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DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Inhabiting the Roles
After such a long gestation period, Jerry Bruckheimer and Scott Derrickson were determined not to compromise on their choice of actors to inhabit Ralph Sarchie and the other leading roles of Deliver Us From Evil. And to portray the Bronx police officer whose life and work inspired the story, the filmmakers focused on Eric Bana, one of the most versatile stars working today. "Clint Culpepper suggested the brilliant idea of casting Eric as Ralph Sarchie," says Bruckheimer, "and Scott and I naturally agreed. He's someone we think is a great actor, and love working with him."

Bruckheimer and Bana already enjoyed a collaborative history, as the producer and director Ridley Scott had helped to catapult the Australian-born actor to fame in his role as Delta Sgt. First Class "Hoot" Gibson in Black Hawk Down (which coincidentally was released in 2001, around the time Bruckheimer began to develop Ralph Sarchie's book into a film). "Eric Bana is an amazing actor," says Bruckheimer, "and getting him to play Sarchie is a win-win for us. We were really fortunate to have him in Black Hawk Down before he really hit stardom, and his work ever since has been exceptional in everything from Munich to Hanna."

For Bana, the feelings expressed by Bruckheimer were entirely mutual. "Jerry being the producer of Deliver Us From Evil was a very big factor in my wanting to do the film. He gave me my first big American film. Black Hawk Down was really important film for me, personally, and a great thing for my career. It was Jerry and his team at Bruckheimer Films that brought me that project with Ridley Scott. We've kept in touch through the years, and there have been a couple of projects that we came close to, but just wasn't the perfect fit...until this. I responded to the material straight away. I was at home in Australia, and Jerry and I had a really great, long chat about the film and its potential, so I'm really excited to be working with him again."

Bana was drawn to the role of Ralph Sarchie in Deliver Us From Evil because he saw something in Scott Derrickson's previous work which transcended the horror genre. "Scott's movies, like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, are really incredibly written and performed character films that are set in genres. And when I met with him, I felt that I just had to do the film. He has total respect for the genre, knows more about it than anyone I've ever met, but understands the importance of character and story.

"I was also attracted to the character of Ralph Sarchie," continues the actor. "I was very much intrigued by the genre and subject matter that was wrapped around the story, but when I read the script, what jumped out to me the most was a brilliantly written, intense and fascinating character who I thought would be a really great challenge to play, and the kind of character that I like to go to the movies to see.

"I liked the fact that Sarchie was this really tough, experienced street cop in the Bronx, who ends up being exposed to a world that's so far removed from the practicalities of police work. At the beginning, we have a character whose belief system is founded purely on facts and physical things. Ralph's journey is what makes it so intriguing. This is the one time in his career where procedure is blocked because of inner demons and his past doings, and he has to deal with that. In this case, Ralph has to deal with something very dark from his past, and deal with it in a very dramatic way in order to move forward as a person. It's a very relatable theme for people who are carrying secrets and things they've done in the past that they'd like to shake off. I like to believe that we don't. We pay for it eventually, somehow, some way."

Bana spent considerable time with the real Ralph Sarchie, but rather than talk about the film, "We would just sit around and chat. It was very helpful for me to meet Ralph prior to production because there was a certain physicality to him that was very important. Ralph would be very important to us throughout production as an adviser regarding the police work, but outside those parameters it was two guys chatting. He's a really great guy."

Finding the right actor to play the demanding role of Joe Mendoza, an unorthodox priest who has battled his own inner demons and enters into a partnership with Sarchie at first uncertain and then bonded by the recognition of the evil which they are facing, was not an easy task. However, it led Scott Derrickson and Jerry Bruckheimer directly to Edgar RAMIREZ, the actor who had already staked out a hugely versatile career, first in his native Venezuela and South America, then around the world. "I saw Edgar in the television miniseries Carlos," says Bruckheimer, "and thought he was just amazing. He carried the entire five hour long show, speaking several languages and even changing his physicality. Edgar was absolutely fearless, and we thought he would be just perfect to play this tormented priest."

"I don't think I've ever seen an actor work as hard at a role as Edgar RAMIREZ worked at forming the character of Father Mendoza," observes Derrickson. "Edgar spent so much time investigating this Jesuit priest, a Latin American, a little bit of an outsider, a smoker and drinker who has made mistakes in the past. What began to emerge was a character who was certainly the character that I wrote, but had more layers than even I had imagined. That's what a good actor does. A good actor brings more to the table than is even in the script, and Edgar did that through his research and preparation."

