‘Beneath’ Mines Psychological Thriller Terrain With Jeff Fahey

Beneath (IFC Films)

Beneath is a claustrophobic film that initially comes off as a horror film but, in essence, is a psychological thriller that should leave an impression soon after the credits roll.

The storyline centers on Samantha (Kelly Noonan), an environmental lawyer who hangs with her miner father (Jeff Fahey) on his final day of work. Her decision to accompany him and a former boyfriend (Joey Kern) during a mining excursion leads to a tragic cave-in. Trapped with seemingly no way out, the fellow miners and Samantha find a destructive presence in their midst.

Whether he’s working on a Western (Silverado, Wyatt Earp), TV series (Lost, The Marshal), or even holding his own with such cinematic stalwarts as Clint Eastwood (White Hunter Black Heart), Jeff Fahey always seems to be in his element. I had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Fahey, whose life extends beyond Hollywood, as he discussed his work on Beneath and his continuing efforts to hone his craft.

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BENEATH (IFC FILMS)
BENEATH (IFC FILMS)

Even though ‘Beneath’ is shot on a soundstage, viewers still get the suffocating feel of being trapped inside a mine.

You certainly felt it because it has such a high quality production design. And the dust and the dirt is real – they covered us with dust and dirt and stick us in a little cave. It was easy for several reasons: the quality of the sets and how intricate it was. The vision that Ben (director Ben Ketai)had and the way he was able to convey it.

And thirdly, the relationship the actors had with each other. It was so easy to work with that group and get the energy and anxiety up within the scenes. We could feel that we had something of quality in the way it was lit and the way it was shot and the pace that Ben worked at.

It’s also a psychological thriller and a multi-layered film.

That was what attracted me to it. I wasn’t interested, in that point and time, in doing a genre horror film. When my manager said ‘you might want to give this a read, it’s different.’ He was right. It read like a short story, where you could feel the psychological pressure and intensity as opposed to other types of horror films with gore and bloods and guts and all that. They stand alone on their own and have a strong audience for that, but I’m more attracted to this kind of psychological horror.

As you say, it’s multi-layered. One could say it’s a psychological drama with a horror element. I was much more drawn to that. And meeting with Ben and the producers; you can feel when you’re going into a good situation and that lends itself to the best possibilities.

How was it working with Kelly Noonan? She does a great job as the lead.

She was great. She has a strong sense of her craft and the way she prepares for her scenes. If she didn’t pull it off, you would have a couple of nice scenes here and there but she really had to carry that psychological unwinding through the film. My hats are off to her and it was wondering working with Kelly. I hope she has a much bigger career and this is a good springboard for her.

Aside from that, she’s easy to work with, which is a wonderful gift when you’ve got someone as beautiful and talented as her. She also has a great sense of humor and is quite intelligent.

Does acting get easier for you as you gain experience over the years. Do you keep your craft simple, or is there much more complexity to the process?

As we go along in any craft and arena that one works over the years in, you hone the technique and the style and you develop more styles and adding other things to it. One is able to keep it simple, if you will, but keep the volcano under there and keep the layers inside of you that can come out with any given story.

But it’s the environment. The longer you’re on the horse or on the bicycle, the easier it is, at times, to pull on certain things and deliver. But it’s all in the story and the director and the people you’re working with. I just move forward and I’m learning from each films from all these younger actors and the older ones (as well). You’re always honing your craft and adding more to the style and the rhythms to the music of the instrument.

Is traveling important for your life? Some actors express that travel is a way to enhance their craft.

 I wish everyone could travel. To see and live and experience new cultures, and all that brings, it adds to someone’s character and development in how we see everything., And acting and the music we hear, it’s part of the process. We bring everything to it. There’s some people who haven’t traveled as much but they have a window in their heart and their soul. Isn’t it how we see things and it’s how we develop as an individual and how we read into the story we’re being part of. But yes, I’ve been fortunate to travel my whole life and it’s been a gift.

Do you see your acting as separate from your humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, or do you view both these facets as your life as one entity?

It’s all inclusive. One feeds the other and obviously this puts coal in the oven so I can live. But the other work, I guess that puts the coal in my soul. One feeds the other and I don’t see them as separate. It’s all part of one big adventure and we do things along the way and we learn as we move.

I don’t know if any of these answers are answering your question (laughs). I’m not trying to be esoteric or vague, but in a nutshell, everything is completely involved.

I’m a huge fan of Wyatt Earp. What were your thoughts on working on that film?

It’s funny that you should mention that. I’m in Mexico now down in Durango, Mexico in John Wayne country. We’re filming the miniseries Texas Rising with Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, Goodbye Lover, There Be Dragons) filming. Bill Paxton, who is an old and dear friend (is a co-star).

When I was doing Wyatt Earp in Santa Fe, he was in Tucson filming Tombstone with Kurt Russell and the guys. Here we are now in a period piece in Texas in the 1830s and we were just on horseback the other day doing a scene. Between (takes), we were talking about those two films. So it was wonderful to work on Wyatt Earp and Silverado with Larry Kasdan and Kevin Costner. But it’s always great to be in those epic pieces.

Beneath is now available on iTunes and it also hits New York theaters on July 25th (it extends to Los Angeles on August 1st).

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