From writer/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, the warped horror dramedy Villains follows amateur criminals Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) and Jules (Maika Monroe), who find themselves at the house of George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick), after their car dies while fleeing a gas station robbery. Even though they stopped at a random house to look for a new set of wheels to take them on the road toward a fresh start, the pair of young lovers end up learning that these sadistic homeowners have a dark secret that they will do anything to keep from getting out.
During this phone interview with Collider, co-stars Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe talked about why this script stood out for them, the movies the filmmakers had them watch for inspiration, how the story flips who the villains really are, the most challenging scene to shoot, getting the giggles, and how all-out co-stars Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Donovan went for their roles. They also discussed what’s next for each of them, while Skarsgård talked about kicking around some possible ideas for an It prequel with director Andy Muschietti and what it would take to make that work, as well as the experience he had making The Devil All the Time, with director Antonio Campos.
Collider: This movie is totally twisted, and I had a lot of fun with it. When Villains came your way and you read this script, did you immediately get what the tone was or did you need to have conversations with the filmmakers?
MAIKA MONROE: We read a lot of scripts, and I think the reason why this one stood out to me was because you could really sense a style and tone. Also, because it wasn’t really any one specific genre, and it spanned across a few different feelings, that was something that I really liked. I read the script in like two hours, and then Skyped with the directors (Dan Berk and Robert Olsen). I just immediately got it.
BILL SKARSGARD: Dan and Bobby, the directors who wrote it themselves, came up with a very unique little story in the script. It’s hard to define, and it plays off of all these different genres. We discussed the characters. You meet all of these four characters, but especially for Mickey and Jules, when they’re coming from something and they’re on their way to something else. So, there was a lot of, who are these guys? Where are they coming from? What’s their backstory? As a viewer, you’re just thrown into this momentum of them going, “All right, let’s go! We’re going to Florida!” And they have a bag of cocaine and drugs, and there’s obviously a shady past that they’re trying to run from, and then they just get stuck in this house. In terms of tone, we discussed it a lot. Bobby and Dan sent us movies for reference, like Badlands, Buffalo ‘66, The King of Comedy and Raising Arizona, in terms of tone and inspiration. Revisiting those films helped to have a reference for what we were doing. I tend to like that. When you initially sign on for a project and you start the conversation with the filmmakers, if they can name four or five movies that would be good, in terms of inspiration and tone, that’s always a good starting point, to help figure out the tone of the movie that you’re setting out to do.
I didn’t know anything about this movie when I watched it, so at the beginning, when you see this robbery, I thought I would be watching this Bonnie and Clyde type of story, with these villains on the run, but it takes a very different turn. Mickey and Jules are suddenly not the villains, and they’re fighting for their own survival. Was it fun to have that contrast with these characters, who you really think are being set up as the bad guys of the story, and then it turns out that they have to survive the actual bad guys?
SKARSGARD: Yeah, exactly. Hence the title Villains, right? You’re introduced these renegade young lovers, but then you figure out that the real villains of this story are set up, at the beginning of the story, to be the victims of this robbery, but it turns out that they have the darkest secret of them all. And then, these young lover criminals end up basically fighting for their lives.
What were the biggest physical challenges in doing this? Was there a scene or moment that was the most difficult?
MONROE: I don’t know if it was physically challenging, but figuring out the tongue ring was an extreme challenge, trying to figure out how to have the tongue ring work and if we were gonna see it in my mouth. It’s very hard to fake. You can’t fake that. On your ear, you can use magnetic earrings, but you can’t do that in your mouth. So, there was this suction cup thing that we were using, at one point, but having to rip it out was a whole other thing. That was pretty amusing. But we figured it out, and we did it.
There are also some very bizarre and out-there moments in this, as well. Were there ever times that you guys just couldn’t help cracking up, during a take? Were there any particularly memorable bloopers or funny moments that happened?
MONROE: Oh, god, probably. It’s been a minute since we filmed this. We had a lot of scenes that were really long takes and a lot of very dialogue heavy scenes, and I’m sure there are a lot of great bloopers out there. There’s gotta be.
