While on set for Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil in the utterly creepy sanctuary of a dilapidated church in the Bronx, we were able to speak to former NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie about his experience not only in the NYPD and in the paranormal, but also at having the book based on his life turned into a movie, with Erica Bana playing him. He spoke about how all of this came about, a bit about his spirituality and experience with the devil, and about the strangeness of being part of a movie filming in the same location he once chased a perpetrator down the street.
Deliver Us From Evil is a paranormal thriller inspired by real-life cases recorded in a book by former NYPD officer Sarchie (Eric Bana), who is originally a skeptic, but encounters a priest (Edgar Ramirez) who convinces him that an inexplicable case is actually caused by demons and other paranormal forces. The film also stars Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy and Sean Harris. Hit the jump for my interview with Sarchie.
RALPH SARCHIE: I happened to write a book about the stuff I’ve been involved in over the years. It just so happened that my profession is that I was a cop in the New York City Police Department. I guess people thought it was pretty interesting to have these two things meshed together. My life is pretty boring, I don’t know why they’re doing this. It’s fun.
Is this the first interest that you’d had in doing your life story as a film?
SARCHIE: It went right to Jerry Bruckheimer and he grabbed it. At the time I had the idea to write the book, everything followed as far as the movie was concerned. That was about 13 years ago.
When you read the script, how does it compare to your experiences and the book? How elevated is it?
SARCHIE: I would say that it’s more entertainment with elements of the book and my life. It’s not done in the context of what I wrote, but I recognize it. It’s gotta be entertaining. So there’s a lot of liberties. So it’s all good. It’s fun.
What do you think of the casting? Of Eric Bana?
SARCHIE: I love the cast. Right on down to the kids, even the extras that come on are so full of energy to do the right job. Eric Bana, Joel McHale, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn – you can’t ask for any better.
Has Bana spent any time with you?
SARCHIE: I’m on the set every day, so unfortunately he has to.
Do you ever look at him and say, “No I wouldn’t do it that way?” Do you have any pointers for him?
SARCHIE: The only reason I’m here is for police procedure. As far as how the actors act, it’s up to Scott. He’ll be the first to tell me, “save it for the Police stuff.” It’s just procedure and the way cops act, the tactics. Making it as realistic as possible. I’m honored to be here because it doesn’t happen that often from what I hear. They keep people like me away. “Come down and say ‘Hello’ and get out!”
What do you want people to take away from this movie? What do you want them to learn about you and your experiences?
SARCHIE: Well, actually I look at the book and the movie – the movie isn’t about a cop or the Devil, it’s about God. There’s a spirituality. We have aspects of life we’re involved in but we really have no idea about the spiritual battle that rages around us that we are the subject of. The whole matter is the Devil tries to take souls away from God, and God tries to keep them. And that’s what this is all about.
You’ve dealt with a lot of real life cases, before this came about how did you view films like this?
SARCHIE: From an early age I loved horror movies. I read books about horror, cops, firemen and military. Over the course of the years I started to see that there’s a reality to this. The first movie I was really conscious of seeing was THE EXORCIST and I don’t know if any of you have seen that but it scared the sh*t out of me. It really frightened me. I was 12 years old when I saw it and I had no doubt that it was actually one of the training films for me. I joke about it, but from that age up until I was about 22 or 23 – I got into this field when I was 27 - all of those years I didn’t want to have nothing to do with this. It frightened me. It was a lack of faith and knowledge. When I learned to build on my faith, the fear pretty much went away. I’m in a dark basement in a home that’s demonically infested – that’s not my idea of a fun evening, but again it boils down to your faith. That’s your protection. That’s the only protection we have.
I listen to a lot of true accounts of ghost experiences and the commonality is, “I used to be a skeptic. And then I had this experience.” Can you tell us about this gateway experience into this realm?
SARCHIE: Like I said, I always believed in the spirit realm. Whether or not I understood it or witnessed it or was involved in it. There wasn’t an incident that made be believe it was real, like I said I had an interest in it and as I grew older I realized that there are some people that are doing this for real. That’s when I realized this isn’t just a Hollywood thing. There’s an element of realism to it. I immersed myself more in the subject as a young adult. Then I started to get involved with a lot of people that were involved in it, and they would just bring me along basically. And I learned and decided that my Christian charity, what I wanted to do to serve God’s will, was to help people that were ensnared by the demonic. Somebody goes to a soup kitchen and serves the hungry, someone goes to a prison and tries to get people to turn their lives around – those are all Christian charities. This is just another charity the way I look at it. I don’t look at it as being special or different.
