10 Sharp Facts About Let The Right One In

Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures

Ask any horror super fan to list their 10 favorite films of the last decade and odds are good that Tomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In will end up somewhere in the ranking. The Swedish vampire film, beloved by viewers for its eerie lighting, subtle horror, and beautifully strange young actors, turns 10 years old today, and it remains a crossover hit, drawing fans far outside of its native country and even some fans who don’t tend to enjoy horror films at all.

Let the Right One In’s journey to modern classic was a relatively smooth one, but it wasn’t without its interesting wrinkles. So, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, here are 10 facts about the film, from its director’s reluctance to adapt a novel at all to the unusual way its stars learned their lines.

1. TOMAS ALFREDSON WASN'T INTERESTED IN ADAPTING A BOOK.

Magnolia Pictures

Let The Right One In began its life as a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, which became a bestseller in Lindqvist's home country of Sweden and soon began attracting movie producers interested in bringing the story to the screen. Ironically, director Tomas Alfredson was not among the people initially circling the project. He was gifted the book by a friend (something he claimed he usually objects to, because he finds book selection too personal for gift giving), and after letting it sit around his house for a while, he picked it up and became engrossed. After reading Lindqvist’s novel, Alfredson expressed interest in adapting it for the screen, despite a general belief that great books cannot be made into great films.

"I really think you shouldn't do films of good books," Alfredson told the Los Angeles Times. "The reason is that the depth of a good book is so much greater than you could possibly do on screen in 90 minutes. But this was sort of the exception."

2. ALFREDSON WASN’T INTERESTED IN WATCHING OTHER HORROR FILMS.

Before Let The Right One In, Alfredson was best known not for horror, but for comedy films and stage productions. When reading the novel, he noted he was drawn in by the story of Oskar not because he befriended a vampire, but because he was an isolated child who was also a victim of bullying.

"It's very hard and very down-to-earth, unsentimental," Alfredson said. "I had some period when I grew up when I had hard times in school ... So it really shook me.”

When approaching the story for the screen, Alfredson deliberately avoided educating himself about the horror genre, relying instead on other influences to shape the look and tone of the movie, including the paintings of Hans Holbein. For him, flooding his brain with other horror films would have been counterintuitive.

“I did the exact opposite actually because I did not want to know what other people have done,” he told Total Sci-Fi Online. “You see, I think that too many filmmakers watch movies by other directors to try and inspire themselves but, to me, this is totally pointless. I would rather get my influence from art or music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy horror movies when I see them on the television, but I am totally uneducated toward the genre and I never seek them out."

3. IT TOOK NEARLY A YEAR TO FIND THE LEAD ACTORS.

Magnolia Pictures

So much of Let The Right One In is carried by the characters of the boy Oskar and the vampire Eli, and even though one of them is a centuries-old vampire, they both still had to be played by children who somehow had great chemistry. Alfredson knew that if he made one mistake in casting his two young stars, he could lose the whole movie, so he spent nearly a year working through open casting calls trying to find the perfect pair of children to inhabit the two roles.

"It was very complicated,” he said. “I wasn't just [trying] to find one boy and one girl; I had to find the perfect match to the same character. It is also very important they have good families and are stable persons. It is a big responsibility to carry a whole film on your 12-year-old shoulders."

Eventually, Alfredson found his instantly iconic stars in Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli, and settled on a somewhat unusual way of working with them.

4. THE KIDS WERE NEVER ALLOWED TO READ THE SCRIPT.

For his own “artistic reasons,” and because professional child actors are not a concept in Sweden the way they are in America, Alfredson settled on a method of working with his two young stars that might seem unusual given how accustomed many moviegoers are to seeing children working in Hollywood. In the audition process, and even during principal photography, Hedebrant and Leandersson were not allowed to read the script. Their parents read it to approve all of the content, but the two actors were fed all of their lines and scenarios by Alfredson himself as a means of focusing on creating very specific moments.

