Q&A: “EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL” stars Dylan Smith and Georgina Reilly
A beauty and a beast are part of the starring ensemble in the horror/comedy EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL (in theaters and on VOD today from Music Box Films’ Doppelgänger Releasing), and both have more shadings than one often finds in such films. They were brought to life by Georgina Reilly and Dylan Smith, both of whom spoke to Fango about their roles.
In writer/director Boris Rodriguez’s film (reviewed here), set in the wintry climes of Canada, Smith has the titular part of a large, mute, childlike man who has the unfortunate nocturnal habit of somnambulistically snacking on animals and people. His caretaker, creatively blocked artist turned teacher Lars (Thure Lindhardt), is at first unsettled by this behavior, but then finds it gives him the inspiration he’s desperately been seeking. So he becomes Eddie’s enabler, while trying to hide the nonspeaking flesheater’s exploits from co-workers including fellow instructor Lesley (Reilly, who previously appeared opposite EDDIE co-star Stephen McHattie in the cult zombie opus PONTYPOOL).
DYLAN SMITH: It was the big challenge, definitely, and was up for discussion a lot. But rather than getting bogged down too much in whether a moment was comedy or horror, we always went back to the emotional truth of the scene. From start to finish, everything was addressed in terms of what the characters wanted, what they were really after, how they went about getting it and the conflicts they faced. I approached the character as a very real human being, and wrote a very real backstory. Thure was deadly serious; I believe he approached it very much as he would any drama that he does.
It was very serious on set in general—we could’ve been shooting DEAD MAN WALKING for all you knew—and when it came to the emotional highpoints, whether dealing with love or death, it was very quiet. Extraneous crew cleared out, space was given to the actors to prepare in our own time, and “Very quiet on the set, please. Action!” As actors, we didn’t comment on the comedy, we didn’t stylize it in a horrific way; we were left by Boris, quite generously, to play it as straight as we could. We worked hard to keep the integrity of the characters, and if you stay true to who they are as real human beings, you allow the audience to laugh at both the humanity and the insanity of it, rather than all of us winking and jabbing and laughing hysterically after a take, or mugging for the camera.
FANG: How did you work with Boris Rodriguez to flesh out Eddie as a character?
SMITH: Boris completely trusted me from what I brought into the audition, and even though I went into the backstory to fill it out for myself so I knew where I was, we never tried to overexplain to ourselves, “Is he autistic? Is he a child?” We stayed away from that kind of stuff. Boris really empowered me, certainly, to bring something to the table, which only emboldens you as an actor to want to get your claws into it and truly invest in it. The more I think about Eddie, the more I think there’s actually part of him in me—somebody who is lovable and childlike in certain ways. Though I certainly enjoy films where I play the bad guy or some kind of brawny, kick-ass action hero. I certainly enjoy letting it rip, which goes against my day-to-day personality.
FANG: How was the experience of developing your onscreen relationship with Thure Lindhardt?
SMITH: It was fantastic. He’s incredibly creative and natural. He comes at things in a very original way, and you sense that immediately when you meet him. He’s one of the hardest-working actors I’ve ever seen. We both come from stage and theater, so we had a certain rapport where we’d use the same language to talk about the scenes. There was a great appreciation for each other right off the bat, so there was a lot of trust. It was very easy to be his monster. Damn, I’d be his monster in any film! He’s an incredibly generous actor, but he was also very rigorous with Boris and with the script in terms of, how can we finesse this, how can we make it more truthful? How we can we make it more of a scene, so it has conflict and goes somewhere? And he was working the whole time. He refused to take a nap in many instances when he could have, because he was like, “If they’re working, I’m working.” To collaborate with someone who takes it so deadly seriously makes the job easier, makes the crazy hours go quicker, makes the work really fun and you’re genuinely exploring stuff.
FANG: Georgina, how did you get involved with EDDIE?
GEORGINA REILLY: Well, I auditioned, and it was very cool, because I auditioned with the dinner scene. It was a really nice conversational scene, and I got a call a couple of weeks after, and it all just went from there. It happened pretty smoothly, actually.
FANG: How was it shooting in the frigid climes of Ottowa?
REILLY: Sometimes it was a lot of fun; wardrobe was very smart and I had a lot of layers on all the time. And other times it was… When you get to 5 a.m., you feel cold anyway because you’re tired. But it was really enjoyable to shoot up there. It felt like we were all having a little cottage vacation together—you know, sleepovers and stuff.
FANG: Do you agree with Smith that it was a very serious set, even when you were doing your most outrageous scenes?
REILLY: Yeah. We knew that to make it funny, it had to be real. When you read the script, you laughed because you could see it from an exterior viewpoint, but when we were in it, these were real people going through these experiences. It’s the audience’s perspective that makes them funny, because they get to see the whole picture. We could totally see how the scenes would work, but we had to play them very real and straight, and let the audience project on that to make it funny.
FANG: How much of yourself did you bring to Lesley?
REILLY: I’m kind of awkward, and she’s a little awkward at times, so there are definitely little elements of me in there. We were pretty loose with the takes, and Boris was very generous—he gave you the structure, but then you also got to bring your own thing to it. That was a nice balance, because as an actor you don’t want to feel like you’re just throwing it out there without being sure of what direction you’re going. You want both.
FANG: You had to deal with one co-star who spoke, and another who did not. It must have been interesting to work opposite those two very different kinds of performances.
REILLY: I felt immediately that I had to take care of Dylan. He was so good in the part that I felt very protective of him, the way he played it. And it didn’t take me very long to adjust to [his not speaking]. Playing a teacher and taking on that aspect of the role, I just fell very quickly into being the one who takes care of everyone.
FANG: You also got to reunite with Stephen McHattie from PONTYPOOL.
REILLY: Yes, I don’t think I’ve done a feature without Stephen [laughs]! He’s always there, being brilliant and wonderful. One of my first roles ever was playing his daughter in a CBC pilot, and I had a big scene with him. I was very young, so when I see him now… A lot of the guys on set are like [very serious tone], ”Well, that’s Stephen…” and I’m like, “Stephen!” and I jump on him and stuff because I still kind of feel like I’m 16. He’s a very quiet man, but he’s wonderful, so it’s always really nice to see him.
SMITH: I would never jump on him [laughs]. If I did, I swear, his eyes would just go thunk, right through my heart.
FANG: EDDIE is somewhat reminiscent of PONTYPOOL, in that it’s more personality-oriented than a lot of independent horror films.
REILLY: Yeah, there is a very similar feel between them. I like those kinds of movies. I like films that are more character-driven, because you get to do a lot more.
For writer/director Rodriguez’s comments and more from Smith on EDDIE, pick up FANGORIA #322, on sale now.