Legendary thespian Malcolm McDowell will again be in the middle of another creepy tale when The Employer is released next month by First Look Pictures. McDowell sat down with Dread Central to talk about the film and some other current projects.
Although The Employer is not a dyed-in-the-wool horror film, more of a genre-bender according to the actor, it certainly will entertain audiences with a chilling story. “It’s not an out and out horror film per se,” McDowell said. “Sort of a psychological thriller/horror. It’s a little bit fuzzy as to what genre it is. But it’s a fun piece. We did it on a very modest budget. I liked the script. It’s definitely a character-driven piece, and our director, Frank Merle, did a great job. It’s a fun ride.”
And speaking on the director, McDowell continued with the accolades. “This is his first feature film, but it certainly won’t be his last,” he said. “This will be a wonderful calling card for him, and I think he’ll do very well out of it. He did a beautiful job. It was shot on an incredibly modest budget. We all worked for way less than usual. We did it because there were great parts and a very good cast. The great thing about doing a modest budget film is that you can cast the right actors, the ones who are right for it, rather than who’s the flavor of the month who may or may not be right for it. I think we’ve got a really good cast and we had fun doing it. I only actually worked on it for three days, even though I’m very present in the thing all the way through, because I did pages and pages a day.”
The cast is made up of some recognizable names in some very appropriate roles. Fans of “Dexter” and “NCIS” will certainly recognize the gigantic Matthew Willig. “He’s a big guy. Wasn’t he a footballer or something?” McDowell asked, referring to Willig’s 14 seasons in the NFL (where he played for the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers). “I have to tell you, he’s a damn good actor. He’s a really good actor. I had no idea that he was a footballer. I thought he was just a big guy because he was so good as an actor. He really did very well. And we had Ron Howard’s daughter, Paige. She was very good. They were all great. The lead kid, David Dastmalchian, he’s fantastic. They’re really good actors. Really good! It was fun for me to work with good actors.”
McDowell elaborated a bit on his character in the film. “I’m ‘The Employer,’ the one who’s interviewing them all,” McDowell said. “I’m half of this huge conglomerate and trying to find out who would be the best for this particular position. You never quite figure out just what the position is, but then they’re all locked in a room and two get out, basically. That’s the whole idea behind it. It’s spooky, but it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”
Just a glance at McDowell’s IMDb page shows the incredible amount of work he puts in. Aside from films, he’s also a television regular. How does he do it? “I’m fairly energetic,” McDowell said. “It’s just learning the stuff, which is sometimes overwhelming. I spend all my day learning lines. But I love what I do. I’m very privileged to be asked to work at my age, at any age, for an actor. I’ve just finished the third season of “Franklin and Bash,” a show I do on TNT which I really love. It’s a great show with wonderful people on it. I’m going off to Russia to do a spy movie, come back, reading for another movie and then another movie. So I have three back to back to back. If I can learn it all and I can do it, then great! I’m happy!”
He continued, “I did another one that’s come out just now called The Green Story about the man who invented these household detergents that are completely green with no chemicals in them whatsoever. He was from a poor, poor family in Greece; he immigrated to the States and then ended up running this huge empire, and this is his story. And that was another great thing to do although I only had a small part, I so agreed with it that I said yes to it.”
But getting back to the horror, the conversation wound around to one of McDowell’s most recent flicks, Steven C. Miller’s somewhat overlooked little bit of nastiness from last December entitled Silent Night. “I love that movie!” McDowell said. “It’s ridiculous, but it’s so much fun! And it does exactly what a horror film should do. It makes you scream and then laugh. I thought that it was beautifully directed also. And we had a lot of fun doing that. It was great fun. I enjoyed that, actually. I don’t think that many people saw it. There’s a lot of product out there and it’s a small little horror movie. But it has hardcore fans and it got great reviews. The New York Times reviewed it and loved it! It had a lot of fans…and I think that was the first time I ever played a sheriff.”
Written and directed by Frank Merle, The Employer stars Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Halloween, Silent Night, “The Mentalist,” “Entourage,” “Franklin & Bash”), Paige Howard (Adventureland), Billy Zane (Titanic, Back to the Future, Dead Calm), and David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight, Saving Lincoln, Prisoners). Merle and Chris Roe produce.
Director/writer/producer Frank Merle (Carnage, Chaos & Creeps; Gnaw) and his new psychological thriller The Employer show just how far five applicants are willing to go for a job at the mysterious Carcharias Corporation. Anticipating their final interview, they find themselves trapped in a room where The Employer (Malcolm McDowell) leaves them with only one choice: survive. It’s kill or be killed in this Darwinian game of wits, and the one who makes it out alive lands the job. The plot is complete with twists and turns, leaving the audience asking themselves, “How far would I go?”
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