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DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Hot, Wet Bronx Summer
There is plenty of moody, atmospheric rain which falls on screen in Deliver Us From Evil, some of it thanks to the special effects team...most of it thanks to Mother Nature.
June 8, 2013, was fated to be the single rainiest day in the 145-year-long recorded meteorological history of New York City, with rainfall measuring at 4.16 inches.
Thankfully, being a Saturday, that was an off day for the Deliver Us From Evil company.

However, that entire month of June was the wettest one in NYC history, with 10.26 inches of rain drenching the venerable city in a Noah's Ark-like deluge, and from that, the film's company was definitely not spared. Especially when one considers that Monday, June 3rd, 2013 was the first day of principal photography of the film, which would continue for 41 soggy shooting days until the end of July. "Somehow, our films always seem to shoot under extreme weather conditions," muses Jerry Bruckheimer. "We've survived hurricanes, tornadoes, sand storms, blizzards, earthquakes...and now, a New York City summer!"

True to the script's greatly atmospheric backdrops, the first two days of filming were actually at the first of only two locations outside of New York City limits, in the nearly medieval confines of a mostly shuttered building which was part of the still active Nassau County Correctional Facility in East Meadow, Long Island. Cast and crew were compelled to pass through multiple well-guarded barred gates to access the dark, chilling confines of the interior sets-a psychiatric ward for the criminally insane housing, among others, Jane Crenna, portrayed by Olivia Horton (putting her eight years of training with The Joffrey Ballet to good use with her slinking, catlike movements). Jane's horrifying physical state gave make-up special effects designer Mike Marino the first opportunity to perform his considerable artistry. "We used 30 or so prosthetics on Olivia Horton to create Jane Crenna's self-inflicted wounds," explains Marino, whose team worked alongside make-up department head Lori Hicks and hair department head Jerry DeCarlo's units. "As opposed to monster movie makeup, this film is supposed to be grounded in reality. So all of the makeups that we did on Sean Harris, Chris Coy and Olivia Horton were based on a huge library of photos that I've found of people who inflicted wounds on themselves." For Olivia Horton, it was a four hour makeup process...which, as things would turn out, was literally half of what Sean Harris would have to endure for the exorcism sequence which climaxes the film.

Two nights later would see the crew filming the first of many night shoots in the production's primary location: the gritty, fascinating, vibrant, culturally diverse, teeming and often steaming borough of the Bronx, in which Sgt. Ralph Sarchie served with the 46th Precinct of the New York Police Department.

The Bronx is a symphony of urban monochrome, a gritty poem of red, brown and beige brick occasionally interrupted by splashes of brilliant greenery. Tenements virtually unchanged for a century or more vie for space with modest, mostly working-class single or two family homes. This unique landscape provided Derrickson, highly creative director of photography Scott Kevan and acclaimed production designer Bob Shaw with a richly atmospheric backdrop against which to play out the drama and terror of the story. "The Bronx, for me, is visually compelling because it's a part of New York that I haven't seen very much of on screen," says Kevan. "It's a fresh place to be photographed, and I think that's exciting. There are blocks and blocks of incredibly designed buildings in various states of disrepair, elevated subway trains, all of which fit in perfectly with the visual style of the film."

"In terms of filmmaking, the Bronx has been undershot," agrees Bob Shaw. "It has a very rich architectural history, and gave us a great opportunity for some really interesting textures."

The Bronx does not yet, and may never, have cool, gentrified neighborhoods so prevalent in large swaths of Brooklyn, or hipster coffee houses by the bucketload. Instead, the Bronx has a completely authentic vibe, a rich stew of residents who are primarily African-American, Latino, Caribbean and African emigres, along with remnants of the huge Italian, Irish and Jewish populations who preceded them, music from merengue to rap to soca to soukous blaring out of shop and apartment windows, mingled smells of ethnic cooking wafting in the summer wind. Derrickson, Kevan, Shaw and location manager James D. Lee and his team of scouts, selected locations which ranged across the entire borough, particularly the South Bronx and West Bronx.

"We decided to shoot in the Bronx because that's where it takes place," says Jerry Bruckheimer matter-of-factly. "It gives the film real verisimilitude, and the locations are fantastic. Many of them are real places where Ralph Sarchie worked and patrolled, and it adds an exciting element to the movie."

"It was never an option in my mind not to shoot in the Bronx," states Scott Derrickson, "because the Bronx is not like any other place in the world. "The architecture, the people, the feeling, the density, the building structures...the Bronx is a character in the movie. And because of the proliferation of crime in the particular district where Ralph worked in the 'Four-Six,' I wanted to shoot in that area. While we were filming, Ralph would constantly point out buildings and tell extraordinary stories of things and people that he had encountered as a cop. It's a very alive place, not as rough as it used to be back when Ralph was a police sergeant. The NYPD and city government have done a really good job of cleaning up that area compared to what it was 15 years ago."

