James Wan may be best known as the Aussie director who created the Saw franchise but his latest film, Death Sentence, is as far from that Saw universe as you can get. Kevin Bacon stars as Nick Hume, a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever.
Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family. A departure for both Bacon and Wan, the pair talked exclusively to Paul Fischer.
Question: So Kevin, since I’ve known James now for several years can you give me the real dirt on what it’s like to be directed by a crazy Australian?
Bacon: Well, you know, when I first met James, I walked into the restaurant and I looked around and I saw this kid sittin’ there and I thought ‘This can’t be him’. And it was. So I had a little bit of an adjustment, you know, it’s more and more these days I find myself ending up on sets and sort of being the elder statesman, which is not something that I’m 100% comfortable with but it just seems to be happening. But you know was so struck by his confidence and his clarity of vision, he really knows and sees the movie in his head and you can see that. And he works in a very tight and expeditious kind of a way so that there’s not a lot of bullshit, there’s not a lot of wasted time and he’s just extremely clear about what he wants, both from a performance standpoint and also from a visual standpoint. So it was great to work with a crazy Australian.
Question: This is a very different movie for both of you and I’m just wondering why, from an acting point of view, you decided this was something that you needed to do or that you wanted to do and James, was it really important for you to prove that you can do something besides horror films?
Wan: Yeah. That was definitely a very conscious decision to want to steer away from horror films. I mean I don’t want to be known as just a guy who does that one Saw thing you know. I want to branch out and do lots of different things and I felt like a revenge drama was a good way for me to branch out. I love action films, I love thrillers so I felt like it was a natural progression for me.
Bacon: You know it’s been a while since I’d done a real straight up kind of heroic part and I was feeling like, as much as I like these sort of heavy drama pieces, I was also looking for something where I could kick a little ass. And this movie to me has a combination of both because I’ll read sometimes in action movies, or even in horror films, and they’re both genres that I really like but sometimes they lack depth of character. You know, the guy is just the guy. And in this case I saw a guy who was dealing with something that is incredibly emotionally intense which is your family being threatened. And he also goes through a massive transformation. You know, as you’ll see in the film, even physically, from being a kind of a nerdy pencil pushing suburban hockey dad to a killer. And that in combination with admiring what James had done in Saw, I was like, this is a no brainer. I gotta do this one.
Question: I mean next year you’re going to turn 50. Is it gratifying for you that the older you get the roles will still be coming as rich as they were several years ago, or are they in fact getting richer?
Bacon: Yeah. I mean, you know, honestly what’s gratifying is to be able to make a living as an actor, because there’s so many people that don’t. I feel extremely lucky to still be out there and you know I’ve been at it a long time and I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues just kind o fall away. They either fall away to, I don’t know, drugs, alcohol abuse and you know, all kinds of things. So just to be able to have hung in there and still have any kind of career is something that I am grateful for.
Question: And still be married too on top of everything else.
Bacon: Yeah. Yeah.
Question: You are the antithesis of a lot of stories that emerge out of Hollywood. You had success very early in your life. I don’t know how you’ve been able to remain so stable.
Bacon: It’s just, I don’t know, taking it one day at a time. And I am happy that I can still find roles like this role in Death Sentence. And that people are still willing to give me that kind of gig so I’m thrilled.
Question: Was it fun doing the action stuff?
Bacon: Oh yeah. I loved it. One of the things that we really wanted to do in terms of the action was we talked a lot about how we didn’t want the movie to feel sort of stunty, you know, I didn’t want the guy to be a great fighter because he’s not. This is a guy that’s probably never been in a bar fight in his life. And he’s not Schwarzenegger, you know. So we really wanted it to feel like scrappy and real. And James was on the same stage with me obviously, so because of that I was able to do a lot of it. And it was great. And he has amazing ideas about places to put the camera and amazing use of lenses and the movies, you know, one of the things that I’m sure James is proud of and I’m surely proud of is that in this day and age when you go out and, you know, the Spidermans of the world are great and they’re a lot of fun but so much of it is done with digital effects. We had almost none or none. And so everything that’s there is real and is scrappy and it’s great. I think the action stuff was a total blast.
Question: Let me ask you both about what’s coming up next. Kevin, you’re in Alison Eastwood’s movie?
Bacon: Yeah I am in Alison’s movie yeah. It’s a fantastic movie. I saw it the other day.
Question: And the irony is that you’re one of the few people who have worked with father and daughter.
Bacon: That’s probably true. Yeah, I wonder if there’s anybody who worked with Francis and Sophia but I’m definitely proud of that honour.
Question: Now are you involved in Frost/Nixon?
Bacon: Yeah, I’m going to do Frost/Nixon.
Question: That play looks amazing.
Bacon: It’s a great play. And Frank Langella is incredible in it, as it Michael Sheen. They’re both great and they’re doing this in the movie too.
Question: Now James obviously you’re putting Saw behind you. Apparently there’s a Saw IV coming out. Are you involved in that in any shape or form?
Wan: Um, nope. Not at all.
Question: OK, so what do you think you’re going to do after this? I mean I know that there was a kids’ movie that you guys were talking about doing at one point.
Wan: Well you know Leigh and I are writing away, I mean we’ve got a bunch of projects you know. Yeah, we do have a kids’ movie – a kid’s fantasy movie, you know, like The Neverending Story, which I loved. It’s my favourite kids’ movie of all time. But, I’m just chilling right now. I’ve been working back to back for the last 3-4 years on my three projects and I’m a bit stuffed right now. I’m a bit tired, so I’m just chilling out and taking this time to chill and, you know, enjoy what has been happening on this crazy rollercoaster ride that has been so insane in the last 3-4 years and taking the time to write as well and go back to what I enjoy which is telling good stories.