Eric Bana :: Immersed in ’Evil’ for Latest Film
"Deliver Us From Evil" is based on the accounts of real former Bronx police sergeant Ralph Sarchie. Sarchie has been a practicing demonologist since the ’90s and wrote the book, "Beware the Night," on which writer/director Scott Derrickson based the film. The film is adapted to modern day, where in 2013 the film’s Sarchie, played by Eric Bana, investigates his first case that proves to be paranormal.
The film’s Sarchie is partnered with Butler (Joel McHale), looking into a series of grizzly crime scenes featuring Satanic carvings, when a priest, Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), approaches Sarchie about the real evil at work. The real Sarchie was available on set for Bana to research.
"I guess it was a combination of capturing that heavy, violent, brooding quality that Scott had written, but at the same time there’s something just very regular and dismissive about him," Bana said. "He does his job standing on his ear. He’s brilliant at what he does, incredibly ruthless and there’s a point at which he is forced to consider that there is this whole alternate, not universe, but alternate existence of evil. I was attracted to that because I think it’s pretty good for the audience and good for me personally because I’m a pessimistic person so there’s a good trajectory there that made sense."
Between the book and the script, there was plenty of information on Sarchie to go on, but the real Sarchie gave Bana that intangible that words can’t express. "It was there on the page but it helped me spending time with him. There’s a certain attitude. There’s a certain kind of physical attitude that’s in the character that was definitely aided by hanging out with Ralph. There’s a certain swagger to him and a certain heaviness in him that I inserted into the screen version for sure. I loved having him around in case something happened."
Hailing from Australia, a literal ocean away from The Bronx, Bana had to capture Sarchie’s voice as well as his personality. "I never get to play myself. I don’t get the easy road like some other people who turn up in their own freakin’ accents and play their own hometowns. I never get to do that so every time I go to work it’s the same. Obviously I heard a lot of it over the years. We grow up on your police shows and everything else, so it was a bit of a childhood fantasy I guess. I didn’t find it that hard, I don’t know why, but sometimes the more extreme, the easier they are."
Sarchie unapologetically believes in demons and the paranormal. The movie still plays as fiction to some. Bana admitted he has wavered in his convictions a tad.
"I’m more open to the idea that it can [exist]," he said. "I guess I just know more about it. It’s far more comfortable for us to be kind of dismissive of the subject matter because it just makes us feel better about ourselves and it’s just easier to cope with. If you’re in Africa, it’s not a taboo subject. It’s not an unusual subject. I mean, they deal with possessions and exorcism all the time so it’s a very cultural thing. I guess I didn’t know a lot about it. I really made the most of my resource and my greatest resource was Scott. His knowledge of this subject matter, of religion, of possession, the cultural side of it, the factual side of it, is really vast. I really used him as my resource. I learned a lot. I know a lot more about it than I did. I was kind of a bit dismissive of it beforehand, so it certainly changes your viewpoint."
Spooky happenings on set
Perhaps Sarchie could be a persuasive man himself. While a video tape is still one plane removed from a firsthand witness, Sarchie showed Bana some tapes he couldn’t deny.
"I saw some footage which was very confronting and very uncomfortable to watch and would be for anyone because there’s no doubt that what happens when you see it, I don’t want to go into detail more out of respect for the poor person who was on the tape, but what you’re confronted with is a level of suffering that you’re not able to comprehend yourself. So I don’t care what you want to call it. What you can’t deny when you see this tape is that some poor person is going through something that you have no facility to try and relate to or understand. That was a very hard thing to look at and definitely gave me a lot of pause."
On the set, Bana reported that the makeup department experienced some spooky occurrences. Bana himself remained immune, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer would later suggest that he believed someone was messing with the makeup workshop.
"I know for a fact that our makeup/special effects team had some truly scary things occur. They had a ghost in their workshop. There’s absolutely no doubt. I think Ralph was going to try and help them out but there was stuff going on in their workshop. There were people walking around moving stuff in their workshop in the middle of the night when there was no one there. It got to the point where some of them who would sleep on the floor there, but couldn’t. They were really freaked out. On the set, there was occasional weird stuff with phones and lights, but I never saw it and I kept the door closed. I learned enough through our storyline and through Edgar Ramirez that I kept the door closed to the divine."
"Deliver Us From Evil" was a physically demanding film as well. There are brutal spirits with whom to contend and a grueling exorcism in the film’s climax, but it was the locations themselves that gave Bana the most difficulty.
"You just had to be really careful. Especially for the crew. Everyone just had to look out for each other. There was always a pipe or a stairwell or a piece of wire to trip on or cut yourself on. There’s only so much health and safety you can do. It’s like, ’Guys, we’re filming here. Look around you. Look out for yourself. Wear a hardhat.’
Obviously you can’t when you’re an actor. There were so many locations where your back was gone after the second night of shooting because literally the cameraman and I were the same height. We would just have to stoop down and crawl around literally on hands and knees to get to places. But I would so much rather be doing that than be in a studio."
Back to Australia
Bana still makes his home in Australia, and often finds himself traveling to the States for work. In the case of "Deliver Us From Evil," he actually filmed in the Bronx. Other films may shoot internationally as well, but never in Australia.
"I only live in Australia simply because that’s home. If this was home I’d live here. I’m the idiot. I’m the one who has to jump on a plane, spend half my life on a plane. That’s about the only downside. We’re a long way from everywhere so if we want to keep working it’s the only way it can happen, so I’m not complaining."
With "Deliver Us From Evil" completed, Bana is taking his time choosing another film. As per his usual schedule, he likes having time to really invest in creating a character. "I really enjoy preproduction. I really enjoy having time to prepare for stuff so it’s never appealed to me to do film after film after film, because the prep and the learning side of it is the real gift. It’s something that’s a really cool part of the job so I like to have time to do that properly. That inevitably means that there’s big gaps."
Perhaps the next film could be a sequel to "Deliver Us From Evil." Sarchie is certainly still investigating evil. "Who knows? It’s one of the few times where I’ve done a character where I’ve gone I would gladly play more of him. So who knows? He’s an interesting character. There’s still plenty of room. I think the relationship between Sarchie and Mendoza is a pretty interesting one. So there’s no doubt, if you got a good writer on board they could easily come up with another but it’s a bit premature to talk about that. Would I be open to it? Yes."
"Deliver Us From Evil" is in theaters.