10 Cloverfield Lane, the J.J. Abrams-produced, loosely-related follow-up to 2008’s Cloverfield, was a project long shrouded in secrecy. Aside from the basic premise—Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a woman, Michelle, who wakes up in a cellar, having been rescued from an unknown outside threat by a possibly menacing John Goodman—the suspenseful sci-fi flick remains as unspoiled as a movie can be these days. As it hits theaters Friday, here’s what to know about its origins, its cast and its secret path to release.
1. It’s not technically a sequel to Cloverfield. As Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter before the film’s New York premiere, “The easiest way to think of it now is that it’s part of an anthology, it’s like The Twilight Zone. It’s like if Cloverfield were an amusement park, this would be one of the rides at the park.” There is no overlap between the casts, directors and settings of the two movies.
2. The movie was such a secret that not even its cast knew it was going to bear the word “Cloverfield” in its name. There were several working titles for the film while it was in development, including Valencia and The Cellar. Winstead found out the actual name on the day the trailer premiered, attached to Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, less than two months before 10 Cloverfield Lane’s March release date.
3. John Goodman hadn’t heard of Cloverfield until he was hired for 10 Cloverfield Lane. On the Howard Stern Show earlier this week, Goodman said that when he got the call about the role, it was still called The Cellar. “Cloverfield, I know from bupkis!” he said. (That’s a Yiddish term that means “nothing,” for the uninitiated.) But he signed onto the film on the strength of its script. It also didn’t hurt that it filmed in New Orleans, where Goodman lives.
4. It’s a directorial debut. The movie is the first feature by director Dan Trachtenberg, who caught Abrams’ attention after he made a 2011 short film called Portal: No Escape, which takes place in the universe of the Portal video game series. The story of a woman who wakes up in a room with no idea how she got there, the premise of Trachtenberg’s short has much in common with 10 Cloverfield Lane.
5. Yes, that disembodied voice belongs to Bradley Cooper. The Oscar-winning actor lends his voice to Michelle’s boyfriend Ben, who never appears on camera but is heard during telephone calls. When casting the film, Abrams texted Cooper to ask if he would be interested in the bit part, and Cooper, who worked with Abrams for five years on the show Alias, happily agreed.
6. The word “Cloverfield” doesn’t have any secret meanings. Though the title of the 2008 film generated much intrigue, director Matt Reeves revealed prior to that movie’s release that it was just a reference to a code name used to keep the project veiled in secrecy. Reeves explained to LAist that it derives from the name of a Paramount subsidiary, which may or may not be related to Clover Field Blvd. and Clover Field Airport (now Santa Monica Airport), both of which are located near the office of Abrams’ production company Bad Robot.
7. Theories are already circulating about who—or what—the monster is. Abrams has confirmed that there is a monster in the movie, and the foreboding tagline warns that “Monsters come in many forms.” Some are already speculating whether the monster is not a supernatural force but Goodman’s character, whom the trailer portrays as mysterious and potentially sinister.
8. The script got a boost from Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle. The original screenplay, co-written by Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken, made the 2012 Hit List, an annual list of impressive unmade scripts. Then Chazelle, whose as-yet-unmade 2014 drama would later be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, was brought in to rework the script and direct. After working on the script, Chazelle left the project when he got the opportunity to make Whiplash.
9. It’s expected to make a splash at the box office, but it’s unlikely to overtake Zootopia. Analysts project an opening weekend of $25-$30 million, possibly higher, when the movie hits 3,200 theaters this weekend. That’s a bit shy of its predecessor’s opening in 2008 ($40 million) and will likely land the film in second place to Disney’s Zootopia, which opened March 4 and is expected to have a strong second weekend.
10. This may not be the last of Cloverfield. Abrams has hinted that, should the opportunity arise (and in this landscape of sequels and reboots, it’s hard to envision a world in which it wouldn’t), he has ideas for a third film loosely tied to the Cloverfield universe. “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was something else that, if we’re lucky enough to do it, could be really cool that connects some stories,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “There is something else that we’d like to do, and hopefully we’ll get a shot.”