So how do you reconcile the pragmatic concerns of the procedure of being a Police Officer with the supernatural?
SARCHIE: The NYPD never really had anything to do with it. This is stuff I did on my own time. It just so happened to be that I was a cop for my career. It was my religious belief. The NYPD very wisely stayed away from that. I was grateful that they let me do what I needed to do without getting involved because when you’re a cop the NYPD controls you 24/7. The tell you how you can act and what you can do your whole entire life. But they always stayed out of it. I did a little here and there for the police department as far as a crime scene that might have occult overtones – they would call me and I’d look into it. But it was usually minor little things.
SARCHIE: There is a correlation between evil. There is a primary evil that comes directly from the Devil. Even though all evil stems from the Devil, the Devil sometimes interacts with people in the physical world and the spiritual world and sometimes there’s just plain evil that people do to one another. And I’ve seen plenty of that over the course of 20 years. And I realized that there is something else that is influencing people to behave like that, and that’s the taking of the souls away from God. If you get people to sin, they get pushed further away from God and eventually God doesn’t really own the soul anymore. The Devil owns the soul and that’s where the danger comes in. Because in the end, there’s no do-overs. According to my religious belief, I’m sorry if you feel like I’m pushing this on you – my religious belief is that you behave the way God wants us to behave. And that’s simply love God and love one another. If we did that, there would be no need for any of the other commandments. It would be great. But in the same vein, we would have obtained paradise by that point. And it’s tougher to get to paradise by that point.
What’s the transition like from working this neighborhood as a cop and being here on the set of a Hollywood movie?
SARCHIE: Well, you know not too far from here I chased down a perp. And when I came to this location, just 10 years ago I was down the block over there wrestling this this perp and now I’m over here filming this movie and I would have never even dreamed – it would have been more feasible to meet Satan face to face than to have this done. I would have expected that more than this. It was a shock. Like I said, i’s fun. It’s great experience. I love every minute of it except for when it’s like six o’clock in the morning and they want another take! They look good to me!
Are you solely an advisor or do you have a role in the film?
SARCHIE: No I’m advising on the police aspect. Procedurals and tactics and uniforms.
No cameo or anything?
SARCHIE: It’s really not what I’m looking for. I’ve been arguing with Scott over it. He wants me to do it and I don’t want to do it and he says, “you gotta do it. I need you do do it.” But I don’t really want to do it.
Why don’t you want to do it?
SARCHIE: I’d rather be on this side of the camera. I feel more comfortable. I’d rather keep myself centered and keep my ego as tepid as possible. Because you can get a big head walking around here. I feel that instead of putting myself out in that light, I’d rather be on this side of the camera just to make sure that the movie, from my perspective as far as police procedures, is done properly. I got my daughters in it, that’s good enough for me. Scott’s got a way of talking me into things, and I told him I don’t like the way he can talk me into stuff.
What does he want you to do as a cameo?
SARCHIE: I don’t know. The assistant directors corralled me one night in a tent and said, “we’re going to have a captain on the set.” The other guy says, “a captain.” I said, “okay, I got it.” I guess they’re looking at a captain role. Don’t bring it up to Scott, I don’t want to remind him about it. I’m hoping he forgot all about it.
Are you helping Eric with the accent?
SARCHIE: No, they hired a speech coach. I’m working with the speech coach and then she goes and works with Eric. He feels more at ease working with the speech coach than maybe with me messing things up. I let them deal with it. Whatever is asked of me, I do.
How much one on one time have you spent with him? Does he have your mannerisms, your facial tic?
SARCHIE: I saw a lot of that. It made me uncomfortable. He’s been studying me. We don’t just sit down and talk, he’s actually studying me. It makes me a little uncomfortable being under that microscope. But I think Eric immured himself wight he script and is doing what he needed to do. I sort of stayed away from him until he was comfortable. It’s a little tough to be somebody if they’re in the room with you. I can’t imagine how tough that might be. But now I think he’s just slammed it, he could do it in his sleep. So now I feel comfortable. I hang out with him on the set and we talk. He loves motorcycles and I ride, so we talk a lot about motorcycles and family and things of that nature. He’s a true professional. He’s so humble. The kids come out, he signs the autographs. There’s no ego with him. I like that. If he was the type of guy who acted too diva-ish, I would probably keep him at arm’s distance. I wouldn’t want to have a rapport with him. But no, I like to be his friend.
