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Zach Cregger On How His Unsettling Horror Movie Barbarian Became A Disney Film - Exclusive

When someone says "Disney," people tend to think of princesses more often than creepy murder tunnels in Airbnbs. Yet the media giant has extensively expanded over the past decade and beyond — from "Star Wars" to the MCU. Now, on top of superhero and science fiction content, Disney is behind Zach Cregger's new horror film, "Barbarian."

As both the writer and the director, Cregger penned a horror film that surprised even himself with its twists. In addition to the movie's terrifying moments, self-aware Hollywood humor serves to cut the tension and provide satirical criticism of toxic masculinity and sexism. And though Disney seems like a surprising choice for this kind of horror movie, it was a match made in hell (but in a good way). The film boasts an impressive cast list, including Justin Long (AJ), Georgina Campbell (Tess), and Bill Skarsgård (Keith).

Looper spoke to Zach Cregger in an exclusive interview, where he discussed how supportive Disney was about helping him put "Barbarian" into the world and how the unlikely partnership came about.

Opposites attract

On how Disney came on board for the project, Cregger said, "It was a really interesting way this movie got made. It was an independent movie. We raised money independently, and we were about to go shoot it, and our financier tragically passed away." 

While sad circumstances led to the partnership, Cregger praised Disney for its support of the film. "At the 11th hour, New Regency swooped in and saved us. They wrote a check and left us alone, and they're partnered with Fox, and Fox is run by Disney," he explained. "Very much by accident, we kind of stumbled into the loving arms of Disney, who took great care of us. Honestly, they took great care of us. It worked out. A tragic situation worked out for the best in the long run for the film. That's how we got here."

In response to the joke that maybe zombie Mickey could be Disney's next creepy venture, Cregger said, "Yeah. Who knows?"

The soundtrack song that almost was

The studio isn't the only unlikely pairing that "Barbarian" has to offer. The film features some brilliant classic rock moments, but as it turns out, there was one song in particular that the director almost used over "Heat of the Moment" by Asia.

"The flashback scene is another way to subvert the rhythm of the movie and also give us a little bit more backstory of what's to come. That song, 'Heat of the Moment' by Asia ... Originally, we had a Jackson Browne song in there," Cregger explained. "We had to request personally from him permission to use it, and he said he didn't like horror movies, and we couldn't use it."

The rejection didn't faze Cregger, however, and he pivoted toward Asia. "I was like, 'All right, see ya.' Then we put the Asia song in, and I was like, 'It's even better. I like it more,'" Cregger noted. "It's one of those songs that's like, 'It's the perfect Saturday afternoon in Michigan, playing from somebody's window. It puts you right in the time period.' It totally worked." Of course, it's the perfect Saturday until everything goes horribly, horribly wrong. 

"Barbarian" is now playing in theaters.