Exclusive: Jared Harris Talks The Ward and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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With John Carpenter’s The Ward opening on July 8th, Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with one of the film’s stars, Jared Harris, who plays Dr. Stringer, the head of a mental institution who may or may not have ulterior motives concerning his latest patient, amnesiac Kristen (Amber Heard).

During our interview with Harris, the actor talked about what attracted him to working on The Ward and how the duality within his character was challenging to tackle. He also gave us a tease of another upcoming project of his- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

While Harris isn’t necessarily a face you see pop up a lot in genre films (his only other real credit being Resident Evil: Apocalypse), he talked about what attracted him to working on this horror film in particular. “Hands down, getting to work with John Carpenter. I’m friends with Doug (Mankoff), the head of Echo Lake, and he was telling me about a project he was doing with John Carpenter and how they had offered the role to somebody else and they weren’t sure if it was actually going to work out. So he asked me if I’d consider the role if things went south with the other person, and I told him I’d love to read the script but I knew my answer was yes anyway because it’s a chance to work with John Carpenter.”

Harris went on to discuss his initial reaction to the script once he landed the part. The actor saw the dual nature of Dr. Stringer as something to really sink his teeth into.

Exclusive: Jared Harris Talks The Ward and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

“When I finally had a chance to read the script, I really liked the idea behind the character of Dr. Stringer and playing someone who had to work within two sets of reality,” explained Harris. “Early on, I think John didn’t want me using my accent in The Ward, but the more I spoke to him about it, I felt like my English accent actually added some depth to the character because when Dr. Stringer speaks, you can’t really get a read as to whether or not he’s trying to help or if he’s got ulterior motives. To me, I felt like audiences would hear my accent and immediately deduce that I’m up to no good so it was like part of my performance was truly villainous in nature, and in the other parts I had to play it straight.”

“A big part of the appeal of a story like The Ward is when you see the movie the first time, there are a lot of questions raised until the ending, but it is still a story that needs to make sense obviously as you’re experiencing it so we all worked with John to make sure everything was fleshed out. But the challenge we had as actors is that for fans who may see the movie more than once, there still has to be something engaging for them even if they are ‘in on it’ at the start so there were a lot of nuances in my performance that give you clues as you go back and watch the film again. I thought that was something clever about the story and how John handled it as the director,” added Harris.

To prepare for the role of Dr. Stringer, Harris talked about some of the prep work he did in order to get a sense of what his character’s approach to curing mental illness in the 60s would be. “It’s funny- people did all sorts of naughty things during that time in the medical field so I like that we play with that concept a bit in The Ward. Dr. Stringer is definitely a guy that had a lot of radical approaches to helping Kristen, but I don’t know if he’d actually use a lot of the methods you see in the movie, which also adds to the idea that he is a villain in this story. But I made sure to speak with several psychiatrists to prepare for the role, and let’s just say they all felt like my character goes a bit too far in his approach, but I think that’s what makes him so much fun to play as an actor.”

With The Ward set to hit theaters tomorrow, Harris discussed another genre-related project heading to theaters later this year- Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, in which he’ll portray Holmes’ toughest adversary, Professor Moriarty. And while Harris wasn’t able to give us a lot of details about the movie, he did talk a bit about what attracted him to this role.

“Professor Moriarty is one of the most famous characters in all of the Sherlock Holmes stories so I was beyond thrilled to play him. I think he may be one of the first super-villains of literature, and to be given the opportunity to breathe life into an archetype like him was a wonderful challenge to take on as an actor. I think a hero is only as good as his villain so I really had my work cut out for me on Sherlock Holmes,” said Harris.

Special thanks to Jared Harris for taking the time to speak with Dread Central. Look for The Ward (review here) in limited theaters tomorrow, July 8th.

Exclusive: Jared Harris Talks The Ward and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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