18 Things We Learned While on the Set of ‘Crimson Peak’

Crimson Peak

Last spring we got a very special invitation to visit the set of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak. It was special not just because we’d get to chat with the extremely talented cast of Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), nor because del Toro is very receptive and giving to press when they visit (he even skipped his lunch to give us an hour-long tour because he was so excited to show off his creation), although those are all very special things. No, this visit was extra-special because we were visiting a practical, built from scratch, multi-level gothic Victorian house. And it was haunted. And it varied in levels of decadence and decay. It was very, very del Toro. It was Crimson Peak. And now that house has long been dismantled, with certain pieces likely now living within del Toro’s own house. But we were there. And it was gorgeous.

On Wednesday, a new trailer for Crimson Peak was released. It was spooky. There was a lot of terror. But we didn’t experience any terror while on set. Just hospitality. Chastain invited us into her trailer, where she played a keyboard, spoke of serial killers, and allowed us to play with her dog. Hunnam came in on his day off to talk about his now well-established rapport with del Toro. And Hiddleston made everyone swoon as the hours got very late. (We did not get to speak with Mia Wasikowska, however, because she was being terrorized on-set while we comfortably watched on the side.)

So now you’ve seen the trailer. You saw the creepy hands, you heard the creepy voice, but likely, you want to know more. So we went through our pages and pages of notes and have come back with 18 things we learned about Crimson Peak— by going to Crimson Peak.

The Story: “Given The Family History…”

A little minor backstory: Crimson Peak is set at the turn of the 20th century. It is about two siblings, the Sharpes (Hiddleston and Chastain), who live atop an English coal mine—in a mansion that is falling apart. The siblings, who’ve forged a strong band of survival, go to America to attempt to get an investment in not only their coal mine, but in a new machine that Thomas Sharpe has invented. While in America (specifically Buffalo, New York), Thomas Sharpe falls for a young American woman (Wasikowska). They are to be married. The trio return to England where things start falling apart, and haunting (at least) the young American.

Crimson Peak

Now, what extra information can the cast give about the story?

  • Hiddleston describes Crimson Peak as “a classic case of old money. They’ve inherited this huge pile of crumbling bricks, which they don’t have the sources to refurbish. It’s essentially sinking into the clay, which is underneath the house, and [Thomas’] dream is to make use of the riches [from the clay underneath the house] and earn the revenue to redo the house.” Hiddleston added that Thomas is a skilled engineer, and that his ambition is to revolutionize how clay is mined. “If Thomas Sharpe’s dream works—if he gets the investment and the financial capital to put into his scheme—he could become one of the great engineers of the Victorian Age.”
  • As Thomas’s sister, Lucille, Chastain’s future is directly tied to her brother’s success. “I think they’ve suffered a lot and the only happiness they’ve ever had in their life was with each other,” Chastain said. “For her, her home is her safety and her brother is her safety. It can be suffocating. It’s very codependent.” She goes with her brother to Buffalo, New York looking for investors to build Thomas’ clay-mining machine.
  • Thomas Sharpe falls in love with Edith (Mia Wasikowska) while the siblings visit Buffalo, New York. Hiddleston describes Edith as a willful young woman, “[She] writes her own novels and won’t be told what the content of those novels should be,” and that’s the initial appeal that draws Thomas to Edith. With that new romance Hiddleston teases the wickedness we see in the trailer, “Given [The Sharpe’s] family history, she will need a great deal of care and attention. On one level he’s pulled to home (in England) by Lucille. He’s reminded of home, he’s reminded of the pain of the past and the experience of the past, but Edith is this light that’s pulling him away from her. She represents new experiences and travel. She’s the future.” And soon, Edith joins the siblings in England, and personal bonds begin to unravel.
  • Hunnam plays Dr. McMichael, an ophthalmologist, who’s been a family friend to Edith for years, and is secretly pining for her. “This other guy swoops in,” Hunnam said, “and it’s devastating.” For spooky reasons we see the trailer, Dr. McMichael will eventually make a house call to check on Edith when her life is endangered… by the house. Details of what the spirits are, and what the painful family history is, remain a mystery to us. As it should be. Del Toro did promise that the violence would be infrequent, but “shocking” when it arrived. He compared scenes to the infamous bottle scene in Pan’s Labyrinth (which likely gave that film its R-rating instead of a friendlier PG-13).
  • Another mysterious element is the kinkiness of Crimson Peak. While showing us the house, del Toro frequently used the word “kinky” to describe the story. When we asked the costume designer, Kate Hawley (because if something kinky was happening she probably designed the bodices that’d be ripped off, after all), she looked puzzled and said she “doesn’t know what Guillermo finds kinky (in the story).” When we asked Hunnam, he laughed and said, “I’m not involved in anything kinky.” But Hiddleston did say, “There is a sexuality in the film which is expressed and you think you know what it is and then you realize,” he broke off with a laugh “… I really can’t reveal more than that.” In October 2015, however, we will find out what kink is to del Toro, and to Crimson Peak.

(more quotes from Chastain, Hiddleston, Hunnam, and del Toro—cont’d on next page)