6 Souls is now available on-demand and will be released to theaters next month. Starring Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the movie deals with multiple personality disorder, and I had a chance to talk with writer Michael Cooney about his work on the script.
*Spoiler Warning: There are some minor spoilers for those that haven’t seen the trailer. If you want to know nothing about the movie going into it, you may want to read the interview after you watch it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Can you tell me how the idea for 6 Souls came about?
Michael Cooney: I wrote a movie 10 years ago, called Identity, and it deals with multiple personalities. During that research, I started to read about the history of multiple personalities. I came to realize, that not too long ago, the diagnosis for multiple personalities was possession by demons. To deal with it, there would be an exorcism and I couldn’t believe that this all happened not too long ago. Now we have modern interpretations for what’s going on in the brain, but I thought that it would make for a good twist.
I never like putting a twist at the very end of the story, and my twists usually come into the middle of the second act. I knew I needed a character that is so invested in the science of how the mind works, and starts to realize that she shouldn’t have turned her back on the spiritual interpretations. There was this nice spooky history to disassociated identity disorder already in place.
What kind of research did you do on the witchcraft aspects of the movie? Was there anything based on actual accounts?
Michael Cooney: This is a script that went through some development. I sold it quite quickly after identity came out and it needed some extra development. Originally, it was set in Salem and had that history to it. It worked, but we realized that there was something cliché about the Salem witch, and I started to read about the history of other witches in America. I stumbled across the local Indians and settlers from Scotland. The cultures combined and there was this tone that was right for the script.
I thought it was interesting that you decided on that choice, as opposed to Salem. There’s something more unsettling about this story because it’s dealing with a topic not everyone is familiar with.
Michael Cooney: I love that you said unsettling, because this isn’t a slasher movie. I wanted the audience to know that they there is something very wrong when they are watching it, even though they don’t know why.
This hasn’t happened with any of my other scripts, but this one scared people. I had a friend who was a doctor read it, and she said she had to put the script down. I kept hearing these stories from people who read the original draft, and it was like the script was haunted. It was really spooky and there was something that just doesn’t sit right with people.
Specifically for Jonathan Rhys Meyers, was what he said exactly how you wrote it in the script? I imagine it must have been very difficult to write his part and for him to pull off all of these performances.
Michael Cooney: 99% is my written word, but what’s on the screen is 99% percent the actors. What they bring to these roles is amazing. What I asked Jonathan to do was ridiculous, but he approached each of these characters as if they were all from a different movie. He had separate dialect coaches and researched each character.
I think it would have been very easy to make these different performances theatrical, but he chose to make subtle differences. He does this thing where one character has tension in his shoulders, and another doesn’t, and he’s keeping this all the way through. It was very interesting watching him work, and he’s a terrific and dedicated actor.