Interview With ‘Children of the Corn’ (2023) Director Kurt Wimmer, And Stars Elena Kampouris And Kate Moyer

It’s been almost four decades since the small town of Gatlin, Nebraska became overrun with young, zealous followers of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” in the 1984 film adaptation of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (our retro review). Though many installments have followed, none quite answer the questions of how and why exactly these kids begin hailing this entity of the crops. For the first time, Children of the Corn is told through the children’s point of view in the new adaptation by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium 2002), which stars Elena Kampouris (Wifelike 2022, our interview) as Boleyn Williams, and Kate Moyer (Our House 2018) as Eden Edwards.

This fresh version of Children of the Corn, in theaters March 3 and available On Demand and Digital March 21, chronicles the events leading up to and including the massacre of the adults in a once-peaceful Nebraskan town. As Eden leads a revolt against the grown-ups for ruining the next generation’s future, can Bo stop her?

Ahead of the movie’s release, PopHorror had the pleasure of chatting with Wimmer, Kampouris and Moyer about what makes this installment special, the unprecedented conditions under which it was filmed, the vision for bringing He Who Walks to life, and the idea behind two girls battling it out in the end, rather than the original’s boy-centric plot.

PopHorror: Kurt, I’d love to start with you. You’re the creative brains behind some pretty cool projects, like Equilibrium and Law Abiding Citizen. How did you come to take on this classic Stephen King tale?

Kurt Wimmer: I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, like most people are, and this is one of, I think, his underused, underutilized properties. I felt his original story is underutilized. It’s a story about generational conflict, about children rising up and taking control of their own future when the adults are running it into the ground. It’s always told through the adults’ point of view, and it doesn’t make any sense to me because the victims in every case are the kids. So I’m saying it makes far more sense to tell it [through the kids’ point of view] and it hasn’t been done. It’s kind of wide open.

Also, kids today have much more of a point of view than they certainly did when the first movie was made and when I was a kid. Kids are really becoming politically aware and aware of what’s going on in the world around them, and they’re upset about it, but they can’t really do anything about it because they’re not policy makers. They don’t get to vote. But this really shows that there’s an alternative route. You can kill your parents. You have a choice.

PopHorror: Very inspirational! Now Elena and Kate. How did you both get involved in this project? And what made you want to get involved?

Elena Kampouris: Oh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but I’m a horror junkie. I’m obsessed with horror, and I had never done a horror movie before. So when this came in – the script – I was like, “What!? Shut the front gate!” I went to my mom, and I was like, “Children of the Corn, they’re redoing Children of the Corn!” She was like, “What!? You have to do it!” And I was like, “Finally an opportunity to release a horror scream.” That was engrained in my mind. And it was going to shoot in Australia, which is a bucket list place I wanted to go. So that was like, “Yes, sold.”

When I think about getting involved in the project, all I can think about is meeting Kurt for the first time in New York and I had bulldog socks on. And I walked in, and he just immediately launched into this story, like a long story about a bulldog in France. I won’t get into the details. He stood up acting it out and I was just sitting there watching like, “Who is this guy?” He’s beyond just a mad genius writer; he is a natural born performer. I’m like, “I totally connect and I gotta work with him.” And then we read a scene together that he wrote on the spot, wasn’t in the script, and he read with me. So it wasn’t just with a reader, which you usually do. It was so much fun to read with the director one-on-one, the enthusiasm, the fire in Kurt’s eyes. So that was really the starting point, the launchpad of this whole thing.

Kurt Wimmer: One thing that’s interesting, we started shooting April 2020 during the COVID shutdown. We were the only movie shooting on Earth for the entirety of our shoot in April and May of 2020. No one else on Earth was shooting. But one of the interesting things we did in terms of Kate and Elena developing character, they had to quarantine the second they got off the plane, which was an unpleasant surprise for them. And so, we had to buy Zoom. They couldn’t rehearse. Literally the day they got out of quarantine, the next day we were shooting and so we didn’t rehearse, but we did an unusual thing. I would just make up new scenes that didn’t exist in the movie and we would just improv different scenes with these characters so that these actors could explore these characters, not just in the book and script, but in terms of what their characters would actually say under all kinds of pressure. I don’t think that’s a common way of rehearsing, but it was very effective.

