NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) never imagined his oath to serve and protect would encompass demonic possession and exorcisms. Based on the book "Beware the Night" and inspired by true events, "Deliver Us From Evil" finds Sarchie teaming up with an unconventional priest, Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), to solve a criminal case involving sinister forces.
Moviefone Canada recently spoke to Bana about the paranormal thriller, whether he's a believer in the supernatural, and the possibility of a sequel.
Moviefone Canada: "Deliver Us From Evil" is your first horror movie. What spoke to you about your character Ralph Sarchie and his journey?
Eric Bana: It was just a really well-written character, who I found intriguing and just happened to be in a horror film. I loved that combination. Director Scott Derrickson has such a pedigree in the genre that I couldn't say no.
When a horror script like this crosses your desk, does the "based on a true story" initially pique your interest, lend some credibility or add to the skepticism?
It definitely made it more interesting. I was like, "What? What are you talking about? Some of this stuff happened?" I got access to Ralph's book and spent a lot of time talking to Scott about the subject matter. I was quite naïve about it, to be honest. Like most of us, we only know what we've seen in movies. Culturally, it's an interesting theme to learn about and realize in many parts of the world, this is not something that is treated lightly. It's taken quite seriously. I just had to be open-minded.
You had doubts about the supernatural nature of the material. At what point did you buy into the possibility of demonic possession existing, or did you?
I guess I just became open to the reality of the fact that there are a lot of people truly suffering in various ways. It doesn't matter if you believe or don't believe. Those people deserve to be heard and deserve to be helped. That's where people like Ralph come in. That's the part that's factual. You have to acknowledge that part is real. I feel a lot more knowledgeable about that.
In what ways did having the real Ralph Sarchie on set help shape your performance?
I guess by osmosis. I was conscious of the fact it can be a very awkward situation when two people are around each other in that set of circumstances. Someone is having an actor portray a version of them. I'm meeting someone who has, or has not, expectations about what I may do. That can be very awkward. I was very conscious of not getting into Sarchie's face at all. I almost asked him no questions. I just figured "He has a job to do on the film as a supervisor. He will be around. I will soak up his energy. I will pickpocket various aspects of his personality," and that's kind of how it went. We got along really well. Ninety percent of the conversations we had were about motorcycles, not about possession.
What did filming in the Bronx add to the experience?
It was fantastic. No disrespect to your great city of Toronto, but the first thing I said to Scott was, "Please promise me we'll shoot this in New York and we won't end up somewhere else like Vancouver, Toronto or Sydney. You have to shoot this film in New York." Scott felt the same. Jerry Bruckheimer felt the same. We were lucky that we managed to secure the locations and shoot in real places. You get better bang for the buck in production. As an actor, I much prefer to be on location than in a studio. It was extremely beneficial.
It must have been a bonus shooting at the Bronx Zoo, especially since they haven't filmed a movie there in a very long time.
Yes, we were lucky to get access there. It was a nice break to do the quiet zoo for a few nights as opposed to the main streets of the Bronx.
It's often difficult to guess how a finished film will come out. Are horror films even harder to judge considering they rely so heavily on music, edits and sometimes effects?
I was aware that sound design plays a huge role in a great horror film, especially for someone like Scott. His ear for sound is great. If you watch "Sinister" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," sound is such an important component. I was really aware of that and aware of helping Scott with the beats and the timing. Oddly enough, horror has a lot of similarities to comedy. Horror is sometimes extremely reliant on precise physical beats, which is similar to comedy and sketch comedy. I enjoyed that technical, meticulous playing with those beats.
Portraying this intense, raw fear is unfamiliar ground for you. What surprised you about making a horror movie?
I was actually well-prepared for it. Scott was very vocal in explaining things to me because he didn't want any surprises. In one of our early conversations, he said something interesting, which was, "The thing you have to understand about horror films, which is why a lot of big movie stars don't like doing them, is there's nothing sexy about them. There's nothing pretty about being scared. That's an important element. There's going to be plenty of times when I'm going to need stuff from you that some people are nervous about." Well, I couldn't give a shit. I wasn't concerned about that at all. It was fantastic to have that early conversation. It made me aware of the kind of beats that are necessary. There wasn't anything that really shocked me once we got in there making it. Scott is a terrific filmmaker with a masterful understanding of what's involved in creating tension and scaring the audience.
There are still more Sarchie stories to tell. What are your thoughts on sequels and reprising this role?
That's out of my hands. If you're asking me would it be fun to do him again? Absolutely. It's not often I read a script and think to myself, "This character is potentially a lot of fun and has a journey." When I finished the film, I thought to myself, "Yeah, I could definitely do him again." I'm not going to say never. We'll see. I'm sure there are plenty more demons for him and Mendoza to take on.
"Deliver Us From Evil" opens in theatres on July 2.