Diyah Pera
April 12, 2012 at 05:42 PM EDT

Early in 2009 Goddard and his cast relocated to Vancouver. In preparation for their respective characters’ onscreen adventures, Hemsworth brushed up on his motorbike-riding skills while Connolly and Williams were required to take scuba lessons. Kranz was left with the rather less thrilling mission of perfecting his joint-rolling technique. “When you do a movie, you want to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m learning to ride horses and archery’ or whatever,” says the actor. “I would just smoke different types of fake weed.”

Hemsworth admits it was only when the Cabin shoot had been progressing for a while that he fully understood what Goddard and Whedon were attempting with their collaboration. “Look, this was in the early stages [of my career] and I like to think I’ve grown since then,” laughs the actor. “But you make the mistake of just concentrating on your piece. I knew that Drew had done some great work and I obviously knew who Joss was. But I wasn’t by any means overly educated in everything they had done. When we were shooting I realized I hadn’t looked closely enough at the script. It was only when I started hearing about what else they’d shot and went back and read the script again I went, ‘Oh, okay, now I get it.’ But that naivety sometimes is an advantage. It was like when I was shooting Star Trek. I didn’t know much about Star Trek, really. If I had had any idea of what that was I would have probably screwed that up.”

By common consent, the shoot was a happy one with Goddard proving an infectiously enthusiastic leader. “The passion he had was so contagious,” says Kranz. “It was like kids making a movie in their backyard. I used to make horror movies when I was kid and would make my own blood and stuff. It really felt like that at certain points. The job was taken out of it so often.”

Whedon was also a presence on set, shooting second-unit footage. “I didn’t realize he was going to be doing that,” laughs Kranz. “He continues to worry me! As an actor, it definitely felt like it was Drew’s movie and I would go to Drew for my real questions. But Joss was there. In terms of all the chaos, that was him doing that, which must have been a lot of fun for him.”

Kristen Connolly agrees the shoot was fun but also recalls it being “really hard,” she said. “And it’s Vancouver, so it’s cold, and girls always have a little less on than guys do. It was running around in the woods and I’m soaking wet for half the movie. It’s a miracle I didn’t get sick.”

The shoot also benefited from the presence of an onscreen horror veteran in the form of A Nightmare on Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp. The actress does not appear in Cabin but, along with her makeup artist husband David Leroy Anderson, she owns the company that oversaw much of the film’s effects. “Heather was on set, in meetings,” says Goddard. “There were definitely days where we would look at each other and go, ‘Wait, did the star of Nightmare on Elm Street just solve all our problems?’ It was a very strange and yet incredibly appropriate sighting on the set of Cabin to see Heather walking around, cleaning up blood.”

There was plenty of it to clean up. “The whole studio in Vancouver was filled with blood,” says Richard Jenkins. “There was blood on everybody’s shoes. Joss would come over and he had blood all over his pants. I said, ‘This is new.'”

Bradley Whitford says the experience of filming Cabin could hardly have been more different from his experience on the West Wing — “I didn’t get to fire a lot of machine guns on The West Wing” — but argues Goddard and Whedon are not so different from Wing-teur Aaron Sorkin. “There’s two kinds of —  unfortunately they use the word ‘product’ — that comes out of Hollywood,” says the actor. “There’s the stuff that has the unmistakable stench of people who don’t think a joke is personally funny, but tell it anyway — it’s a pretty heartless exercise. Then there’s the wonderful kind, which is when you can tell that David Chase is writing the Sopranos because he thinks the audience is as smart and as funny as he is. I had that experience with Aaron. And that’s what I felt like we had here, where two smart, imaginative guys were trying to entertain each other and do something hilarious, horrible and thoughtful. In my experience you need to let these freaks like Aaron Sorkin and Joss and Drew look in the mirror or look at each other and say, ‘What do I want to write?’ Because it just comes alive.”

The Cabin in the Woods wasn’t the only film being shot in and around Vancouver that spring. At the same time as Goddard was marshaling his gore-streaked troops, director Chris Weitz was making a little film called New Moon. “We were competing for wood space with Twilight, which was odd,” laughs Goddard.

So, to be clear, there aren’t enough trees in western Canada for more than one movie production? “Yeah, but there’s certain locations that are extraordinarily picturesque,” says the director. “We’d run into them on the same tech scouts and we would all try to act like we weren’t that enamored with this location because we didn’t want them to use it. There’s a bit of poker that goes on when you’re competing for locations. Luckily I think we all got what we wanted.”

Next: “My agents were like, ‘Cabin in the Woods might never come out.'”

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