Based on the short story by Richard Matheson, The Box is a new psychological thriller directed by Richard Kelly and starring James Marsden and Cameron Diaz that depicts a financially unstable 1970’s couple who one day receive a mysterious box with a button inside.

They are told that if they push the button, they will receive one million dollars, but someone, somewhere in the world will die. Broadside recently had the chance to sit down with Diaz, Marsden and Kelly to talk about their experiences on making the film.

Have any of you read the short story or seen the Twilight Zone episode this movie is based on?

JM: Embarrassingly, I never read the short story, not out of laziness, but because we just wanted to focus on our version of what we were doing. I did see the Twilight Zone episode which—Richard where are we with that whole mentioning the Twilight Zone episode?

RK: I’m under the impression that I’m not allowed to mention those words legally. [Laughs] But the short story was something I read when I was young and it had a huge impression on me, obviously, and I optioned it from Richard Matheson and I spent many years trying to figure out how to expand it into a feature film and you know, here we are.

It was a long journey to get here, but the concept of the story was something I felt left a strong, strong footprint in my mind, so to speak.

CD: My answer’s the same as Jimmy’s. I didn’t read the short story because it was something that I wanted to sort of have, you know, to focus on our script, the sort of concept that Richard—or how Richard expanded on that concept.

What was your initial reaction when you first read the script?

CD: I was a huge fan of Richard from Donnie Darko and Southland Tales and I just really wanted to work with him, so when I read the script, I felt that it was very authentic to the stories that he tells. There is sort of this existential quandary and I just knew that Richard would tell the story as uniquely as he does and I wanted to be a part of that.

How much of your own personality would you say that you put into the characters? How much of you goes into who you’re playing?

CD: All I have is me. [Laughs] James would agree that you really have to use—you try to understand what other people are going through even if you haven’t gone through it yourself. You just try to get to the feeling of what you think it would feel like to be in that position, but you never really know.

As much as you want to feel that you’re being somebody else, you’re only working from your own toolbox and experience, so I would like to think that there’s nothing of me in there, but really I can only contribute with what I have.

JM: For me, you wouldn’t be responding to the material and to the story and to the character if there wasn’t a part of you in that, so there’s always going to be a piece of you that is going to be inherent to your performance, or my performance anyway.

How is this 1970’s set film relevant to our society today?

RK: Well I think that this film kind of puts in the crosshairs the idea of the nuclear family.

In our film, it’s a married couple under the age of 40 with a single child and they have a lifestyle that they really can’t afford and they’re sort of living on credit and they have a mortgage that’s beyond their means and they’re driving a car—Arthur is driving a car—and it’s a little bit too expensive.

They have a son in private school with tuition that’s a little too much for them to handle.

I think looking at our economic crisis right now, the film I hope resonates with the audience of today despite the fact that it’s set in 1976 because these are things that we can identify with and we can see and realize that we all are trying to live a better life and achieve a better life, but it’s ultimately about the things that we strive to possess in this lifestyle that we want to achieve.

Hopefully, that’s something that resonates with modern audiences.

The story in the movie is obviously a little bit more complex than the original short story. How did you go about elaborating the original premise and what kind of inspiration did you have?

RK: Well, the short story was almost like a great set-up for act one of a movie and there was one line of the short story that just sent my mind racing and it was when they asked who Mr. Stewart worked for and he said, “I can assure you that the organization is large and international in scope,” and that to me was just so fascinating because it had all these questions.

I wanted to know, who did Mr. Stewart work for? Why did they build the button unit? What are their intentions? Why are they kind of approaching these married couples? What’s the point of it all? What’s the agenda at work?

And I thought those were such amazing questions and to be able to kind of explore all those answers in act two and act three and make it a story of redemption was really exciting so we really spent a lot of time to get it right and figure out what act two and act three were going to be.

This movie poses a big moral question about our human nature. In your opinions, do you think that the majority of people would push this button given the opportunity?

JM: Probably.

CD: In today’s society, I think we’re already proving that we’re pushing the button more than ever by, you know, taking out credit cards and mortgages and dumping stuff into the ocean, doing all these things that we think we aren’t going to have to take responsibility for, but ultimately it does have an effect and we do have to suffer the consequences of that, like our economy, and we are right now based on all the buttons that were pushed over the last few years.