Dylan McDermott Gets the Message

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For years, Dylan McDermott was known as lawyer Bobby Donnell on David E. Kelley’s long-running ABC drama “The Practice,” a role for which he received a number of awards and nominations. After the show ended in 2004, McDermott began starring in a bunch of smaller films, but this weekend, he takes on his most high-profile film in some time, starring in Danny and Oxide Pang’s new ghost tale The Messengers, which is produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures.

The role required McDermott to go out to the wilds of Regina, Saskatchewan (that’s in Canada) for four months where an old farmhouse was built as the stage for the ghost story in which McDermott’s teen daughter (Kristen Stewart) and 3-year-old son are plagued by menacing ghosts of the farm’s former inhabitants.

McDermott told ComingSoon.net that he had a chance to watch the Pang brothers’ previous film The Eye before taking the part. “When I got the offer, they sent the movie over and I was really impressed by it, because I love that psychological horror stuff, so I thought they’d do an interesting job with this movie, certainly with Sam Raimi involved. That would be a great combination.”

When asked about the introduction of Asian directors into the world of Hollywood horror films, McDermott responded, “So much of entertainment in general is derivative and nobody has an interesting idea anymore. You still have a haunted house [in this], so everything’s derivative to a point. I think the horror market is so saturated that everybody’s looking for everything that’s a little different about it, and the Asian directors somehow bring something else to horror that the American audiences haven’t seen. Therefore, it’s embraced and certainly, the Pang brothers are offering that. Whatever gets people into theatres and makes it more interesting,” before quipping, “Next year, it’ll be Danish [directors].”

According to McDermott, the oddest thing about working with the Pang brothers as directors is that, unlike other directing combos, they tend to split up the shooting by each working on alternating days, but there was a way to tell them apart. “They’re not identical, although one wears glasses, the other doesn’t, and he’ll sometimes take them off and give them to his brother to trick you. So they had a good sense of humor about it. They speak more English than they let on. Where they place the camera and what they call PangVision really works for this movie.”

And how was it being in the middle of nowhere for four months? “Look, making this movie was a creepy movie,” he admitted. “You have these crows. I think they had 20 Czechoslovakian crows they brought over and ten of them died. Highly-trained, and that scene [with the crows] took six months all-in-all, because you have CGI, hand puppetry and real crows all mixed together. Then you have the ghost walking around, then you’re on this farm out in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan. The whole setting is very creepy, so you can’t help be affected by that.”

As the star of a ghost movie, we had to ask the ubiquitous question taught in Entertainment Journalism 101 about whether McDermott believes in ghosts himself. “I don’t really believe in this sh*t but to tell you the truth, in 1989, I was doing ‘Steel Magnolias’ and I was driving in a car and a figure jumped in front of the car and everybody in the car saw it, and nobody talked about it. It was like one of those. And then in my house, there’s a white ghost cat that I saw when I first moved in and never told anybody, because people would think I’m crazy. Then, my daughter asked if I’d seen a white cat in the house. I’m a very skeptical person and I don’t believe in this stuff, but the fact that two times this happened to meĀ…but I got a ghost dog to take care of that problem.”

The Messengers opens on Friday, February 2. (That’s today!)