“They didn't read at all, and not during the shooting either. I never let them read anything from paper, so I always read it aloud to them, so they learned by ear, rather than eye,” he recalled. “They didn't know what it was all about really, but they started to make this puzzle every day. ‘Okay, I'm coming in here now’ because I think the best way to get the best out of a child actor is ... You really cannot say ‘you are disappointed with adults.’ They cannot do anything with that, but if you say, ‘You're very upset with this specific person right now in this very moment because you're very hungry and he's just taken your food away.’ You really have to take every and each situation for what it is, and not trying to make it into a bigger puzzle. That's my way to it."

5. ELI’S VOICE WAS SUPPLIED BY ANOTHER ACTRESS.

A number of techniques were employed to make Leandersson look and feel like a being who is hundreds of years old, many of them visual, but one very important creative decision came in the film’s elaborate sound design process. To make Eli seem even more ancient and also androgynous (the character is a castrated boy in the books, which is also suggested in the film), it was decided that Leandersson’s voice would not be used, and instead an older actress would dub all of her dialogue. According to the film’s sound designers, the crew took a vote, and actress Elif Ceylan was chosen to provide the voice.

6. A PEDOPHILIA SUBPLOT WAS CUT.

Magnolia Pictures

In adapting the novel for the screen, Lindqvist and Alfredson had to make some key decisions on how best to focus their story on the relationship between Eli and Oskar, which meant that certain elements simply had to go. Among these was the thread running through the book that Hakan, Eli’s elderly blood supplier, was also a pedophile. For Alfredson, this introduced too much thematic baggage into the plot to be handled properly within the film’s runtime, so it had to go.

“So that really gave another tone to the whole thing. That’s too often used as say ... an emotional special effect, without taking responsibility for what that really is,” he said. “It’s a really complicated thing to debate on screen, I think. So that would’ve disturbed the story a lot to have that."

7. A CASTRATION SEQUENCE WAS ALSO ABANDONED.

The revelation that Eli was not born a girl, but was instead a boy who was castrated 200 years earlier, is present in Lindqvist’s novel and is hinted at in one brief but memorable shot in the film. According to Alfredson, though, this was originally going to be explored in much greater detail through a flashback sequence that actually showed the castration taking place. When it came time to shoot the scene, however, Alfredson got cold feet because of certain elements of … realism.

“I tried to do a flashback scene, where we see the castration of Eli [the girl vampire] 200 years ago, with very close shots of a knife coming close to skin, starting to cut, and I said to the make-up guys that I want to do this,” he recalled. “They said, 'You can’t do this unless it is real animal, because if you are so close to the camera, you can’t use rubber or special effects,' so I said 'Okay, let’s do that then,' then I forgot about it, and the assistant director said, 'We have the pig here now.' I said, 'What pig?' 'The pig for the cutting shot. A living pig. He is outside together with the slaughterer.' So I went outside the studio and a butcher was standing with his knife, and this pig looking with his sad eyes. I said no. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if we killed him. That’s bad karma."

8. IT FEATURES A LOT OF VERY SUBTLE CGI.

Let The Right One In is a relatively small film, with few central characters and locations. It’s far from a massive, effects-driven blockbuster, but that doesn’t mean that Alfredson was shy about using computer generated effects to his advantage when the film called for it. The reason many viewers may not notice, though, is that Alfredson and his team employed CGI in often very small ways, to accentuate the strange movements and behaviors of Eli and to add to the eeriness of the wintry landscape at night.

"There is a lot of CGI in this film," Alfredson said. "I think over 50 CGI shots. And it’s a fantastic tool box to use, but it seems like almost everyone is using it too much. If there’s a car explosion, it seems like the car has to explode for three minutes, and has to be the biggest car explosion you’ve ever seen. And it’s not good for the material or the reality to it. So, we tried to hold back on that as much as possible. You can do so much with those effects in a subtle way. For instance, changing the size of the eyes by 10 percent. Just make them 10 percent smaller, and nobody could tell what you have done, but it’s really spooky when someone suddenly has little, smaller eyes. In one scene, they were bigger and so on. People can not really pinpoint it. If you make a car explosion for four minutes, everyone will know it’s fake and why."

