Deliver Us From Evil is a paranormal thriller inspired by real-life cases recorded in a book by former NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie. Eric Bana plays Sarchie, originally a skeptic, who encounters a priest (Edgar Ramirez) who convinces him that an inexplicable case is actually caused by demons and other paranormal forces. They come into contact with other-worldly entities and unforeseen complications trying to solve the crime. The film also stars Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy and Sean Harris. Click here to watch the trailer.
When our group of reporters arrived in the Bronx late on a Friday night in June of last year, we were ushered into a holding area to wait for our interviews … in the utterly creepy sanctuary of a dilapidated church. The production could not have picked a creepier place for us to wait, although it set the mood perfectly for the film. When Bana joined us, he came in dressed in his police uniform, his bullet-proof vest looking tight over an even tighter t-shirt, showing off his hulking muscles. (See what I did there?) Bana spoke with us about what drew him to the project, the gag reel that we are sure to see on the DVD of the film, working with Bruckheimer nearly 15 years after Black Hawk Down and how shooting in the Bronx lent a helpful authenticity to shooting. Hit the jump to read the interview.
ERIC BANA: No, not for me. Not too bad. I mean, I have a re-occurring stitch that comes on and off a couple of times a day, but, no, my prosthetic load is almost nothing compared to what some of the other characters have. There is a large prosthetic load on that department, but not for me.
We just spoke to the real Ralph Sarchie. How have you been getting into this real-life guy’s skin?
BANA: Scott wrote a really very character-filled script. I mean, that’s why I signed on to do the film. That character was just so strong on the page. So he was really there. And I came out a couple of months before we started shooting. I got to meet Ralph and spent some time with him and just selfishly kind of cherry-picked what I felt would work well for the film. So I have stolen some bits and pieces and some elements, but it wasn’t entirely essential. He was just very giving in his time. There are certain elements to police at work in the 46 and in the Bronx. There’s a certain way about them that you can’t get away with not playing. So getting some time with those guys was really helpful.
For you what was the meat on the bone in this story? What interests you about it?
BANA: A character who is so complex, but at the same time really elegantly written, I think. I remember years ago I read Man on Fire. In fact, it wasn’t offered to me. I always read stuff that I can’t even do. I read Man on Fire and it was a great script, but the central character was… You read it and you thought, “‘Wow, how are we going to follow this guy doing all this stuff?”’ And then Denzel, he’s probably out-and-out my favorite actor. I saw the film and it was probably one of the greatest acting lessons, because he was just so good as that character that you never questioned whether or not you were meant to like him or not. You just experienced his trajectory. That was what it was about. The character of Ralph Sarchie in this movie reminds me, in some ways, whether it be likability or complexity, of that, because not everything we see him do we’re going to enjoy. But it’s a great challenge as an actor. And Scott’s films, the characters are very strong, really, really strong. When I saw Sinister and Emily Rose I was really intrigued. I thought this script was in keeping with that strong character at the center of these really interesting, scary, potentially, stories. So, selfishly for me, it was Ralph that really jumped off the page, and Scott’s previous work. I’ve not worked in this genre and I’m really excited about it. It’s potentially a lot of fun.
Ralph said he was always a true believer in the supernatural, in the occult. Does your version of him in the film have a little bit more of a skeptical edge?
BANA: Very skeptical. So I liked that arc. Without giving too much away, certainly for a majority of the film, I’m playing the role of someone who is selling the supernatural to him(self) when he comes across it. It’s the beginning of that character’s journey. He’s just a 46th precinct, tough-as-hell cop. So, that’s who he is. He has no pre-determined belief in the supernatural or anything like that.
What’s his trial by fire that takes him through the gateway into this weird world?
BANA: Well, I guess that insinuates that he gets there in the end, and I don’t want to give away whether or not he does.
This is apparently a hardcore, no-going-back R-rated story, and was so even from the script. Were you concerned about the content?
BANA: Definitely, yeah, but there were some really good discussions. At the end of the day, I think you really have to put your total faith in the director in those instances because, I think, tonally and visually, that’s really in the edit. They can make it a smorgasbord of material, and it’s up to them then, according to taste and preference, to go and assemble that, because it’s really all in the edit, how that stuff plays out: how brutal or non-brutal, how gory or non-gory. So I’ve really got just complete faith in Scott. I’d met with him a couple of times long before we signed on and we got along extremely well. We got along extremely well and saw things very similar. So I have a lot of trust, a lot of trust in him.
As the lead actor, when you’ve got so much blood and gore to deal with and there are so many intense scenes you have to prep for, how do you get in the mind set for reacting to demons and being scared?
BANA: Have you seen some of our locations? The first question I asked Scott when I met him was, “Tell me we’re not shooting this in Toronto, please?” He said, “No, no. We are shooting this in the Bronx.” I was like, “OK. This is a great early actor-director conversation. I’m going to hold you to that.” Because quite often these movies will end up going wherever it’s going to be best on paper and not best for the movie. In this case, the producers and the director were just right from the get-go (saying), “No, we’re shooting in the Bronx.” And it’s absolutely essential cinematically. It doesn’t exactly let the production design department off the hook totally. They’ve had to work really hard as well. This is not you come to work and just chill. Every night it’s pretty full-on for the crew and we’re out on the street, at night. And it adds. There’s a certain level of tension amongst everyone without even thinking about it, every day we come to work, based on locations that really, I think, will help the film.
