues, they will reinvent issues, they will clarify issues, they usually can ignore issues. And that is how I approached Fantasy Island.

I sat down and I listed “what are the icons of this present?” There’s Mr. Roarke in a white go well with, he has an assistant, they usually’re on a tropical island with colonial structure. A airplane arrives, somebody says, “The airplane.” The airplane lands, friends get out, we meet them for the primary time, they usually inform us what they need. They do not essentially get what they need, however they do get what they want. They be taught a lesson. Mr. Roarke says, “Smiles, everybody, smiles,” in each episode.

I knew I needed to do these issues. I made my little guidelines. And as soon as I had that guidelines, I gave myself and the opposite writers permission to do regardless of the hell we wished to do. Simply keep true to the spirit of the present, however yeah, at that time, all bets had been off.

So how did Michael Peña match into that?

When it got here to Montalban’s portrayal of Mr. Roarke, I imply they’re so completely intertwined, proper? Much more so than his portrayal of Khan, I’d say. So it was tremendous necessary to me to discover a Latino actor to play the half, as a result of Montalban is such an necessary actor in that neighborhood. However I did not need similar to an older Latino actor to placed on a buttoned up go well with, or a 3 piece go well with, and simply do the accent, as a result of then it might’ve simply been an impersonation. I wanted somebody who would honor Montalban’s legacy but in addition add one thing to it, do one thing totally different.

There’s actually just one actor that matches that invoice, and that is Michael Peña as a result of he has this unimaginable capability to play contrasting concepts and make it work. So to me, I really feel like within the film, Peña’s Mr. Roarke is each timeless and modern. I really feel it is ominous and hilarious. I really feel that he’s each caring and chilly. And he can do that and he can transfer backwards and forwards, he is so versatile that you just simply purchase it. It simply contributes to form of the bigger thriller of Mr. Roarke. So I believe by paying service to Montalban, he truly created a recent model of Roarke that served our story higher than I may’ve imagined.

If a sequel is warranted, do you’ve got a bit of stockpile of doable concepts for an additional set of tales?

You already know, I am an enormous believer on this concept that if you happen to plan for a sequel, there ain’t going to be a sequel. So I strive to ensure each good thought is within the film that I am engaged on on the time. That being stated, this film definitely invitations us to revisit Fantasy Island, and if there was a chance to return, I’d leap on the likelihood.

Fantasy Island is out in theaters now.

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based leisure journalist and affiliate editor of Den of Geek. Different present and previous shops embody Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, and lots of extra. Learn extra of his work right here. Observe him on Twitter @donkaye