Interview With The Vampire: John C. Reilly

An exclusive chat about Cirque Du Freak

Let’s be honest. John C. Reilly isn’t exactly the first person you would think of when “vampire” comes to mind. Yet, here he is, starring in Cirque Du Freak, director Paul Weitz’s adaptation of the first three novels in author Darren Shan’s series. Surprisingly enough, he pulls it off as Larten Crepsley, in spite of that wild hair, not to mention everyone’s current perception of Reilly being a comedy actor (Walk Hard, Step Brothers).

However, if you trace his career, he has always been one to throw us off guard, from his early days in Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War to Dolores Claiborne, Paul Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Chicago and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and The Aviator. This month, he’s a 220-year-old bloodsucker who travels with the “Cirque Du Freak,” has a bearded Selma Hayek as his main squeeze and is pulled into an ancient vampire feud when he takes a young man named Darren (Chris Massoglia) for an apprentice.

Reilly recently participated in an Orlando, Florida Q&A with co-stars Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson at the opening of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. caught up with the actor after for the following chat… I was surprised by the tone of this film. Off-kilter and dark. At least more grim than what the previews are selling it as.

John C. Reilly: One of the main appeals to the books is that Darren Shan doesn’t treat kids like kids. He lets his readers experience a ton of stuff. The studio will market a movie based on what people think they know me as. The last couple of movies have been comedies, so I think they added a bit more comedy to the trailers than what’s in the movie. There are comedic accents, but this movie is pretty serious and a bit scary.

Shock: You’re not your ordinary vampire in this, what was your take on Crepsley?

Reilly: What Darren did in those books was the guide for everything. It’s not like we made any decisions, character decisions, that were different from the books. In his world, the vampires are just people who can no longer be out in the daylight, they’re super strong, they’re able to drink blood to survive, but they don’t have fangs. What I liked is that they’re just people who lived a really long time, they’re not like these supernatural characters. We puncture the [archetypal bubble] in the movie. I thought it’d be interesting to play someone who’s born in the early 1800s and is still around now. Imagine what that would do to your brain. You’ve been through all of the changes in technology and all of that – what would that do? Are you wise? Cynical? Toying around with that. These vampires age slowly, but they’re not immortal.

Shock: It strays from what we know but there are some nice Dracula-esque flourishes – like the element of the “love that got away.”

Reilly: Right, and Crepsley is involved with Selma Hayek’s character. That was an interesting thing to play, too. He wants to keep mortals at arm’s length because he doesn’t want to get involved when they get old and he doesn’t.

Shock: How much did the costume inform your role and help you slide into Crepsley’s skin?

Reilly: The books are specific in some cases but they’re not super detail-oriented. They’d say something like, he has “a shock of orange hair.” When you make a movie, you have to make decisions so rather than go with something like a Mohawk or something, it didn’t look like something a guy from the 1800s would look like. So we went with something Beethoven, new romantic haircuts. The fun thing about building the character, the costume and all of that stuff is if you could pick and choose what things through history, what things would you end up holding onto and what would you ignore. If you were able to scale buildings with nails, get superhuman strength, what material things would you be into? That was cool. The pieces of the costume show the guy came from a certain time period and adapted with the times and stuck with what he liked.

Shock: On the day I visited the set, that was your first day with Willem. When we spoke, you two had not worked together yet. So, how did it go?

Reilly: It was really good. Most of my scenes in the movie are with younger people and there was an extra sparkle with Willem because I’m working with a veteran. I knew him before and had met him, socially, a few times before we worked together. There were not many scenes with him, but he brought a real eccentricity to the role. Like me, he’s very detail-oriented and really thinks about each decision and behavior, so I appreciated it.

Shock: You mentioned working with a young cast, how was it building a rapport with Chris given the relationship you two share in the film?

Reilly: Oh, it was really cool. He doesn’t come from a showbiz background at all, and I didn’t either. When I started I was 22 in my first movie, I thought this was a great opportunity to show a new person how to do it, having learned a few lessons along the way. He’s capable though, and confident. He didn’t need me to lead through it. I always identify with younger people because when I was younger, I always felt older, I’d hang out with older people. I remember when I did What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Leo DiCaprio was 17. I was 26 or 27 and, I don’t know, younger people appreciate it when you treat them like an equal. I liked that when I was a kid. And just being around guys that age is awesome for enthusiasm.

Shock: I could be wrong but this looks like your most physically demanding role. You have a pretty good brawl with Ray Stevenson…

Reilly: Seriously, Ray, when he wasn’t even trying to slam me, he’s so strong. I now know what the term “barrel-chested” means. He’s like an oak barrel. A tough guy but we got along well.

Shock: You’d show this film to your kids, but is there a cut-off for this film age-wise?

Reilly: I think ratings can be helpful to alert you when there’s a film that looks innocent but actually has intense stuff. But with this kind of movie, a scary movie, it really depends on the kid. My kids, when they were young, couldn’t watch The Wizard of Oz. I tried to show it to them once and as soon as the big green head of the wizard starts screaming at the Lion and he runs out, that’s it! They were like, “Turn it off!” It’s really up to parents, but I think the pocket for this movie is 10 to 17. These are the people who will identify with the subtext. That shift from adolescence to adulthood. The vampire thing, they don’t make them they scary villains, well, some of them are.

Shock: Who was your favorite freak of the lot?

Reilly: That would have to be Loaf Head. This guy, the first time they put this giant head on his head, he fell over. It was so heavy. They had to make it smaller. As far as the actor, Selma was amazing. You understand why men are so obsessed with her. She’s got that charisma and is so down to earth. She’s not a diva at all. I had to kiss her, so no complaints there.

Shock: If this film flies you’re locked into sequels?

Reilly: Yeah, I really enjoyed doing it and there’s more exciting stuff to come.

For more on the film, click here!

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor


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