This week Lionsgate and After Dark are releasing their indie thriller Dark Circles, which was written and directed by “Broken Lizard” alum Paul Soter.
Starring Johnathon Schaech and Pell James, Dark Circles follows brand-new parents Alex and Penny, who are suffering endless insomnia due to their new bundle of joy who isn’t able to sleep more than 15 minutes continuously. As their minds begin to crumble, both Alex and Penny begin to see disturbing hallucinations that only add to their growing paranoia and fear, ultimately forcing them to question what’s real and what isn’t around them.
Dread Central recently had the chance to hop on the phone with co-star Schaech, who is currently off filming Hercules 3D in Bulgaria for Renny Harlin and Millennium Films (more on that later on in the interview!) to discuss his role in Dark Circles, how he used a real-life childhood trauma for his performance in the film, and whether or not we’ll be seeing more of him behind the camera soon.
And of course once we learned of Schaech’s involvement with Hercules 3D, we made sure to snag a few tidbits from the actor, who confirmed that he is playing the film’s villain opposite Kellan Lutz, who’s on board as the titular hero.
Dread Central: Can you discuss what it was about the role of Alex that interested you or what attracted you to the project of Dark Circles as a whole?
Johnathon Schaech: Well, I’ve been fortunate in my career that I’ve been able to explore the horror genre as both an actor and a writer so when I read Paul’s screenplay, I realized how much of it was a real character piece, which is always great to get offered as an actor. I liked how Paul used the hook of sleep deprivation to play with your perceptions too.
I’ve also been an insomniac ever since I was a little kid; my dad was a cop and there was an episode where someone came and pointed a gun in my face because of his involvement with a case so I always had problems sleeping after that so I guess in some ways I also plugged into my own experiences with insomnia to help create this character.
Dread Central: I thought you and Pell were great together in Dark Circles; how much of that was instantaneous chemistry, and how much did you guys have to work together to develop it?
Johnathon Schaech: Oh, thanks for saying that- I really feel like we did some great work together on this movie. I relied on her a lot when it came to all the baby stuff because she has two kids of her own and I’m having my first this September so that was an entirely different world. Pell’s expertise really helped me out a lot. But yeah, we got to play around with these characters a lot and we really got an opportunity to act, which I know can be rare in a horror movie (laughs).
Dread Central: Because aspects of the story were so personal to Paul, did he give you any sort of advice when you guys were shooting in terms of where your character’s mindset was or things like that?
Johnathon Schaech: Definitely. Paul was great to work with and really gave me some great insight. I also think that, because I am an actor, there has to be a kind of organic nature to your performance too- you can’t over-prepare or it will ring false to fans. So I just put myself in Alex’s space- he’s a guy who is an artist that’s trying to manage balancing his art with his family, and that’s something we can all relate to in some way.
Dread Central: You mentioned your writing earlier and I know you’ve also produced and worn a few other filmmaking hats throughout your career. You’ve been doing a lot of acting recently so I was curious if you were looking to get back behind the camera at all?
Johnathon Schaech: Yeah…I guess I have been working a lot lately. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but yeah, I’d love to make more movies It’s just a tough business and everything takes such a long, long time so you have to be patient and just keep moving forward on your own projects while still being involved in others. I do have a project that I wrote which is really close to being greenlit, but we’re still a little ways away. But writing is definitely something I want to continue to go back to because I feel like I’m getting stronger and stronger each thing I write.
You know, I’ve been writing for years and years, and I think I’ve definitely gotten a lot better as a writer, but to be perfectly honest with you, I’m a terrible producer (laughs). I’m just not a good producer at all so yeah, I think I’d like to continue focusing on writing and even directing in the future.
Dread Central: So you’re now in Bulgaria working on Hercules 3D with Renny (Harlin)- how everything going out there? Are you allowed to talk about your role at all?
Johnathon Schaech: It’s just amazing- it’s so great to be working with Renny again too. He hired me for 5 Days of War a few years ago, which was unbelievably cool because he’s the guy who really reinvigorated action in the late 80’s and 90’s and he’s doing it again on Hercules. We’re shooting this in 3D with the same kind of immersive rig they’re using on The Hobbit so it continues to blow me away every day when you’re standing in a tent watching them shoot and then watching it with your 3D glasses just a few feet away. The technology is amazing and I think it’s going to be really cool to see Renny’s huge, sweeping action epic in 3D on the big screen.
And I am playing the villain in the movie, which is pretty awesome too- it’s fun to get to be THE bad guy and work with this great cast of all leading men. It’s definitely a man-fest on set, and I think Renny’s going to deliver a stellar piece of machismo cinema when Hercules gets released.
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