'10 Cloverfield Lane' Premiere: J.J. Abrams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead Talk Mysterious Film

Dan Trachtenberg, John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr. and J.J. Abrams at Tuesday's premiere
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“It’s the kind of movie that by nature and by design you don’t want to talk about too much because it ruins the audience’s experience,” Winstead told THR on the red carpet ahead of the movie's New York screening.

The questions surrounding 10 Cloverfield Lane — its own nature and relation to the 2008 film from which it borrows its title — continued up to and through the film’s New York City premiere Tuesday night, largely because the movie has remained shrouded in such rare mystery.

The film’s first sign of life, a trailer revealing its callback title, wasn’t released until Jan. 15, less than two months before its March 11 release date.

“It’s either an entirely misguided mistake or a stroke of genius, but I can’t tell yet,” producer J.J. Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter of the film ahead of the screening at the AMC Lincoln Square. Mary Elizabeth Winstead backed up the close-to-the-vest rollout, saying that it is supported by the film’s very essence. “It’s the kind of movie that by nature and by design you don’t want to talk about too much because it ruins the audience’s experience.”

Inside, Abrams maintained his unconventional approach for what he called a “very weird film” by allowing his “special friend” Amy Schumer to introduce the film with a brief Q&A, despite neither working on the film, knowing anything about it, nor even liking scary movies. It was the kind of flash that raised excitement while revealing none of Cloverfield Lane's true secrets.

Among those questions unanswerable by Schumer were what actually goes down in the bunker housing Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. for a majority of the film, and how, if at all, are they tied to the camcorder-wielding characters in the original Cloverfield?

But Abrams did offer some insight into connections between the two titles. “There are a lot of Easter egg connections, and there’s one larger narrative conceit that we’re playing with," he said. "But the easiest way to think of it now is that it’s part of an anthology, it’s like The Twilight Zone. It’s like if Cloverfield were an amusement park, this would be one of the rides at the park.”

Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his feature film directorial debut with 10 Cloverfield Lane points to a shared thematic tapestry that comes with the name. “The cool thing about that world is that it really is a signal to the audience that we’ve made a movie of a certain tone and genre,” he said.

Beyond the potential presence of a supernatural element, there is as well an intimate quality to the film that Gallagher Jr. said remains part of the connective tissue bridging the two films together.

"That first Cloverfield movie is a realistic take on a larger than life scenario. It’s a grounded genre film which is kind of hard to make. And this is the same thing. It’s about extreme circumstance but it’s paired down to just three survivors trying to figure out what the next steps are. It has that intimate feeling that I loved about the first Cloverfield.” And, Gallagher added. "It gives the audience the same type of experience because it is very immersive. You really can’t help but start feeling like you yourself are down there in the bunker with these characters.”

In that way, 10 Cloverfield Lane begins to define more clearly what a Cloverfield film can and should be. “All the elements that really make this fit into the Cloverfield brand were there even from the first script that I read,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m happy that this movie still does carry forward the idea of being more in the experience, not just one that you watch.”

Having Abrams' name attached to both films also offers an indication of what to expect, Winstead pointed out. “These are two different stories but you know you’re going to get a very similar experience. And you know that when you go to see a film that comes from J.J. and the people that he works with at Bad Robot that you’re in for a certain kind of specific thing and I think that’s really where it’s headed.”

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