By Annika Tomlin
Any fantasy could come true. But fantasies come with a price.
Blumhouse Productions’ “Fantasy Island,” based on the 1970s and ’80s ABC television series of the same name, tackles four different fantasies by four characters.
The film begins similarly to the iconic show, with an airplane arriving on an island and a guest being greeted by a man known as Mr. Roarke, played by Michael Peña.
Director Jeff Wadlow, who also co-wrote and -produced the film, says Blumhouse founder Jason Blum got involved after the two finished Wadlow’s last film, 2018’s “Truth or Dare.” Initially, he says, it was only “loosely inspired” by the Gene Levitt-created series, which ran for seven seasons.
“He (Blum) called up Sony and got the rights,” Wadlow explains. “And then he called me and said, ‘Why do something inspired by ‘Fantasy Island?’ Let’s just do ‘Fantasy Island.’
“I said, ‘Great, I’m in.’”
Co-star Lucy Hale, who previously worked with Wadlow on “Truth or Dare,” plays Melanie Cole. She says she was on the edge of her seat while reading the script, and suggests she was excited to work with Wadlow again.
“Jeff is amazing. I say in every interview that he’s the hardest-working man in Hollywood,” she says. “Not only does he direct, but he produces. He also wrote ‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘Fantasy Island.’”
On the subject, Wadlow says, “I like to approach each day like it’s a professional sporting event—like we’re out there to win and make the most interesting choices and get the most compelling footage possible, and Lucy is a superstar athlete.”
Aside from Hale, the movie covers three other characters.
Gwen Olsen, played by Maggie Q, has a fantasy that exudes regret, according to Wadlow.
“Gwen has a lot of questions about paths not taken,” he explains.
But perhaps the shallowest of the fantasies is that of JD (played by Ryan Hansen), who has brought his adopted brother, Brax (Jimmy O. Yang), to the island to share his wish “to have it all.” But having it all might not be what he originally thought.
And finally, Austin Stowell plays Patrick Sullivan, a cop who daydreams of meeting his father, who died in combat. But that wish goes deeper than he had intended.
Hale drew from her experiences playing roles in ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” as well as “Truth or Dare” to help channel the character of Cole in Wadlow’s new film. She says playing Aria Montgomery in “Pretty Little Liars” helped her perfect her horror face. In looking to Olivia Barron, her character from “Truth or Dare,” however, she says she had to take a different approach in extracting elements.
“Olivia is the girl next door. She’s the ‘type-A,’ ‘always-wants-to-do-the-right-thing’ kind of girl,” Hale says. “On the flip is Melanie, who I play in ‘Fantasy Island.’ And in her head, she is the Olivia.”
The most difficult challenge for Hale in playing Cole was getting into the mindset of the character, because their morals and the way they live their lives are very different, she says. According to Hale, Cole is a very complex, layered, damaged and tormented character unlike any she has played before.
“Obviously as Lucy, I read the script and I look at these things and I think, ‘This girl is insane. She’s crazy,’” she says. “With Olivia, it was a lot easier because she was a lot like me.”
Both Hale and Wadlow have a love for horror that drew them into this new collaboration.
“My character has a great line in the movie that says, ‘That’s why we ride roller coasters and watch horror movies. Because we like to feel something,’” Hale recalls. “What went on behind the making of ‘Fantasy Island’ is absolutely insane.”
The experience of creating and releasing tension is what draws Wadlow to the genre.
“Making a Blumhouse movie is a continuous process of being challenged. There is never a moment when you’re not being challenged in some capacity,” he says.
But for Wadlow, the film isn’t simple horror, as he sees a message in it all.
“Don’t live your life in regret,” he says. “You have to move forward. You can’t be consumed by the past because it will consume you.”
Blumhouse’s “Fantasy Island” is set for a theatrical release this Friday, February 14.