Now open in theaters is The Lazarus Effect. The film follows a team of scientific researchers attempting to extend life in dying patients. When one of the team members (Olivia Wilde) is killed tragically during an experiment, the rest of the group does the unthinkable and brings her back to from the dead. As in all Frankenstein-inspired stories, the act of playing god bears punishing consequences, and the woman who comes back is not the woman they knew. Directed by David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), the film also stars Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Donald Glover and Sarah Bolger.
I recently sat down with Evan Peters to chat about the film. We talked about what attracted him to The Lazarus Effect, how Gelb’s history as a documentarian is reflected in his direction, and the interesting ideas explored in the film. He also talked about American Horror Story, why he’d be willing to work with Ryan Murphy forever, and getting ready to film X-Men: Apocalypse.
EVANS: Not last year, but the year before. In July, I think.
Yeah, it had been a while. Is it strange for you to circle back and do this kind of press when so much time has gone by?
EVANS: [Laughs] Yeah.
Since it was some time ago, what’s your standout memory from the set?
EVANS: I liked working with the dog. The dog was really fun to work with, because they always say you’re not supposed to work with kids and dogs and I just thought it was really fun to try to get this dog to bark on command, to be scary, to stand and stay. I’d never worked with a dog that much before. It was very interesting to see everybody try and get him to do what the wanted him to do.
Was it is as difficult as they always say?
EVANS: It is difficult. he was a great dog, don’t get me wrong, but yeah, it can be difficult.
The script has some really interesting ideas going on, what interested you about the film?
EVANS: Yeah, exactly. I liked the idea of brining back someone form the dead. I love Frankenstein, that story, and just seeing what happens after that person is brought back. This is an interesting take on it in that she’s come back from a horrible place is bringing back this hell to real life that probably wasn’t supposed to come back. And I love science fiction thrillers.
Did they encourage you guys to look into the real life resurrection cases and what scientists are trying to do?
EVANS: Yeah, we looked at some stuff online and it’s interesting that they’re prolonging the time after someone dies so that you can successfully resuscitate them. I don’t think they’re to the point where someone’s been dead for months that they can bring them back, but they’re getting really good at prolonging that time period to bring someone back.
And of course the Frankenstein tradition asks the question, and the film asks the question, should we be doing these things?
EVANS: Yeah, should we be doing these things? My take on it is that prolonging death to save someone’s life is an amazing thing. I that’s important and it’s cool to do, but I think that when someone has passed away in the case of Frankenstein, he was gone for quite a while, it’s a little scary to try to bring them back. I think Olivia’s character asks the question did he want to come back? Where was he before? I think that’s an important question to ask.
What was it like for you guys.
EVANS: It was fast and intense, and low budget. But we got it all done and I think it turned out great. It was difficult at times, but I think it was cool to work with the minimum. We weren’t going incredibly over budget or spending so much, there were a lot of shortcuts and film hacks that I didn’t know about before. So it was cool to see that all happen and to know that you can make a movie like this for pretty cheap.
Your director David Gelb, his major thing before this was the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Was there anything specifically documentarian about the way he directs?
EVANS: He has some really, really beautiful shots in this film – as he did in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s cool to see a film shot this way. There’s some cool footage down the hallway that’s very scary, there’s some cool close up stuff of the serum moving around when they’re activating it. It’s shot pretty slick. I think it’s shot very slick, and I think that’s David’s style. He has a great eye and I think he did a great job of directing actors. He went from doing a documentary to directing actors and I think he did a great job.
Something else that’s pretty cool about Lazarus Effect is that it’s an ensemble film, which you don’t see a lot of in horror. There are leads of course, but you guys really share a lot of the film. Do you like working in ensembles?
EVANS: I do like working in ensembles, it’s fun to have it be more of a group effort as opposed to a single person – although I do think that this is Olivia and Mark’s film, but it’s the cast that comes together. It’s fun to work with more actors and I think the story can move to different places and more people can find different characters to relate to. I like it, I think it’s more fun.
I mean certainly you have experience with ensemble work from your four years on American Horror Story. You seem to have a lot of love for that show.
EVANS: I do, yeah. I really love it. I love Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck and all the writers on the show, and the directors, the cast. I think it’s such an interesting show because it is different every season, because Ryan and these writers come up with insane stuff. Stuff that I really like. I really like it when things get weird or crazy in film, I think it’s cool to see it kind of fall apart and they do a great job with that, so I’m very happy to work for them.
How far do you see yourself willing to go with those guys?
EVANS: Forever. I would work with them for my whole career. I love working with them. I think that they make some really cool stuff for actors to do, and they’re so creative and so fun to create with on the set that I could do it forever.
I got to ask the X-Men question. I know they’re still in pre-production, but given how favorably fans responded to Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, are you going to be taking on a larger role in Apocalypse?
EVANS: I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the script yet. I would be happy to, so fingers crossed.
Do you know when you’ll be heading back to Montreal? It’s been reported that they’re starting up in April.
EVANS: Yeah, I think in April.
Have they told you how long you’re scheduled to be on set?
EVANS: No, I have no idea. I’m anxiously awaiting [laughs].
What else is coming up for you that you’re excited about?
EVANS: Nothing. Just taking some time off right now. Just working on our house, getting organized, and getting ready to go to work again in April.