Excluvely for HorrorBid, I recently had the chance to talk to Steve Stone who directed the UK supernatural chiller Entity starring Dervla Kirwan ("Ondine"), Charlotte Riley ("Edge of Tomorrow") and Branko Tomovic ("The Bourne Ultimatum") with Michael David Worden who brilliantly plays the terrifying Entity.
Here my interview with Michael David who sheds some light on his dark character.
How did the part of the Entity come to you?
Rob Speranza, one of the producers for 'Entity', met me by chance in the summer of 2010 and agreed to send on my headshot to a guy in the North of England who had written a script for a horror feature, provionally titled 'Beast'. That guy was Steve Stone; on the strength of the headshot he invited me up for a one-to-one filmed audition in the location that would become the cells in what was eventually retitled 'Entity'. The audition was improvised, and involved me attempting Rusan-sounding 'language noises' aimed at portraying a rage-filled being, alongde delivering a quality of woundedness. I've still got the dvd of the audition - Steve says one word at the end of it, and not in a pejorative sense: 'Unbelievable.' At that point, I had an idea that things had gone pretty well.
What was your inspiration for your role?
The way Steve had painted Mischka in the script encompassed a two-fold narrative for the character: initially, he’s just another inmate with psychic powers tortured by brutaling military guards; as the film progresses, however, it’s evident that Mischka has somehow made a compact with malign spiritual forces, which enables him to become something other than human - a malevolent, possessed being of savagely destructive power, the titular entity.
So how do you act that? Well, for the incarcerated inmate, I was reading about processes of de-humanisation in concentration camps, gulags and militarised prisons in a variety of geopolitical contexts - for example, the Japanese Army's Unit 731 in the second world war, as well as the current regime operated in North Korean prison camps.
For the rage-filled entity, however, I was looking for a different kind of energy. These were some of the things that were going on in my head and gut: I have a thing for Francis Bacon's 'Screaming Popes', and was wondering what bestial sounds those figures might emit; I played 'Out' by The God Machine over and over and over; I listened to a recording of the exorcism of Anneliese Michel; I was trying to imagine what the Gerasene demoniac ('My name is Legion, for we are many') of the synoptic gospels might have looked/sounded like; the energy of a wolf felt important to get in there somehow; I wondered about what would it mean for someone to say of themselves 'I am a mistake of nature, a mad beast', as Andrei Chikatilo did during his trial; and then I stoked some memories of the people who made some of my school-days unpleasant, and tapped into some dormant reservoirs of vitriol, just to fan the flames.
We have seen a milar premise with documentary crews in haunted locations a lot in recent horror cinema, what do you think makes Entity special or different?
The spiritually haunted senbility of the writer/director, and the vicious beauty of the sound degn. Steve Stone convincingly weaves into the film themes of enduring love, loss, comradeship and loyalty, alongde an evocation of compason in the face of extreme torment. Yet all these themes he subsumes into a fearful conderation of what lies within the darkness, when that darkness is diabolical. It's a conjuring of a world where dread and death stalk unfettered, in a universe where all posbility of erasure or redemption has been obliterated, leaving only final isolation and embittered recrimination - a clascal rendering of hell, if you will. By the end, each animating spirit persts, impotent, conscious only of their own torment. So it's not just another horror film - it's a moving meditation on metaphycal despair, and that's why it's special.
Mark Ashworth's sound degn is superlative, full of sonic woundings. The rabid discord tormenting with relish those dragged towards annihilation, 'Penitential Hymn', all those tentative cries and shivered inhalations of absent presences, the spectral ren voice nging out its seduction of the soon-to-be-dead - all these are perfectly attuned to the spirit of the film.
I believe horror films are quite intense to shoot. Do you have any good stories from being on the set in these dark and weird locations?
I was taking no chances: I sprinkled salt around the entire perimeter of the set on the days I was filming. Why? Because part of the text I was intoning in Rusan during Mischka's scenes was the Lord's Prayer in reverse - he was calling up the powers of darkness to enable him to overcome his oppressors. Whilst I wanted to do justice to the character and his rage, I didn't want to chance getting possessed myself, and I’d read somewhere that salt was the thing to keep the demons at bay. In case you're wondering, I made it out in one piece - at least I think so.
Entity deals with some interesting concepts. Are you a superstitious person?
When I was 18 I was a not very convincing novice monk for two years, so I've always kept in mind Hamlet's words after he's just met with his father's ghost: 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'
Were you a fan of supernatural horror before getting involved with Entity? What are your favourite horror films?
I'm ealy scared. I have a shameful secret: when I was a kid I couldn't sleep for days after watching 'Salem's Lot'. Yeah, I know: don’t tell anybody. A film I love? Murnau's 'Nosferatu'. It's beautiful and Schreck's creation of Count Orlok is consummate artistry.
What is your favourite scene of the movie?
Can I choose three? Alex Veitch's cinematography capturing the fading sunlight, slowly nking, barred by a forest of slender lver birch, echoing the film's epigraph from Dante, foretelling a journey 'down to where the sun is mute'. I also love the capturing of the expresve fragilities of the human face: Branko Tomovic's tearful, aching joy at finding his character's lost love, Tasha (beautifully played by Claire Leatherbarrow), shifting to a dread-filled realisation of his imminent fate. And finally the extreme close-up of Dervla Kirwan's face, soft-focussed, bigger than the screen, her features lingered over, her eyes closed in ecstatic invitation, embarking, she thinks, on a compasonate exorcism of the unquiet dead – discovering, too late, that Mischka intends otherwise.
Entity recently won at the London Independent Film Festival for ‘Best Horror’ and ‘Best Independent Film’ and Branko Tomovic has just been honoured by the British Filmmakers Association as Best International Actor for his role.
It's out on DVD now in the US and the UK, and also available on VOD.