This Friday Scott Stewart’s creepy thriller Dark Skies lands in theaters everywhere, and to get you conspiracy theorists out there ready, Dread Central recently caught up with veteran character actor J. K. Simmons, who portrays Edwin Pollard, an expert on mysterious forces.
During our chat with Simmons (“Oz,” the original Spider-Man trilogy), we heard about what attracted him to the project as well as more on grounding his approach to a character that’s often regarded in horror movies as the ‘crackpot conspiracy theorist’ and what the versatile actor looks for to keep things interesting for him as a performer.
Check out the highlights from our exclusive interview with Simmons below, and look for Dark Skies in theaters this weekend!
Dread Central: What was it about this character in Dark Skies that appealed to you? You don’t get a whole lot of screen time, but it’s certainly enough to make quite an impact.
J.K. Simmons: It was just that; the character is only on the screen for a very brief amount of time, but he leaves such an impact because of how he relates to this poor family who comes to him for help. Edwin was complex and odd and was really the guy who was there to give Keri (Russell) and Josh (Hamilton) the nuts and bolts of how to deal with their situation because it was something he has been living with for some time.
What I also liked about the project was that at the heart of this story, Dark Skies is a family drama; you see this young family struggling with a lot of the same stuff everyone out there is suffering with – losing their homes, barely making ends meet – so I think it was the balance of that stuff and the otherworldly stuff going on in the story that I really enjoyed.
Dread Central: Usually when we encounter a character like Edwin in a horror or sci-fi movie, he ends up being the crazy conspiracy guy that no one ever really takes seriously, but there was something different about this role- maybe it was your approach or maybe it was the story. But I enjoyed that he wasn’t just a caricature all the same.
J.K. Simmons: You know, a few things helped; the way Scott (Stewart) structured the script was hugely important to making this character relatable and realistic because we meet him so far into the story, you can’t help believe him after you’ve seen the things that this family has been through. You don’t dismiss his theories because they’re more than that. Edwin also had this sense of resignation to him- he gave up fighting these forces long ago so he just lives in his tiny apartment with all his cats and does his best to live with it. He’s not a guy who has a solution- only answers.
Dread Central: Considering you’ve worked in pretty much every genre in both television and in film for almost 20 years now, what keeps you interested as an actor when you’re looking at new projects?
J.K. Simmons: Something that I have always done is just always be looking for something different. After I did “Oz,” which was my first real breakout role, I was getting offered tons of offers to play Nazi character because of my work as Schillinger; I didn’t want to be that guy for the rest of my career though so I turned all those down and just kept looking for different things, and eventually they came my way.
The other thing that I’m always looking for is good writing and a good character that I feel like I can connect to in some way. That’s why I enjoyed this character so much; you think you know just who he is going to be when you meet him, and it’s not that way at all. Scott does a great job of taking all those expectations you go into when you’re watching a movie like Dark Skies and then completely throws you off by twisting them in really clever ways. You don’t get that often enough in horror movies.
Josh Hamilton, Keri Russell, and Dakota Goyo also star. The film, directed by Scott Stewart, is more modest-budget scare fare from Insidious and Paranormal Activity producers Blumhouse Productions and Alliance Films.
Dark Skies is a psychological thriller about a suburban couple whose lives become a nightmare when a terrifying alien presence enters their home each night to prey upon their children. Increasingly isolated from skeptical friends and neighbors, the couple are forced to take matters into their own hands to save their family.
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