What kinds of accidents – happy accidents or unhappy accidents – have resulted from doing so much on location?
Were you at all familiar with this borough before doing this? Or just through the movies?
BANA: The Warriors was one of my favorite films. But, no. So, like I say, I was really excited when they signed off on… every location. When we were on Long Island for the jail, I think that was a real jail, right? We have a tiny bit of stage work the last week, but basically we’ve been out here every night.
You’re pretty tall and the locations seem pretty cramped. How’s that been working out for you?
BANA: My brother is 6-foot-7, so I’m getting a taste of what life is like for him. Joel (McHale) is taller than me, so… Tight spaces are really interesting. You were talking about before how does (location work) help? It just helps. You pare it down to the bare essentials, but you’re always going to have your A-camera operator and focus puller, your boom operator, one actor, and the way that Scott Kevan is shooting this film, so much of it is very dark and with flashlight. Like, we sort of self-light ourselves through scenes. Scott will quite often be in there with a torch running bounce in the room whilst we’re in there. So, I really like it. That stuff never distracts me. I really enjoy that stuff and I enjoy having another job to do, if it’s like, “Is it possible for you to hit that bounce in the corner in this part of the scene.” It doesn’t take me out of the moment. I really enjoy that sort of stuff. So, the shooting style of the film, I think, also really adds to the experience.
Joel is obviously a very funny guy,.. you have your own comedy background. Is there a gag reel on this thing?
BANA: Oh there will definitely be a gag reel. Yeah, I’m sure. Because we’re shooting digital there was one night where we were driving in that car and we had about 3 or 4 hours of shooting a long scene with dialogue. We got to 4am and we had another hour before the sun came up. We were in a process car in a trailer and the crew are all up the front on a truck. Because we didn’t have to change mags we had about three camera guys on the front of the car, and Scott said, “Okay, we’re just gonna roll. You guys just do whatever you want and put shit on each other.” So Joel and I just went at each other for about 40-minutes straight without a script, so that was a lot of fun. We’re both comfortable with that because of our backgrounds, and like I said if we were shooting on film we couldn’t have done it.
The tone of the film is very straightforward, right?
BANA: Yes and no. You hang around with cops and all they do is put shit on each other. It’s gallows humor all the way no matter what country you’re in. For our characters to be believable it has to be there, otherwise it’s two guys trying to act tough which is bullshit. I hear them every night when they come to the set and they’re always telling stories, telling each other how fat they are, what a pussy they are. That’s part of the job.
BANA: No, it’s obviously not a comedy, but it would be unrealistic to not try and play some of those moments. That was really important to Scott, actually. I remember early conversations about who Butler could be. It’s been great working with Joel.
You said this was the first film of this kind that you’ve done. Have the projects just not come to you of this type or had you not found one before that you really responded to?
BANA: There had been a couple. I hadn’t responded, yeah, but there’s been a couple over the years. Not to this level of sophistication. I think Scott’s movies in this world are slightly more interesting than some of the other ones I’ve seen. You couldn’t compare this to some of the other stuff that’s been presented to me in the past.
Having been Chopper there’s some pretty intense stuff in there as well.
BANA: Yeah, but I mean in terms of genre style. Then again, primarily it’s been a procedural thriller, so that I’ve had some experience in. In terms of potentially scaring an audience as opposed to it being a drama is a lot of fun. Really interesting.
How good are you at telling how good a film is coming together and what’s your gut instinct on this one?
BANA: Hmm. That’s a bloody good question. Let’s see, how close have I been in the past? Sometimes I’ve had a bit of a gut instinct as to how the film will work as a film, but I wouldn’t say I always have a great gut instinct for how its gonna work by the time it comes out into the marketplace and what the marketplace is gonna be ready for. I’m poor at perceiving what’s gonna be popular but I have a pretty generally good sense of whether I’m gonna be disappointed or happy when I see it for the first time.
So how is this coming together?
BANA: I feel very good about this.
It’s always too early to say but would there be room for more Ralph Sarchie adventures after this one, you think?
BANA: There’s a lot of room in Ralph Sarchie, most definitely. Yeah, he’s a very interesting character, potentially, and a lot of fun to play. I haven’t played many where I’ve thought, “Hmm, could be fun to do more of that guy.” The Mendoza character as well, Edgar Ramirez is fantastic. It’s beautifully written, very interesting. We’ll see.
Do they have an option on you for the sequels or any sequels?
BANA: It depends on what you mean by option.
This is your second time working with Jerry Bruckheimer after “Black Hawk Down.” How is your experience with Jerry this time?
BANA: It’s been great. As you said it’s the first time we’ve worked together since, and that was 12 or 13 years ago. I’ve met Jerry many times between then and now. Projects have come up and its never been the right thing, so I was thrilled when they came to me on this, and feel very lucky, you know? These films are becoming, as you all know, harder and harder to get up, harder and harder to greenlight, so I’m acutely aware how lucky we are to be on a film of this size today.
Because studios only want a really small movie or a really big movie, right?
BANA: Yeah. The middle stuff is getting really hard and I was lucky enough to be on one last year as well. It’s becoming super rare, so fingers crossed.