With Deliver Us From Evil now in theaters, I recently had the opportunity to interview director Scott Derrickson. We started by talking about him working on Deliver Us From Evil’s script back in 2004 and I learned about his reasons for casting Eric Bana, shooting in the Bronx, the real Ralph Sarchie, and his interest in a sequel. Derrickson also has a number of projects coming up, so I got a status update on Sinister 2 and asked him about taking on Doctor Strange:
Jerry Bruckheimer had the rights to Deliver Us From Evil for nearly ten years before the movie began filming. At what point did you come onto the project?
Scott Derrickson: The book is what started the whole process and Jerry Bruckheimer optioned the rights. He was looking for someone to adapt the book and I was hired back in 2004 to write the first draft of the script. I did a couple of drafts for Jerry then and they brought in some other writers.
The real Ralph Sarchie introduced me to the Anneliese Michel case and gave me an out-of-print copy of The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, which I optioned and turned into The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
After Sinister, Screen Gems asked what I wanted to do next, and I had them read my original draft. I went back and did a pretty sizable rewrite to update it for 2014 and that’s how it got made.
This movie is based on true cases. As a writer, was it challenging to decide what to keep true to life, versus what you have to enhance to make it entertaining for audiences? Would you say that most of it is close to the actual events?
Scott Derrickson: The events are inspired by true stories, but I had to create a fictional narrative to tie them all together. The thing that is as accurate as you can get is the character of Ralph Sarchie, this guy who is working in the toughest precinct in the entire country. He started to investigate the paranormal and became an assistant to an exorcist. We really got that guy down. He was very involved in the movie and major sections of the movie are directly taken from real cases he had.
This sort of reminds me of an updated take on The Night Stalker or The X-Files. Did those types of shows influence your approach on Deliver Us From Evil?
Scott Derrickson: I remember loving The Night Stalker as a kid in elementary school, and I love The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and I own all nine seasons of The X-Files. I’m actually going to start watching The X-Files with my kids because it’s one of my favorite shows put on television. I think what this has in common is the blending of the fantastical, the real, and a certain measure of thrill and action. The movie is not straight up horror, even though it’s a hard-R. It’s violent and scary, but it has the police element and has bursts of action and comedy.
It was very important to me. Once I visited Ralph in the Bronx, I was taken by what a visual place it is. There’s no place that looks like the Bronx, not just the exteriors, but the interiors. A lot of these places are 100 years old or more. The texture of things, the narrowness of hallways, the fire escapes. I really wanted that gritty part of the Bronx to be a character in the movie: this wet, dripping, dark nighttime world of the Bronx and I think we captured it.
Casting the right Ralph Sarchie was obviously a major part of making this movie work. Why was Eric Bana the right guy for the role?
Scott Derrickson: I needed somebody that I could believe as a police officer who could do Ralph Sarchie’s accent. Having seen Eric in these transformative roles, I just love it when he takes on these larger than life characters and that’s Ralph Sarchie. He’s a queens-born, foul-mouthed, Italian hardcore cop and Eric pulled that off.
I remember hearing the plan was for Deliver Us From Evil to be the first in a series of movies. Is that still the plan and are you interested in returining?
Scott Derrickson: I’d be interested in returning. I love these characters and that was always the idea. We have to wait to see how the movie does financially.
Sinister was obviously a huge hit with horror fans and I’m looking forward to the sequel. Can you give our readers a status update on the project?
Scott Derrickson: It’s going to start shooting in August. I wrote the script with [C. Robert] Cargill, and I’m really proud of it. It was hard to write, because I want it to really have the quality level of the first movie, but not be a predictable sequel. Both of us were pretty dedicated to writing a horror sequel that’s fresh and unexpected, but didn’t stray so far from the first. It was a laborious process, but we did it. I’m producing the movie and we have a great director, so I’m feeling very positive about it.
I know you can’t say too much, but I wanted to say congratulations on landing the job of director on Doctor Strange. How does it feel to be taking on this incredible character and this major project for Marvel?
Scott Derrickson: Knowing the work I’ve done, it’s pretty obvious why he’s my favorite comic book character and he’s one of the few that I feel like I’m the right guy [for the job]. Getting the job was so incredible and exciting, and I feel like I worked my whole life to make this movie. The surprising thing was the outpouring of excitement and support from people, especially online. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I was expecting more mixed opinions and it was really wonderful to see everyone’s absolute excitement and enthusiasm about a Doctor Strange movie getting made. People feel the same way about this character and the possibility of a film that I do.
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