Up from ‘sub-sub’ stardom

Times Staff Writer

The horror movie “Shutter,” with a premise reminiscent of a “Twilight Zone” and filled with its share of “gotcha” jolts, seems at first blush like typical Hollywood fare.

What makes it more than a popcorn movie for American audiences, says the film’s star, Joshua Jackson, is that its Japanese director, Masayuki Ochiai, simultaneously made a different cut of the film for Japanese audiences.

“The old paradigm is unraveling,” Jackson said. “That idea that you could make a movie that would have regionally specific cuts. I think that’s a really interesting idea.”


“Shutter” revolves around “spirit photography” -- the idea that unfinished business with the dead reveals itself in photographic imagery. Ben (Jackson) is a fashion photographer on a working honeymoon with his bride Jane (Rachael Taylor).

But an apparition of a young woman keeps haunting them -- first in their digital vacation shots and then in Ben’s work.

Much of the differences in the two versions of the film are cultural, Jackson said; for instance, there are Japanese-language scenes not in the Western version, and the story line -- spirit haunts young couple -- doesn’t just have evil connotations.

“There’s an elder worship that the Japanese culture has,” he said.

He was speaking by phone from Toronto, where the 29-year-old actor was finishing up work on the two-hour Fox pilot “Fringe.”

It’s a sci-fi-tinged investigation series in which Jackson stars for executive producer J.J. Abrams, whose TV shows (“Alias,” “Lost”) and movies (“Cloverfield,” the forthcoming installment of “Star Trek”) have made him one of the more powerful creative forces in Hollywood.

“I’ve made many movies for less than we’re spending on this pilot,” Jackson said.

He is a former teen heartthrob, part of the “Dawson’s Creek” graduating class that has, over the years, seen the female leads (Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams) soar to greater career heights than the men (James Van Der Beek).


The WB series ran for six seasons, between 1998 and 2003. With his facial hair and air of sly charm, Jackson in “Shutter” retains the boyish look of his TV other. Between “Dawson’s” and “Fringe,” there have been movie roles, including the Emilio Estevez-directed “Bobby,” but nothing has broken him big.

It’s with a sense of irony that Jackson now considers himself below stardom level, occupying a category he terms “sub-sub-star.”

“The middle has gone out of the business. There’s not a lot of work being done, sub-sub-movie-star level.”

Jackson has been up for big roles; most recently he was rumored to be cast as the lead in “Fletch Won,” a long-developing prequel to the Chevy Chase comedy “Fletch” (“Dead in the water,” Jackson said, betraying frustration, when asked about that project).

In the meantime, he’s hardly complaining. Based in L.A., he waited out the writers strike in Paris, where his girlfriend, actress Diane Kruger (the “National Treasure” movies), lives.

In “Shutter,” Jackson had to speak some Japanese; working with a trainer, he tried to get his tongue around “sounds that we don’t make.”


Then too, Jackson said, director Ochiai didn’t speak English, which led to some cultural gaps. In one scene, he and Taylor rush to a friend’s apartment, and the filmmakers couldn’t understand why the actors didn’t take their shoes off before entering.

In the end, though, there was a shared fluency in the reference points of the horror genre.

“The language of film remains the same,” he said.