EXCL: James Wan, Kevin Bacon Interview

Director, actor talk Death Sentence

2007 ushered in a double-barrel blast of James Wan. The hot commodity from Australia who put the “Saw” franchise on the map with screenwriter Leigh Whannell returned earlier this year after a brief absence with Universal’s Dead Silence. Next up, Death Sentence, a gritty adaptation of Brian Garfield’s novel.

Kevin Bacon stars as Nick Hume, the vengeance-seeking patriarch of a family massacred at the hands of a gang. Hume arms himself and sets out to destroy every member responsible for their death. John Goodman co-stars as Bones Darly, a role, Shock has heard, turns the actor’s amiable image we’re accustomed to right on its head.

“It’s my art house movie with guns,” Wan described the film in an interview before shooting Death Sentence for 20th Century Fox. Now, just shy two months prior to its release, Heather Newgen catches up to the director and his leading man for a preview of the raw violence and revenge that will unfold when “Death” is dealt in theaters on August 31st.

ShockTillYouDrop: With the exception a film bearing the name Roth or Tarantino, the MPAA is tightening its grip of violence in movies. Given this is a tale of revenge, did you have any problems with them concerning the acts Kevin Bacon’s character commits?

James Wan: No, not really. Strangely enough, it is a revenge drama with action and stuff like that. It has a fair amount of violence. I feel the violence is not there for the sake of violence. It’s there to tell the story. The MPAA did not have any problem at all. It wasn’t a big issue. The main thing I think is that the MPAA probably had more of an issue with the emotional intensity which is always a hotter thing to deal with because that’s psychological. But, I didn’t have that trouble at all.

Shock: Kevin, how challenging was this for you mentally and emotionally?

Kevin Bacon: Extremely challenging. I have about five minutes in the movie where I’m happy. The rest of the time, I’m in a constant state of emotional torture, violence, sadness and so that’s something that you sort have to keep there all the time when you go to work. When you’re an actor, you tend to break down these days and say ‘Well, okay this day I’m having coffee with a friend, you know, in the movie – that’s not so bad. Today, I’m kissing the girl. That will be fun. On Tuesday, I’ve got a big crying scene and I’ll have to get ready for that.’ In this case it’s like everyday is different levels of angst and anxiety. It’s also a question of not wanting to play it all the same way. There’s a lot of different ways that fear and anger and sadness manifest themselves so that was a challenge.

Shock: How did you prevent from taking that home with you?

Bacon: Well, what I find is that if I’m in the middle of shooting, it’s always kind of there. Even if you wrap on a Friday, on Monday you’re going to have to go back down into this dark place. So you kind of keep it in your gut and hope that can still sort of enjoy the weekend. And we did. We had a lot of fun. But, you know it’s going to haunt you to a certain extent and it tends to affect your dreams and leak into your thoughts. But, also, once the film is wrapped it’s very easy for me to leave it behind me. It’s like you want to go back and look at it now and say, ‘Oh, wow. That was pretty dark.’ Once I walk away from it I’m sort of cleansed from it.

Shock: How did you both come on board to the project?

Wan: The script came across my desk and I read it and I liked it. I’ve always wanted to make a revenge movie and this was the perfect vehicle for me to get out of the horror genre to some extent. This was a good natural progression for me to move away from horror movies and try something different. I loved the script, I love the characters, I love the emotion and I went for it.

Shock: So does this mean you’re through with making horror films?

Wan: Not forever. Maybe just for now because I’m pretty horrored out.

Shock: Kevin, considering the emotional challenges of this film, what drew you to the project?

Bacon: When you pick up a script and it’s called ‘Death Sentence’ you kinda think, ‘Well, is there going to be enough there for me to play?’ I’m a fan of horror movies. I love scary movies, especially love zombie movies. I love thrillers, I love action films. But, for an actor, it’s just not enough if it’s just the guy who is in the movie. I want to have a character that’s more complex and that actually goes somewhere. So I was pleasantly surprised when I read the script. It was an incredibly emotional script and it was a very interesting character and most importantly, it was a character that goes through this massive transformation. He’s a really nerdy suburban soccer dad in the beginning of the movie and by the end of the film his life has completely changed. He’s changed physically and he’s turned into a killer. That’s a great opportunity for an actor. That, and I’d seen the first ‘Saw,’ and I thought James had an amazing vision and had done incredible stuff with a small amount of money. Talking to him, meeting him and hearing his thoughts about this, I just thought we’d be a good match.

Shock: Speaking of ‘Saw,’ we talked to Darren last night and he said you were involved with ‘Saw IV.’ Can you talk more about that?

Bacon: Is it five?

Wan: Darren. Oh man, Darren is going around spreading rumors. That’s all I’ll say.

Shock: So are the rumors not true?

Wan: Ummm let’s just say I’m not saying anything. When I see Darren next, I’m going to be dipping his head in the toilet.

Shock: Fair enough.

Wan: No comment.

Shock: When can we expect a trailer for ‘Death Sentence’?

Wan: We should have something. We’re actually in the process of finalizing it now. Hopefully by the end of this week, but if not next week. But, very soon.

Shock: Kevin, there have been rumors that you are in ‘The Golden Compass.’ Is there any truth to that?

Bacon: If they want to send me a check, I’ll take it. Somebody else asked me that recently too. I remember a long time ago, six months ago, my agent talked with me about it, but other than that, I know nothing about it. The movie has already been shot right?

Shock: Yeah. I went to London a few months back for the set visit.

Bacon: Then I’m not in it. Unless they created me digitally and stuck me in there which is probably in the realm of possibilities these days. As far as I can remember, I’m old, but I still do have some of my memory left, I’m not in ‘The Golden Compass.’

Shock: What projects are you working on next?

Bacon: I’m about to start an HBO film called ‘Taking Chance’ and I have a film in the can called ‘Rails and Ties’ and was directed by Alison Eastwood. Then I’m doing a Ron Howard film.

Shock: Who do you play in that movie?

Bacon: I play Jack Brennan who was Nixon’s chief of staff when he resigned. Apparently the past president maintained a chief of staff which is something I didn’t really realize.

Wan: I’m doing nothing right now.

Bacon: He’s hanging out at the pool with supermodels.

Wan: Leigh Whannell and I are writing our next film hopefully. So I’m taking time off and just enjoying the writing process right now.

Source: Shock Till You Drop


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