Kate Moyer: When I first got involved, because I was 11, I don’t think I completely understood what Children of the Corn was, and my parents had to explain it to me. And then Elena and I both had the same experience. My dad and I flew to New York, and I had this audition with Kurt and he asked me, “Why do they call the plural of goose geese, but moose isn’t meese?” And I was like, “Oh… OK.” It just helped me. I was already interested in the script and the way that the storytelling was. Eden is such a strong character and I thought it would be challenging, but also really fun, to be able to play her. And then with COVID, we were online and, honestly, it was probably the best thing that we could do because it helped us really get in touch with the characters before we went on set. So we weren’t on the spot making it up. We had time to almost rehearse before we went on set.

PopHorror: That’s great you guys could still familiarize yourselves with the characters despite the circumstances.

Kurt Wimmer: Literally they landed and that’s when Australia shut down. That day. I mean, literally they landed, they get to the airport and it’s, “Welcome to Australia, get your ass into quarantine, go straight to the hotel.” They had to do their own costume fittings. The costume designer couldn’t even go in the room. They had someone hang a bag outside, they’d get it, and they would have to try on their own costumes and do their own fittings in their rooms. It was crazy.

Elena Kampouris: The International Travel Ban took place right when we got in. So if we waited a day, an hour, we wouldn’t have made it. I remember being in the airport and people were bailing on their flights, and there’s that whole frenzy. We’re like, “Oh my God, are we crazy right now to do this?” It was such a leap of faith and, like Kurt said, the fact that we did this in the height of COVID, what we were up against… We started the protocols that are now implemented on other sets in different capacities. People don’t realize because it feels like so long ago and COVID’s relaxed a bit. It was really the unknown and terrifying, but we managed to pull through, so it’s definitely a miracle on its own.

Kurt Wimmer: And nobody got sick on a set full of children.

PopHorror: Was it filmed outside at an actual cornfield? I imagine if it was, it made COVID protocols a little easier.

Kurt Wimmer: It is, but there was no corn before we came. This was the field of dreams – “If you build it, they will come.” We grew all that corn, about 45 acres of corn. So yeah, we grew our set.

PopHorror: Kate and Elena – what was your dynamic like on set since your characters are so different from each other?

Kate Moyer: I feel like we’re both very similar to our characters, but I feel like off-screen, we worked. Obviously, we were much closer off-screen than we were on-screen. It was great working with Elena because we were able to bounce off each other. So even if we said something that was unscripted, we both kind of just knew what to say in that moment. I feel like that really helped show this relationship between the two.

Elena Kampouris: Yeah, Kate is a sweetie, but she’s terrorizing me the whole movie! We had so much fun. There’re such juicy scenes. We’re playing these constant psychological mind games with each other, all these manipulation tactics. We’re both leaders butting heads and it’s like, who’s gonna have the power position? And it’s this constant tug of war. So that was so much fun to do. But in-between, we’re all six feet apart, none of us were able to hug, and that was really difficult. But we were still able to have a safe nucleus that was created by Kurt, [executive producer] Sean Harner and our leaders. They were the glue that kept us together. And in-between takes, with the little ones, we were having fun and we were still dancing. They were teaching TikTok dances. So even though it’s tense given the material, and then given the looming COVID that was going on, we were able to respect the guidelines that were really strict, but also have a fun collaboration and enjoy ourselves.

