In BAD SAMARITAN, in theaters now, a nice guy making wrong choices finds himself tangling with a psychopath. Dean Devlin directed the script by Brandon Boyce, which introduces us to parking valets Sean (Robert Sheehan) and Derek (Carlito Olivero), who have found a much better income source than tips. Using the tech in the cars they handle, they burglarize the owners’ homes, then get the vehicles back before the people have finished their meals. One night, Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), who demonstrates that he’s a major jerk in the brief space of time it takes him to turn over his car key, patronizes the restaurant. Sean goes to see what he can get out of Cale’s high-tech castle – and finds a young woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), gagged and chained to a chair. Unable to free her immediately, Sean panics, flees – and is then so consumed by guilt that he is determined to rescue Katie, no matter the consequences. But Cale isn’t just your average predator, and he sets out to not just keep his victim, but to ruin Sean’s life.
Director Devlin not only also produced BAD SAMARITAN, but is distributing it through his Electric Entertainment company. The native New Yorker is known as a writer/producer for a number of hit films, including STARGATE and INDEPENCE DAY, the documentary WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?, his feature film directorial debut GEOSTORM, and for executive-producing the television series THE VISITOR, LEVERAGE and THE LIBRARIANS.
At a press conference with screenwriter Boyce and stars Tennant and Sheehan, Devlin answers some questions about the film, including how it felt dealing with so many night shoots. “Well, on one hand, I peak around ten o’clock at night. So night shoots in a way are fun for me, but I think that there is this thing when you have too many days in a row at night, you start getting into a vampire mentality. But also, it was so darned cold. When you see that movie and all the [visible] breath coming out of the mouth, we didn’t fake that. I’ve been shooting in Portland for about ten years, and over the course of that time, I think there were two days where they got snow in Portland. When we went to shoot the movie, we got hit with five snowstorms. So it was cold. That was the hardest part of the night, just how darn cold it was.”
Cale is obsessed with horses, and in a flashback, we see what is meant to look like Cale as a child beating a horse. Devlin wants to make it clear that not only were no animals harmed in the making of BAD SAMARITAN, no horses were ever even on set. “The horse in the dream is a hundred percent digital, so there’s no horse even remotely injured or was photographed, so I just want to clear the air on that.”
Why the horse motif and why the information, or lack thereof, on Cale’s background? “It really evolved out of discussions that Brandon and David and I had in talking about the character. The thing I love about everybody else’s talent is, they came to set incredibly prepared, and it made a big difference, especially on a tight budget like this. Everyone really cared. Everyone asked really great questions in preproduction. And as we were exploring Cale’s background, it started to deepen out, and that’s when Brandon started coming up with this whole concept of breaking horses and breaking people.
“I think that if people want to know more about the back story in a good way, then that’s fantastic, if they think the character is intriguing and they want to know more. If it’s frustrating, then we’ve failed. And it’s always hard to make sure you’re on that balance. We wanted to give you enough that it was understandable, but we also wanted to hold back, that you could interpret and add your own thing into it, or just simply want to know more.”
And is Devlin concerned that BAD SAMARITAN may harm the reputations of parking valets everywhere? “I think the poor valets probably get blamed for everything missing from a car, just like the person who cleans your house is responsible for everything missing from your house. I did have an incredibly short-lived career as a valet for about two days. The customer service aspect did not suit me. [laughs] But I think for the most part, they are completely doing their job, and you just misplace stuff all the time.”
After the press conference, Devin sits down for a one-on-one interview about BAD SAMARITAN in West Hollywood’s London Hotel. The conversation, curiously enough, begins with a chat about SHARKNADO. Devlin wasn’t involved in that franchise, and it wouldn’t seem to have anything to do with BAD SAMARITAN, which has a straightforward, propulsive, serious thriller tone – except, Devlin opines of the villainous Cale, “He’s a one-man Sharknado. He shows up when you least expect it and takes you out,” he laughs.
ASSIGNMENT X: Brandon Boyce said he asked you to read the BAD SAMARITAN script, so how did you originally meet?
DEAN DEVLIN: Years and years ago, he and Bryan Singer did a movie called APT PUPIL. When they were in preproduction, the money fell out. Roland Emmerich [then Devlin’s business partner] and I nearly financed the movie, because I loved the project, we believed in Bryan as a director, and I loved the script. We offered to finance the film, but their financing came back together, and they ultimately made the film. But that started a friendship with Brandon that lasted years, and one day I get this call saying, “I just finished this script, will you take a look at it?” There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to make that movie.
AX: Were you looking to make a thriller?
DEVLIN: No. It really fell out of the sky like a Sharknado. I had not been thinking about changing up and doing something different. I was just compelled by the script. There have been a lot of really great scary movies in the last few years. But they tend to either be about either a science-fiction aspect, like GET OUT, or there are creatures, like in A QUIET PLACE, or supernatural stuff – there have been a lot of monsters and creatures and ghosts and goblins. But to me the real horror, like the horror in APT PUPIL, is the horror that might live across the street. It’s the horror of real people who are demented. And we’re seeing that, we’re seeing it in these mass shootings in more visible ways, but people who are really troubled are all around us. And that to me is truly frightening.
