As someone who loves slasher movies with every fiber of her being, Bloodline was absolutely 100 percent my jam (as the cool kids would say). Directed by Henry Jacobson, and co-written by Avra Fox-Lerner, Will Honley, and Jacobson, Bloodline follows a well-meaning guidance counselor named Evan (played by the perpetually underrated Seann William Scott), who has a penchant for violence, particularly when it comes to the family ties of his students. And as he and his wife, Lauren (Mariela Garriga), struggle to adjust to becoming parents for the first time, the stress takes its toll, with the counselor taking out his frustrations in some violent and horrific ways.
Bloodline recently celebrated its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018, and this writer had the opportunity to speak with both Jacobson and Fox-Lerner about their approach to the script, tapping into Seann William Scott’s darker side, collaborating with both Garriga and co-star Dale Dickey, and much more.
Congratulations on the film, you guys. I was really excited when I saw this was something that involved Seann William Scott, so that was part of my initial draw to it, but it was really a fantastic ride. I loved every second of it, especially the ending. I'd love to start by talking about creating this story and these characters that you typically wouldn't want to root for, but the performances here are so great that you just can't help but fall in love with these guys.
Henry Jacobson: Yeah, that was really important to us, because something our crowd always expects of us is that, not only do you need to at least empathize, or love your protagonist, but you need to empathize with every character in some way. So, that was something we worked towards.
And then the other thing about that, in particularly Seann, is what he brings to the role as a comedian. Whenever we've seen comedy actors step into dramatic roles, they are often incredible and surprising, because comedy is so hard, you have to be a great actor to pull it off. And he is a great actor, and he really showed his range, and was excited about this film, because it was so different for him. And, because he is so well-known for that kind of goofy, smart-ass, pound key, comedy role, he brings audience expectations because of that. So, the audience sees that he's in this, and they have these preconceived notions of what they're gonna get, and we really wanted to work with those expectations when we were writing the script.
Avra Fox-Lerner: Yeah, we really wanted you to just like him regardless of how he’s acting onscreen. He is in reality an absolutely likable, lovely guy, and we really, really wanted to use that, to help do exactly what Henry was saying.
When you were working on this character of Evan, you play it very straight, and this is a very serious film, but there are these really great hints of dark comedy to this, too. Can you talk about balancing this tone and finding the right groove?
Avra Fox-Lerner: Well, thank you so much. There comes a real challenge with this type of movie. We have been watching this type of a story for a long time, and we have already seen a lot of really different reiterations of it. A big thing that happened was when Henry and I were talking, we knew we couldn’t make Silence of the Lambs or Mindhunter, because those [projects] already exist. So, we needed to figure out a way to make this fun enough, and make it funny enough, so that we can then delve into those psychological issues with some depth, but not get completely lost in them. And also, because we had Seann, and we really wanted to utilize how likable he is, we also wanted to surprise anyone watching this movie with how dark it really is at heart. It was actually really fun to find that balance, and we found ourselves laughing a lot while we were writing the script.
Henry Jacobson: There was a lot of laughing on set, too. There were a number of moments when the crew would really have to bite their tongues, because it was so twisted and funny to watch some of those scenes playing out in person. I also think that Avra and I, in life, have our tongues firmly clamped in our cheeks. Brian De Palma is somebody that influenced both of us, and he uses that to great effect, particularly in his early movies. And certainly, Wes Craven does that better than anybody, where he can give you these moments of absurd laughter in these movies that are also very scary, and very psychologically driven. So that was really important to us. We didn't want to be too earnest, either, because we are generally not as interested in those versions of horror stories.
Avra Fox-Lerner: Yeah, a little bit of laughter goes a really long way, and it lets you get away with an extremity of a deep dive into darkness that you can't get away with otherwise. If you’re going to go super-duper dark, you have to allow audiences to relieve some of that tension with laughter, so you can go even darker than that with our next scene. There’s definitely a balance you have to find.
As great as Seann is in this, I really, really loved Dale and Mariela, too. She gives such a great, subtle performance that grows into something very special. How was it working with your core three cast members and finding those beats with their characters?
Henry Jacobson: Obviously, with Dale, you just don't offer Dale a little role, because she's so amazing. What she brought was her excitement about the role, because it was very different for her in a lot of ways. She wasn't playing the f--ked up crackhead or a white trash character that she often plays, either. And when the costume department started working with her and her look, that actually completely changed the way she was thinking about the character, too. She liked the idea that Marie was very empowered, and could move through the world very easily, and was very smooth. She was also just so generous on set, and my producer, Adam Hendricks, and I started referring to her as “Dale Dickey, American Treasure.”
For Mariela, [casting director] Kim Hardin brought her in. When Avra and I were working on the script, we had always viewed this character as the typical American housewife. But then Mariela came in, and she's Cuban with this very thick accent, and I wasn’t sure. But I later discovered that she has this very interesting life story, and that, coupled with her vulnerability in her audition, was incredible. I was fighting tears while I was watching her do these scenes, and she went so deep into the reality, the true pain and difficulty that a lot of new mothers deal with that doesn't get talked about very often in films, and it blew me away. It was totally different than what we had been looking for, and her audition made us rethink the entire character. In some ways, Mariela actually answered a lot of questions that we had about her character that we hadn’t quite resolved at the script stage. She is so brave as an actor, and so generous to other actors, and also is just such a sweet person to be around.
Avra Fox-Lerner: I would just like to speak to the fact that every single person in our cast was amazing, was just a lovely human being, and was an absolute joy to work with. It was really, really important for Henry and me, because this is a story about families, that every member of the family felt real, and that their emotional connection to each other felt real. We were really excited to dig in to both of these women and make them feel fully realized as characters with these incredible actresses. Our entire cast was just such an incredibly wonderful gift for both of us.
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