Kurt Wimmer: You know, these two ladies are really good actresses. I mean, they’re really amazing and that’s what really makes it work. That these two are able to play off each other. Neither one of them are shrinking violets when the camera is turned on, and that’s great because you really get to watch them battle it out. Like this final scene in the car where they’re sitting there and there’s nothing, no props. There’s nothing. It’s two in a car vying for control and it takes really good actors to do that. If you’re imbalanced in terms of your actors and their abilities, you’re in deep trouble because one will just roll right over the other one. But in this case, they are both very strong and it comes through in their personalities, and that’s their characters, as well. They’re both kind of bosses in their own way. It’s just that Bo deals with things in a little slightly more mature way than Eden.

PopHorror: With Children of the Corn hitting theaters March 3, what are you most excited for people to see?

Elena Kampouris: He Who Walks!

Kurt Wimmer: Yes, you know, I think this is the first movie that actually shows He Who Walks.

Elena Kampouris: We were acting off a tennis ball or a pineapple the whole time, like Wilson from Cast Away and we were trying not to laugh the whole time. Like, this is a scary monster, so I was like, “What is this thing gonna look like?” I was like, “The monster will make or break the movie.” And honestly, when I saw him for the first time, I was like, “Whoa.” Scared me. So that’s what I’m excited about.

Kate Moyer: I’m just excited honestly to see all the hard work show on screen. That’s all.

PopHorror: I could imagine after three years!

Kurt Wimmer: For me, it’s the drama. It’s the drama that interests me most, the interpersonal drama between Bo and Eden. That’s, to me, the meat of the film.

PopHorror: Kurt – could you elaborate on your vision for He Who Walks?

Kurt Wimmer: It’s a product of a long series of conversations I had [with producers]. We asked ourselves, “OK, let’s just say there is a monster. Let’s say the monster is real and it’s not a product of this hallucination that’s brought on potentially by these kids and all this fungus that’s on these dying crops. What would it look like? And to what extent are we allowed to anthropomorphize, or do we need to anthropomorphize it so that the audience doesn’t find it to be absolutely so alien that they can’t relate to it?” And we had questions like, “So it’s got a mouth. Well, why? What’s it do with this mouth? Does it eat things? So these are all the questions we had to ultimately build it. I don’t think there’s any one right answer about what He Who Walks would or should look like, but I think we definitely gave one answer.

PopHorror: Is there any pressure felt given that there have already been so many prior installments of Children of the Corn?

Kurt Wimmer: Yes. I want people to like it.

Elena Kampouris: I think it’s a fresh take on something that has been done many times. But I don’t think any one of them can compare to this one and the really unique spin that it has on such a classic. I think the whole poison that’s in the soil, what they’re breathing in and what they’re eating, you know…they’re eating poison and they’re not living organically. Is that messing with their psyche? Is that all hallucinations? Is it all a dream or is it all out there? There are so many theories that can spawn from this that I don’t think would match any of the other films. I hope people like it.

Kate Moyer: People that were fans of the first movie can hopefully have an open mind and see what Elena and Kurt were saying, this new fresh take and this new story that takes place kind of in the same universe.

Kurt Wimmer: Yeah, hopefully it speaks to this generation again. It’s interesting too because I made a conscious decision. I’ve seen the term “gender swap” used and that was never in my mind. It was always about horror films to me. They’re always about females. There’s always that Final Girl. It’s never a Final Boy ever, ever. So it made no sense to me whatsoever to make this about boys.

PopHorror: That makes sense! To wrap up here, I have to ask, what’s everyone’s favorite horror movie?

Elena Kampouris: What’s yours!?

PopHorror: Child’s Play!

Elena Kampouris: Ohh, Chucky. I love zombies, zombie horror, but fast zombies. So I love Train to Busan because it also made me cry. I also saw Barbarian recently and oh my God, what in the world? But it was actually funny in many parts, which was awesome.

Kurt Wimmer: I think I’d have to go with Carrie.

Kate Moyer: I like It because I don’t like other horror movies.

Thank you Kurt, Elena, and Kate for speaking with us! Check out Children of the Corn in theaters March 3, and available On Demand and Digital March 21, and let us know what you think!

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