Director Brad Peyton Talks Incarnate


Could it be… SATAN?! Yes, there’s another possession and exorcism movie headed your way. But this one’s different. We cross our hearts and hope to die! What makes it different? Well, read on and find out, direct from the director of Incarnate, Brad Peyton.

Dread Central: You’ve done some pretty big movies – San Andreas with The Rock, and TV series, kids’ films… but not horror. Doing a movie like this for Blumhouse is something different for you, so tell us how it all came about.

Brad Peyton: It first initially came out of a meeting with Jason [Blum]. Jason and I have known each other for a number of years, I like him, he’s a really great guy, a really great producer; and we just talked about doing something but it took a long time to find the right thing. So one day he sent me this script and I really enjoyed it. Ronnie Christensen is a really good writer, there was just something about this that I thought, although it was definitely horror, it had science fiction elements, it had almost like a supernatural thriller element to it, but I would say the number one thing that drew me to it was the fact that it was just an incredibly unique spin on an exorcism movie. It was unlike any exorcism movie I’d ever seen or heard of, the fact that it wasn’t faith-based, it wasn’t about a priest doing an exorcism, this exorcist was a science and technology-driven guy and he had discovered a way to go into the subconscious of the possessed guy to pull out the demon.  I just thought this is an incredibly rich, original concept and the character that Aaron Eckhart plays was super interesting, the world was interesting so there was a lot there to play with and that world and that kind of anti-hero, it just kind of drew me in. I’ve always wanted to do a horror film, the very first short I ever did was a horror comedy called Evelyn, and it’s been a long time since I’ve really thought about this. I was up for some new challenges and obviously a new genre brings new challenges so I took the plunge.

DC: Aaron Eckhart is a great actor. He really commands every scene he’s in. You’ve directed him, so… What is about him that makes him so good?

BP: Aaron is one of those type of actors who is all in. He completely dedicates himself to his craft, his character. We had a really great rehearsal, he learned how to use a wheelchair incredibly proficiently, he’s send me pictures and prep where he was out in crowds where you didn’t even recognize him as Aaron Eckhart. It was very rewarding to see someone who can put themselves inside a character so deeply that everything they do has truth to it and he is the highest caliber of actor. One of the things that was very important to me that you see in a lot of horror films was you just see bad acting, you see through it and whenever you see dishonesty in movies, it takes me out so I really wanted to build a cast that made you believe the emotions and the complexities and twists and turns of the story through them and Aaron was the tip of the iceberg, the whole cast from top to bottom really brought it and I think that’s largely due to the tone that Aaron set. He was so invested, his nuances were so smart, he was fully in so as a director you want nothing more from your number one on the call sheet to be that guy, that most invested actor on that set and that’s who Aaron really was.

DC: Child actors can be hit or miss. What was the casting and selection process like for David Mazouz?

BP: Basically, you briefly meet him pre being possessed and then the way the story works is that you get a glimpse of what’s going on and then you enter the story through Aaron’s point of view. You get a glimpse of what happens to this boy, then you find Aaron on a mission, basically trying to avenge the death of his family at the hands of a demon. So you meet him on a mission trying to take down that demon and that mission leads him to this little boy. What was really interesting with David was you’re trying to measure in moments, he comes and goes, is he possessed, is it working, is he actually speaking to the real boy. David was interesting because to be honest, he startled everybody in how good he was. He is super clear and very confident and acting comes incredibly naturally to him. I’ve experienced this a little bit with Josh Hutcherson in the Journey movies where it’s just effortless, it’s just what they’re here to do. David is a total natural actor and I remember the very first set up with him and he was so good, I just looked over at Aaron and he gave me a look like ‘oh boy, this kid’s really good’, and he was, he’s fantastic in the movie and directing him was so easy because he gets it, he’s smart and he’s instinctual and with that type of actor you can keep it very simple and they can extrapolate so much from that direction, that little movement out of a scene and David is incredibly good at it, it’s not surprising how much he’s working now and being on a big show like Gotham because the kid is just an incredible talent.

