In writer/director Nick Tomnay’s feature film debut The Perfect Host, actor David Hyde Pierce portrays Warwick Wilson, a consummate perfectionist who’s preparing for a lavish dinner party that ends up being crashed by a wounded bank robber (Clayne Crawford) on the run.
However, we soon realize that there is a lot more to Warwick than just a mild-mannered dinner host, and a devilishly demented game of cat and mouse begins between these two strangers that wields some surprising twists and turns for audiences along the way.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to speak with Pierce about his shocking new role, what attracted him to the indie project and his experiences in bringing the twisted sociopath Warwick to life.
For most of his career on the big and small screens, Pierce has been known as the lovably awkward Niles Crane on the hit NBC comedy “Frasier.” And even though his character in The Perfect Host (review here) may be perceived initially by viewers as very Niles-esque, Pierce discussed how Warwick was actually a complete 180 from the sitcom character he played for a remarkable 11 years.
“My manager brought me Nick’s script and his short film The Host, and I really loved both of them,” said Pierce. “The script was just so incredibly smart and funny and disturbing that I knew this was going to be an amazing experience for me to play this kind of a character. But before I signed on, I contemplated what I could bring to the table with this role because I didn’t want to do it if I didn’t think I could bring something unique because someone like Warwick has so many intricacies to him.”
“Nick wrote an amazing script that was multi-layered, which is a feast for any actor to be able to work with. It could have been so easy to make every character in this movie one-dimensional, but Nick found a way to give everyone a lot of depth and it never comes off cliché either,” added Pierce.
The acclaimed actor discussed how he approached fleshing out the character of Warwick so that his performance never came off as too cartoonish to audiences. “It definitely was a challenge to play a guy like Warwick, but that challenge is what attracted me to the project in the first place. Sometimes as an actor you run into situations when you’re playing extreme characters like this and it’s written in a way where the director may want to try and ‘fix’ the character or even make them more sympathetic than they really are. I certainly didn’t want to do that in The Perfect Host because there’s nothing redeeming about who Warwick is.”
Pierce added, “I think when you watch the movie you get the sense that there’s something desperate about Warwick’s nature but he has found ways to express it much differently than we would all express it. I mean, most of us would never just kidnap someone for the fun of it but he would. That’s in Warwick’s nature so you need that humanity to balance out the extreme side of his behavior.”
If you wanted to quickly summarize what kind of category of film The Perfect Host would fall into, this writer would call it a dark comedy/home invasion thriller mash-up. For Pierce, though, he discussed how it was some of the other thematic elements bubbling below the surface in Tomnay’s script that he really enjoyed exploring as a performer. “At its core, The Perfect Host explores the basic idea of trust and how things can spiral out of control when you realize that the people around you can no longer be trusted. As human beings, we like to believe that most people can be trusted, especially people with certain authoritative roles in society, but this movie really plays off those expectations in a very twisted and dark way.”
“By the end of the movie, none of the characters know who exactly they can and cannot trust, and I think that was brilliant on Nick’s part because he found a way to make a very entertaining movie that also makes you think too.”
Even though The Perfect Host is definitely a dark and serious thriller, that doesn’t mean that Tomnay wasn’t conscientious enough as a storyteller to cook up some moments of levity for viewers, including a rousing disco number early on in the second act of the film. Pierce, who has spent many years working in numerous theatrical productions (including the award-winning Monty Python-infused musical “Spamalot”), spoke about how much fun it was to let his hair down and unleash Warwick’s inner dancing fool.
“The musical number was so much fun to put together,” said Pierce. “I had my friend Cate Caplin come in and choreograph our dance number because she knows me so well from the many years we’ve worked together on Broadway. That was by far one of the hardest scenes to shoot because there’s a certain level of energy that it needed, but it also had to have a lot of demented aspects to it as well. It’s such a great moment in the movie and really sets the tone for everything that follows so I knew we had to get it right.”
With The Perfect Host set to hit limited theaters this Friday, Pierce spoke about how the impending release feels like a pretty big moment for him even though he’s already an award-winning actor.
“I’m so anxious to see what everyone thinks of the movie when it comes out. I think a lot of people will be surprised at the role I play because going into it, they’ll probably be expecting Niles, so I don’t know- this movie might be a little out of left field for them. But what I do hope happens is that people experience what a great story Nick has put together and maybe this will open up doors for him, and hopefully for me as well, because I do love working in movies.”
The Perfect Host is currently available on VOD and will be arriving in limited theaters on July 1st courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. For more info “like” The Perfect Host on Facebook.
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