How 'Barbarian' Director Zach Cregger Fought to Keep the Film's "Lack of Structure"

How 'Barbarian' writer and director Zach Cregger maintained his nontraditional script structure
'Barbarian' Credit: 20th Century Studios
No one in Hollywood wanted to make Barbarian, but that didn't discourage writer/director Zach Cregger.

Writer and director Zach Cregger believed that Barbarian was a movie that was impossible to make

Cregger told Vulture that he made a spreadsheet of every production company that made a horror movie in the last 15 years, sent Barbarian to all of them, and “every one of them said no.” 

“They didn’t like that the movie resets on page 50. They didn’t like that there’s a character who’s part of Hollywood. And they said nobody wants to follow a rapist for 30 pages,” Cregger said of this wild yet fun ride of a movie. 

The film follows Tess (Georgina Campbell), a woman who is uneasily staying with a stranger (Bill Skarsgård) in an accidentally double-booked Airbnb owned by a former actor (Justine Long) who is facing a #MeToo scandal. While the film follows many conventional horror tropes, the film takes a sharp turn 40 minutes in. 

The nonconforming script structure is part of why the film took so long to make. 

“All of these things that people were picking on, especially the lack of a structure, were the things that excited me the most,” Cregger said. “I knew that if I were to polish those edges, I would be compromising this thing and defanging it before it had a chance.”

Production companies like A24 and Neon, who are known for taking huge creative risks with their horror films, passed on the film. 

Cregger eventually connected with BoulderLight and found a team that fully supported his vision. BoulderLight co-founder Raphael Margules told Vulture that they were all “completely on the same page.”

“It’s a weird movie on paper, but it’s never not funny, scary, thrilling, entertaining,” Margules said. “The very reasons people passed on it is why we wanted to do it.” 

With a production company backing the film, New Regency, Vertigo, and Disney came onto the horror thriller.

“Credit to Disney, because they really had a lot to do with this movie’s success, and they completely understood from the beginning how to market this thing,” said Margules. 

'Barbarian'Credit: 20th Century Studios
For his horror debut, Cregger, who is more known for his part in the comedy troupe the Whitest Kids U’Know, found a way to unleash absurd horror by mining multiple real-life scenarios and fears that are pushed to the extreme. 

If Cregger compromised his script to follow a more traditional script structure, then we wouldn’t have received a movie worthy of its title. Cregger knew exactly what his film was, and waited until he found a team that supported him and his vision. 

Sometimes, getting a film off the ground will take some time. Try to not be discouraged by all of the “no’s” you hear because that is an unfortunate and inevitable word you will receive in the film industry, even if you are a big-time filmmaker.

Instead, stand tall and know that someone will eventually understand the story you are trying to tell and will help you get that story to the big screen. 

Let us know what other films that almost didn’t get made that you love in the comments!      

Your Comment