John fawcett, director and co-writer
The werewolf, and the metamorphosis that occurs at the heart of werewolf stories, was ready to be reimagined with a woman in the central role. Our two main characters, Ginger and Brigitte, are sisters who depend on each other. Ginger is the life raft that Brigitte clings to, but then Ginger is bitten and transforms into this killer werewolf. What will Brigitte become without Ginger? That question really resonated with me. My older sister was the most important person in my life, but she died in a car accident at the age of 17.
Karen Walton and I were living together in Canada as boyfriends when we wrote it. There was a lot of laughter. She was very much the lead writer and would suggest things. The story turned into this suburban satire, turning into a teenager and feeling like a stranger surrounded by mindless sheep. The film is primarily about subverting the “final girl”Trope in horror movies. It was important that the balance of power shifted and Ginger became “the alpha male.” So when he attacks his classmate Jason, he yells, “Who’s the fucking boy now?”
We were preparing for Ginger Snaps the same year as the Columbine shoot. The media focused a lot on how movies made kids violent, and the idea of a gory movie set in a high school didn’t appeal to the casting directors in Canada too much. Some of them joined forces to boycott our movie and the National Post published an article about it. Every school we asked turned us down, but fortunately another film production had a set of only three small school corridors that we could film in. We sent Scarlett Johansson a script to see if she was interested in Brigitte, but her mother had read the National Post article and did not want her daughter to get involved.
The budget was just C $ 5 million, so we had to rely on inventive practical effects, drawing inspiration from the body horror of John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
I’m doing a ginger snaps tv show right now. I definitely want to delve deeper into the werewolves backstory, and the challenge is in modernizing the story. The original film was fortunate to end with two incredible leads, Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, who had such great chemistry. They were like teenagers Thelma and Louise.
Katharine Isabelle, played Ginger Fitzgerald
Emily, who plays Brigitte, and I were born in the same hospital, attended the same kindergarten, and went to the same high school. We did three or four auditions together before finally landing the sister roles. In real life, I was a teenage bitch who hated everyone, so Ginger was a good fit. But Emily, who is a few years older, taught me how the movie was tied to oppression, sexuality, feminism, and objectification. Through his wisest eyes, I learned how important this story was.
The female experience is perfect for terror. At puberty, your body forces you through all these changes that you never consented to. Then all of a sudden the outside world sexualizes you, which you didn’t consent to either. Ginger Snaps took advantage of the pent-up, otherworldly rage that accompanies that process. It was cathartic for me to let go of all those feelings with Ginger.
The werewolf makeup took six hours to prepare. The alcohol-based paint made me nauseous, I had contact lenses that made it difficult to see, and I had so many prosthetics covering my face that sweat was coming out of my nose. We all had the flu too, and when you shoot at night, you start to go a little crazy. He was 17 years old, living alone in a small apartment on a diet of cigarettes, Coca-Cola and McCain’s Deep’N’Delicious Chocolate Cake. When fake blood is spilled on you all day, it dries up and doesn’t come off easily, and it starts to tighten on your skin. I worked 20 hours and came home and collapsed on the bed. The woman who was subletting the apartment tried to sue me because I left fake blood stains all over the place.
We filmed the opening sequence, with all the bloody corpses, in this house on a suburban cul-de-sac. There was a three-year-old boy living there, and we had to time him so he wouldn’t bump into us. Sometimes I wonder if he did. I hope we haven’t ruined her childhood!
I was once sent a script with a scene where the sprinklers come on and my “young and mature” body gets “completely wet.” As an actor, you just throw up reading that. But Ginger Snaps was refreshingly smart. The sisters do not depend on any male character, while the story is about menstruation: a pair of bloody panties appears on the screen, which we had not actually seen before.
Karen and John let us shape the characters. I think the legacy of the film is in how the adolescent female experience is taken so seriously in a world where it is constantly ignored. My favorite line is when I say to Brigitte, “I can’t have a hairy chest, B, that’s screwed up!” Black humor will never get old.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism