In the horror thriller The Apparition, opening in theaters on August 24th, frightening events start to occur in the home shared by young couple, Kelly (The Twilight Saga’s Ashley Greene) and Ben (Political Animals stars Sebastian Stan). They discover that they are being haunted by a presence that was accidentally conjured during a university parapsychology experiment when the horrifying apparition feeds on their fear and torments them no matter where they try to run.
A while back, Collider was invited to participate in a set visit for the film, where actor Sebastian Stan took some time to talk to the handful of outlets that were there for the shoot. During the interview, he spoke about how his character fits into the story, the experiment that sets the events of the film in motion, the fact that this is more psychological thriller than horror film, how director Todd Lincoln had very specific movies that he wanted the actors to watch, and revealed that the creature itself is not clearly defined, but very scary. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: Who do you play in The Apparition?
SEBASTIAN STAN: My character is technically a college drop-out. He’s just trying to figure out his life. He’s found the one thing that he loves, which is Kelly (Ashley Greene), and that’s driving his life right now. Certainly, he has a past that he came from. He went to college and he’s a really smart guy. He once had his life set to go a certain way, and then a set of events twisted him to go a different way, and meeting her set him on a different path. He’s just a very simple dude. He does not necessarily know where he’s going, but he’s concentrating on her. They just moved in together, so they’re just starting their life. We’re not married, but we just moved in together.
Are these events that he caused?
What is the experiment that your character is involved in?
STAN: Basically, he and a couple buddies got together and were watching these things on TV about paranormal activity, where everyone is talking about ghosts and UFOs, and all these events. I think that they got together and they just wanted to, not make fun of it, but just provide a different perspective and prove the point that it doesn’t matter what you watch. Ultimately, it’s what you walk away with. It’s all about your perspective. There’s not anything telling you if this is real or not. And so, that’s what the whole experiment came out of. What they didn’t really think about was that they tapped into something that was a lot deeper. In my opinion, it was connected to their subconscious, and each of their pains and nightmares and awful thoughts.
So, Kelly is thinking, “What did I get myself into? What was I thinking?”?
STAN: I don’t know if she’s thinking that. I don’t know how much she knows about it. But, it’s definitely a weird situation for my character because we’re in her parents’ house. I work at something similar to a Best Buy, so from a man’s perspective, not bringing in the dough, at the end of the day, definitely affects the dynamic and how they function.
Did your character take part in this experiment just to dick around, or was he looking for answers?
STAN: That was way earlier, before our characters even meet. No, it wasn’t dicking around, necessarily. I think these guys really researched everything and even tried to just put it to rest and say, “Oh, is what I’m seeing bullshit?” Actually, if you go on the internet and look it up, you can be on there for hours, researching it. I think it stems from that.
Would you describe this as more of a psychological thriller than a horror film?
STAN: For sure, yeah. (Director) Todd Lincoln had very specific movies that he wanted us to watch, which I think were very helpful. For me, the movies that really stuck out was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not having to do with the UFOs, but just in terms of the feel of it. It’s not horror where you’re like, “Oh, my god, I’m seeing crazy things!,” which is a part of it, but it’s all that level of when you’re seeing something and you’re trying to figure out the rationality behind it. You’re scared because you can’t explain how that happened, but your mind is just trying to come up with reasons to calm you down, rationally. In this movie, I think there’s this inner struggle, in our heads, for both of our characters. And then, that other dynamic for my character is added from the past, which is like, “Oh, my god, I’m actually making these things happen. The more I’m giving in to it, the more I’m creating these situations for us and I’m putting her in danger.” So, there’s that guilt issue as well.
What’s it like to play this couple who are dealing with some very extreme situations together, and how does that affect the relationship, as the film progresses?
STAN: One thing that really attracted me to the script, in the first place, and one thing that we were doing in rehearsals with Todd was making sure that we don’t think of this as a thriller/horror movie. It’s just about two people and their relationship and how that gets challenged, and anybody can relate to that. It’s just that the circumstances are a little different. For our characters, we just try to focus on these people who love each other. There are these things that are happening, and so their trust gets affected, and their relationship moves into a different stage. Is their love moving towards something deeper, or is it falling apart? As long as we focused on that and left the horror stuff up to Todd, then it was more believable and more actable.
Do these spirits do things, or do they just go after you guys?
STAN: Both, for sure. It’s these things that you can’t figure out how they happen, but they’re not that weird that they couldn’t happen somehow. Then, you start to have this guessing game about how it happened, which debilitates them psychologically, more and more, as they go through the movie.
Are you guys together a lot in the film, or are you separated a lot?
STAN: We’re together, for the most part. There are various times where we get separated and we individually deal with the situation at hand, but for a lot of the movie, especially when things start happening, we’re together.
If the spirits in your film fought the demon in Paranormal Activity, who would win?
STAN: I didn’t see that, so I don’t know. This thing is pretty scary. We definitely played jokes on other people, on set, with it. They had it in this closet space, at one point, and didn’t tell anybody. People would walk by it and just peripherally notice it. It’s pretty scary.
Is it an actual creature with a guy in a suit?
STAN: It is an actor in a suit, but the way that it looks is not really identifiable as anything. That’s one thing that was good about it. From the get-go, we didn’t want to label this as a ghost or a demon, or anything. We just wanted to let the audience decide what it is. For me, it was always about wherever this thing is going, it’s just a manifestation of your worst fears and nightmares put together.
If you guys went back to Berlin for one day, what would be the place that you would go to?
STAN: There was a restaurant that we all went to. We walked in there and I was like, “Do you speak English?,” and they were like, “How did you find us?”
What’s it been like for you to work with Todd Lincoln, since he has such a clear vision of the film?
STAN: Todd wrote the film and had it in his mind, but what was very helpful for me was that he was also very open to new ideas and to just make it as real as possible. He showed me this thing on YouTube, which gave him the idea to shoot it, called The Phillip Experiment. I don’t even know if it’s on YouTube anymore, but I got to watch some of it. It’s really creepy. It’s very weird. It’s these older people and they just look at the camera and talk to you, and they’re just so direct and straight-forward and real. I don’t know how someone who looks like my grandmother could do something like that.
That gave you a clear idea of what Todd was going for?
STAN: Yeah, and it definitely gave me an idea of how to approach it, at the beginning of the movie, and to understand why these guys wanted to do this. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with UFOs and all kinds of stuff, and that’s where these characters come from, separate from Kelly. They just grew up on sci-fi and all these movies, and they always wanted to believe that something was real. And it turns out that maybe it was real.
Had you been much of a horror fan, prior to this?
STAN: Yeah, absolutely, but much more the earlier movies, like The Shining and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I remember, when I was little, I was terrified by It. I really liked The Others. I remember watching The Orphanage, and that was great because it’s about people. Aspects of that are very similar to this movie. There was also The Ring, and I heard the original was very scary.