SKARSGARD: Yeah, there definitely was. As an actor, usually when keep on cracking up and keep breaking, it’s when you’re really tired, at the end of the day, and it’s usually something really, really stupid, not something that might come off as funny, for the viewers. You’re just overworked or so tired that you get giggly. The actor you’re playing the scene with could just be looking at you in a way that cracks you up, every time you get that look. I don’t remember anything where we just couldn’t get through a scene. But with that whole tongue ring scene, we broke a couple of times, because it was just really funny, playing off of like how Jules reacts to Micky thinking it’s just a really brilliant idea and he’s trying to convince her to go along with it. That scene was so long. When you read the script, there were a lot of these really super dark scene, but the shooting of it obviously it was really enjoyable and fun. Even when it was dark and thrilling and scary, the directors still wanted a comedic light tone to it, which makes for a unique movie.
The counterpart couple to the couple that you play, played by Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Donovan, are just so insanely twisted in the film. What was it like to work with them and share scenes with them, playing opposite those characters?
SKARSGARD: It was great. In the table read, they really went for it, so just seeing them, they’re both amazing character actors and they really brought everything to these characters. The characters were already out there and over the top in the script, but Jeffrey did this amazing classic Southern gentlemen, and they really went for it. That was cool because that meant that Maika and I could swing for the fences, as well, in terms of the over the top, really out there tone that ended up being the whole movie. So, I just can’t say enough good stuff about them, how fun it was to work with them, and how insanely weird they were, in character.
Bill, you certainly have a knack for scaring people. Fans have absolutely loved your performance as Pennywise in the It films, and you’ve recently talked about your interest in possibly revisiting Pennywise for a prequel. Since it would be its own story, if that ever were to happen, what would you be most excited or interested about exploring with that character, if you were to get to do a prequel?
SKARSGARD: I have some ideas that me and (director) Andy [Muschietti] had been talking about, and that we talked about, throughout the shoot of the second movie, that I am not gonna share with you. I don’t wanna give anything away. All I can say is that we have an idea that we both think could be really, really cool. It would be a different type of movie. It would be a prequel, but it would be a very different movie from Pt. 1 and Pt. 2. That was always our goal. If we do a third one, we will have to make something very different in tone, for it to be a fun third movie and not just beating a dead horse. You’ve seen over four hours of the main story, so this would be something completely different. So, we’ll see what comes of it. I met Stephen King, for the first time, when I was doing Good Morning America and he was in the green room next to me. We chatted a little bit and he was like, “Yeah, well, I have some ideas for a prequel,” which I have yet to have. I was like, “Are you fuckin’ kidding me?!” That’s the fuckin’ man, himself. That’s the holy grail of ideas. So, we’ll see what comes of it.
What’s next, for each of you guys?
MONROE: I don’t know how much I can really say about it ‘cause it hasn’t been announced yet, but there’s something that I’m super excited about. It’s definitely gonna be interesting, and I start that very soon. I can’t really say much, but I’m excited.
SKARSGARD: For me, I’ve done three movies this year already, and on top of that, I just had a kid. The last movie I did bled into the press junket and all of that, so I’m really looking forward to just going home to Stockholm and spending some time with the family. I’m just looking forward to literally not doing anything and enjoying the fall in Scandinavia.
Bill, you’ve also done The Devil All the Time, with director Antonio Campos. What was it about that, that made you want to do that project?
SKARSGARD: I met Antonio Campos for a general meeting, which was kind of a unique meeting. I had just found out that we were pregnant, and we were in week five, and I hadn’t told my parents or anyone yet. So, I had this meeting with Tony, last year, and he was like, “I’m married, and actually, I haven’t told anyone, but my wife is five weeks pregnant.” And I was like, “Fuck you. I haven’t told anyone this, but we’re five weeks pregnant.” So, we had this surreal and amazing general meeting, not about the project, it was just two men, sharing something they haven’t shared with their families yet, and we were in exactly the same boat. Their son was born four days before our daughter. I’m a big fan of Antonio’s, so later, when this script came along, it was an amazing role in an amazing world that, thematically, was right up my alley. It’s a southern gothic, very dark and bleak tale, but it’s a whole immersive world. It’s a period piece, with this character coming home from the war, battling with PTSD in a small town in West Virginia in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Everything about it was a story and a character that I’d never done before. It was just an amazing challenge. I can’t say enough good stuff about the experience of that project, so I’m really excited to see how it comes out.
Villains is out in theaters on September 20th.