From filmmaker Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Deliver Us From Evil tells the story of the real-life series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes that police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) began investigating in New York. As frightening events occur around the city, Sarchie teams up with an unconventional priest (Édgar Ramírez) who is schooled in the rituals of exorcism.
While at WonderCon to promote the film’s July 2nd theatrical release, actor Joel McHale spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how she got involved with this project, why he wanted to pursue this role, and what it was like to work with and learn from a movie star like Eric Bana. He also talked about why he originally turned to comedy, his desire to be an actor, that he definitely wants a sixth season (and beyond) and a movie Community, that he hopes he can return to Sons of Anarchy, and how he’d love to have a varied career like Bryan Cranston. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOEL McHALE: It was the first opportunity, other than Steven Soderbergh, who put me in The Informant, which was not inherently a comedy, but was a very comedic movie. He populated the whole movie with comics, including the really funny Matt Damon, who is truly funny. So, Scott [Derrickson] is a good friend and I’m a big, huge fan of the genre. Scott and I are best friends, and he just happens to be a phenomenal filmmaker. And he wrote this with me in mind, but I had to audition for this role. Other people didn’t know if I could do it, or who I was. My character does tell a lot of jokes, but it’s hopefully within context of the character. I think there’s a gallows humor that cops and doctors and paramedics have, and that’s the kind of humor it is. So, I wanted the role badly ‘cause it was such an opportunity.
Did it help to know what Scott Derrickson’s vision would be, when you read the script, especially since these types of films can be so bad in the wrong hands?
McHALE: Yeah, and so many are. But, Eric [Bana] is such a fine actor and such an amazing lead. Scott is the commander behind the camera, and everything comes out of him and permeates out of him, as far as driving the performances. And then, you have Eric who is a dyed-in-the-wool movie star and damn good actor. He’s really world class. So, it starts with people like that, and then it goes to everybody else. I think it came out really well, and I’m really happy. It’s a crazy subject that’s based on something real, so it has to be treated with respect, and I think it is. It’s scary as shit. There’s a whole other world that we never see, and I think cops see it more than anyone else. There’s a whole other side of the world of criminal activity. Scott not only knows that world, but lives in it. It’s a world that we’re all scared of, and that we want to quickly be taken care of by someone else. And my character definitely loves that world.
What was it like to work with Eric Bana on this? Did you just watch him and try to absorb everything you could?
McHALE: Yes, I watched him. But, I wasn’t watching him when I was in scenes with him, except to look at him. I think he’s a rarity. And I think Édgar [Ramírez] is the same way, I just didn’t work with him as much as I worked with Eric. I have so many friends that try to be actors, and they went to school for acting. But what Eric is and the gift that Eric has is not something that can be learned. It can be developed and you can do what he did, which is that he works his ass off, but he’s one of those people who God put on the earth and told, “You’re different from everybody. You’re a movie star.” The thing about this cast is that they’re normal people. It’s weird because they just happen to be movie stars.
But with as experienced as you are at comedy, don’t you feel like people who come onto the show and are new to it look to you?
McHALE: Yeah, a lot of people tune into E! for comedy and are like, “What will I learn from the E! Network?” I have always survived with comedy, in that I grew up very dyslexic and did not get good grades. I always thought I was dumb, and there are many people out there that would agree. So, I used comedy as a way to combat my dyslexia. I was barely getting by scholastically, so I used a lot of humor. I used humor as survival, as a weapon and as comfort. I knew I wanted to be an actor. I just kept saying, “Until somebody tells me to stop, until I have to go get a real job, and until I’m practically homeless, I’m not gonna get one.” So far, that hasn’t happened, thank god!
When Community started, people weren’t really sure what to make of it because it was a very different type of comedy than people were used to.
McHALE: It does! I was thinking, “Man, I can’t believe this show is already this old. It’s a real show. This is so weird.” I do definitely want a sixth season, and I want to make a movie. I think Dan Harmon is one of the best writers in existence. The two-part finale was sublime. I’m bragging about the show that I’m on, but I really believe we can do it. I think there’s an opportunity for it to happen. And it wouldn’t be there, if we didn’t have the fans, and we do, thank god.
How much fun was it to do Sons of Anarchy?
McHALE: Really fun! I’d love to come back ‘cause my character didn’t get killed.
Is there another show you’d love to do a guest arc on?
McHALE: I love doing all of that. I look to someone like Bryan Cranston, who can do it all. I would love to be able to do something like him. Huffington Post ran this amazing thing where they showed samples of the reviews of Breaking Bad, when it came out five or six years ago. It was ll just, “I don’t want to see the dad from Malcolm in the Middle selling methamphetamine.” It was all just cynical bullshit. And now everyone thinks Bryan Cranston is an acting god, which he is. I would love to do many things. But, I want a sixth season. I want a seventh season.
Deliver Us From Evil opens in theaters on July 2nd. Click here for more WonderCon coverage.