Edgar Ramírez kindly agreed to discuss his upcoming film, ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ in which he portrays an unconventional priest who partners with a a New York police officer to investigate a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes.
Actors create another persona in order to portray a character. In doing so, they must take precaution not to lose themselves in the process. Yet, it can also be a rewarding and life altering event.
Ramírez who is known for such films as ‘Zero Dark Thirty’,‘The Counselor’ reveals that acting in this film was a catharsis for him resulting in a liberating journey of self-reflection and forgiveness that allows assessment of his own spirituality and a discovery of compassion for those who have suffered the pain (whether emotionally or physically) of possession. In the past, he was afraid of potential bumps in the night and sometimes would sleep with the lights on; but now he meets these events head-on without fear.
‘Deliver Us From Evil’ inspired by the book ‘Beware of the Night’ by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, tells the story of Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) a cop, who is struggling with his own personal issues as he begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. He joins forces with a priest (Edgar Ramírez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city.
The film also stars Joe McHale (Butler) as Sarchie’s partner and Olivia Munn as his real life wife, Jen and their young daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson) whose lives are impacted as they are thrust into the terrifying world of the supernatural.
I really enjoyed your film. It was amazing. It really makes a difference in a film when people put in an effort as opposed to going through the motions. Given the subject matter, did you find it difficult? Did it take a toll on you?
Yes, it did. And, thank you for your comment, but I think that the main difference between this movie and other movies and genres in the last years is that it has to do with the writing. You have good writing and then you have people who are ready to fully commit to the story and the characters and then you might have a result that we are all very proud of.
This movie is very special because as in any other good horror film, it is always a metaphor. It is never what they pretend to be. It is always about something else. It is always about greater subjects of humanity and the human condition. Such as in the case of this movie, it is about self-forgiveness and compassion and the importance of making amends and moving on. Dealing with your own demons. Dealing with guilt (and) trying to resolve your baggage, so that you can move on, come clean, and talk about forgiveness and really talk about compassion. If you don’t feel it towards yourself, it is very difficult to spread it around you.
It seems that the cast worked well together. How was it working with Eric Bana?
It was fantastic. He is a very down to earth, generous and a very nice guy. Very open, relaxed and thoughtful. It is always great to work with people like that. It was really smooth. We met. We went out to dinner and discussed the movie and the next day it was as if we knew each other for years. I had admired his work and his career for years. He has always been one of my favorite actors since ‘Chopper,’ ‘Blackhawk Down’ and his body of work. Of course, I was super happy when I learned that he was in the movie.
You play a priest, Father Mendoza in the film. Do you treat a role differently if it is a real person as opposed to a fictional character?
In my career, I have had the experience of doing characters based on real people who are actually still alive. In this case, Father Mendoza is actually a mixture of three people, two priests and one bishop that worked closely with Ralph Sarchie during the time that he was actively helping people with cases of possession. But, there are certain conventions that you respect when you are playing a real character. But, in the end you are recreating a life. You cannot imitate a life. The work of an actor is not impersonating a character; it is to understand the character and to recreate that life. So it is not about imitation, it more about an interpretation of that life.
Director Scott Derrickson who also did ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ and ‘Sinister. ’ In this film you kind of felt some of the very dark, very intense elements that were in ‘Sinister.’ Are you a fan of horror films in general?
I am a fan of Scott. Actually, the ‘Exorcism of Emily Rose’ was the first movie that actually managed to scare me since the ‘Exorcist.’ The only horror film that really you know messed with my head. Uh, not only while it was in the theater, but the days after. You know what I mean? I literally spent a week sleeping with my lights on because it was difficult for me to be alone in dark. And, of course (laughs) I went back to the same nights with my lights on and my TV set on while shooting and preparing for this movie.
The only way I think for us as actors or for at least me as an actor is to fully commit to the character and totally embrace it and open up. Once we do that, then anything can come in. You know, of course I was playing the exorcist and these are very intense subject matters. So, you know it was tough, but it was interesting and very liberating. And, right now I am pretty much fearless. I’m not afraid of anything after doing the film.
You said that you were a fan of Scott Derrickson, the director of the movie. I understand that Scott actually did not want you to research the role too much and that he specifically gave you something to read before you did the movie. Can you elaborate a little more on that?
Yeah, I remember when we decided to do the movie together, of course I was thirsty for information and I wanted to delve as deeply as possible into this and I remember Scott telling me, ‘No, you are going to read this and read that.’ I said to myself OK, I am going to obey my director’s suggestions and of course, I’m going to read the book and after then I am going to try to do a bunch of other stuff. And, he gave me this book that was about contemporary demonic possessions in America from the 60’s and on. It had five cases. And, I only could read two cases. And, then I understood. You know, and actually, my conclusion was regardless whether this phenomenon or those stories come from the mind of a very prolific imagination or from the mind of a deranged person or if it comes from a supernatural force, evil force from hell, it doesn’t matter. It is still horrifying. And, in regards to your question, yeah I had to stop reading that book because it was really traumatizing.
And, then we watched the tapes of actual exorcisms and the level of pain of people who claim to be possessed go through is really moving. It is just too much. It really touches you and then you understand why there are priest and also people who cannot perform exorcisms, but they can help them to reach out to these people and help them because it is horrible. I am not necessarily talking about the spectacular feat that you see there, it is the palpable pain that you see there that people go through. It is really horrible.
It can be really hard for you to shut this off at the end of day, especially with this subject matter. Did you find yourself falling back on your own spirituality to help you get through this movie?
I’ve been very spiritual all my life. I am a man of faith. I’m not really religious. But, I do believe in something bigger, greater and wiser than myself. And you call it God or whatever name. That is my reality and any spiritual tools that I absorb from around me to move on and become a better person if possible So, moving on is very important. And that is what I really rescued from this experience in this movie.
Guilt is a very heavy burden. When it comes to playing a priest, how can you speak of forgiveness if you are not ready to forgive yourself? So, that is why I was so drawn to this character. Because I think that it raises all these issues and questions in a very entertaining, thrilling, and frightening package as this movie.
When, I read the scary books I was thinking why did I do this to myself? Because, I was really scared. I was very sensitive to these matters. But, eventually I realized that the horror movie’s horror deep inside is a cathartic experience. It was a beautiful process to exercise compassion doing this character.
‘Deliver Us From Evil’ will open nationwide in theaters July 2, 2014. It is rated R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language.