The post-apocalyptic thriller The Day follows a group of five survivors, armed with shotguns and machetes, as they wander the back roads of a ravaged landscape looking for shelter and food, in a world devoid of humanity. When they seek refuge in a seemingly abandoned farmhouse, they realize that they’re merely the prey when they set off a trap signaling a group of predators to their existence. The film stars Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, Cory Hardrict and Michael Eklund.
At the film’s press day, co-stars Ashley Bell and Dominic Monaghan talked about what led them to this film, the appeal of all the physical challenges, learning to properly wield the weapons, their personal weapons of choice to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment, and what they would miss most about society if it just all went away. Monaghan also talked about his recent and all-time favorite movies, while Bell gave a little tease about what fans can expect from The Last Exorcism 2. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: What is it that led you to this film and these roles?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: There was a lot of attractive qualities to the film, for me, at the point that I was at, in my career. I was attracted to producing something, which I got the chance to do on The Day, alongside the other producers. And then, it was key for me to play someone from the United States. I had not done that, to any large degree, in my career. I thought, “Well, if I’m going to play someone from the United States, instead of a very fast-talking, gum-chewing, Lucky Strike-smoking, hot dog-eating American, I’m going to play someone whose cadence, when they speak, is quite similar to mine. Rick has got a lot of weight and responsibility on him, so it slowed down the way that he delivered stuff, which is a trick that made things easier for me. And then, I met Doug Aarniokoski, the director, and Guy [Danella], the producer, and Luke [Passmore], the writer, and they just gave me a really fantastic pitch. They said, “This is a film where not too many people survive. This is a film where we want to surprise people. This is a film where you’re going to be living a lot of what the characters live in the film.” I wanted to get out of L.A., and it was a great cast that they started to bring together, so that’s why I did it.
ASHLEY BELL: What excited me about Mary was that I was reading a couple scripts, after I finished doing the press tour for The Last Exorcism, and what immediately struck me was her strength and sheer determination. She feels like that girl you read about, every so often, that has made it through the worst odds possible and she’s become a warrior to survive. You can look at the U.S. women’s Olympic teams and all of those ladies have had that focus and survival. Characters like that have always been huge for me, growing up and reading about them. When this one came across with the possibility of playing her, I really fought for that opportunity to jump into the role. I liked to be in this world where there was no vanity. You couldn’t have any. We were all out in the cold, and our noses were running and our lips were turning blue. There wasn’t time for any fripperies. You were immersed in that world. It was created on set, and we were filming in Ottawa in 18 degree weather. You just needed to jump a little bit with your mind, and this world supported you. You could trick yourself to think that you were in this deserted, abandoned world. What would you do? How would you live? Who’s in the trees? Who’s hunting you? Where are the trip wires in the house? Who’s been here? Where are the tracks? That attracted me a lot.
MONAGHAN: One of my favorite things about the film is that we don’t fully explain what’s happened because I don’t think the major characters necessarily know. They might have theories, but they don’t know. Also, when something like that occurs in the world, for the first week or so, it’s probably all you can talk about. You go, “What happened? Why is there no electricity? Why is there no food? Why are people behaving this way?” But, once you get passed week two, week three and week four, you don’t talk about it. It’s just your world. If you woke up, every day, and someone punched you in the face, for the first week, you’d go, “Why is someone punching me in the face?” But, by the time you got through week two, you’d take it and just go on with the day. I like that these characters are burying this weight. In a Hollywood version of this movie, they’d all be sitting around a table, talking about it. But in this movie, the characters are like, “I’ve got half a cigarette left and I’ve got enough bullets. Today was a good day.” I liked that about this film.
At what point do you relish the opportunity to get so into character that you starve yourself, and at what point does that just suck?
MONAGHAN: It’s both happening, at the same time. You can just change your point of view, and it can either suck or it can be great. It’s great, in the sense of walking on set slightly depleted of energy whether you like it or not, you’re a little thinner than you would be, and you’re not shaving.
BELL: I didn’t shave my legs.
MONAGHAN: We would all ask the costume people to not wash the clothes, so that they would fall off you and have rips in them, and be stinky and muddy. As an actor, that is so helpful. There’s no acting required. You’re living that stuff. Some actors approach it differently, but I want it to be exactly what it is. If you’re playing guitar, I want to be playing a guitar. If you’re playing a ventriloquist, then I want to be walking around with a puppet. If you’re in that world, it’s great! And then, obviously, there’s times when it sucks. You go home and want to spoil yourself by eating something nice, but you’re eating brown rice and broccoli. But then, you get a thrill out of that as well ‘cause you’re like, “Oh, I’m really doing it!” I enjoy that stuff. I jump right into it and I understand, that all that stuff is temporary. We’re extremely lucky to have those opportunities.
BELL: Yeah, having the opportunity to make that transformation is what excited me. Sure, you’re at a point where you are hungry, but at the same time, I live in L.A. and I can go back, in a couple weeks, and have a veggie burger or eat carbs, or whatever. It’s about being able to transform for that role, which is what did attract me to it. Very rarely, a role comes along that really demands that whole full transformation. For all of us, we all went there. There was a special chef on set, putting us on a very strict diet while we were there. Everything was monitored. In the script, I had read that the characters walk five or six miles a day while eating barely anything, so I thought to myself, “What would that body look like, that has to go through that? This is a world that, if it doesn’t kill you, it shapes you and it just pummels its way through you. How hardened are these people?” I began working out at home a lot. I went through ballet training. I worked privately with a stunt woman, and spent a lot of time at the gun range working with the shotgun and other guns. I took it all in. But, to work from the outside in was very helpful, in terms of molding who Mary is.