9. ALFREDSON WASN'T HAPPY ABOUT THE FILM'S REMAKE.

Magnolia Pictures

Even as Let the Right One In began getting noticed from American critics and audiences, studio executives were already looking for a way to Americanize the story, and by the fall of 2008 Cloverfield director Matt Reeves had signed on to write and direct the new adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel. Even before that film, titled Let Me In, was released in 2010, Alfredson was outspoken about his misgivings, and actually turned down an offer to make the American version himself.

“Initially they approached me to do the remake but I decided not to participate in it," he said. "I am too old to make the same film twice and I have other stories that I want to tell. I think that it is a little sad. I wish that American viewers would just see the foreign language version! When I first got asked about the remake I said ‘Can you not just get everyone to see this one? It is a perfectly good film you know!’"

10. IT ALMOST BECAME A TV SERIES.

Even after Let Me In arrived in American cinemas, producers weren’t done with Let The Right One In. In 2015, A&E began developing a potential TV series, written by Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis. In the summer of 2016, TNT ordered a pilot for the series, but by the spring of 2017 the network had decided not to proceed with the pickup, and the project fell off the radar. At the time, it was reported that production company Tomorrow Studios was still interested in the concept and potentially shopping it around to other networks, so perhaps the idea still has a future.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

12 Surprising Facts About T.S. Eliot

Getty
Getty

Born September 26, 1888, modernist poet and playwright Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot is best known for writing "The Waste Land." But the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was also a prankster who coined a perennially popular curse word, and created the characters brought to life in the Broadway musical "Cats." In honor of Eliot’s birthday, here are a few things you might not know about the writer.

1. T.S. Eliot enjoyed holding down "real" jobs.

Throughout his life, Eliot supported himself by working as a teacher, banker, and editor. He could only write poetry in his spare time, but he preferred it that way. In a 1959 interview with The Paris Review, Eliot remarked that his banking and publishing jobs actually helped him be a better poet. “I feel quite sure that if I’d started by having independent means, if I hadn’t had to bother about earning a living and could have given all my time to poetry, it would have had a deadening influence on me,” Eliot said. “The danger, as a rule, of having nothing else to do is that one might write too much rather than concentrating and perfecting smaller amounts.”

2. One of the longest-running Broadway shows ever exists thanks to T.S. Eliot.

Getty Images

In 1939, Eliot published a book of poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which included feline-focused verses he likely wrote for his godson. In stark contrast to most of Eliot's other works—which are complex and frequently nihilistic—the poems here were decidedly playful. For Eliot, there was never any tension between those two modes: “One wants to keep one’s hand in, you know, in every type of poem, serious and frivolous and proper and improper. One doesn’t want to lose one’s skill,” he explained in his Paris Review interview. A fan of Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats since childhood, in the late '70s, Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to set many of Eliot's poems to music. The result: the massively successful stage production "Cats," which opened in London in 1981 and, after its 1982 NYC debut, became one of the longest-running Broadway shows of all time.

3. Three hours per day was his T.S. Eliot’s writing limit.

Eliot wrote poems and plays partly on a typewriter and partly with pencil and paper. But no matter what method he used, he tried to always keep a three hour writing limit. “I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory," he explained. "It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.”

4. T.S. Eliot considered "Four Quartets" to be his best work.

In 1927, Eliot converted to Anglicanism and became a British citizen. His poems and plays in the 1930s and 1940s—including "Ash Wednesday," "Murder in the Cathedral," and "Four Quartets"—reveal themes of religion, faith, and divinity. He considered "Four Quartets,” a set of four poems that explored philosophy and spirituality, to be his best writing. Out of the four, the last is his favorite.

5. T.S. Eliot had an epistolary friendship with Groucho Marx.

Eliot wrote comedian Groucho Marx a fan letter in 1961. Marx replied, gave Eliot a photo of himself, and started a correspondence with the poet. After writing back and forth for a few years, they met in real life in 1964, when Eliot hosted Marx and his wife for dinner at his London home. The two men, unfortunately, didn’t hit it off. The main issue, according to a letter Marx wrote his brother: the comedian had hoped he was in for a "Literary Evening," and tried to discuss King Lear. All Eliot wanted to talk about was Marx's 1933 comedy Duck Soup. (In a 2014 piece for The New Yorker, Lee Siegel suggests there had been "simmering tension" all along, even in their early correspondence.)

