Director Zelda Williams Advocates Weirdness in ‘Lisa Frankenstein’

Director Zelda Williams and screenwriter Diablo Cody on the set of Lisa Frankenstein

When director Zelda Williams and her team first screened Lisa Frankenstein, the host asked the focus group at the end what they thought the main message of the movie was.

“There was of course mention of flying body parts,” shares Williams. “But one of them, who seemed to be around 18, raised their hand and confidently answered, ‘that you can be a completely unhinged weirdo and still deserve to be loved!’ This movie won’t be for everyone, but if anyone leaves it feeling THAT way, then in my eyes, I’ve more than done my job!”

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In Lisa Frankenstein, it’s 1989 and Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton), an awkward 17-year-old, is trying to adjust to a new school and a new life after her mother’s death and her father’s hasty remarriage. Despite the unwavering support offered by her plucky cheerleader step sister Taffy (Liza Soberano – who has earned local and international praise, including from Hollywood director Joe Russo, for her performance!), Lisa only finds solace in the abandoned cemetery near her house, where she tends to the grave of a young man who died in 1837 – and whose corpse she unwittingly reanimates (Cole Sprouse). Feeling obligated to help the poor soul regain his humanity, Lisa embarks on a quest to breathe new life into her long-dead new companion. All she needs to succeed are some freshly harvested body parts and Taffy’s broken tanning bed.

Liza Soberano and Kathryn Newton in Lisa Frankenstein

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures International

The film, inspired by 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein and ’80s favorites including Weird Science, was written by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body). Cody found an ideal collaborator in Williams, an actress turned filmmaker known for her voice-over work on such projects as Nickelodeon’s animated series The Legend of Korra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Williams also starred in Freeform’s anthology series Dead of Summer and enjoyed recurring roles on the hit series Teen Wolf, before writing and directing her first short film, 2018’s Shrimp. Lisa Frankenstein is the feature film directorial debut of Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams and part-Filipina Marsha Garces.

Cody was ceaselessly impressed by the atmosphere Williams fostered on set. “Zelda ran one of the most warm, welcoming and efficient sets I’ve ever seen,” says Cody. “She also grew up in the industry, so instead of seeing the usual first-film jitters, I saw a director calmly and smoothly operating inside her comfort zone. She was an ally to the actors, and to the script as well.” 

Cinematographer Paula Huidobro and director Zelda Williams on the set of Lisa Frankenstein

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures International

Adds Kathryn Newton, who plays Lisa: “The world in the script is so heightened, but Zelda managed to inject so much heart and love into it. She’s really in the moment, thinking about every little detail. Zelda’s fun and cool and I trust her, and that’s really all you want in a director – someone you trust. She always had my back.”

In making a story that is a darkly funny, bizarrely romantic and gleefully gory celebration of love, Williams says she hopes to remind audiences to embrace their own eccentricities. In a world hellbent on telling people to be curated, perfect and small, it’s important to remember that sometimes, bigger and wilder is just better. “I would really love them to leave feeling maybe a bit more comfortable in their weirdness, a bit more seen in whatever way they thought made them too odd to be lovable,” says the director.

This Valentine’s Day, watch the funniest, goriest undead horror romance you’ll see all year. Lisa Frankenstein, distributed by Universal Pictures International, is now showing in cinemas. #LisaFrankensteinPH

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