Leading up the release of “Happy Death Day 2U,” the sequel to surprise box-office smash hit “Happy Death Day,” director Chris Landon spoke to The Maroon about what filming a sequel to a hit film is like, shooting in New Orleans and why he personally chose to film on Loyola’s campus.
How did you take the success of the first “Happy Death Day” and build on it in the sequel?
I mean, I think the first thing that I at least set out to do was to not — I didn’t want to make the same movie twice. And I think that’s especially true when you’re dealing with a time-loop movie. So it was kind of, like, the first goal.
Primarily, I just sort of wanted to lean into the elements of the first movie that I think people really loved. Like that there was a killer, that there was a mystery, but also there was the humor, which I think people really were drawn to. And also this kind of nice romantic thread that existed in the first movie.
So those were kind of the elements that I really wanted to expand upon, um, but I also wanted to raise the stakes. And I think more importantly the emotional stakes of the movie. So this time around, the character of Tree, our protagonist, she has a much bigger situation on her hands than the first movie. That was a lot of fun to explore.
Are there any challenges to directing a sequel as opposed to a first-in-franchise movie?
I mean, I think if there’s any sort of inherent challenge, it’s more getting past your own kind of jitters, you know? Of hoping to sort of recreate a certain success. And also the expectation, you know, because what happens especially in sequels is that everybody out in the world kind of has their opinion I guess in terms of where they think the story should go.
The interesting part about this movie is that I think everybody, including all the filmmakers, kind of felt like this was a close ended movie, so I think it really surprised a lot of people when we came out of the gates so quickly with a sequel. But that was really only because we all felt really compelled to make this movie. It wasn’t like an, “oh, let’s make more money” thing. It was just that everybody was excited about the idea I had for a sequel.
How did Loyola’s campus help bring your vision to life for these movies?
Well, what was really important to me was that I wanted an idyllic kind of — I don’t want to say fantasy version of a university, but just something that felt classic, you know, collegiate. When I was scouting the first movie, I popped around to see a few cities and looked at universities in a few different places and I really liked the feel of Loyola. It was manageable, it wasn’t massive, which was helpful for us from a production standpoint. But it also just was a very pretty campus, and it offers a lot, and I was really grateful to everyone at the school for welcoming us and letting us interrupt their studies so to speak. It was a really nice welcoming environment. And we really liked the people.
Were there any challenges to directing on a live campus with students trying to go to class or anything like that?
Yeah, I mean there were definitely challenges there, and it was especially challenging for a movie like us where continuity is very important. So we had to make sure that everything in the background looked the same each time Tree woke up and was reliving that day. Definitely trying to wrangle and manage things was a little bit of a challenge, but again, I felt like everyone was so respectful and kind of game to be involved or try and help stay out of our way when we were shooting, so again, it was made a lot easier by a very welcoming environment.
What do you hope audiences get out of “Happy Death Day 2U?”
I think my number one goal is that they have a really good time. That’s really what this movie was built for. You know, we don’t take our selves too seriously, and we don’t intend to, but we did really set out to make something that was unexpected and a good time. So I hope people have fun.