Latest film from director Ivan Kavanagh, Never get old, attracted attention with his uncompromising vision of evil and justice on the brutal frontier of the Old West. For your latest movie, Child, Kavanagh teams up again with actor Emile Hirsch for a simmering horror story about a mother’s love for her child, conveyed through a prism of undead horror, demonic cults and unspeakable violence. Hallowe’enAndi Matichak plays the mother, while young Luke David Blumm delivers a haunting, heartbreaking, and downright unnerving performance as her son, around whom the whole story unfolds.
Hirsch delivers a subtle performance as a blue-collar cop trying to unravel the potentially supernatural mystery unfolding before him. He’s not an action hero cop, or any kind of significant authority figure, but just an ordinary guy. He and his fellow law enforcement officers are always two steps behind the carnage, unable to do anything but follow the tracks of blood as the story moves toward a final and explosive confrontation.
While promoting the launch of Child, Emile Hirsch spoke with Screen Rant about his work on the film and what it was like to re-team with Ivan Kavanagh in the wake of Never get old. It speaks to his approach to the character of Paul, a role that could easily have been boring or cartoonish in the hands of a less skilled actor. Finally, he talks about his passion for music. Since his turn as a bluegrass musician on 2017’s All Nighter, Hirsch has developed his love of music into a fully realized project. Under the name Hirsch, he released his first album, Mnemonic, in 2019, and spent his Coronavirus quarantine working on the follow-up, several singles of which can currently be found on Spotify.
Child It is now available in theaters, VOD and Digital.
I’m sure you’ve done a million of these interviews, but I want to tell you what a fan I am of you and your work!
Oh man that’s badass, heck yeah! I haven’t done that many … And it’s been so long since I last did a press so it doesn’t feel old at all!
The Girl Next Door is one of the great rom-coms of all time … If I had more time I’d love to delve into the greatest hits of your career, you don’t need me to tell you Speed Racer is one of the best movies of all time …
It’s crazy how the tide turned in that movie.
Correct? On a visual level alone, that movie was Avatar and Something Else, but a year earlier.
It’s crazy, right?
Absolutely. Well anyway, son, I saw this last night … That’s me saying the movie, son, I’m not calling you son, we don’t know each other well enough for that. But the movie gave me the creeps. You’ve worked with Ivan before, did you know this was coming when you were making Never Grow Old?
I think he was thinking about that, but I really ignored him. And then after filming it … I really enjoyed working with Ivan. It has a fun shooting style. He is a meticulous and disciplined filmmaker. And then he sent me this script and said, “What do you think?” And I thought it was cool. It is not exactly what you think at first. He was super willing to work with Ivan again. He has it, you know what I mean? I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a director twice before. So it was really a new experience for me, to have that familiarity. And I really liked that part. Having someone that I had worked with, and we already had that relationship, was very good. It made my life very easy. And my character is very discreet. He is a discreet detective.
Exactly. Was that something that attracted you? Are you someone who says, “No, I just want to be the lead roles where my face is the biggest on the poster.” Because this role is not the main character type of an action hero!
Yes. I think the fact that it was Ivan made it more interesting to me. Like, “Let me see what this character brings …” It’s a weird part. It is discreet. He wasn’t trying to do too much or to be too flashy. He’s a nice and trustworthy kind of guy. Sometimes he was preoccupied, hoping it wasn’t boring, but at the same time, if he did more than he was doing, it would be too much.
We don’t often watch movies that depict small-town cops as realistic nine-to-five workers doing it one day at a time.
Yes. He’s just there, doing his thing, not making noise.
With Ivan, do you agree with him in the movies? Do you fight for scenes or are you an actor who follows the director as if he were the captain of the ship? Basically, what is your approach to making a movie?
I let him make his movie. He likes all these movies that I couldn’t … He talks about Ingmar Bergman’s movies and … It’s not my jam, you know?
Sure, probably a little beyond my level of understanding, if I have to be honest.
But we get along! We both have our own knowledge of cinema. You have your opinions and I try to help you achieve your vision. He’s super specific when it comes to performance. He seems to know what he likes about actors and that is one of his strengths. If you look at all the secondary parts of this movie, all the actors are so good. Even with only two lines, people are good. It’s crazy.
I imagine some directors turn the camera and say, “Do something. Find out. We’ll see what happens. Do some acting.” I think there is merit in a director who knows exactly how he wants his scenes to unfold.
In this case. Never Grow Old was a bit like that, actually. But in this one, I just showed up and did it. We did a couple of takes and we moved on. In a way I did. I did what I was supposed to do and he seemed fine with it. But in Never Grow Old, there was more back and forth, deciphering the tone, the rhythms. There was more back and forth.
There are some supernatural themes in this movie. I won’t spoil some of the wild stuff that happens, especially later on, but there are some really shocking visuals, some dark stuff, some unholy stuff, I guess you could say. Are you someone who, when shooting a scene that is particularly intense, wants to say a prayer afterwards?
We were filming in a super religious rural area in Mississippi. So, they told us, “Don’t tell the locals exactly what you’re doing.” We didn’t want to scare people or something. But I feel like most people know that a movie is just a movie. It is a movie! Regardless of what your religion is, it’s just a movie. But there are people who would probably freak out. I didn’t, personally, but it’s just me!
Okay, I feel like we have to do a Covid Catch Up requirement. I know you’ve been writing music and released a record in the past year.
We will release another album on March 12th, our second album.
Did you write it all locked up?
The first song on the album, we started it last January. So it was like the beginning of Covid, and we kept making songs all the time. I would go to my producer’s house, like his living room, where we did most of the music. For a while, we did it with masks and social distancing, handing the mic into the bedroom and stuff.
Did you think you were going to be a musician when you started to take off as an actor?
I had no idea. It’s something I got into after making the movie, All Nighter, with JK Simmons. I played a bluegrass singer and we ended up making a bluegrass record for the movie. Me and the musicians who were chosen as my band. We just ended up making a full bluegrass record, like the band Hysterical Kindness. The album was called Simple Things. And then, I kept wanting to write songs. The guys moved on to other things, so I had to find another producer to do these songs with, because I kept writing different songs and wanting to do that. I really enjoyed it. So, I found this French producer, Mathieu Carratier, known as The Frenchman, and we started making songs. I liked the atmosphere and the songs, and we were totally into it for the last two and a half years. We have done 29 songs together, now, including the second album. We’ve done a lot of things, it’s crazy! We spend a great deal of time together.
Despite Covid, would you like to tour the records?
I do not know. I still don’t consider myself as “a musician”. It’s just something I do. Is it a hobby, maybe? It’s something I do because I love doing it. I mean, we sold like, literally, 50 copies or something like that. We sold nothing. But we do it because we love to do it. And we have the technological means to publish these records. We have also been fortunate that certain people on Spotify like Allison Hagendorf, the director of Rock, she and her team like the song. So they’ve actually put us on these pretty big playlists that are really hard to come by. There’s a lot of music out there and a lot of people want spots on these playlists. I wouldn’t say it’s a vindication, but it’s great that we’ve put so much into it, and even though we don’t have a record label or any kind of promotion for the records, the songs keep showing up on these playlists because people like them.
If you love it, that’s the beginning and the end. Plus, record labels are for the birds. It’s 2021, no one cool is on a label!
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