While the Bronx would provide a great urban stage on which the characters would play out the suspense and drama of Deliver Us From Evil, responsible for appropriately attiring the actors was costume designer Christopher Peterson, who was determined to match the filmmakers' desire for realism while at the same time using clothing as a means to explore the personalities on screen. "We wanted to make an extraordinary effort to make the ordinary interesting," says the designer. "The starting point is always the script, and both Scott and Jerry really wanted this to be a character-driven piece. Since he's playing a policeman, Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie wears bulletproof vests, and I thought that rather than hide it, we should make a feature of it. That way, we see Eric's athleticism but it also has components of reality. As Father Mendoza, Edgar was even more of a challenge, because since time immemorial, audiences have seen priests as the guy in black with the white collar. I thought it would be more interesting to have him moving through the film as a dark central figure without the use of traditional ecclesiastical garments. So we've got Edgar in basic t-shirts, jeans and a fantastic black leather jacket, then a black suede trench coat."

Since Peterson had already designed for Olivia Munn when they worked together on Magic Mike, the designer knew that "she has great instincts not only about acting, but also about clothing. She's very smart about keying into the emotional punch of a garment and how it can affect a scene. When you have someone as beautiful as Olivia playing a Bronx mom like Jen Sarchie, you have to bring it down to a realistic level. Olivia made the point that Jen is a mother with a child on the way, not somebody who's checking her lipstick every five seconds."

The first evening of filming in the Bronx featured scenes of Edgar RAMIREZ inside and out of Joe Mendoza's modest apartment, located on Morris Avenue, a street of brownstones built from 1906 to 1910 which was deemed a landmark block by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Foundation. The delighted and occasionally rowdy residents of the street happily watched cast and crew go about their business, sitting on stoops, watching the video monitors and in effect creating something of a block party. The following two nights brought the company to a rather sinister house on Bainbridge Avenue in the Fordham district, built in 1905 with a gloomy stone exterior perfect for the frightening goings-on inside the residence of the Alberghetti family. The two nights also brought torrential rains to New York, courtesy of Tropical Storm Andrea, with signs and portents that more such meteorological conditions could be in the offing for weeks to come...as indeed they were.

During the filming on Bainbridge Avenue, Scott Derrickson turned nature's fury to his own benefit, simply setting the exterior scene with Eric Bana, Joel McHale and the actors portraying the Alberghettis in the middle of a rainstorm...without the need for special effects rain towers! It was fortuitous that in Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman's script, so many exterior scenes featured rain, for the following week brought more near-biblical deluges for the film's introduction of Sgt. Ralph Sarchie in an alleyway on Anderson Avenue. The company found some relief with the shooting of a powerful interior scene with Eric Bana and Edgar Martinez in a chapel designed and built by production designer Bob Shaw and his art department on the top floor of the North Central Bronx Hospital, with an incredible nighttime vista of the flickering lights of the Bronx and Manhattan outside of a panoramic window. Ferocious rains delayed by one day shooting inside of the famed Bronx Zoo, America's oldest and largest zoological parks.

The clouds parted long enough to allow filming of nighttime scenes of Sarchie and Butler investigating a bizarre event inside of the lush, nearly tropical oasis of the 114-year-old Bronx Zoo, America's oldest and largest zoological park. The mingled smells of a thousand animals combined with honeysuckle and other flora, as well as an oratorio of sounds from the avian inhabitants, created a magical atmosphere for the company throughout the night. Deliver Us From Evil is, astonishingly, the first feature to be permitted to film inside of The Bronx Zoo since Ken Russell's Altered States in 1980. "The authorities of the Zoo are rightfully discerning in allowing filming," notes Jerry Bruckheimer. "I think they were pleased that we wanted the Bronx Zoo to rightfully portray itself."

After enjoying some green space in Barretto Point Park at the edge of the East River in Hunts Point, for a scene in which Ralph and Jen Sarchie watch their little daughter, Christina, play a game of soccer, the following two days saw the company filming with Eric Bana, Edgar RAMIREZ and Joel McHale at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, which had been coverted by Bob Shaw into a re-creation of the 46th Precinct. Originally built in 1901 as the 50th Precinct of the NYPD in 15th century palazzo style as part of "The City Beautiful" architectural movement, the extraordinary building was brought back to life as a police station, so realistically that Ralph Sarchie, an on-set adviser, was stunned by the realism with which his former workplace had been re-created. Sarchie could not help but to invite several of his former fellow officers from the "Four-Six" to the set to marvel at Bob Shaw's ingenuity. "I can't explain the way I felt when I walked onto that set," says Sarchie. "I was in a building that wasn't really the Four-Six, but I felt like I was actually in the Four-Six. And any of the cops that came to the work had the same reaction. We couldn't believe our eyes. It exceeded my expectations to the point where I had to keep looking to believe it."

