Today, Scott Derrickson’s gritty supernatural thriller Deliver Us from Evil arrives in theaters and, during a recent press day, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with co-star Edgar Ramirez about his role in the film as a struggling priest who must overcome great odds to battle evil.
Ramirez also chatted about how Derrickson’s storytelling approach complimented the material, what he did to prepare for his role in Deliver Us from Evil and his experiences collaborating with the film’s star, Eric Bana.
When you’re taking on a role like this one that is both emotionally and physically taxing, how do you walk away from this experience unscathed?
Edgar Ramirez: You don’t. You never do. That’s just part of this job and that’s really what you want as an actor- you need to be changed somehow. After a confrontation with any character that you portray, it will always leave some kind of mark on you. It should be a good mark though, one that helps you have a greater understanding of the human condition and an understanding of yourself too. And I want to be scarred by my characters; that’s why I’m so picky about the roles that I take on. I have very personal reasons whenever I decide to take on a new role, whether those reasons may be something I’m conscientious of or not.
This role was a very particular choice for me because these are heavy subjects that we’re dealing with in this film. And everyone involved since the very beginning treated these topics very seriously. I don’t take these things lightly and I’ve always tried to be respectful when it comes to dealing with these kinds of phenomena. I can’t deny something I don’t fully understand, so I always kept that in mind.
Did you get to work with any of the real-life priests that Ralph worked with in the past?
Edgar Ramirez: I didn’t, but I did get to meet with some real exorcists who I found and it was all very revealing. For me, it was more than being schooled or trained in the rituals because those are out there- you can find them online. What was most important for me when I was meeting them was, why would any of these guys spend their lives devoted to helping others to such a degree as this? Why would they want to help anyone who was in such a state?
Because being an exorcist or being a priest, that’s just like you being a journalist. That’s just a job, that’s not who you are and it doesn’t define every last aspect of your life. So for me, the biggest thing that I wanted to do for Deliver Us From Evil was to really get in there and find out who these men really were, not just what kind of priests they were. There’s more to them than just that and I wanted to hear about what motivate them, their challenges and struggles, to help bring some humanity and depth to this role.
The one thing that surprised me most when I was doing my research was the contradiction between the divine and the profane that priests have to deal with constantly. There was this constant sense of pushing and pulling with them because the very same hands that would have to perform sacraments or a baptism would also act out in fits of rage and hit or smash things with the very same hands. Your have to live your life as an instrument of God but at the same time, you’re still human so you can still fall prey to all the human trappings which was so interesting to me. That’s what I focused on when I was developing my character and his humanity- he had to have real struggles to him.
How long did it take to shoot the exorcism scene?
Edgar Ramirez: A week, a whole week. It was really intense. We shot that at a non-stop pace because we didn’t have a long shoot for this movie so everything was really precise about how we shot this movie. Precision was the key word for this scene too because we had to keep the pace and the rhythm going from beginning to end. We took a lot of risks on this movie and, from the beginning, we didn’t want to rely on editing to create a sense of dramatic tension. It had to be organic. So a lot of this movie was treated very traditionally, where the cameras were just in there rolling and the actors would just do their thing. Scott’s style of storytelling is so elegant and I think the way he tells stories is bringing back elegance to the horror genre. He’s also got a great, unprejudiced way of looking at human nature and I think that’s reflected in all of his movies.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for horror movies because I think they’re never really about what they claim to be. They’re always about something else, something deeper, and some don’t understand that. Good horror films always find a way to become a metaphor for some kind of human condition or social statements and in the case of Deliver Us from Evil, that this story is all about compassion, self-forgiveness and the importance of these issues and how they can affect our daily lives. But good horror movies are always a cathartic experience- for me, anyway (laughs).
You and Eric (Bana) have such great chemistry together in this film and there are quite a few scenes where I’m sure you both had to really rely and trust each other just given the nature of the material. Can you discuss collaborating with him and building up that trust between you two?
Edgar Ramirez: Well, Eric is a really great guy who is very easy to connect with. He’s very open and relaxed and I think working with him was a very fluid process for both of us as actors. He’s also always been one of my favorite actors as well and so I was not only happy to be working with him but I was also happy to have had the opportunity to share this kind of openness with him. He’s a very rare kind of actor and you don’t find many guys like Eric in the business.
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