Jim Beaver is a character actor. He’s “that guy” you’ve seen in TV series like “Deadwood,” “Justified,” and of course “Supernatural.” He’s been in some fine films, too – and his latest just might be the greatest. It’s Crimson Peak (review), directed and co-written by the inimitable Guillermo del Toro.
The tale begins in Buffalo, New York, in 1901; and it follows the tragic, terrifying journey of American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who’s spirited away to Allerdale Hall, a less-than-enchanting English estate, by her dashing and romantic new beau, the titled but penniless Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), and his conniving, overprotective sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But before she heads to the haunted hills, she spends some time with her loving, widowed father, played by Beaver.
We caught up with Jim just a couple of days before the film’s release, and here’s what he had to say about how he came onto the project and working with the visual master.
Dread Central: We’ve been following Guillermo del Toro’s work since we first fired up our horror site. For a long time, he was “ours” — and now he’s so popular with the mainstream. What was your first del Toro movie seen, do you remember?
Jim Beaver: The first thing I saw of his was Pan’s Labyrinth, and I was pretty bowled over by it. I certainly had no reason to think I’d ever cross paths with him, but I found it pretty astonishing, his work. I didn’t see much else of his until I was aware that I was going to be in Crimson Peak. I saw The Devil’s Backbone when I found out I was going to be in Crimson Peak, and I loved that. It’s engaging stuff. I’m not a big horror fan, per se. I certainly have favorite films in the genre, but I’m not one of those who seeks them every time they come out – I see them haphazardly, as I see any other kind of film. If I hear good things about it, I’ll go see it. I happened to catch those two and was really, really bowled over by them. I’m not at all a big crash-and-smash movie fan so I probably would not have seen Pacific Rim if I had not just signed on to work with Guillermo. But I really liked it, too. It was much more thoughtful than a lot of pictures of that genre.
DC: We know he’s a real cinefile, but he’s also very interested in people, no matter who they are… So, what was it like to meet him for the very first time?
JB: It was a great meeting. I had gotten a call in March of 2013 asking me if I would be interested in doing the movie, and I said “Absolutely.” Then I didn’t hear anything more until August. In the interim I thought, “Oh, it’s gone away,” because movies have a way of doing that. Suddenly, I got a call asking if I would come meet him. On first meeting him, I stuck out my hand, and he grabbed me into a big bear hug. As he was hugging me, he said, “You were the only person on my list for this role,” and so with that sort of thing you connect very quickly. I remember the meeting well. It was at the studio, we were sitting outside, and he was so gregarious and so warm and friendly. He kept talking about how much fun we were going to have in Toronto, and I finally had to say, “Does this mean we’re actually doing this, then?” Because I thought it was a “let’s meet Jim and see if we get along before we make an offer” thing. [But] it was decided before I ever even got there so that was really flattering.
We didn’t get a lot of time to just talk there because he was in the midst of cutting Pacific Rim. As you know, he’s got enormous attention to detail – an astonishing amount of attention to detail, and I think they were only a week or two before releasing Pacific Rim, and he was still tinkering with it. Guillermo is so busy, and so active in so many different areas at the same time, that I’ve never really had the chance to just sit for hours and chat with him, which is what I would love to do because we both have a love of the history of film. Every time we’ve gotten into those conversations, they’ve been too few and too short.
DC: Well, you may have more opportunities since he likes to works with the same actors over again.
JB: I’m hoping!
DC: I enjoyed the movie; it was a real ode to the Gothic films of yesteryear. I’m wondering what your thoughts were when you first read the script because that’s where it all begins. And you play a pivotal character in it, who sort of sets all these events – however unwittingly – into motion.
JB: First off, even before I saw the script, the way it was put to me was, “Would you be interested in playing the father of the lead in Guillermo del Toro’s new movie?,” which is good… but as I read it, I got more and more excited because sometimes the father of the heroine is basically the guy who picks her up at the airport in the first scene, and then that’s it. And of course you’ve seen the movie so you know there are certain portions I’m not in… and when I hit those portions [in the screenplay], I was slightly disappointed because it’s the kind of story that I would want to be in every scene. I felt bad I wasn’t able to work in that great house set. I didn’t get to see it either because I was away while they shot that; then, when I came back, the set was torn down. But Guillermo was so proud of it. Every time someone came by, even the guy delivering pizza, he was [showing them art] saying, “Have you seen this?”
That’s one of the great things about working with him; he’s got this childlike excitement and wonder mixed with just the right healthy amount of practicality when it comes to Hollywood. He knows the business, but he’s still got that excited little boy quality, which is so much fun to be around. I just loved it. I loved working for him, and I don’t say that about every director.
Legendary Pictures’ Crimson Peak arrives tomorrow, October 16th. A co-production with Universal Pictures, it is a Gothic horror story directed by the master of dark fairy tales, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy series, Pacific Rim), written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, and starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver.
When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place ﬁlled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak.