The Rite is the latest in sort of a spate of demonic horror movies -- think: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, House of the Devil, The Last Exorcism -- and it's helmed by Swedish director Mikael Håfström (who brought us a haunted hotel room in 1408)
THE RITE Interview Alice Braga & Colin McDonohugue
QUESTION: Colin, how was it working with a screen legend? Did you ever imagine that one your first films would be with Sir Anthony Hopkins?
Colin O'Donoghue: No, no. How could you ever imagine something like that? It was incredible. When I was going through the audition, I had a chance to read with Anthony. Immediately, you go in and you’re nervous, and you’re going “Oh, this Anthony Hopkins.” But straight away, he puts you at ease. He just has a way of making you feel incredibly comfortable. I felt so privileged from my first film to work with the whole cast. You know, the whole cast is just incredible. And I was very lucky that I had scenes with everybody. So, it was just a hell of an experience.
QUESTION: Could talk a little bit of how you got the part? And also you Alice?
Colin O'Donoghue: Okay. I got sent the script by my agent, and she said, “if you like it, you can self-tape your audition.” My best friends – he’s a photographer – and he has a little studio in the back of his house. So, I went to him and asked him, “Would you mind taping it for me?” I play in a band and the bass player came over and read with me. So, we sent it over, never thinking it would see the light of day. I guess they watched it, and I went over there in early January last year to meet with Mikael over in London, and I was kind of nervous about going over there to meet a Hollywood director for something. We sat and just talked for two hours. We spent maybe twenty minutes just talking about the film, then we spent the rest of the time just chatting away. I came over and had a couple more meetings. I met with Tony. It sort of went on. It takes time. I didn’t think I was going to get it; I didn’t think it was going to work out. And then I came home to Ireland and found out I got the part, which was just an incredible feeling. And then I got drunk with my family. (Laughter)
QUESTION: With your family? That sounds like much fun.
Alice Braga: This sounds like the family I would hang out with.
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah, so it was just unbelievable. I’m kind of pinching myself now, you know.
QUESTION: Do you both believe in demonic possession?
Alice Braga: Um, I never thought much about it. You always end up thinking a bit about it, making a film like this. Of course, you’re questioning yourself. I don’t know if I can say I believe that people turn around and all that. But once you go through the process of discussing a lot about it and researching for your character and going through the character’s journey, you might end up believing a little bit more and questioning more. I can’t say if I do believe in something.
QUESTION: To practice exorcisms, were you…. ???? (3:33 not sure what he says here)
Alice Braga: Not much. I think there are discussions about it and definitely there’s probably a few exorcist priests there. But it’s not something that is out there.
QUESTION: How did you research your characters?
QUESTION: Were allowed to go into the Vatican?
Colin O'Donoghue: No, it wasn’t in the Vatican. It was in a church in Rome itself. We were lucky. (Writer) Matt Baglio had brought me, and I read quite a lot of the theological side of possession, demons and spirits. I think it’s important to be as prepared as you can. But you can be over-rehearsed, but never well prepared. So, it was important for me to get to see some exorcisms, even for the mortician stuff. I went to a morgue and stuff. You need to know these things and how things work, if you’re going to portray it. But when I went to the exorcisms in Rome, what fascinated me was how – I guess, in a sense – not mundane (that’s the wrong word) – but how ordinary it was. And it wasn’t in any kind of sense or extraordinary sort of thing that was happening. It was very much part of the day-to-day, week-to-week occurrence for these people who were going in to get blessed. You know, it was just like in a waiting room, and they go in to get the priest to pray over them. They even make an appointment for the next week.
QUESTION: Like a doctor?
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah, just like a doctor. Yeah… so, a demon doctor. So, that’s how I prepared for it – just read and spoke to priests and spoke to exorcists. I was lucky enough to meet Father Garian and speak with him over the phone just before we started as well. Had a good lengthy conversation with him, which is important since I’m portraying a somewhat skewed element of him. That’s how I prepared.
Alice Braga: My character is a journalist. It was a great chance to meet Matt (Baglio), who’s a journalist and wrote the book. I tried to go into that journey more than researching about the exorcisms to have answers right away. But I tried to go through the process that the character goes. Trying to get an interview with Father Lucas, finding out this character is very interesting and that he had doubts and meeting Father Lucas. All of that I tried to put it together as an investigative journalist to get an answer. So, I paced myself a lot into the book and Matt’s work, and what a journalist would do to try and get the answers, and then at towards the end of the film, bringing in all of the answers.
QUESTION: So, no scary experiences?
Colin O'Donoghue: There was one. There was a girl. The exorcism room was there and there was a bathroom there and Matt Baglio and I were here by the door. It was open so we could watch, but the room was tiny, so we couldn’t physically stand in the room. But she came in and she was going to the bathroom. But as she did so, she literally just turned her head like that and just stared at me. Didn’t blink. Not once. Walking over and even turned her head to keep staring at me and closed the door behind her. And as she came out, she did the exact same thing, then she just walked out and then she went in and closed the door. She was the only I heard banging and screaming. So that was the only thing I saw that freaked me out. I think that Marta Gastini who plays ‘Rosaria’, she went as well. Matt brought her, and she saw something a bit more extreme. But it was the way this woman looked at me. It was really unnerving. I don’t know if because if we were in a church, where they practice exorcisms. And by the way, there are so many churches in Rome that practice exorcisms. Famous churches, big tourist attractions, they’ve got a little room off to the side. I guess it’s something you don’t really hear about. You don’t really hear someone going, “I was in with the psychiatrist today, again.” So, I think it’s the same sort of thing. I don’t know how many exorcists are practicing in Ireland, but there’s probably a lot. I know there’s a lot of exorcists who practice in America. A lot more than we probably think. It’s just one of those things that has a slight stigma to it.
