In Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil, award-winning Australian actor Eric Bana portrays Ralph Sarchie, a New York police officer who stumbles upon a bizarre string of crimes in his neighborhood that all somehow are related to an evil and deadly supernatural force that wreaks havoc on anyone it comes across.
During a recent press day, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with the Deliver Us From Evil star, who discussed his approach to playing the hard-nosed skeptic turned believer, what he did to prepare for the role and how much his experiences collaborating on the film changed his mind on the subject of possession and supernatural phenomena.
How did you approach this role and how difficult was it for you to get into the mind of Ralph Sarchie?
Eric Bana: You know, Scott wrote an absolutely fantastic screenplay and I felt like I knew Ralph and how to play him in this movie by the time I got to the end of the script. Then, I got to know the real Ralph, which just sort of added to all of that. In all honesty though, Scott’s interpretation of him was so complete that it was easy to become Ralph as a character and then add some little things to make it my own.
Ralph was there on set every day and he was officially our police advisor, so he wasn’t really there to get in my ear and tell me how I should act like him. Obviously, I found it extremely beneficial to have him there with us every day just because he’s so knowledgeable, but I also had to be mindful at times too during my performance because this was me portraying somebody very real. Plus, I also didn’t want to put him on the spot constantly and ask him all these questions because I figured the best way to know the real Ralph was to just let him be himself and get to know him through regular conversations. I just became an observer of Ralph and I’ll admit I stole a couple of things off of him along the way that he doesn’t know about (laughs).
Can you discuss your experiences working on location in the Bronx?
Eric Bana: It was great. The people in the Bronx are by far some of the most patient location people I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting around. They were all great. The first thing I said to Scott when we began prepping for this movie was, “Please tell me we’re shooting this in New York and not Toronto.” I just think that in many cases, there really is nothing worse than when you see a movie trying to fake their location. It can take you right out of the whole thing if you do that.
So I was really happy that we ended up shooting there and I think it made a huge difference to the production value of Deliver Us From Evil. Not that the production managers didn’t have their work cut out for them once we got there. It was still up to them to find all these fantastic places to shoot and they did an excellent job. All those basements you see in the film were real locations and, again, I think that just really makes this movie feel all the more authentic because of the locations we were able to shoot at.
Because your character has this arc where he starts off with one set of beliefs but by the end, he’s left believing in so much more- what did you do to prepare for that mentally? And did you do a lot of research before you guys began shooting too?
Eric Bana: I felt like the arc of the story was really helpful for me and it was easy for me to latch onto Ralph’s journey because I also started off feeling very skeptical about a lot of these topics. So there was a bit of a mirror there in that sense. One of the first conversations I had with Scott was where he told me that the reason a lot of movie stars don’t like to do horror movies is because they’re ugly. Being scared is just ugly and there’s nothing sexy about being scared and he was very honest with me about that. There’s something to be said about gently taking the audience with you though on this journey with your character that’s a lot of fun as well.
I did watch a few exorcism videos too and there’s one video in particular I just wish I had never seen. It was a very old tape of an old exorcism that we had access to that I found very confronting and really hard to watch. There was also a book that Edgar had found that involved some really intense stuff which he warned me off of so I avoided that. Plus, I had already seen the exorcism tape so I really didn’t need any more of that stuff inside my head for a while (laughs). The one thing that I did learn though is that all of this is extremely rare. It’s not like this is happening on every block of America or anything so while I do believe, I know just how rare it is to come across pure evil.
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