Posted on Thursday, July 1st, 2021 by
Rodo Sayagues may be stepping into the director’s chair for the first time with Don’t Breathe 2, but there’s no doubt that the film is a team effort. During an event revealing the, Sayagues shared the stage with his co-writer (and the director of the first movie), Fede Álvarez, and their affection for one another couldn’t be more clear.
Not that that’s much of a surprise: the duo have been writing partners since the early 2000s. Since then, they seem to have grown even closer. As such, it’s hardly surprising that they’re largely on the same page when it comes to Don’t Breathe 2, which premieres on August 13, 2021.
In addition to sharing some new footage from the movie, Sayagues and Álvarez discussed the movie, offering some hints as to what the sequel has in store. Here’s what they had to say.
How Álvarez and Sayagues Came Up With Don’t Breathe
It takes about two hours to drive from San Diego, home of Comic-Con, to Los Angeles. That’s also how long it took Álvarez and Sayagues to come up with the basic premise for Don’t Breathe.
As Álvarez tells the story, the duo weren’t planning to make another horror movie following their first Hollywood feature, Evil Dead. “We just want to make so many things,” Álvarez explains. But during a trip to SDCC to promote Evil Dead‘s Blu-ray release, Álvarez and Sayagues discovered that people really, really cared about the movie. “We thought, ‘Maybe we should give those guys something else from us, something else in that world.’ We asked ourselves, ‘What would that be?’”
The two filmmakers began brainstorming on the ride back from the convention, and had Don’t Breathe‘s entire premise more or less figured out by the time got home. The reverse home-invasion story. The blind villain. It was all there.
Don’t Breathe went on to become an even bigger success than Evil Dead, although one person wasn’t thrilled with the initial pitch: Álvarez’s wife, who was riding in the back seat. “She fell asleep in the middle of it,” Álvarez remembers, laughing.
The Blind Man Isn’t the Hero in Don’t Breathe 2
In Don’t Breathe 2, 8 years have passed since the first movie. Norman Nordstrom, aka the Blind Man, has resettled to a remote cabin, where he lives with an 11-year-old girl named Phoenix. For a while, things are relatively peaceful. Then, a group of kidnappers attack Norman’s humble home, searching for Phoenix. It’s up to Norman to fight them off and ensure Phoenix’s safety.
With a set-up like that, you might assume that Norman is Don’t Breathe 2‘s main character. According to Álvarez, you’d be wrong. “The true protagonist of this movie is the girl,” Álvarez explains. The Blind Man is more sympathetic this time around, but you’ll never get inside his head. “The point of view is never his,” Álvarez says. “We always see him from someone else’s perspective.”
The clips shown to critics confirm this. While you end up rooting for Norman, the scenes are still shot from the invaders’ perspective, preserving his mystique. “He is like a shadow character,” Álvarez says. “You might not be sure if you know the role he’s going to play in this one, or if his actions are for good reasons or for bad reasons.”
Stephen Lang Reached Out to the Blind Community to Prepare
Stephen Lang returns in Don’t Breathe 2 as the Blind Man, and from what we’ve seen, he turns in another incredible performance. Getting there, though, took a lot of work. Sayagues says, “Stephen Lang spent a whole month with the Northern Association of the Blind in Albany … to understand and learn what it is for a person who’s blind to just live a normal life in this world.”
Lang ended up becoming Norman’s biggest advocate on set, too. “He’s the gatekeeper of the character, in a way. He loves him,” Álvarez notes. “We know who [Norman] is, so we don’t, really. We admire some of his qualities, but we are aware of who he is and what he does.” As a result, Lang would often argue with the writers’ on Norman’s behalf.
Those discussions had a huge effect on Norman’s portrayal in the movie. “[Lang] would just show up and have ideas,” Sayagues says. “Most of the time, it is what you’re going to see in the movie. He was right.”
Jane Levy is Probably Not Making a Cameo
Aside from Norman, not too many characters survived Don’t Breathe, but one did: Jane Levy‘s Rocky, who managed to escape with Norman’s money and create a new life for herself and her younger sister.
While Sayagues and Álvarez aren’t spilling any of Don’t Breathe 2‘s big secrets, it certainly sounds like Levy won’t be making an encore appearance. “In general, actors going through this, the ones who take it seriously, they go through hell,” says Alvarez, who directed Levy in Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead. “She went through hell twice.” Álvarez claims that Levy didn’t seem very happy on the Don’t Breathe set, and doubts she would have returned for a sequel. Not that he asked. “I wouldn’t have done that to her,” he says.
Besides, Sayagues adds, “We came up with this story, and the story didn’t call for her character.” For better or worse, Rocky’s tale is done, giving Don’t Breathe 2 room to go in a different direction.
In the End, Don’t Breathe 2 is About Morality
Sure, Don’t Breathe 2 is designed to scare and excite in equal measure, but Sayagues and Álvarez also see the film as an exploration of right and wrong. Characters in the Don’t Breathe films function largely outside of society, and come up with their own moral codes. “[The Blind Man] is going to keep trying to amend what is unjust to him,” Sayagues says, referring to Norman’s attempts to rebuild his family by any means necessary. Similarly, the teenage robbers in the first film are trying to survive in a world that’s mostly left them behind.
Sayagues and Álvarez want to push that idea even further in Don’t Breathe 2, and think Norman is the perfect character by which to do it. Álvarez says, “The story is us putting it out there and letting you decide, how do you feel about him?” Ideally, audiences will be split about whether or not Norman is a good person. “We really, really try hard to lay out the facts, and not be biased and force you to feel a certain way,” he says.
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