'Happy Death Day' Director Had Just 2 Days to Shoot Key Scene Over and Over

Director Christopher Landon recalls how a broken sprinkler handle threatened to derail a tight schedule.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures (Still); Getty Images (Landon)
Jessica Rothe in 'Happy Death Day' (inset: Christopher Landon)

Filmmaking is usually a race against the clock, and that was especially true for the crew of Happy Death Day.

The film, which is a slasher flick meets Groundhog Day, follows college student Tree (Jessica Rothe), who finds herself re-living the day of her murder over and over again as she attempts to hunt down the killer. Her only clue? The killer knows it's her birthday, as they reference it the first time around the time loop.

One of the signature settings of the film takes place on the college campus' quad, where Tree finds herself over and over after walking out of the dorm room she wakes up in every "new" morning. Each time, a carefully choreographed chain of events occurs — a fraternity pledge passes out, a couple gets sprayed with a sprinkler — and Tree soon learns to predict what's going to happen.

For director Christopher Landon, it was a challenge getting these crucial shots for the film, as he and the crew had just two days to do it. 

"The lever at one point broke while the sprinklers were on and we couldn't shut it off," says Landon. "We were flooding the whole quad. We lost an hour, just trying to shut those sprinklers off. It forced me to shoot something as an oner, which ended up being great, because it works for the movie, but there's just stuff like that."

And for other parts of the movie, the cast and crew also had to keep track of which time loop they were shooting. Luckily Landon, working from Scott Lobdell's script, was intimately familiar with the story by the time cameras were rolling.

"The challenge was tracking everything and making sure everything was consistent and was adhering to the rules of a time loop,"  says Landon. "We had annoying graphs and charts, but I had written many drafts of the script. I think I ended up writing almost ten drafts. I lived it for a really long time, so I did have a clear, almost baked-in knowledge and I felt very comfortable because of most of that."

There's much more from our chat with Landon to come. Check back Sunday when he'll be able to delve into spoilers.

Happy Death Day, from Universal and Blumhouse, is out now.  

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