Eric Bana’s latest role as real-life NYPD Officer Ralph Sarchie finds the accomplished Aussie actor firmly entrenched in a world where evil goes way beyond the typical street crime and routine arrest. As a cop with South Bronx’s 46th Precinct in the Nineties, Sarchie had seen it all…
But it was his involvement with cases concerning the occult the revealed his true purpose.
On a rainy night on location in the Bronx way back in July of 2013, Dread Central and a few other outlets had the chance to speak to Bana (fittingly, inside an old church) about the responsibility of telling Sarchie’s story in a believable way.
Dread Central: So it sounds like you’ve been dealing with quite a bit of prosthetics and other things like that on this film. How has that experience been?
Eric Bana: No, not for me. Not too bad. I mean, I have a reoccurring stitch that comes on and off a couple of times a day, but no, my prosthetic load is almost nothing compared to what some of the other characters have. There is a large prosthetic load on that department, but not for me.
DC: We just spoke to the real Ralph Sarchie. How have you been getting into this real-life guy’s skin?
EB: Scott [Derrickson] wrote a really very character-filled script. I mean, that’s why I signed on to do the film. That character was just so strong on the page. So he was really there. And I came out a couple of months before we started shooting. I got to meet Ralph and spent some time with him and just selfishly kind of cherry-picked what I felt would work well for the film. So I have stolen some bits and pieces and some elements, but it wasn’t entirely essential. He was just very giving in his time. There are certain elements to police work in the 46th and in the Bronx. There’s a certain way about them that you can’t get away with not playing. So getting some time with those guys was really helpful.
DC: For you what was the meat on the bone in this story? What interests you about it?
EB: A character who is so complex but at the same time really elegantly written. I remember years ago I read Man on Fire. In fact, it wasn’t offered to me. I always read stuff that I can’t even do. I read Man on Fire and it was a great script, but the central character was… You read it and you thought, “‘Wow, how are we going to follow this guy doing all this stuff?”’ And then Denzel… he’s probably out-and-out my favorite actor. I saw the film, and it was probably one of the greatest acting lessons because he was just so good as that character that you never questioned whether or not you were meant to like him or not. You just experienced his trajectory. That was what it was about. The character of Ralph Sarchie in this movie reminds me, in some ways, whether it be likability or complexity, of that because not everything we see him do we’re going to enjoy. But it’s a great challenge as an actor. In Scott’s films the characters are very strong… really, really strong. When I saw Sinister and Emily Rose, I was really intrigued. I thought this script was in keeping with that strong character at the center of these really interesting, scary stories. So, selfishly for me, it was Ralph that really jumped off the page and Scott’s previous work. I’ve not worked in this genre, and I’m really excited about it. It’s potentially a lot of fun.
DC: Ralph said he was always a true believer in the supernatural, in the occult. Does your version of him in the film have a little bit more of a skeptical edge?
EB: Very skeptical. So I liked that arc. Without giving too much away, certainly for a majority of the film, I’m playing the role of someone who is selling the supernatural to him[self] when he comes across it. It’s the beginning of that character’s journey. He’s just a 46th Precinct, tough-as-hell cop. So that’s who he is. He has no predetermined belief in the supernatural or anything like that.
DC: What’s his trial by fire that takes him through the gateway into this weird world?
EB: Well, I guess that insinuates that he gets there in the end, and I don’t want to give away whether or not he does.
DC: This is apparently a hardcore, no-going-back R-rated story, and was so even from the script. Were you concerned about the content?
EB: Definitely, yeah, but there were some really good discussions. At the end of the day, I think you really have to put your total faith in the director in those instances because tonally and visually, that’s really in the edit. They can make it a smorgasbord of material, and it’s up to them then, according to taste and preference, to go and assemble that, because it’s really all in the edit, how that stuff plays out: how brutal or non-brutal, how gory or non-gory. So I’ve really got just complete faith in Scott. I’d met with him a couple of times long before we signed on, and we got along extremely well and saw things very similar. So I have a lot of trust in him.
DC: As the lead actor, when you’ve got so much blood and gore to deal with and there are so many intense scenes you have to prep for, how do you get in the mindset for reacting to demons and being scared?
EB: Have you seen some of our locations? The first question I asked Scott when I met him was, “Tell me we’re not shooting this in Toronto, please?” He said, “No, no. We are shooting this in the Bronx.” I was like, “Okay. This is a great early actor-director conversation. I’m going to hold you to that.” Because quite often these movies will end up going wherever it’s going to be best on paper and not best for the movie. In this case the producers and the director were just right from the get-go [saying], “No, we’re shooting in the Bronx.” And it’s absolutely essential cinematically. It doesn’t exactly let the production design department off the hook totally. They’ve had to work really hard as well. This is not you come to work and just chill. Every night it’s pretty full-on for the crew and we’re out on the street at night. And it adds… a certain level of tension amongst everyone without even thinking about it; every day we come to work based on locations that really, I think, will help the film.
DC: What kinds of accidents – happy accidents or unhappy accidents – have resulted from doing so much on location?
EB: I’ve got to say the locals have, by and large, been very, very, very good to us.
DC: Were you at all familiar with this borough before doing this? Or just through the movies?
EB: The Warriors was one of my favorite films. But, no. So, like I say, I was really excited when they signed off on… every location. When we were on Long Island for the jail, I think that was a real jail, right? We have a tiny bit of stage work the last week, but basically we’ve been out here every night.
DC: You’re pretty tall and the locations seem pretty cramped. How’s that been working out for you?
EB: My brother is 6’7″ so I’m getting a taste of what life is like for him. Joel [McHale] is taller than me, so… Tight spaces are really interesting. You were talking about before how does [location work] help? It just helps. You pare it down to the bare essentials, but you’re always going to have your A-camera operator and focus puller, your boom operator, one actor, and the way that [cinematographer] Scott Kevan is shooting this film, so much of it is very dark and with flashlight. We sort of self-light ourselves through scenes. Scott will quite often be in there with a torch running bounce in the room whilst we’re in there. So I really like it. That stuff never distracts me. I really enjoy that stuff and I enjoy having another job to do, if it’s like, “Is it possible for you to hit that bounce in the corner in this part of the scene.” It doesn’t take me out of the moment. I really enjoy that sort of stuff. So the shooting style of the film also really adds to the experience.
Joel McHale, Sean Harris, Edgar Ramirez, and Olivia Munn star alongside Eric Bana. The film is a paranormal thriller produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Scott Derrickson directs a script he and Paul Boardman (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) wrote.
Look for Deliver Us from Evil in theaters now.
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Bana), struggling with his own personal issues, begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest (Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city. Based upon the book, which details Sarchie’s bone-chilling real-life cases.
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