6. Ezra Pound tried to crowdfund T.S. Eliot’s writing.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1921, Eliot took a few months off from his banking job after a nervous breakdown. During this time, he finished writing "The Waste Land," which his friend and fellow poet Ezra Pound edited. Pound, with the help of other Bohemian writers, set up Bel Esprit, a fund to raise money for Eliot so he could quit his bank job to focus on writing full-time. Pound managed to get several subscribers to pledge money to Eliot, but Eliot didn’t want to give up his career, which he genuinely liked. The Liverpool Post, Chicago Daily Tribune, and the New York Tribune reported on Pound’s crowdfunding campaign, incorrectly stating that Eliot had taken the money, but continued working at the bank. After Eliot protested, the newspapers printed a retraction.

7. Writing in French helped T.S. Eliot overcome writer’s block.

After studying at Harvard, Eliot spent a year in Paris and fantasized about writing in French rather than English. Although little ever came of that fantasy, during a period of writer’s block, Eliot did manage to write a few poems in French. “That was a very curious thing which I can’t altogether explain. At that period I thought I’d dried up completely. I hadn’t written anything for some time and was rather desperate,” he told The Paris Review. “I started writing a few things in French and found I could, at that period ...Then I suddenly began writing in English again and lost all desire to go on with French. I think it was just something that helped me get started again."

8. T.S. Eliot set off stink bombs in London with his nephew.

Eliot, whose friends and family called him Tom, was supposedly a big prankster. When his nephew was young, Eliot took him to a joke shop in London to purchase stink bombs, which they promptly set off in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Eliot was also known to hand out exploding cigars, and put whoopee cushions on the chairs of his guests.

9. T.S. Eliot may have been the first person to write the word "bulls**t."

In the early 1910s, Eliot wrote a poem called "The Triumph of Bulls**t." Like an early 20th-century Taylor Swift tune, the poem was Eliot’s way of dissing his haters. In 1915, he submitted the poem to a London magazine … which rejected it for publication. The word bulls**t isn’t in the poem itself, only the poem’s title, but The Oxford English Dictionary credits the poem with being the first time the curse word ever appeared in print.

10. T.S. Eliot coined the expression “April is the cruelest month.”

Thanks to Eliot, the phrase “April is the cruelest month” has become an oft-quoted, well-known expression. It comes from the opening lines of "The Waste Land”: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

11. T.S. Eliot held some troubling beliefs about religion.

Over the years, Eliot made some incredibly problematic remarks about Jewish people, including arguing that members of a society should have a shared religious background, and that a large number of Jews creates an undesirably heterogeneous culture. Many of his early writing also featured offensive portrayals of Jewish characters. (As one critic, Joseph Black, pointed out in a 2010 edition of "The Waste Land" and Other Poems, "Few published works displayed the consistency of association that one finds in Eliot's early poetry between what is Jewish and what is squalid and distasteful.") Eliot's defenders argue that the poet's relationship with Jewish people was much more nuanced that his early poems suggest, and point to his close relationships with a number of Jewish writers and artists.

12. You can watch a movie based on T.S. Eliot’s (really bad) marriage.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tom & Viv, a 1994 film starring Willem Dafoe, explores Eliot’s tumultuous marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a dancer and socialite. The couple married in 1915, a few months after they met, but the relationship quickly soured. Haigh-Wood had constant physical ailments, mental health problems, and was addicted to ether. The couple spent a lot of time apart and separated in the 1930s; she died in a mental hospital in 1947. Eliot would go on to remarry at the age of 68—his 30-year-old secretary, Esmé Valerie Fletcher—and would later reveal that his state of despair during his first marriage was the catalyst and inspiration for "The Waste Land."

This story has been updated for 2020.