QUESTION: When you saw the girl’s eyes, did you think it was psychosis or was it possession?
Colin O'Donoghue: I genuinely didn’t know. That’s being honest. I asked the priest, “How can you tell it’s not psychological?” And he said, “because they all been psychologically-evaluated.” That’s important. He said they would perform unless they (the patients) had gone under tests and stuff. So, I don’t know. You could still argue it takes years to get diagnosed for many kind of psychosis. But I guess that’s what faith is. To these people, they believe they are possessed, or their families believe they’re possessed. I don’t know. Apparently, she had a demon behind her eyes. I’ve got no way of telling if she’s psychologically got issues or not. I’m an actor, so I’m not a psychologist. It just freaked me out, that’s all.
QUESTION: What is your religion?
Alice Braga: I was raised as a Catholic. My whole family is. Especially my grandmother. I did baptism. I did first communion. But I don’t go to the church. I’m not connected to it. So, that’s my background.
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah, I’m Catholic as well. It’s kind of boring. My family is all Catholics. Very typically Irish. (Laughter)
QUESTION: So could you relate to your character in the sense that he’s doubting the existence of God or the Devil?
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah. I think probably everyone at some point have a question of faith. I think it’s just natural. So, it would be easy to tap into that. I think being Catholic and growing up in a very Catholic country, sort of lended itself to part. It in no way inhibited it. But again, it’s important that it’s all there in the script; it’s all there in the book. It was important to use the book as much as I could to try and get across this character. And doubts are important, I think. Because only through your doubts that’s when faith really comes through. If you really do have faith and you’re doubting, then your faith will pull you through. If that makes any sense?
QUESTION: What did you learn from watching Anthony Hopkins on set?
Alice Braga: I think a lot. Every scene, every take, he brings something different. So, I think he’s very impressive. I think I’ve learned a lot about commitment and passion and so much. It’s hard to put in words.
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah. He won’t mind me saying this, because he did give me one tip and I’ve heard him say it to somebody. So, I’m going to say it. This one scene that we did, and he said, “Colin, I thought you were great in that scene.” And I said, “Oh, thanks very much.” Then he says, “Just one thing. You got great eyebrows. Don’t move them!” (Laughter) And that was it. In a sense, it was like he was joking. But in the end, these are little Tony’s tips, as I like to call them. He sort of gives you little words of advice every so often. But it’s the kind of thing you don’t really think about. But when you see it back for comparison, it makes complete sense. I mean this is a man who’s changed the face of what we do. He’s one of the people who did that. It’s a master class unto itself. You just stand and watch him perform and you try to figure out how the hell did he think of that?
Colin O'Donoghue: You know? Like in the exorcism scenes. He was putting in prayers that he’s know from his childhood, and you’re like “Where is this coming from?” You kind of get taken aback a little bit. You see this powerhouse performing. You couldn’t pay money…
Alice Braga: You couldn’t pay money to see that up close.
QUESTION: Did it feel all silly to be dressed up in the outfits and have Anthony Hopkins on the side of you in these scenes?
Colin O'Donoghue: Mm…yeah. It was weird. Actually it wasn’t so weird in Rome, because as we were saying, there were tons of young guys, young priests walking around Rome in their pair of jeans. But they would have their collar on and stuff like that. I was kind of taken aback by the amount of priests walking around the city of Rome. It was weird, but then you get over it after awhile. The worst thing was that it was so hot in Budapest. It was crazy hot.
Colin O'Donoghue: And we’re supposed to be in the winter and rain and stuff. We’re all in these woolen suits and all of that, and “oh, my God” the heat was unbearable.
QUESTION: Why did it have to be winter?
Alice Braga: I think maybe to become darker? (Laughter) It’s kind of like rainy and it’s not sunny all the time. On the script it says, “It’s raining”, or “It’s dark”.
QUESTION: The book seems very serious and presented as non-fiction. But when you do a film like this, it’s entertainment. So how did the actors, the writer and the director find a balance between entertaining people and being thought provoking as well?
Colin O'Donoghue: Wow, I don’t know if it’s something I thought about. I think it was important to be true to the book as much as you can. But at the end of the day, we all realize we were making a Hollywood movie.
Alice Braga: Yeah, and it’s fiction. So you can create based on what is real, but it’s never 100% what happens because it needs to be entertaining as well.
Colin O'Donoghue: The most interesting thing is that one day Father Garian was on-set. It was one of the big exorcism scenes. I went up to him and I said, “This must really quite Hollywood.” And he said, “I’ve seen just about everything happen in real life.” And this one of the most extreme scenes in the film. I do know that nearly everything to do with that within the film, Matt Baglio had either seen or there were accounts from actual priests, actual exorcists. So, pretty much most of the things that you see in the film having to deal with the exorcisms are based on a fact, an actual thing that’s happened. So, maybe exorcisms are entertainment. (Laughter)
Alice Braga: Yeah. An interesting combination, because Matt’s book is real and non-fiction. And having to have that as your base, you can use as many realities as you want, and then transform into something that would be for the film. So, I think, there’s the quality of being of suspense and not just a horror film. Because we’re trying to figure out if it’s all real or not. And that’s’ the journey that Matt went through as a journalist. I think he wanted to write an article, and as soon as he got involved, he realized this can be deeper, and we can research more, and question ourselves more. By making a film, in my opinion, you make the audience think about it. And maybe by knowing the subject, would never be thinking about it, than going through the journey we went…
Colin O'Donoghue: Yeah, I don’t think this film is as fantastical as an exorcism film.
QUESTION: Oh definitely. An exorcism film could go way over the top.
Colin O'Donoghue: I think it tried to keep as much based in reality as possible. And that’s the most important thing, you know.