AX: What sort of tweaks did you make to the script once you became involved?
DEVLIN: Not a lot. This script really worked from the first draft. The biggest things are, I asked Brandon to move it from Los Angeles, where it originally took place, to Portland. And then I asked that we changed Sean from an American to an Irishman [actor Sheehan is Irish].
AX: Did you want to shoot in Portland because that’s where your production base is and that’s what made it most economically viable, or …?
DEVLIN: That was all a great side benefit, but the main reason is, having been up there for many years, the thing that I had fallen in love with Portland about, is that it had all the toys and all the accoutrements of a big, major city. But at its heart and soul, it’s a small town. Everybody in Portland knows everybody else’s business. So the sequences in the movie, for instance, when Tennant’s character is acting like Iago and systematically destroying Sean’s life, the things he’s doing, in Los Angeles would be somewhat invisible. In Portland, it would ruin your reputation forever. It would destroy lives, it would destroy careers. So I felt that the intimacy of Portland made the danger level much higher than in L.A., where it’s just another story.
AX: And because you had stopped filming LIBRARIANS, you had all of your series crew available?
DEVLIN: It was actually in between seasons, so we shot it after Season 3, just before Season 4. It was great timing [laughs].
AX: You had worked with Robert Sheehan before …
DEVLIN: I’d known about him since MISFITS. That was the show [where] I fell in love with him as an actor. And then when we went to do GEOSTORM, I wrote a small part for him, because I wanted to work with him. And once I met him, I just thought, this kid is crazy gifted. And I actually snuck him the [BAD SAMARITAN] script while we were shooting [GEOSTORM] and said, “I really want you to star in this thing.” And he loved it and said, “Yeah, I’m in.”
AX: How long was BAD SAMARITAN in development?
DEVLIN: Well, it wasn’t really in development. Brandon wrote the script, I wanted to make the movie, I was going to make it my next film, and then I got talked into [writing and producing] the sequel to INDEPENDENCE DAY, and then GEOSTORM started to happen, and it just took me off-course for awhile. But as soon as those were out of the way, I went right back to this, because this is really what I’ve wanted to do for the last five years.
AX: A lot of your projects as a producer are very heavy on special effects. With BAD SAMARITAN, are you happy to be doing something that was not as effects-driven?
DEVLIN: For me, it’s never about the effects, or the size of the budget. What I was really happy is to be independent, where I didn’t have to justify to anyone who I wanted to cast, or who I wanted to be on the crew, or where I wanted to shoot it, or what I wanted to do with the script. It was a collaborative effort, in that all the people involved were creatively involved. But we didn’t answer to anyone. There was no studio, there was no financier, there were no investors. It was really pure in that regard. We read the script and we said, “We’re going to take a gamble, we’re going to write a check, we’re going to make it.” And then we decided, “You know what? We’re not going to stop there.” So now we’re actually releasing the film ourselves, we’re putting it out on two thousand screens next weekend. We don’t have anywhere near the budget that studios have to put out these kinds of movies, so we’ve been doing a very grassroots campaign, where I’ve been traveling to sci-fi conventions across the country, and talking to fans, and showing them the movie, and trying to get the people who seem to enjoy the trailer, or enjoy the movie, and try to get them to be our ambassadors and get the word out.
AX: Your company Electric Entertainment had distributed a couple of movies before this …
DEVLIN: Yeah. But only one theatrically.
AX: That was LBJ, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Woody Harrelson. Was that because you were especially enamored of the film LBJ, or was that to dip your toe into the waters of distribution, so that you would be able to have your own distribution machine?
DEVLIN: Well, we’ve been trying to develop the distribution end of our company for a few years now. But when the opportunity came to support an iconic filmmaker like Rob Reiner, I jumped at the chance. I understood all the reasons that made the film difficult for theatrical, which is why we had the opportunity to be the distributor, but I looked at it from another point of view. I thought, “Here is, I think, his best film in years. Here’s an iconic filmmaker, and an opportunity for us to bring something to the audience in a theatre that studios don’t make anymore.”
AX: Was it also sort of a foray into, let’s see if we can do this?
DEVLIN: Oh, sure. It was absolutely part of a pattern that we’ve been growing for the last several years.
AX: And is this something that you think, now that you’ve got it up and running, you want to keep doing in this way?
DEVLIN: [laughs] Let’s see how we do this weekend [with the release of BAD SAMARITAN]. If next weekend, we do okay, if we’re not hurt badly, if we can walk out with our heads held, then yeah, I would really love to keep growing this side of our business. It is the last thing that tied us to studios was releasing into theatres. If we can handle that ourselves, then it was really the last thing. Every other aspect, we’re already doing ourselves.
