Opening this weekend is director John Pogue’s supernatural horror film The Quiet Ones. The period pic stars Jared Harris as an unorthodox professor who sets up a series of dangerous experiments in order to explore the dark energy manifested by the damaged psyche of a young girl. Naturally, things don’t go well. The film also stars Sam Claflin, and Olivia Cooke. Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne. For more on The Quiet Ones, check out some creepy motion posters, the trailer, and all our previous coverage.
At the Los Angeles press day, I landed an exclusive interview with Harris. He talked about making the film, whether he still has to audition for a role, Mad Men and his thoughts on this current season, Guy Ritchie‘s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Poltergeist remake and what it was like working with Sam Rockwell, voicing a character on Laika’s The Boxtrolls, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
JARED HARRIS: You know it was a low budget movie that was made with a lot of hard work and determination and imagination, and you know that they say about necessity being the mother of invention, that’s what you think of the most. In that sense its really exciting, and it takes you back to the beginning because in some ways it was an experimental film, you know what I mean? I’m not punning about the experiment [laughs].
I know what you meant.
HARRIS: My memory and my feeling of it is that it was a really tight knit group. It was the five of us in this sort of abandoned business center with this rather odd Victorian house that was attached to this 1970’s era business center- the strangest architectural construction that you’ve ever seen, and we had really good fun. It was bare bones and we all pulled together and we all helped each other out in that great tradition of- it was like a sort of theater company that was doing this strange performance art piece up in Oxbridge.
I’m curious, when was the last time that you auditioned for a role? Have you reached the point where things get offered to you, or are you still auditioning a lot?
HARRIS: It’s a mix. You know, I like auditioning, it’s important to keep auditioning. Generally speaking if you’re auditioning for something, you’re auditioning for a role that people can’t see you in and you need to convince them that you’re the right person. If you only take parts that are offered to you, you end up playing the same roles over and over again. I think it’s important to keep auditioning. I think it’s important to scare yourself; to take parts that are outside of your comfort zone. That’s sort of been my MO for my whole career. I keep trying to change it up. The last time I auditioned, I auditioned with Spielberg for the Lincoln movie. I audition for stuff all the time, and what’s weird about it is that one’s success rate at auditioning doesn’t really change [laughs]. It’s sort of at the same ratio of stuff you audition for to things you land.
HARRIS: I like the adrenaline of live performance, whatever that is, appearing in front of an audience of any kind, whether it’s one or a hundred or a thousand. It gives you a real sort of- it gives you a buzz, it gives you a buzz of adrenaline, its exciting. The thing about that is that you want to make those nerves work for you in terms of an energy that’s appropriate for the part and the performance, and not to distract the people who are watching so that they become nervous for you.
Have you been keeping up on Mad Men or have you given up on the show?
HARRIS: Loving it, absolutely loving it.
Listen, I don’t understand how he keeps doing it.
HARRIS: I know, well the guy’s honestly enormously talented, but he’s got a lot to say. I’m curious to see where it’s going, I have no idea. I watch it and try and guess like everybody else now that I’m on the outside looking in [laughs].
Yeah, I revere his writing and I’m just every week dumfounded by what he accomplishes.
HARRIS: Yeah, that scene in the car between Sally and Don, when he was dropping her back at school, was just fantastic, when they have the argument in the car.
HARRIS: You can see her growing up before your very eyes, she’s becoming- suddenly in that scene she’s suddenly found her voice as a young adult. You can see the adult starting to form there.
I’m very curious about you recently got to work with Guy Ritchie on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I’m very excited for it because of the cast and the time period, and also just Guy Ritchie. What can you tease people about your character and the film?
HARRIS: I don’t want to speak too much about anything specific, because they want to do that when it’s appropriate for them, when they get ready to get everyone keyed up about it- but it’s set in the 1960s, it’s a Cold War spy story. It’s got Guy’s sort of signature mix of a great sense of humor, a good exciting adventure, action sequences, and that sort of signature visual style that he has. It was great fun being there, it’s always good fun on one of his sets.
The next thing I have to ask you about is the remake of Poltergeist, which I’m very curious about just because Sam Raimi is somewhat involved.
HARRIS: Sam Raimi and Spielberg as well.
Exactly, so what was it when you got the script were you like, “I’m definitely interested in this”? Can you talk about the remake?
HARRIS: Well, it’s a reimagining. Obviously they sat down with Gil [Kenan] when they were thinking about it and obviously had to come up with a different way of telling the story. I don’t want to get into that too much, again, that’s something that they’re going to get in to when it’s time, but they obviously had to figure out a different take on the story and that material. He’s an incredibly visual filmmaker. He has a very, very strong sense of the story he wants to tell. I absolutely adore the original, I think it’s fantastic. I saw it recently, it holds up, and those are big shoes to fill, so I think it’s going to be very exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
HARRIS: He’s great fun, he’s great fun. I mean the guy has a comic gift, he really does. He’s just amazing- and he’s an incredible dancer! Have you seen him dance?
I have not seen him dance.
HARRIS: Check him out, there’s some YouTube clips of him dancing when makes his entrance on to the Jimmy Fallon show, it’s fantastic. the man can movie.
[Laughs] Things I did not know.
HARRIS: It will put a smile on your face.
I will definitely look that up. I’m a big fan also of stop motion, and the guys at Laika.
HARRIS: Yeah, I know what you mean, those guys. Have you been up there? They have an amazing set up.
I did, I visited when they were filming Coraline and my jaw was on the ground.
HARRIS: They blew my mind up there. It really takes you back to that wonder as a kid. They have an entire studio, the whole things in miniature, if you like. I was really, really, really wonderful. I love those movies anyway, but when I saw what they were doing I was completely hooked and said, “Absolutely I want to be a part of this.”
I’ve seen a little bit of footage and stuff on Boxtrolls, but everything they’ve done has impressed me, they’ve not made a bad movie. What can you tease people about your character in the film?
HARRIS: It’s based on a kids story, “Here be Monsters”, and it’s about a town called Cheesebridge and I play the mayor of Cheesebridge. It’s about a world where the adults are obsessed with cheese and they ignore their children and there’s this sort of threat from- they live underground that people haven’t seen called the Boxtrolls and there’s this sort of myth that circulates that the Boxtrolls abduct children, that kind of thing, but obviously it’s a kids story so there’s all sorts of twists to that story, but its magical, it’s absolutely magical.
We’ve obviously entered 2014, is this going to be a busy year for you? Are you looking at scripts? What are you thinking about for the future?
HARRIS: I’m reading a lot. I’m reading a lot and I sort of decided that I wanted to- that I was going to wait until I read something that I absolutely was passionate about and I could really sink my teeth into. So I’m doing a lot of reading.
And if you missed it, here’s my video interview with Harris, Sam Claflin and Olivia Cooke for The Quiet Ones.