"At the very beginning," RAMIREZ explains, "Mendoza was a mere presence, serving as a catalyst for Sarchie to solve the cases that he was investigating. I told Scott that I felt that we needed to find a journey for the character, that Mendoza will discover something about himself by getting to know Sarchie, that he shouldn't only have religious and philosophical answers for Sarchie, but that there's something that Sarchie brings to him as well. There's certain access that the priest doesn't have, and certain information that the police officer doesn't have, so they kind of feed each other in order to solve these cases. In the beginning, they couldn't care less about working together, but one has what the other one needs in order to solve the case."

"The relationship between Sarchie and Mendoza is as important, in many ways, than the relationship between Sarchie and his wife," explains Eric Bana. "Mendoza is pretty much a Pied Piper for Sarchie, leading him down a path of trying to open his eyes and educate him. They absolutely become partners, and we were aided by a director who understood the importance of dialogue scenes as opposed to just non-stop action. It's a very special relationship, and it was superbly cast with Edgar RAMIREZ. His preparation was absolutely fantastic, and Edgar is also really interesting and a lot of fun to hang around with. He brought real intensity but also gentleness to Mendoza, and he put a lot of thought into that character."

To prepare for his role, RAMIREZ felt that "it was very important to understand what a priest thinks and feels when he's not giving the sermon in church on Sundays. I was lucky enough to talk to priests who were open to share their everyday feelings and anxieties. I also researched exorcism, and the psychological and emotional consequences that come from performing such a rite. The interviews that I did and the information that I collected indicated that it's very close to post-traumatic stress disorder, because when you face the devil, you are going to war.

The filmmakers then found their Jen Sarchie-the wife of Bana's Ralph Sarchie, whose love for her husband is tested when he drifts further into the darkness which seems to envelop him as he combats everyday and then paranormal evil-with their casting of the dynamic Olivia Munn. A comedic television sensation on G4's Attack of the Show! and, more recently, Comedy Central's The Daily Show, the vivaciously talented Munn has as of late won acclaim for more serious roles, including Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, and her portrayal of Sloan Sabbith in Aaron Sorkin's HBO series, The Newsroom. "Olivia is really an up-and-comer," notes Jerry Bruckheimer. "I think she's brilliant in The Newsroom, with real depth to her acting. We had been following her career for a long time, and Deliver Us From Evil presented a great opportunity."

"Jen is based on a real character," notes Scott Derrickson, "and when I met the real Jen during my writing of the initial draft of the script, I was struck by her strength of character and manner of accepting and holding together the dark world that her husband had become part of, both as a cop and as an investigator into the demonic. And what Olivia understood was the most important thing about Jen's character was that she has her own strength and didn't want to be neglected while her husband was immersed in combating all kinds of darkness. What Olivia brought to the role was a perfect blend of strength, self-sufficiency and compassion for what it was that her husband was going through."

"When Olivia's name came up," adds Eric Bana, "I was really excited about the opportunity. Scott, Olivia and I had some really good chats about the dynamic of Ralph and Jen's relationship, and how to make it believable. We don't have a lot of scenes together, so it was really important to establish a relationship that was both realistic, in terms of conflict and complexity, but also in terms of compassion and intimacy. It also helps that Olivia is a bunch of fun. She's absolutely hilarious when the camera's not rolling."

"I felt like I won a radio contest when I heard that I was cast in this movie," laughs Munn. "Like I called on the third Beyonce song of the hour and they said, 'And you get to work with Eric Bana, Jerry Bruckheimer and Scott Derrickson.' I was like, 'That's amazing, where do I pick up the tickets?'

"This is the kind of character I haven't played before, continues Munn. "One thing that I love about Jen is her relationship to her family, Ralph and their daughter, Christina. One of the hardest strengths to have is just to hold back and love without any judgment. I wanted Jen to be the foundation of their home, so when Ralph's off facing what he has to deal with, she's at home pulling it all together, and not being the nagging wife who doesn't understand.

"I grew up in a military family," Munn continues, "and the one thing that you have know either dating or being married to a cop or a soldier is to be really understanding of the things they have to go through. As much as it may hurt you, it hurts them more, and you have to love them through it. Ralph and Jen have such a sweet relationship, and Eric and I got along from literally the second we met, and Lulu Wilson, who plays our daughter, is such an amazing little actress. Hopefully it shows the heart of the story and what Ralph Sarchie has to lose when things start to go down."