AX: You’ve produced and written a lot of movies, you have directed fewer. Is that because you haven’t found material you wanted to do, is that because you were so enmeshed in other things that you couldn’t make time …?
DEVLIN: I was directing second unit on almost all the movies I did with Roland Emmerich, and then when that partnership ended, I ended up doing a lot of directing on television. My previous attempts at directing feature films had not worked out. I originally wanted to be the director of CELLULAR [which Devlin produced], and ultimately, the studio decided they weren’t going to trust me with the picture, which I think was a big mistake; I think it would have been a much better picture than what we ended up making. But yeah. You wait for the material that you think you could do something special with. And when this came my way, I was very greedy. We had talked about me producing it and bringing in other directors, but I kept getting very selfish [laughs] and wanting it myself.
AX: What was there about the BAD SAMARITAN script that made you feel like, I really want to put my hands in the clay?
DEVLIN: I had never done anything remotely like it before, and I knew that this was going to challenge me on every single level, from the way I frame shots to the type of lenses I use to how close the camera was going to be to the actors. Everything about it was going to be different, and that was terrifying and exhilarating.
AX: Do you see any historical precedents for the type of film BAD SAMARITAN is? I mean, would you compare it to Hitchcock, or is there anything you’d compare it to?
DEVLIN: I would compare it to fourth-generation Hitchcock. In other words, I grew up being in love with the early Brian De Palma movies, which were clearly influenced by Hitchcock. Then I really liked films like DISTURBIA, which were influenced by Brian De Palma, and influenced by Hitchcock. I would say this is now fourth-generation influence [laughs].
AX: David Tennant relatively recently played another psychotic control freak, Kilgrave, on the Netflix/Marvel series JESSICA JONES. Did he or you have any concerns about him playing Cale, who’s spiritually sort of aligned with Kilgrave, quite so soon afterwards?
DEVLIN: No, because Kilgrave has a supernatural power. So that puts it into a different world. And what David wanted to do is, he really wanted to anchor this guy. He wanted this guy to be a guy who really lives. And he worked very closely with Brandon and I, and had a lot of questions. He wasn’t just going to, “Oh, yeah, I’ll show up, I’ll play the part.” He really wanted us to dig deeper and deeper, and from that came this whole equine aspect of the character. And it really deepened it out, but I think the biggest different is, this is a very grounded, unfortunately realistic character.
AX: Cale is American. Was there ever any thought of letting David Tennant, who is Scottish, use his real accent, or did you feel that the Scottish and Robert Sheehan’s Irish accent together would just be overwhelming?
DEVLIN: It wasn’t that I thought it would be too much. And I apologize if anyone in the United States reads this and takes offense to it. But there is something unique about American serial killers. Whenever we’ve seen a mass killer from somewhere else, there are always these other kind of religious overtones, or some other – but the purely consumer, materialistic serial killer is a unique American phenomenon. And so I just wanted that American voice. For me, I kept hearing that line, “You have no idea how rich I am.” That just seemed such an American thing to say [laughs].
AX: When we first see Katie chained up, our first thought is that this is sexual, but then as the story continues, it turns out that this isn’t sexual, at least in a conventional way …
DEVLIN: It is about power, but it’s never about sex. This was very important thing to me from the first day we set out to do the movie. The last thing I’d want to do is make any kind of rape fantasy, or anything like that. I said, “This guy’s perversion has nothing to do with sex. It’s all about power, it’s all about control. This is a guy who has OCD to a degree that is psychotic. He wants to order the world, he wants everyone to behave the way he demands they behave.” So we wanted to be very careful as we were doing this, to not sexualize the kidnapping. And the result was, we found that it was actually much scarier and I think much more interesting than some kind of weird rape fantasy that I have no interest in being a part of.
AX: Because it turns out to not be particularly sexual, was there ever any thought of having the captive be male instead of female?
DEVLIN: There was, but one of the things that I liked was this visual confusion between the girl who’s been kidnapped and the girl Sean’s in love with, that somehow in his mind, it all kind of blends. So then there was this kind of mesh of emotions, and it also allowed him to have a type of empathy that was personalized. In a way, he feels responsible for [his girlfriend, played by Jacqueline Byers], and when she becomes in jeopardy later, he knows it’s all his fault, and it makes him have to reconcile his behavior and the bad choices he made.
AX: Do you have any other projects going on we should know about?
DEVLIN: The only thing is, we have a new TV series coming out in July on The CW network called THE OUTPOST, which is a sword-and-sandals fantasy magic show, which will be a lot of fun. But as far as our next feature, right now, I’m just focused on opening this film. After that, we’ll take a deep breath and decide what we’re doing next.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about BAD SAMARITAN?
DEVLIN: What I’d like them to know is that there’s something very exciting and fun happening in the movie theatres when this movie plays. But don’t go alone [laughs].
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview: Director Dean Devlin chats his new thriller BAD SAMARITAN starring David Tennant