This year, more than a month before Halloween, Panos Cosmatos is set to unleash his latest film on the horror masses. If you’ve seen Beyond the Black Rainbow, then you have a pretty good idea what to expect, and his sophomore effort is just as nebulous. While the narrative is slightly more linear and discernible, it’s an equally messed up Dungeons & Dragons fever dream that finds Nic Cage in full-on revenge mode.
I’m not really sure how to describe any further. Even if I spoiled the story, it won’t keep you from being shocked and surprised at the madness within. So how about this: It’s like a heavy metal horror version of John Wick. Further, it might be the best acting we’ve seen from Nic Cage in more than a decade (campy channeling of Adam West in Kick-Ass not withstanding).
So enter seasoned character actor, Bill Duke, an ’80s movie staple who plays Caruthers, and is the one calm port in a trippy ocean of madness. One thing is for sure, Mandy will be divisive. It’s about as gruesome as The Devil’s Rejects and Irreversible, yet thanks to the Bruce Campbell-lite antics of Cage, and the satisfaction to the revenge herein, you’d likely want to watch it again, at least before the other two films that is.
So enjoy our session with the great Bill Duke. As expected, he is both charming and pure class.
GoSeeTalk: Mr. Duke, I grew up with Predator, so it’s a thrilling honor to speak with you. Thanks for taking time to sit with me.
Bill Duke: God bless you, my friend. Thank you so much, I appreciate that.
I can’t tell you how many times, when I’m in the middle of doing something, I just break out and go, “I’m a have me some fun, I’m a have me some fun.” As Mac, you made such an impression on my childhood.
[Laughs] I’m glad! [Laughs]
I don’t even know to describe this film, but it is an experience. Please tell me how you got involved, and what made you say yes to this.
Well, Panos called me directly, and said he wanted me to do it. Then I read the script I, and I wanted to work with Nicolas Cage so I said yes. We were shooting in Brussels, Belgium, and worked with some really great people, the food was amazing and we had a really great time.
Your monologue was one quiet calm in this storm of madness and it eluded to the dangers to come. You have such a presence, so did Panos give you notes on what he wanted, or did he just trust you and let you be Bill Duke?
That was mostly what he did, he also expressed that Nicolas’ character and I had been friends for many years, and knew each other because of the wars we had been in, and that we had a camaraderie.
He didn’t tell us how to do that. He just gave it to us as actors that that’s what he needed, and luckily we had the skills to provide it.
He’s not a get in your face director – he hires actors that he feels can do the job and that’s how he works. It’s mutually respectful.
That really comes across on screen, in the line where you tell Red that you kept ‘the Reaper’ safe for him. It told a lot without overdoing it. But was there more to the scene? How long does a four-minute scene take to film?
We did my scene in one day. I actually haven’t seen the film yet. There’s a premiere of it next week, and I’ll see it for the first time.
The film has an odd bit of humor to it. The best has to be the dialogue between you and Nic where you ask him what he’s hunting. He says “Jesus freaks.” And you calmly say, “I didn’t know they were in season.”
[Laughs] Yeah, I love that one. [Laughs]
Was there anything that was in the script that you were really looking forward to saying on the day?
I don’t know if it’s still in the movie or not, but I’m a drug head in the movie, and when you see the inside of my trailer, there’s needles on the table and he looks at it but doesn’t ask me anything, but I tell him “I have asthma.”
[Laughs] That’s great, and goes more to my point. I’m not sure how to describe this film, so since you were in it, what’s your take on Mandy? How would you pitch it?
In terms of the script and my experience working on it, it’s like a new genre. It’s a mix of horror and adventure, but the thing I felt most about the script, and you don’t feel this in most horror film, is that you really feel something for the protagonist.
You feel something for Red and his wife. The very thing thing they were trying to get away from by leaving society came back to haunt them.
So there’s irony there that what they want to leave behind tracked them down.
As outlandish as the movie is, and it is pretty brutal, there is a satisfying resolve to the vengeance that you just don’t get too often. Like you said, you feel something for Nic and Andrea. It really is like a new genre. You’re going to get credit for coining that. [Laughs]
You know, I felt guilty long ago watching Dexter, because I used to root for Dexter who was a serial killer [Laughs] who was killing people who are worse than he was.
And now that’s ok, right?
[Laughs] I don’t know if it’s ok, but you understood, let’s put it that way.
I feel like your character has parallels to Scatman Crothers’ character in The Shining. What was your inspiration? And what else did Panos tell you about Caruthers?
You have to credit the character I play to the author. But when you work on a character, it comes down to the script which I think was just so well written. I had time to really dig into it. It’s hard to explain unless you’re an actor because you can read it, but unless you surrender your vulnerability to what’s written, it doesn’t come to life.
I found it very easy to surrender because these two people are brothers in a way. When he saw that Red lost his wife, and what he was doing, it changed Caruthers. He volunteered to go with him and he could barely walk. He said he would go, and Red said to stay here. So it tells you something about the relationship, doesn’t it?
It certainly does, and you could even sum up their relationship before we even see your character. On the door to your camper, it reads F- OFF. When Red knocks, you say, “can’t you read the sign?” Then you open the door and you say just two words. “It’s you.” And that just tells a whole story. The delivery was so great.
Well, thank you so much.
So we go from two words to one word. Can you help me settle a bet between my brother and I? We grew up watching Predator on VHS, and when you first see the Predator and you call to your squad to level the jungle, you say one word. Is it contra, or contact?
I thought it was contra – like enemies, gorillas, bad guys, etc. Guess I lost the bet.
No, no. [Laughs] What it meant was that there was contact with the enemy, with the monster.
Thank you immensely for your time. You have a blessed day.
You, too, my friend. God bless. Be well!
Thanks so much to Bill for his time. Mandy is written and directed by Panos Cosmatos and stars Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Duke and Linus Roache. The film will be released by RLJE Films on September 14, 2018.
Mandy is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.