Last week, Jen and Sylvia Soska went public with their burning desire to make an Addams Family film. They even have a Facebook petition you can “like” in hopes of persuading Paramount to consider their proposal. They have more than 250 signatures at this writing, so obviously it’s an appealing idea. I mean, think about it. Who better to give this franchise new life than two of the most exciting female filmmakers on the scene?
When I decided to write a piece on the Soska sisters’ mission, I got in touch with them, hoping for a few salient quotes with which to fill out my article. But, instead, I came away with a full-blown interview. This was totally unexpected considering they are in the middle of production on their next feature, American Mary, which will star the lovely Katharine Isabelle and feature the talents of the amazing CJ Wallis.
A conversation with the Twisted Twins is always an adventure. You start down a particular path, take a turn and, suddenly, you’re someplace unforeseen — you’re still on track, but in a new neighborhood. (It’s the journey, not the destination.) During our chat, we began with the Addams Family, cut across to dealing with studios, and even quickly passed the surprising news that the Soskas have decided to retire from acting. If nothing else, the Soskas still like to shock.
Okay ladies, where does this desire to make an Addams Family film originate from?
Jen: The Addams Family has been close to our hearts our entire lives. Growing up, we found ourselves naturally drawn to horror and things that most people find strange and unusual. Of course, you don’t discover the things you love are strange and unusual until you venture out into the world. Imagine my disappointment when my school mates didn’t want to capture insects and throw them into wolf spider webs in hopes of discovering a huge tenant taking up residence. Luckily, I had my wonderful sister who shared my tastes and I hers.
The other day I was talking about something I talk about all the time: remakes. I don’t like remakes, but something very interesting came of that conversation. I realized that some films, television shows, comics, stories and characters are endangered of being forgotten. The remakes coming out these days are the only way the next generation — those who aren’t ambitious enough to hunt down these old titles — know the characters and films that many of us grew up loving. I don’t want to live in a world where there are no Ghostbusters. I got to thinking of what really was a big part of making me who I am today, and then I thought about the family that made me happy to be different: the Addams Family. I don’t want to live in a world where there are no new stories for them, and that is exactly what I want to do with our proposed Addams Family film. Not a remake by any means, but a new story and a true tribute to Charles Addams’ outstanding and timeless work and characters.
Sylvia: This is a very real ambition of ours. The excitement right now arose from when Jen was talking online about remakes, which neither of us are very fond of, but if there was a preexisting story that we would like to tell, then it would be, without a shadow of a doubt, the Addams Family. We were aware of the show and the films and were grateful that they existed. When you are part of the strange and macabre crowd, especially at a young age, you tend to feel left out and weird. At least that is what your school mates and strangers lead you to believe. Charles Addams’ original concept was an intelligent satire on society and how people judge one another. What a marvelous concept.
As the series grew, it seemed to focus more on a Disney-esque/mass-market approach. The oddity of the family was somewhat watered down and made family friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I think a film based on the New Yorker comics would be entertaining for all ages, but I think that is possible without losing the intentions that Charles had. A lot of his stories where based on things that were very personal to him — Morticia was based on his slight and even wife. There is a story here that still needs to be told. After we finish production with American Mary, we intend to see where Paramount is for licensing the rights and give them a good pitch on what we would like to bring to their story.
So, you haven’t yet seriously looked into what it might take to make this dream a reality?
Jen: We’ve already begun getting the proverbial wheels in motion. I have learned so much since Dead Hooker in a Trunk. I know that these things take time. If I want *insert actor name* and *insert studio name*, I need to start way ahead of time. Besides, nothing is ever accomplished from sitting around and hoping. You have to go after what you want. And I want to make the greatest Addams Family film ever to grace the silver screen. It’s so close to our hearts and I want to be able to share the love we have for the Addams Family with the world. It’ll take some time and a lot of support, but I humbly believe we would make something as timeless and unforgettable as the characters themselves.
Sylvia: I believe the studios might already be considering making a new film based on the Addams Family. There were rumors that Tim Burton would be creating a stop-motion animation à la The Nightmare Before Christmas for a film based on the original comic, but his people have stated that there is no truth to it. The musical has recently come out and, depending on its success, that might provoke more thoughts on a new film. I just really feel passionate about there being a film that respects the intelligence of the audience and honors what Charles did with his comics. You don’t have to water things down for audiences. Frankly, I think people are bored of watching the same film in theaters over and over again.
