Michael Peña's played a wide range of roles in his career, always providing viewers with fully believable characters who enhance the stories they inhabit. His latest onscreen roles—Father Lozano in The Vatican Tapes and Luis in Ant-Man—are no exceptions, and Daily Dead recently had the chance to talk with Michael Peña about playing an exorcism-tasked priest, working with Paul Rudd in the new Marvel movie, and more.

The Vatican Tapes is your first foray into the horror genre. What attracted you to this story?

Michael Peña: For me, it always starts with the script. I remember reading the script—whenever you're feeling scared when you're reading something, when there's a big emotional response, that's always a pretty good thing. And that's what happened on this one. It stuck with me even when I went to bed. I'm friends with Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi—the guys who produced this movie. And I was actually looking to do a horror movie, because I'd seen a couple of good ones that I thought were really cool and I wanted to be a part of them. It seems like there's a resurgence in better horror movies these days, which I really enjoy.

I remember watching things like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, and Rosemary's Baby, which just stuck with you for a long time. And as an actor, you just want to be a part of that.

It has a lot to do with the way the script was written. It wasn't written like any horror movie that I've read. Instead of going for cheap thrills, it goes into the psyche of people with the fears that they have and hoping that this isn't reality. We can hopefully get the audience to think that this is possible. That's what I was focusing on the most. You hope that this wouldn't happen to anyone you know.

What was your experience working on this exorcism film with director Mark Neveldine, who has consistently taken innovative and energetic approaches to his work?

Michael Peña: I was excited about it because he did the Crank movies. He did those really well—it was such a different point of view. In this one, the guy was on his rollerblades shooting scenes and getting different shots and even setups that I haven't seen before. He was doing different points of views when it came to the supernatural parts of the story. He shot it in a different viewpoint which I thought was really cool and exciting.

How did you approach playing Father Lozano—a determined Catholic priest with a bit of a haunted past?

Michael Peña: I've seen a lot of horror movies where the priest is the almighty holy guy and I wanted to make him [Father Lozano] rough around the edges just a little bit—somebody who doesn't like talking about it and who knows what he did back there. Just a regular guy. Instead of playing a style, I played somebody who talks to a lot of patients and wants to be talked to. He wants to hear people's problems and hopefully lead them to a better place. That's what I was thinking a lot when I was doing the movie.

It's kind of a big sweeping idea, but that's the kind of priests I encountered when I was a kid. Anybody who was overly preachy—they just didn't have the same kind of effect that somebody who just talked to you did.

When you're doing a movie, you have to ask questions and you hopefully get to ask the right questions—why is this person doing this? Why would he become a priest? Maybe Father Lozano did something bad back in the day that he hopes to rectify by doing this one good thing.

Did you do any research into exorcisms before filming began?

Michael Peña: I couldn't find as much research as I wanted to. I wanted to really get some exorcisms from way back in the day and see what happened and what the Bible says. I only had a couple videos that I looked up. One was 50 seconds long and I think it was a cardinal going into a room and putting a cross on this one guy who was apparently possessed. And the cardinal jumped back and it looked very legit.

In addition to The Vatican Tapes, fans can also see you on the big screen in Ant-Man. What was your experience playing Luis opposite Paul Rudd's Scott Lang in those infectiously funny scenes?

Michael Peña: That guy's really funny, but he's got such a unique sense of humor. When I go back home—I grew up in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood—there are so many guys who just crack me up, my brother being one of them. It's a different sense of humor, but they just crack me up. When I did the scenes with Paul Rudd, it's so amazing how he's got such a specific way of conveying his humor. I was messing up so many takes because I was laughing, and so all the training just went right out the window.


A Pantellion film, The Vatican Tapes will hit theaters via Lionsgate this Friday, July 24th:

"The film stars Michael Peña (American Hustle, End of Watch), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Transcendence, Chernobyl Diaries), Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blood Diamond, Gladiator), Dougray Scott (Taken 3, Hitman, Mission: Impossible II) and is directed by Mark Neveldine (Crank).

THE VATICAN TAPES follows the ultimate battle between good and evil- God versus Satan. Angela Holmes is an ordinary 27-year- old until she begins to have a devastating effect on anyone close, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected, but when the Vatican is called upon to exorcise the demon, the possession proves to be an ancient satanic force more powerful than ever imagined. It’s all up to Father Lozano (MICHAEL PEÑA) to wage war for more than just Angela’s soul, but for the world as we know it."

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.