Ashley, how challenging was it to also wield the hatchet?
BELL: They gave me the double-bladed hatchet, and once I got up there, I kept it on me to learn how to work it. That is heavy! That is a heavy, nasty piece of a weapon. You just chuck it, pretty much. You’ve just gotta chuck it. I remember, in one scene, I was chucking it and Doug said, “I want it real, Ashley! Throw it at me!” And I was like, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Doug.” I tossed it right at him, and it hit him. I don’t know how he withstood that, but he was like, “That’s a good take!,” and the camera was just black. They had to take a 10-minute break. It was nasty. I did have the nastiest weapons.
What would your weapon of choice be, if you were really trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment?
MONAGHAN: I’d have a sawed-off shotgun with two different types of bullets. It would have two bags. One bag would be filled with bullets that have a very widespread radius, and then the other bag would be filled with bullets that have a very small radius. I’d load my double-barrel gun with both types, so that when a zombie comes over, you can slow him down with the wide shot, and then take his face off with the other one. I play a lot of video games.
BELL: I think I would go with the 12-gauge buckshot shotgun because of the spray, and also for close range. I also shot a 40-caliber Smith & Wesson, which is a hand cannon. That’s nasty, and the aim is remarkable. That could get me a long way.
How many injuries, or bumps and bruises, were there on this shoot?
BELL: All I remember is that, at the start of filming, they were painting bruises on me. And then, by the end of it, they didn’t have to paint anything on anymore.
MONAGHAN: I was wearing flat-ish shoes. Something about the shoes was different, so that when we were doing a lot of walking outside and running up the steps, the soles of my feet were really sore, for some reason, like I’d been walking on rocks, all day. They were thin, flat shoes.
Aside from the obvious things, what would you miss about society, if it all just disappeared, one day?
BELL: Under eye concealer. No. I think it’s just all those moments that you don’t even think about, at the time, when they’re happening. You wake up and you go through your life by rote, and if you really stop to consider, when all of that’s gone, and you’re cold and you don’t have your family around, all of those become very special moments. Even waking up with sun, waking up with a clean sheet, or just looking at a picture frame and seeing your family there, is all gone. Those times that aren’t the big moments, but are just those small moments that are quiet and simple, become gold.
MONAGHAN: I kind of like it when it gets like that, to be honest. I enjoy it when you go to sleep when the sun goes down. If you can’t light a fire, you go to sleep at 7 o’clock at night. If you can light a fire, you go to sleep at 10 o’clock. And you have to find stuff in the forest and eat fruit. I like that. I’m a movie nut. I go to the movies probably twice a week, and if I’m not doing anything at night, I’m usually watching a movie or two. So, I think I’d miss watching movies. But, you can create movies in your own head, if you’re mad enough.
Dominic, what are your favorite movies, either recently or of all-time?
MONAGHAN: Holy smokes! How long have you got? My favorite movie of all time is probably Apocalypse Now. And then, my favorite movies are the Star Wars trilogy, Fight Club, The Fountain, Moon, Irreversible, Kiss, Life is Sweet, State of Grace, Batman Begins, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Weekend, and I absolutely fell in love with Tree of Life. It goes on and on. I like films that deal with some of those questions that you can never answer. Why are we here? What’s it about? What happens to us with the choices that we make? What are the ramifications for doing something right, or doing something wrong? Those universal questions, I enjoy. I think a lot of those films that I mentioned deal with the director trying to explore what happens when we die, why we’re attracted to certain people, or why we walk down one street instead of another.
And then, I think my favorite post-apocalyptic film is The Matrix. It is a post-apocalyptic film. It’s a science fiction film, to some degree. It’s an action movie. But, it deals with a world where different things have occurred while society has broken down. I saw a trailer for The Matrix, that was just Laurence Fishburne with all the stuff falling down saying, “What is the matrix?” I was like, “I have no idea, but it looks fantastic!” And then, when I watched it, it was one of those seminal moments for me, in going to the movies. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet did it to me. Fight Club did it to me. The Fountain did it to me. I sat down and thought, “Okay, I paid my money, I’m going to see what this is all about.” And I watched The Matrix like, “Holy shit!” I was just so blown away by it, and so excited to be an actor and to be alive when this film had been made. It was mind-bending. I remember jumping into a bush after watching The Matrix. That’s how excited I was. I came out with my best friend and was like, “Oh, my god!,” and just jumped into a bush. He was like, “Oh, you liked it then?,” and I was like, “Yeah, I really did like it.” I went bush-jumping, I was so excited.
Ashley, what can you say about The Last Exorcism 2?
BELL: Everything. No. I think they have The Four Seasons bugged. I can’t say any details. I’m so trapped in secrecy. I’m in it. It’s done. I feel like I get a call, twice a week, from a disembodied voice, just saying, “Don’t talk about the sequel.” But, they’ve outdone themselves. It’s Eli Roth, Strike Entertainment and Studio Canal, and all of their minds again. Eli Roth is so masterful with the genre that he found a way to make it even scarier than the first one. I, again, do all my own physical work.
MONAGHAN: I saw The Last Exorcism about two weeks before I met Ashley and, when I met her, we were chatting and, at some point, I asked her about The Last Exorcism. I said, “How did they do that special effect where you’re bending backward?,” and she was like, “No, that was me.” I was like, “No, it wasn’t!” That’s crazy that someone can do that, physically. That’s amazing!