Perhaps the most unorthodox casting in Deliver Us From Evil is Joel McHale as Butler, Ralph Sarchie's sarcastic but loyal and lethal partner in the "Four-Six." For years, McHale has kept television audiences in proverbial stitches as the acerbic host of E!'s The Soup and as the star of NBC's comedy, Community. But McHale and Scott Derrickson have quite a shared history. "Joel has been my best friends for many, many years," says the director/writer. "I've known him since he first moved to L.A., before he was any kind of actor or celebrity, before he even had an agent. I wrote the role of Butler for Joel, because I always thought there was something cop-like about him in real life, not his TV persona. Joel was a tight end for the University of Washington, he's in amazing physical condition, he has a fascination for knives and there's a volatility to him. The Joel you get in the movie is more like the real guy than the characters he plays on television.

However, Jerry Bruckheimer points out that McHale's comedic skills are also called into play for his role in Deliver Us From Evil. "We wanted to bring some levity to the film, and Joel is the perfect choice. He fits right into the role."

As McHale tells it, tongue firmly planted in cheek, Scott Derrickson casting him as Butler was an inevitability. "I have a lot of dirt on Scott," confides the actor. "Photos. Recordings. He's committed a lot of crimes that are legal in only a few countries. So I said that I would not expose him, and Scott offered me this role. He said 'I'm going to give you this part,' and I was like, 'Awesome. I cannot wait to watch someone else do it.' But eventually, Jerry and Screen Gems came on board, and thank God, I got it. And believe me, I'm still pinching myself right now, because it's a thrill to do a role like this."

McHale knew that people might think that the role of Butler is out of his comfort zone. To which he responds, "I get to fight with knives in this movie. That IS my comfort zone! Where I feel most comfortable is wielding steel." The actor describes Butler as "an ex-Army Ranger from Seattle, one of those guys who just likes to fight. He would rather not be safe, so he transferred to the Bronx to get more action. Butler likes to make people uncomfortable. He likes to take that people think is normal and turn it around, such as wearing a Boston Red Sox hat all the time in the Bronx, home of the New York Yankees. He does it just to piss people off.

"Sarchie and Butler are very different from each other, but they work really well together," notes McHale. "Sarchie is very dark and brooding, with a lot of baggage. The weight of the world is on him. And Butler is always making jokes and jabbing him. But Butler also recognizes that Sarchie has a kind of radar, a sixth sense, and when it goes up, we're going to get into some real s-t. But Butler will gleefully go into those situations."

"The relationship between police partners is super important," adds Eric Bana. "I think in order to portray a cop accurately, the relationship between him and his partner needs to be completely realistic, and the reality is that there's a lot of gallows humor and ribbing that goes on. Humor is what gets you through and especially with what these guys have to deal with. Fortunately for me, Scott cast Joel, whose comedy background was really beneficial. It meant that we were able to muck around with each other. They put us in a car and let us loose for 45 minutes one night, and we were just brutal to each other." McHale was also delighted to work on a film from one of moviedom's most legendary producers. "Jerry is, I believe, the most successful movie producer in history. He knows how to make a movie, how to sell a movie, and if you get him behind something, you've got a way better shot than usual. He's always such a calm presence on set, and he's got your back."

The man selected to portray Sarchie and Butler's nemesis in the film, Mick Santino, was Britain's Sean Harris, who has proven over many years (including the Showtime series The Borgias, opposite Michael Caine in Harry Brown and in Ridley Scott's feature Prometheus) that he can play virtually any role with equal verisimilitude and an almost ungodly devotion to the task. "Sean is scary, he's brilliant, he makes unusual choices, and that's why he's the perfect person to play Santino," says Jerry Bruckheimer. "Sean Harris is some sort of conjurer," notes Joel McHale. "He became Mick Santino."

"Sean embodied the Santino character in a way that was deeper than I expected," says Derrickson. "Sean understood the character from the inside out. Because he's British and lives in London, I didn't have an opportunity to read him for the role. I cast him based on his performance in Harry Brown. I saw how deep he went into that role, and I'm not exactly sure why, but I knew that Sean was the guy to play Santino. He's the only person that we offered the role to. I had confidence that he could do it, and I was thankfully proven to be right."

Derrickson and Bruckheimer assembled the remainder of the fine cast, including Dorian Missick and Mike Houston as Sarchie and Butler's fellow NYPD officers, Gordon and Nadler; Olivia Horton as the tormented and possibly possessed Jane Crenna; and seven-year-old native New Yorker Lulu Wilson as Ralph and Jen Sarchie's daughter, Christina. Meanwhile, a top team of New York-based film veterans were to comprise the crew, as the company set forth on a two-month adventure filming on some of the most challenging locations, and in some of the most skin-and-soul drenching weather conditions, of their considerable careers.

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