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Sam Raimi The Golden Arm Roundtable Main

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Interview conducted by Stuart D. Monroe

Sam Raimi hasn’t written or directed in the horror genre since “El Jefe”, the series premiere of the Starz Channel’s stellar television outing, Ash vs. The Evil Dead. Before that it was Drag Me to Hell in 2009. Before that it was Army of Darkness in 1992 (yes, I know The Gift has some strong horror elements, though it isn’t “pure horror”). My point is simply that Sam Raimi is a true Hollywood legend and not just a genre legend – he’s run the gamut from sports films to comic book blockbusters to westerns.

Still, Sam Raimi will forever be a horror guy, first and foremost. He broke the mold with Evil Dead and introduced the world to the awesomeness of Bruce Campbell, and we’re forever grateful. The landscape of the genre would look vastly different without him. So, when you find out that Sam Raimi is even dipping his toe back into the bloody end of the pool, you had damn well better stand up and take notice!

sam raimi the golden arm roundtable 01Sam Raimi is the executive producer of the new series for Quibi (the new app for “bite size” viewing of original content from Hollywood’s top names), a horror anthology entitled 50 States of Fright. The series takes the darkest whispered stories from all across America and aims to scare the hell out of you with them. The series is helmed by a slew of up-and-coming directors and has scored some major actors: Taissa Farmiga, Christina Ricci, James Ransone, Ron Livingston, Rachel Brosnahan, and Travis Fimmel are just a few.

The best part? The premiere episode is written and directed by the man himself! “The Golden Arm” tells the tale of David (Travis Fimmel; Vikings) and his love story with his wife, Heather (Rachel Brosnahan; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). A tragic accident costs Heather her arm, and the golden arm David makes her becomes an object of power as dark as it is beautiful. It’s a classic urban legend known the world over in various forms, and Sam Raimi tells the Michigan version that haunted him growing up. It’s a short episode, but it’s a true return to the genre where Sam Raimi is truly at home.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a panel of journalists that got to spend some time with him and get the 411 on his new pet project. He opened by giving us a synopsis of the show that not only explained what it was about but showed his clear love for ghost stories and urban legends. It’s frankly refreshing to see that someone who’s as truly “A-list”, as Sam Raimi is still has such a passion for what he does and is excited about the medium that these stories are being told in. He’s very intrigued by the possibilities of Quibi and what it could mean for future original entertainment. He also loved working with Alter, the horror brand of Gunpowder and Sky (Cam, Summer of ’84, Hounds of Love).

He spoke about the challenges of shooting for this new format, which is “…essentially like shooting a television show, but with an even greater need for efficiency.” It didn’t change his personal approach, but it was definitely a challenge that he welcomed. He also said there was no mission statement, per se, to the amounts of gore and violence but rather a firm focus on character and structuring each segment to have a solid cliffhanger leading into the next one (each episode is broken into two or three smaller segments).

As for the genesis of the show, he was actually approached by the other producers of the show. They already had many of the young directors picked and stories laid out, and they wanted to see if they could get him involved. He loved the idea, and they went directly to Quibi with it.

The questions then turned towards his particular episode, “The Golden Arm”. Sam was asked about the stars of his episode, and he simply gushed. He said he’d worked briefly with Travis Fimmel on a project that never came to fruition some time ago, and he was blown away by his energy and all the ideas he brought to the table. So, having the opportunity to work with him was a no-brainer. As for Rachel Brosnahan, he’s a big fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He “…just had to have her”. Once he saw them together – their chemistry and respectfulness of each other in the tender moments – he knew it was the right call.

“The Golden Arm” was shot in Vancouver. The titular golden arm (which is truly spectacular, by the way) was crafted by a team of local SFX artists. It was his inspiration to have the golden arm have an “appealing” look to contrast the dark and ugly look of the first prosthetic arm David tries to give his wife. Once the gorgeous design was in place, one of the SFX artists added the golden-hued light that the arm is always shown under to make it really glow.

Sam was asked what his biggest takeaway from this experience was, and it was one of the truly inspiring moments of the interview. He spoke poignantly and said that he was reminded on the set of “The Golden Arm” of something he already knew – that “…great actors are everything and even really good special effects never beats a good story!” To hear that from a legit master of the craft was a highlight. He was very glad to have been reminded of that because it’s so easy to lose sight of it sometimes and even lose touch altogether.

Finally, it’s my turn to get my question in!

“The Golden Arm” feels like a classic Tales from the Crypt episode in tone paired with all your signature camera work. How much fun was it to get back to directing in your own style?

He replied, “It was great fun! The crew was so nice and helpful in every way. I loved the camaraderie – the ideas just flowed, and it became its own thing. Everyone had their own input. They were so enthusiastic that it made the whole sam raimi the golden arm roundtable 02process really organic. So much fun! Those are the best productions, when everyone brings something to the table. Thank you for the question, Stu!”

Sam spoke some more about the parts he really enjoyed in making “The Golden Arm”. The coolest thing, he said, was how well the passion of each writer’s personal relationship with their respective state’s story translated in the overall product. You can tell when a story means something to a writer versus when they’re just mailing it in, and he feels these writers crushed it.

In staying with the writing aspect, Sam spoke about writing “The Golden Arm” with his brother, Ivan. They had fleshed out the story even further and had a much deeper scene written to show her devastation at losing her arm and the frustration of being crippled. In looking it over, he and Ivan “sort of re-learned minimalism by understanding that the audience is always one step ahead”. They trimmed the scene down to just Heather struggling with the bag of groceries while the kids gawked, and it came out much cleaner and more impactful. This was another killer moment of the interview; that’s a lesson many filmmakers would do well to remember!

On the technical side of things, Sam advised that everyone watch the episodes in Landscape format (i.e. with their device turned sideways). Quibi content is designed for phones and tablets, and is shot accordingly (though Sam did shoot his in traditional fashion). He mentioned how much fun the sound design was on “The Golden Arm”, in particular the digital wind effect used in combination with the sound of Heather’s labored breathing on her deathbed that marks her return from the grave. He was particularly pleased with how that came out, and I agree – it’s damn effective!

Finally, someone finally went off-topic and asked him what he thought about unintentionally foreshadowing his upcoming gig as the director of Doctor Strange and the Mulitverse of Madness (a project being described as “Marvel’s first horror film”) with the line about the name already being taken that’s spoken by J.K. Simmons in 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Sam said he “…loved Doctor Strange as a kid…” but that he obviously “…had no idea that we would ever be making a Doctor Strange movie, so it was really funny to me that coincidentally that line was in the movie. I gotta say I wish we had the foresight to know that I was going to be involved in the project.”

That’s especially cool, as it’s just been a rumor that he was involved in the upcoming sequel...until now! That’s not a bad way to finish off a pretty enlightening and inspirational conversation with one of film’s most talented and celebrated filmmakers. You can find my review of the premiere episode of 50 States of Fright, “The Golden Arm”, right here.

On behalf of myself and Horror DNA, I would like to thank Sam Raimi for his time.

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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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