Actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach has been doing his thing around Hollywood, showing up in a pretty decent array of material, but no previous work our heroic actor has ever done could prepare him for a leading role in Makinov’s Come Out And Play. Playing the lead character Francis, Ebon has to face off against an island full of murderous children, all the while protecting his pregnant wife played by Vinessa Shaw. Talk about the vacation from hell.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ebon and talk shop with the actor, because you can never pass up an interview with an actor on such an absurd movie. Join our conversation as Ebon and I talk about what sets Makinov’s remake aside from the original Who Could Kill A Child?, the physical and emotional demands of such a taxing role, and just how Ebon was able to deal with the children on and off the set.
Don’t worry, no children were harmed in the taping of this interview, on the film though, I can’t attest for anything…
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: [Laughs] This guy is a maniac. This is a guy who for all his condemnation of media and the mainstream, he seems to have a pretty good grasp of how media works, and he seems to really like to pursue an overall shock agenda. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by saying that.
I think he’s more savvy than he pretends to be as opposed to this innocent living in the wilds of Siberia thing, but he’s obviously a wild man. His influences are along the lines of Rasputin.
My personal experiences with him have been nice and civil, so I think he’s playing up a certain roughness and scariness. People get a thrill out of it.
Also, I don’t know what he looks like. He did direct from underneath the bag. [Makinov refuses to be seen in his videos, so he wears a bag as a mask]
I remember one day we were shooting some stuff on a boat and the bag flew off, and he immediately dove from the camera boat into the water, and continued to direct only from behind the boat so we still couldn’t see what he looked like. He really values his hidden identity.
We Got This Covered: Oh wow, that’s dedication I would say.
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: [Laughing] Oh it is, that’s exactly it!
We Got This Covered: Alright, this film is a remake of Who Can Kill A Child? though, so did you have a chance to catch the original before signing on to Makinov’s adaptation?
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: Yeah, I did, and after I watched that movie I thought “OK, I don’t want to do this,” but producer Pablo Cruz is a very persuasive individual, and he had me come down to Mexico and at least meet with Makinov about it, and once he got me down there I was in. There’s a lot of things about the original that I wasn’t really crazy about, the acting especially, and there’s a sense of fakeness about it I was interested in re-imagining in a more authentic way.
We Got This Covered: So obviously both Come Out And Play and Who Can Kill A Child? play off the theme that children are terrifying. What do you think makes children so terrifying in horror?
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: There’s the stuff that people talk about like the reflection of innocence, but I think kids can just be really terrifying in the joy with which anything can become a game, morally that can be pretty frightening. It’s almost like a pre-moral state in a way, and a sort of abandon. I think under certain circumstances it seems like they can be capable of things unlike other people who have been around longer, and who have been civilized in a way.
We Got This Covered: How did you prepare for the character of Francis, knowing full-well of the tiny horrors that awaited him?
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: For me the bigger thing was to preserve an innocence in the character. The kids are doing things that are so hard to even conceive them doing, that it’s necessarily happening, and that sort of disbelief and unwillingness to register what is actually going on or to acknowledge just how fucked up it is, I think innocence was important in telling that story.
With a horror movie, you don’t want to anticipate where things are going to go. For me, I was constantly trying to preserve my innocence. If things got too creepy at a point, I would go out in the ocean and swim to remind myself the character is there for vacation, and it’s amazing how long we can actually deceive ourselves and deny what is actually going on.
People look on the bright side for a long time, and I think that’s what happens with Francis. He refuses to believe what’s happening until it’s too late.
We Got This Covered: Whether he refuses to believe it or not, Francis definitely learns there is something to fear, and you had to act that fear on-camera. How did you interact with the child actors off-camera in order to keep Francis’ mindset alive even when the cameras weren’t shooting?
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: I wasn’t really playing with them off the set, I honestly kept my distance. I wanted to be scary to them too, so I figured it would make it easier for them to want to kill me if I wasn’t their buddy who was running around playing tag with them – which I really wanted to do because they all seemed like cool kids! But they were having a lot of fun, and to be honest, I was not having that much fun…
We Got This Covered: As you shouldn’t have been I would add. [Laughs]
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: Oh no, it’s definitely not that type of movie.
We Got This Covered: So you just mentioned not having fun with Come Out And Play at times because of the dark nature of the film, but where did you have to go mentally for specific scenes with the children, starting off where you and your wife Beth (Vinessa Shaw) are trapped in the jail cell?
Ebon Moss-Bachrach: We shot that scene in a tiny jail cell, it looked like a jail cell, it smelled like a jail cell, and as an actor you want to grab onto realism. I’m a lazy actor, I want to do as little acting as possible, I want to grab onto any reality in a given atmosphere, and in that scene there was such a dark environment, you’re really alienated, Vinessa and I, who I think is a really good actress, and I would look into her eyes and try to grasp what was going on with her, so I ended up doing a lot of work based off emotion and it’s really scary doing that.
I mean, we weren’t locked in there, I barricaded us in there, I tied it with a rusty chain, there’s people banging on the other side – it was scary. There was no way I was not going to be able to be freaked out just from the environment alone.
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