Eric Bana plays NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie in Deliver Us From Evil, a supernatural thriller which is now playing nationwide. Based on Sarchie’s book Deliver Us From Evil: A New York Cop Investigates The Supernatural, the flick is a total nail-biter that’s buoyed by excellent work from Bana, Edgar Ramirez (who plays a priest), and Sean Harris (he’s one of the Bronx area denizens who’s possessed).
We sat down with Mr. Bana to talk about his latest film, which is directed by The Exorcism of Emily Rose filmmaker Scott Derrickson. Our Q&A with Bana is below:
How did you get involved with Deliver Us From Evil?
The script came to me and I really enjoyed it and was intrigued and I met with Scott (Derrickson) and we had a great conversation. That was it. I jumped on in. I thought it was a really well written piece with a fantastic character who happened to be in a horror film. I was really interested.
Were you attracted to the supernatural elements of the film, or did the story’s dramatic aspects hold your attention?
It’s a bit of a mixture. I liked the fact that the character was initially very skeptical because I thought it was better for the audience, particularly and potentially a lot scarier to follow someone who doesn’t believe in it at all and slowly he’s dragged into that world and forced to have to deal with it. I thought that was a better more interesting because ultimately I think that makes the film scarier in the end.
So do you believe in spirits after doing Deliver Us From Evil or is that a question that’s hard to fully answer?
I don’t think it’s that simple. We try and comfort ourselves by letting ourselves off the hook – you either believe in this stuff or you don’t. What I’ve learnt is there are a million shades between there and there and it’s just not that simple. This is really rare. It’s not like if you choose to believe ‘oh this s**t’s going down in my suburb’ you know what I mean? It’s not like that. It’s extremely rare, some of the stuff Ralph Sarchie came into contact with. So yeah I feel more knowledgeable about it than I did before and Scott knows so much about this subject matter both historically, culturally, and factually. So I really relied on him as a resource.
How close were your dealings with Ralph?
Everyday interaction. He was on set as our police adviser. That was his actual job on the movie. He was around in pre-production so we got to hang around together and spend time with him. I chose not to use Ralph for (the role) because it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do for me. I just wanted him to be himself and go about his business. I was always going to selfishly steal something from him anyway just by osmosis I guess. There are a couple of things I took away from him but in order for him to do that I needed him to just be himself and not just sit down and tell me stories for hours and hours. So I just kind of let him be and we got to know each other pretty well.
We both ride motorcycles and 90% of the time we’d just be talking about bikes and bike gangs and stuff like that. That was kind of our way of getting to know each other and we felt very comfortable around each other. We relied on him for all the police procedural stuff and the technical stuff on set and he was very good at that. So yeah that’s kind of how I approached it.
So Ralph did double duty for the film?
Yeah, like I said it was his job to walk us through all the police stuff and a lot of that stuff I (picked up) elements of other roles over the years when it comes to guns and procedures and stuff. But still there was specific stuff in the film that we needed to make sure that we were doing correctly and it was Ralph’s job to make sure we did that.
How long did that whole exorcism scene take to shoot?
That was our final week of production so as tricky as the shoot was with locations and weather and everything, we knew that we had this gift waiting for us at the very end which was this week long exorcism in the studio which was the only thing we shot in the studio actually.
We knew it was going to be hell and pretty full on and Scott gave us a lot of warning about that. It was insane. I think, I’m going to say four days, for that one scene.
When you’re performing the exorcism sequence in a fever pitch level, how hard was it to retain your energy throughout those several days?
I guess the carrot for me was a plane ticket home at the end of it. It is difficult, but it’s the same on any movie. There’s always a sequence that you know is going to be the toughest and sometimes you don’t know. Sometimes something comes up and it’s a lot harder than it’s going to be. Sometimes the sequence that you think are going to be really tough end up being quite easy. So you never really know what’s going to be hard.
I knew it was going to be really hard for Edgar Ramirez and Sean Harris because they had far more dense stuff to do in that scene than I did but it was still tough on all of us and we had to look out for each other and I’d look at Sean and go “Guys you need to unshackle him because he needs to go to the bathroom or he needs a drink because he’s so far gone right now.” It’s rest, you know. So we had to really look out for each other because everyone was up against it. We didn’t have a lot of time to get all of that stuff done. So yeah, it was very very intense. Most of the film was just a good laugh and a lot of fun. But not that week. That was a special week on its own. That was like a separate movie within the rest of the movie.
To hear the audio version of Eric Bana’s response, click on the Soundcloud bar below:
Where did you get your comedic nature? Is it in your DNA or did you receive training to hone that aspect of your craft?
I had a couple of uncles who were quite funny. (They) were smart asses, you know? I probably took after them a little bit, so no there is no training. I guess it’s how you see the world. I’ve always seen the world as a bunch of comedy sketches, that’s how I see everything everyday. That was my background in Australia was stand up comedy and a lot of sketch comedy. I was probably better at the sketch comedy than I was with the stand up comedy because I was a more prolific writer when it came to sketch comedy because that’s just how my brain works.
I see stuff every day that, to me, is a sketch. So yeah it wasn’t a training – obviously I learned a lot on the job. I did it for 12 years so in the end you learn a lot, but I didn’t go to school.
Would you ever consider returning to sketch comedy?
Probably never. I did so much sketch comedy on my own show over the years that I have no desire to do Saturday Night Live. When Funny People, the Adam Sandler movie came along, and I read that I was like, “Yeah I’ll do that.” If I found another comedy that I wanted to do, I’d do it. Most of the stuff I get sent is pretty dark and pretty serious. It’s not my fault! I don’t know, it’s just the way it’s worked out. I’m open to it. If the right thing came along, I would do it. Maybe I just need to write my own (comedy).
Even with years of acting experience, do you still get nervous before you embark on a project?
There’s a certain rhythm, there’s a certain pattern, there’s a certain predictability to a lot of productions. I can usually predict when someone’s going to be go through a difficult time. I can usually predict if someone’s behaving odd, I can work out the real reason it is. It’s not because of what you think it is, it’s just because they’re just really anxious about this scene. So you become better at predicting why things are happening.
But it doesn’t change the fact that every time you do it, it’s going to be a stretch. You’ve got to put yourself out there. You’re going to be more nervous on some days than others. You got to get out of your comfort zone so there are some things that are always going to be exposing. But there’s also a very large part of you that can predict when things are going to happen. Sometimes you do feel like a psychic producer. And also it’s different for (actors). We get to see everything. Most of the other departments tend to see just one thing. So as an actor, if you’re attuned to it, quite often you’ll see things that are happening and it’s like “Oh, I think I know what’s about to happen next.” I can see that this prop’s not going to work or this stunt’s not going to work or that thing’s not going to be ready like they said it would be.
Sometimes you have to sit back and (realize) there’s nothing you can do and then it happens and you go “Oh I kinda saw that coming.” But, like you said, that just comes from a lot of experience but that doesn’t change the day to day . Only sometimes I’ll say to the director – “Here’s what I think is going to happen tomorrow and it might be a problem for us.” But generally that’s not my job, do you know what I mean?
Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
Christmas for us is summertime. But as a kid I guess just going to the beach. Going to someone’s house who had a swimming pool that was a big treat in summer. (Just) trying to stay cool because it’s so bloody hot, you know?
Any plans for the holidays?
No plans. It’s a long ways away. It’s middle of winter right now so the first thing we’ve go to do right now is survive the Australian winter.