DC: There are only a few demonic horror movies that don’t feature a priest against the devil – like Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen – so what would you say might have been some influences on you prior to directing a possession movie of you own?

BP: Look, I think the horror films I love are films that are really good films as well as good horror film, obviously like The Exorcist, but The Shining to me is one of the best horror films ever made. As a kid I loved Suspiria, I loved Dario Argento when I was a lot younger, but my favorite horror films veer into science fiction as well. I think Alien is a fantastic horror film even though people consider it science fiction. When I go to direct a movie I actually don’t really watch other movies, I just try to not be influenced by anything. I literally try and stay as far away from other movies as I possibly can because I’ve seen so many movies, I know I’m going to be influenced so I cautiously try and steer clear of everything while I’m working, just sit down and draw the story boards and think about the scenes and how I would do them. But for me, besides The Exorcist and Inception, because the concept of going inside of dreams, those are the obvious two influences for this movie which are fantastic, and putting those two movies together is a fascinating concept in itself. The other big influence for me was Blade Runner and I know it sounds strange but think about it like this. When I came onto the project, the script was in the early stages and I came up with this idea that, what if he was called an Incarnate, so when a priest and all of these other people that he’d go to for an exorcism failed, there’s a subculture of people called Incarnate and Aaron is one of those guys, in the exact same way that, if you’re looking for an android in a city in the future and you go to a detective and the detective fails, you go find a Blade Runner and that inspiration sparked me to like oh, this is a cool world, I can build up this type of person, they talk like you’re an Incarnate. In the movie you meet Aaron’s mentor, who’s an older Incarnate, who sells his ability to the highest bidder and lives quite wealthy and Aaron is the opposite, he doesn’t want to sell his ability, he just wants to find the demon who murdered his family. So you have juxtaposition, even in this subculture community of how Incarnates operate and so besides The Exorcist and Inception, Blade Runner was creatively the nugget that came from my interest in science fiction and what I liked about that was I wasn’t being influenced by another horror film, it was bringing something from another genre, another passion of mine, into the horror of space and if I’m going to reference something, I’d much prefer to reference photographs or paintings or other genres rather than going to the normal genre tropes.

DC: How closely did you work with the writer on the script, and did you make any changes?

BP: The script was quite strong when I read it, I don’t want to take any credit away from Ronnie because he’s a very, very good writer, but there were a couple bigger ideas I infused, like the one where an actual job was titled an ‘Incarnate.’ Listen, everything I do, I’m the type of director that works incredibly closely with the writers. I re-write all my own action, it’s just how I work I draw by action, I storyboard everything so it’s just part of the process for me to draw it instinctually, free myself from the page and then go back and re-write it and my best experiences have been with writers who are not precious in that way and know it’s a collaborative thing and Ronnie was exactly that. We would get inside there and test out lines, I’d do the same thing in rehearsal with Aaron, testing out lines of dialogue so filmmaking is very much a collaborative experience for me, it’s an all hands on deck type of job anyway so for me and the writing process, I try to give everything I work on all the creative juices I have and part of that is really trying to elevate the script to get all the best ideas I can in there.

Incarnate arrives in theaters this Friday, December 2nd! Hightop Releasing and BH Tilt present, in association with IM Global/Blumhouse/WWE Studios, Incarnate, a Deep Undergrounds film.

Incarnate is directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Cats and Dogs 2) from a screenplay by Ronnie Christensen (Passengers, Dark Tide). In the film an exorcist taps into the subconscious of a nine-year-old boy, played by David Mazouz (“Gotham,” The Darkness), who is possessed by a powerful, ancient demon.

Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, and Catalina Sandino Moreno co-star alongside WWE Superstar Mark Henry, who has a cameo.

Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, and Sinister franchises) is producing the film for Blumhouse. Michael Luisi, WWE Studios President, executive produced alongside Couper Samuelson, Michael Seitzman, Trevor Engelson, Stuart Ford, and Charles Layton. Universal Pictures is distributing the film in the U.S., and Blumhouse International is overseeing foreign rights.

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past.




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