You can’t cheat death. Or can you? That is the question posed by Final Destination 5, the latest installment of the wildly popular horror franchise, which first took flight in 2000. This time around, a group of co-workers on a bus outing narrowly escape death thanks to the quick actions of one guy in the group who escorts them safely away from a bridge collapse following his dark premonition about it. But Death won’t be denied and comes after the survivors, one by one.
We sat down and spoke to some of the cast, including sole returnee Tony Todd, who reprises his role as the mysterious Mr Bludworth, about the film and the meaning of death.
Did you watch previous Final Destination movies?
Nicholas A’gosto: I absolutely did, especially the first one. I watched Devon (Sawa). I think he did a great job. I paid attention to that one the most. Tonally, that’s the one most like ours.
Tony, you’re the only returning character. How did you get involved with this?
Tony Todd: My mom’s a minister. I don’t even know why I did the first one. It’s not like I went to horror film class. I was just blessed. It just happened.
What’s the importance of Bludworth?
Tony: He’s not what he seems to be. Everybody I talk to has a different sense of who he is. I’m the glue in the midst of the cast that has to work much harder than I do. One of the refreshing things about Final Destination movies is that I don’t have to work hard.
When I’m there I add a little Chinese seven spice and then I step back. The film succeeds or fails on the work (the cast does) collectively.
Does the script tell you what you are?
Tony: No. The original writer, Jeffrey Reddick, I had to sit down with him. We threw out some theories. He didn’t want to give me an answer. (Producer) Craig Perry didn’t want to give me an answer, either. So I made some very specific human choices because you can’t play billboards. You have to be human and you have to be grounded.
PJ, your character Isaac is actually pretty unlikable. What was your approach to him?
PJ Byrne: I wanted you to hate this guy so much but at the same time there have been villains throughout time that you also like or at least relate to them. So I also wanted you to laugh at me a little bit and want to see me go.
But my death is so drawn out and despicable, there is that last moment where you’re thinking, ‘I don’t hate him that much. Don’t go.’ That’s what I was hoping for.
What are your thoughts about fate versus the randomness of death? Do we have any control over what happens to us?
Arlen Escarpeta: I’m a strong believer in fate.
PJ: I believe you affect your own time. If you drink and smoke, you’re going to die earlier. If you drink and drive, you’re going to die earlier. So I think you can do things that will extend your life.
Tony: It’s more important instead of focusing on death to focus on the life, the living part. If you do good acts, humanitarian things, and talk to people and try to affect and change people, then death won’t be so tragic. I don’t believe in fate or premonitions. I just believe in living fully and everything else will take care of itself.
Nicholas: I read something once about how history only seems fated after it’s occurred. So death must be somewhat fated because it can’t be any other way. At the same time, living within it, we are able to play our part and make our choices and live our lives. As Tony says, you have to live to celebrate.
You can’t live thinking about the end. I love the idea we are both totally involved in every choice we make and yet every action, the minute it’s made, is dependent on every other action around us that brought us to that point and seems entirely fated. It’s a great conundrum of being human. It’s endlessly unanswerable.
Emma Bell: Like Nick said, it’s a very personal thing. It’s a perspective-based thing. I believe whatever happens in life is supposed to happen that way. It’s really what choices we make and what actions we take around that circumstance that dictate what’s going to happen next.
There is a symbiotic relationship between fate and our own responsibility toward that. It’s a give and take. If it’s your time to die, it’s your time to die.
Jacqueline MacInnes Wood: I believe when you’re going to go you’re going to go. But I also believe in gut and instinct and intuition that tells you ‘don’t leave your house just yet.’
Ellen Wroe: Making this movie has changed the way I see things on a day-to-day basis. I now think ‘I could die from doing that,’ like my curling iron, which is right next to my sink. I’m constantly aware that I could die.
What was the toughest scene for you?
Nicholas: What was hard for me was finding my eye-line (where digital effects were added in post-production). They tell you something’s moving from there to there on the green screen. You have to train yourself to keep your own pace.
Why is this franchise so popular?
Arlen: We’re all going to die. It’s the big elephant in all our lives, so why not laugh at death while we’re alive.
Tony: It’s almost like the Abbott & Costello franchise. People know what they’re going to get but they want to see it in a different way. There’s something very primal about it.
Did you have fun on this?
Tony: I did. Always. It’s a blessing to be working.