The Call Set Visit Report - Part Two: Star Michael Eklund Talks Playing Evil and Lots More
As promised yesterday, we're back with Part Two of our report from our Westlake, CA, set visit for The Call. Up next is film star Michael Eklund, who dished on the suspense thriller, his approach to playing the film’s antagonist, and more. Read on!
Scheduled to be released on March 15, 2013, The Call’s narrative revolves around veteran 911 operator ‘Jordan’ (actress Halle Berry), who takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) who has just been abducted, and realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl’s life. Actor Eklund plays that killer in the film directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9) from a script by Richard D’Ovidio.
Sitting down with Eklund (known to horror audiences primarily for his role as ‘Bobby’ in Xavier Gens’ 2011 feature The Divide, although his film credits are extensive), , the actor proved to be entirely thoughtful, well-spoken and generous.
“I play ‘Michael Foster’, who is a very troubled, tormented soul, I guess you could say,” offered Eklund of his role in The Call. “He’s basically the monster of the film, though I don’t like to consider him the monster because [given] the conversation that I had with Brad Anderson before the film, it was really important for us to portray the serial killer of the film as just your average guy, an ordinary ‘Joe,’ and possibly the guy who might live next door to you. In most movies they portray them as monsters and freaks, and in reality, most of these guys are people you might bump into at the grocery store, and you would have no idea, and that’s what we are trying to get across.”
As for his preparation, the Canadian-born actor stated, “I based the character on two actual serial killers, Richard Cunningham and Andrei Chikatilo, who were very interesting guys themselves. The common denominator between both of them and my character is that they were family men who had wives and kids and a life outside of what they were doing, and that’s what we are trying to do with this film, to present a guy that you may identify with, too. He’s not rooted in viciousness, but more a self-loathing out of what he feels he has to do because it is an addiction and a sickness.”
“The actual vicious acts themselves they perpetrated are actually very similar to what ‘Michael Foster’ does [in The Call],” continued Eklund of the scripted mayhem. “There’s a lot of vicious mutilations, directed at the object of his sexual desires, which in this film we don’t get into it much, but he has a past with his sister, and he’s a guy who has the emotional level of an eleven-year-old in some ways, and he has a hard time making the transition into adulthood. He puts on the act at home, but outside of that, his mindset is that of an eleven-year-old boy whose sister died at an early age, and that’s the haunted demon from his past.”
Was his character abused in his formative years, we asked?
“We don’t get into it much in the film,” answered Eklund, “although I have a whole back-story I created myself for the character, and that’s the best thing. I don’t really talk about it much, even with Brad, because these guys in real life, their motives are only known to themselves, and most of the time they even don’t know why they do what they do.”
We questioned him regarding the mental preparation needed for slipping on such dark cinematic shoes.
“It’s interesting; every movie is different,” he mused. “For myself, I kind of use ‘The Method’ technique. You [can] use a lot of substitution from your real life, [and] for me there’s a lot of personal stuff. Obviously for me not the stuff with ‘Michael Foster’ and his abused past and the addiction that he has, but I wanted to make the choice to not approach the character as ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ because then you are off in the wrong direction. These guys don’t believe that they are bad guys, and they believe that they are doing the right thing, so I’m approaching it more from a ‘love story’ point of view.”
“He has a sister that he misses very much, and there is sadness within the character, so I used that very much, and then the script tells the [rest of the] story,” he continued. “What attracted me so much to the script was that it did approach the character as an ordinary guy, and a father and husband, yet obviously someone who is very sick and battles with his own addictions and with what he feels he has to do. These characters are rooted in their own fantasies, and then they take them out into the real world, and most of the time the murders they commit don’t live up to the fantasy that they’ve created in their own minds, which makes them come up with crazier fantasies. They are always trying to look for the next ‘hit.’ But to answer your question, I try to take moments to get away from everyone [on set] and to get to those dark places that we all have inside ourselves.”
There was a certain haunted look in Eklund’s eyes, and an aura of fatigue, as he spoke of his role.
Commenting on it, Eklund replied, “It has been exhausting from an emotionally creative place, which I thrive on. If I don’t leave set every day feeling emotionally wiped out and exhausted, then I feel like I really didn’t do my job. But I’ve been exhausted in this film, which makes me happy at the same time. The whole movie is also in ‘real time,’ in that it takes place over the course of twenty-four hours, so I’ve been playing around with a lot of that as well within myself, meaning not sleeping. There’s a transition with the character from beginning to end so as we’ve been shooting, I’ve been adapting that into the character with [my own] lack of sleep.”
As for his interaction with actress Breslin, who portrays his victim in The Call, “It’s tricky,” stated the actor. “In the beginning you have to suss out the other cast. It is ‘make believe’, and we are acting, and the set of The Call is very controlled and safe, although some of the scenes we have been doing have been very intense. Once I met Abigail, I knew that she was going to be game for anything. She’s one of those actresses that will give as much as she takes. I give a lot, and vice versa. In the beginning you aren’t sure how far to push things, but after I met her, I knew I could push her as far as I needed, and that she could do the same with me. When you find that kind of relationship with your cast-mate, then anything can happen, and I think that’s what has happened on this set. Things are clicking very well, and there is a feeling amongst the cast and crew that we are doing something very special.”
Regarding his working relationship with director Anderson, Eklund concluded, “I’ve worked with Brad before in the past, and I knew with this film what he was asking [of me], and I was going to give him everything. If he asks for it, then you give it, and you recover later. It’s always a battle, adapting back into your real life after a shoot like this, although there are moments of levity. The cast and crew are like a family on this film, which is a rarity, so we create our own levity. We cheer each other on.”
Up next we'll hear from The Call’s David Otunga. Our thanks again to unit publicist Tiaka Hurst.
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