The cases explored in this film, how close are they to the things you actually experienced?
SARCHIE: There are elements of each case that Scott put into the story. So I recognize them when I see them. The book is basically on different cases, so you can’t really make a movie like that or the audience would be, “what is this? What are we watching?” So he had to take elements of each case and make them into one and he did a masterful job at it. I love the concept. And, for the record, I didn’t murder anybody. I want to make that clear. It’s entertainment and it brings about the message I believe Scott wants to portray in this movie. There are a few messages in the movie and I’m not going to tell you what they are, but Scott hits the nail on the head with him.
When you say you didn’t murder anyone, are you referring to the scene where Bana kicks a guy to death?
SARCHIE: I don’t know what I’m allowed to say.
We heard about it.
SARCHIE: There is a scene in the movie and when I first said to Scott, “I wanna read the screenplay,” he took a beat and he said, “Ralph it’s really not like the book.” And then my mind starts going, “Oh geez. What did he do?” And then I got the screenplay. And then I had to read it again. And then I read it again and again and again. And finally I understood what Scott was trying to do. I was getting bits and pieces of his message as I read the screenplay and I understood. And I was happy with the way he went about doing things, even though it is very much entertainment and there’s a lot of liberty he took with it, I think overall people will sit down and enjoy the movie and walk out of there, after the initial fear from what they’ve just seen, and think about the message.
Theres another film coming out called The Conjuring, which is based on the Warrens. I was wondering if you have anybody like that that you look up to in the field?
SARCHIE: I’ve worked with the Warrens. For about 20 years. I was really good friends with Ed. Ed and Lorraine. We went our separate ways, there were a few differences. In their organization, being that they were from Connecticut, I started the New York City chapter of the organization and handled things in New York. But eventually I was out on my own. But I’ve been friends with them for a long time.
Being in the neighborhood again, I’m sure some of these people know you from back in the day. What’s it like to see these people again and have all of this hub-bub?
SARCHIE: The people who live here don’t know who I am. I’ve been retired for 9 years. It’s seeing the people I worked with and coming back to the precinct. It was my home. I was here for a short period of time – 4 years – but when you work in a place like the 46 you really bond with the people you work with. I don’t miss the police department at all, I don’t know if you guys read the papers. As soon as I hit my 20 I sorta ran. “20 and out,” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It’s the people I worked with that I miss the most. The camaraderie, the friendships. You sit in a car with somebody for 8 hours, maybe 12 hours. Somebody’s calling for help and you respond, you want to make sure the people you’re with are protected and safe. But in the same vein, I’ve been able to look at the Bronx and see that it is absolutely and utterly a different place from when I was working up here. Just the atmosphere is different. The people are different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not in uniform anymore, but they still look at me when I walk the streets. They still recognize me as being a cop, because they know. But just the atmosphere, the crime rate seems to be gone. It’s pleasurable being here. Being out in the street and seeing all of the neighbors come out and enjoy this movie being made and they’re having a good time with it. Back when I was a cop here I don’t think we could have had that. It would have been a whole different ballgame. We probably would have had a lot more cops on the set than we do now. We’re getting away with 1 or 2 cops. Back then we would have needed 4 or 5 to make sure the cast and crew were safe. The NYPD did their job.
Are they actually shooting at the 46?
SARCHIE: No, they built a set. And it was absolutely incredible to walk into a building that isn’t the 46 but still walk into the 46. Everybody that worked in the 46 that went to this set, their jaw dropped as soon as they walked in. It’s amazing what they’re able to do.
Publicist: It was actually built in the former 50 precinct. So it was originally built as a station house.
Were there any exteriors from the 46 or is it all the 50?
Publicist: All the 50.
SARCHIE: [to journalists] I wish I could know you all individually. I hope you do a good job with this.
For more from my Deliver Us From Evil set visit:
- Director Scott Derrickson Talks DELIVER US FROM EVIL, Shooting in the Bronx, Casting His Best Friend, and Working with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer
- Joel McHale and Chris Coy Talk DELIVER US FROM EVIL, and Give a Hilarious Interview about the Film, the Paranormal, and Knife Fights
- Eric Bana Talks DELIVER US FROM EVIL, Working with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Shooting in the Bronx, and the Expected Gag Reel with Joel McHale