I believe you’re right. Now, I’m guessing one of you will play Morticia. Have you decided who gets the honor?
Sylvia: Nope, we are truly done with acting with a final cameo in American Mary.
Sylvia: We don’t want to lose our focus on writing and directing because that’s the way we can tell the stories that we want to tell. Angelica Huston was Morticia. I just love her so much.
Jen: It would be beyond an honor to play Morticia. Angelica Huston was an exceptional Morticia. I get chills just thinking of her. She has a striking resemblance to my own mother, who always supported our love of horror from a very young age, and I think that’s part of the reason I love [Morticia] so much. I’ve wanted to go as Morticia for Halloween on several occasions, but never ended up going through with it. I don’t think anyone would realize I’m dressed up.
It will be a great challenge to find a Morticia that would be on the same level as [Huston]. I’ve seen some piss-poor Morticias that really play into the whole joke of the Addams Family’s oddities, and that ruins the whole thing for me. At this point, I believe we will be seeking an actress other than ourselves for the role. We’ll see what happens when the time comes — especially if there is interest from our audiences to see one of us in the role. We would never want to disappoint.
Sylvia: I would imagine the casting would be tricky, but we have spoken at length about the characters that Charles Addams created and what the performers playing said characters would need to bring to the project. It’s one of the most important aspects of creating a film to us, being true to the original. We have even thought about some fun facts, like how Pugsley was originally intended to be called Pubert, but the name had to be changed. That would be fun to play with. The Thing was a decapitated head that rolled around the Addams’ mansion, but had to be changed for disturbing reasons. We’ve been researching it a lot and I think people will dig what we’ve come up with.
Based on what you’ve said, it seems as if you have a specific idea for a story. Care to give us a hint?
Sylvia: We’ve figured out a story that’s very grand and fun and has a heart while maintaining genuine creepiness. If Charles Addams wrote or hinted at it, even in passing, it will be in the film.
Jen: That’s a tough one. We work fast — particularly with something like this that we are so passionate about. It’s amazing how many “story” pitches people have been sending us. We have the whole outline of the film, but it’s a tad difficult to explain what we’ll be doing without giving it away. I can say that it is epic and a much bigger undertaking than you’ve perhaps seen done with the Addams Family in the past. It’ll be for people who have never seen the Addams Family and people who have all the TV episodes and films memorized. It’ll be one of those films that you can watch again and again and always spot something new. Like, “Whoa, they even put blank in!” I can say that there is little in this world that we love like a good story. The story is huge, and we will really go into the characters in a way that no one has before. [Laughs] Even now, I think I’ve said too much and I haven’t said a thing!
I know you guys are busy, so one last question. I grew up loving the wonderful ‘60s TV show. Do y’all have a favorite Addams Family? Is it the original drawings, or the television series? The films? Hell, can they even be compared?
Jen: You’re very right, my friend. There isn’t a way to compare them. Charles Addams’ cartoons are incredible. I adore them. They were so far ahead of their time. If I had to pick one element I’ve loved the most from all of it, it would be Angelica’s Morticia. I’m so lucky to have had it in my youth.
Sylvia: I appreciate stories about underdogs. Especially those that are associated with gross misconceptions like the Addamses — always kind, but their interests had people wrongfully judging what they saw and misinterpreting their intentions. All of the mediums to tell the story of the Addamses had their strengths. The medium that hit home the strongest was the New Yorker comic. There was a strong sense of family and love and wit there. It would be an absolute honor to pitch our ideas to Paramount, but even more importantly, I would love to see the Charles Addams vision get the notoriety a film would give it. The concept is so strong, it’s a shame not to have a film that reflects it entirely.
Jen: More than anything, I love how different the Addams Family appears, but they are truly kind, generous and loving people. People judge a book by its cover far too often in this life. Some of the kindest and most sincere people I’ve met are the kind that most people would cross the street to avoid. We weirdoes are quite wonderful actually. The Addams Family has long made me proud to be a little different. We all are, really. It’s “normal” that scares me.