Saturday, September 7, 2013

THE SACRAMENT: Five Questions for AJ Bowen

If you've seen any AJ Bowen movies (The Rites of Spring, The House of the Devil, A Horrible Way To Die, You're Next), you already know he's a good actor. But his interviews help explain why. He's not only witty, he's also a genuine fan of classic genre films. He's in Ti West's new film The Sacrament, which screens as part of the Vanguard Programme at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, so we came up with some good questions for him.

SPOILER ALERT: His answers are pretty good, too.

1. You've gone on record as saying Black Christmas is your favorite horror film. What other Canadian horror movies do you consider faves?
Canadian horror is actually a love of mine, but in the spirit of brevity I will mention Visiting Hours. I am consistently surprised there isn't more love for that film, and am often imploring friends to check it out. A great proto-feminist genre picture with great atmosphere and an amazing monster in the form of Michael Ironside, who I worked with a couple of years ago and who I forced to sign my DVC. He did, begrudgingly.

Also, the first horror movie I ever saw was Happy Birthday To Me, so I guess I've always been living inside Canadian horror films. And as someone born in 1977, a lot of the gateway films that introduced me to the genre as a young person in the '80s s were Canadian, like Terror Train, Videodrome, Scanners, etc.

Visiting Hours
 2. You've made a lot of genre/horror movies, but you haven't yet been in a horror movie remake. Would you be in one if the circumstances were right and what would those circumstances be?
I was a stage actor before I was in film, so I have always been less opposed to the concept of a remake than a lot of people--I guess I always felt like we were consistently telling the same five to ten stories in some shape or form. I would work on any type of movie, given the right circumstances, and those circumstances would always be the talent involved, and most importantly, the script. If I like a script and I get the sense the filmmakers can pull off the intent/promise of the story, I am pretty much always in.

3. I read up on Jonestown recently and it depressed the hell out of me. Did you have to do any research for The Sacrament on the Peoples Temple or were you already well versed in the story?
Given my age I was acutely aware of Jonestown. As a child of the American South, religious fanaticism was something I was both experiencing and dually fascinated by. Jonestown went right along with learning about fringe cultures that were dominating the news, such as satanic panic. I've always been fascinated by cults, and I had watched everything on Jonestown many times before we ever began the process of making this one, so I intentionally stayed away from reacquainting myself. It was unnerving to see the detailed world our production designer Jade Healy crafted. What I DID do was watch every VICE Guide To Travel. Many times.

4. The Sacrament is another movie that you're working on with that same group of directors, writers, and actors you work with all the time. Do you feel sort of like an ensemble team by this point, the horror equivalent to the Christopher Guest mockumentary folks?
It's a strange thing to talk about--I am not sure the reality matches the idea. It makes sense in indie film to collaborate with your friends, for practical reasons. But it's also a work thing--I typically don't see any of those guys other than Ti and Amy beyond being on set, and I think as these filmmakers are moving into bigger budgets the group of people naturally adapts/changes. The last time I worked with some of those guys outside of The Sacrament was You're Next, and though it only came out recently we shot it well over two years ago.

I can say that if Ti or Joe or Amy asked me to work with them I would always do it, sight unseen. We have a good working relationship and I think they're really talented storytellers.

Resolution: The beardy guy is NOT AJ Bowen, but an amazing similacrum!
5. And will your next movie be a horror mockumentary? If not, what are your upcoming projects?
Ah yes, it's a funny thing to mention but raises a good point about the life of an independent film actor--to be honest I have no idea what is next. It hasn't revealed itself yet. Whenever you wrap picture a part of you believes it is the last time you will be on a set making a movie and it is the last character you will play, unless the next project is already lined up.

I wrote a screenplay with my partner Susan Burke (who wrote Smashed) and we are looking to shoot that next summer. It's possible I will make something before then, though I do not know what that may be. Our script is a comedy, and I've been stepping outside the genre a bit, so were I to do another one right now it would have to be someone I really want to work with, like the filmmakers behind The Battery, or Resolution. Stuart Gordon and I have been trying to get a movie made for a couple of years now so if we are able to fool an investor into paying for it we will make that one. 

The House of the Devil: "Are you not the babysitter?"
There you have it, a peek into the mind of the guy who made, "Are you not the babysitter?" one of the creepiest movie lines of all time.

We strongly urge you to see The Sacrament at this year's Festival. Here are the screening dates and times so you can add it to your schedule.

THE SACRAMENT Screening Times:
Sunday, Sept 8th, 5:15 PM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Tuesday, Sept 10th, 9:45 PM SCOTIABANK 7
Friday, Sept 13th, 8:45 PM SCOTIABANK 3

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