Thanksgiving Director Eli Roth Recalls The Honest Concern He Initially Had About Casting TikTok Star Addison Rae

Entertainment

For nearly two decades, fans of Eli Roth have been eagerly anticipating his latest horror movie venture, the holiday-centric slasher Thanksgiving. The excitement dates back to its playful tease as a fake trailer in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. Now that the film is finally here, early critical reception for Roth’s latest has been generally positive. However, he openly acknowledged a genuine concern about production, mainly the casting of TikTok star Addison Rae. Roth specifically reflected upon a conversation he had with the media personality early on, during which he expressed a hesitation.

Eli Roth told The Hollywood Reporter that the online influencer-turned-successful He’s All That cast member approached him about joining his long-rumored Thanksgiving-themed slasher. And though he says he was open to the idea of casting Addison Rae, he was also very blunt with the online star. In his words:

She was catapulted to fame in this new thing that no one understood, and I think she made [another] movie before she really understood the process of acting. And good for her for trying, but I don’t think it’s reflective of who she is as an actor. I don’t have TikTok, so I hadn’t seen her TikToks, but I just knew who she was. So she approached me about being in the film and I said, ‘Listen, unless you’re great, it’s going to feel like stunt casting. That’s going to be bad for the movie and it’s going to be bad for you. I only want to cast you as if you’re an actor and you’re terrific in the film.’ And she said, ‘No, I want to be in the movie, and I want to show my range,’ because it is a role where she can be natural. She can be the friend and show the fear and the terror. So I think she’s a fantastic young actor.

One can definitely understand the concern. In the past, there have been many instances in which a famed person — like an athlete or socialite — has been tapped for a film merely to generate buzz. It’s clear that, in this case, the Hostel director didn’t want to cast the social media maven to drum up publicity but would only tap her if she had the chops. 

Thankfully, the initial concerns about stunt casting quickly dissipated as he witnessed the young star’s commitment to proving herself in acting. As he explained to the trade, it also helped that he paired with some incredible on-screen partners, with Nell Verlaque, being one of them. He continued:

It was about setting Addison up to succeed with amazing actors, and everyone is leveling each other up and supporting each other. So that all went away really fast. All of those concerns were gone, not just after I saw her audition but during the chemistry reads. And once we did a camera test where we put the kids together in their costumes, they felt so real. I said, ‘What’s going to make the movie work is if everybody believes you’re all real friends,’ and they all made such an effort. They all hung out and did everything together. Addison is an incredibly generous person, and when she posted on social, she’d tag everyone to make sure that everyone was part of the group. There was no separation in star level, and everybody worked together to bring out the best. So I’m really happy for Addison. I think she’s going to have an amazing career, and she’s a superb young actor.

The movie takes an unexpected turn, deviating from its 2007 faux trailer roots. The once light-hearted tone has transformed into a sharp satire, delving into dark humor and even darker kills. Centered around the holiday institution of Black Friday, the film unfolds in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with a group of teenagers (Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, and Nell Verlaque) finding themselves in the midst of a Thanksgiving gore fest. The enigmatic figure, John Carver, has a score to settle that’s linked to a local big-box store, and it leads to an opening set-piece that redefines “doorbuster” and, inevitably, leaves a trail of corpses in its wake.

In CinemaBlend’s Thanksgiving review, Mike Reyes gives the film a solid 4 out of 5 stars, emphasizing its worthiness after the anticipation. Reyes highlights the movie’s successful blend of intense carnage and genuinely funny moments, a sentiment I wholeheartedly share. I enjoyed the film so much that I’m considering another trip to the cinemas to indulge in a second helping of holiday horror. And yes, Addison Rae does indeed deliver as well, and this could prove to be huge for her from a professional standpoint.

Catch her and her co-stars dodging the relentless John Carver in Thanksgiving, which is currently screening at a theater near you. Consult your local listings for showtimes. Also, remember to explore our list of upcoming horror movies to glimpse the chilling offerings gracing the 2023 movie release schedule and beyond.

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