One of the most enjoyable locations for the company, for sheer gustatory reasons, was in a still heavily Italian neighborhood on East 187th Street, lined with restaurants, delis, grocery stores, fresh pasta shops, bakeries and churches (no surprise, then, that crew members kept ducking into the salumerias and cheese shops and exiting with loaves of bread, cannoli and containers of fresh mozzarella). A little less exciting, but of crucial importance for a scene in which Sarchie and Mendoza discuss the reality of demonic possession, was American Legion 774, was converted by Bob Shaw and the art department into a smoky, crowded firehouse recreation room and bar. The working class home of Ralph Sarchie and his family was an amalgam of two separate houses (and sets later built on an Astoria Kaufman Studios soundstage) on the leafy, bucolic Yates Avenue in Morris Park.

Eric Bana found that shooting in the Bronx helped him find and sustain his New York accent. "To be completely honest," confesses the Australian-born Bana, "I think the accent would have been impossible if we had shot out of town. You can put your homework in, and listen to tapes, but shooting in the Bronx and being around New Yorkers every day was absolutely essential for me. And again, having Ralph Sarchie on set was extremely helpful. I had a great dialect coach, Nadia Venesse, who was also working with Edgar and Olivia. We'd done quite a few films together and have a shortcut process, and she was brilliant, as always."

It was sheer irony that just as New York's rainiest month ever came to a welcome close, the company went behind the protective closed doors of Stage H at Astoria Kaufman Studios, across the East River from Manhattan in the borough of Queens where, among many other sets to come, Bob Shaw had created little Christina Sarchie's bedroom...the site of some of the film's most frightening sequences. Kaufman Astoria has an amazing history of its own, originally built by Famous Players-Lasky in 1920, and host to some of the most fabled movies ever made, from the Marx Brothers comedies The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers to numerous films directed by the likes of the New York-based Sidney Lumet and Woody Allen. Kaufman Astoria was designated a national historic district and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

But just a couple of days later, cast and crew were back out on the streets of the Bronx, on a day so hot and humid that the company was dissolving into liquefaction. One of the worst heat waves to hit the city in years, temperatures for much of that week exceeded 95 degrees, with humidity bringing the heat index to as high as 105. A fading brownstone on Topping Avenue in the Mt. Hope district was used for the strange and seedy house occupied by ex-Marine Jimmy (Chris Coy) and his wife, and Shaw and company created a truly bizarre environment for Jimmy's combat buddy, Griggs, a few blocks away on the legendary Grand Concourse. The huge, labyrinthic and truly eerie basement of one of the Concourse's faded art deco apartment buildings was the site of one of the film's key suspense/action sequences, and Bob Shaw took full advantage of what was already there. "The basement was beneath an absolutely enormous apartment building which stretched from one end of the block to the other," notes the production designer. "Just mapping out the different levels of the basement, with boilers and pipes, from very tall to short spaces where you can't even stand, all in the same building, was amazing. It would be such an enormous thing to build, and this gives us great production just by showing up and doing a little abatement."

A claustrophobic stairwell in a tenement building on Anderson Avenue in Highbridge-with the Shrine of Baseball, Yankee Stadium, looming in the near distance-provided stunt coordinator George Aguilar and fight coordinator Chuck Jeffreys with a challenge of choreographing a vicious knife fight between Joel McHale's Butler and Sean Harris' Santino. "It was such a workout doing it," says McHale, "and thank God we're not using real knives because I would have bled out a week ago. George and Chuck taught us a Filipino knife fighting style, which is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. The fight is a hurricane of slices, cuts and stabs, and that's what it should be, because that's what real knife fights look like."

Thankfully, McHale had by then recovered from a pulled hamstring he suffered in a scene where Sarchie and Butler chased Jimmy (Chris Coy) down a city street in the rain. "They offered stunt guys," notes Coy, "but Joel was just as much into his role as I am into mine, and I want to live it like he wants to live it. Joel and I probably sprinted five miles that night, but while you're doing it, there's an adrenalin rush and you don't notice it." For this scene, Coy underwent extensive makeup by Mike Marino which rendered him as somewhat animalistic. "Our inspiration was a wolf," notes Marino, "so we made Chris' pupils smaller, his eyes lighter, fingernails longer and self-inflicted injuries more extensive than we see Jimmy in the film earlier. We even widened his cheekbones to accentuate the animal look." Marino and tattoo designer Anil Gupta also designed the numerous tattoos worn by the characters played by Bana, McHale and Coy.

All in all, though, McHale felt that he was in pretty good fighting shape for the film. "When I arrived to start shooting, I saw that Eric already had arms the size of tree trunks, and I thought that if I'm supposed to be a badass knife fighter, I'd better try to be in as good a shape as him. I hit the weights hard, and my diet kicked in. I was only eating steam at a certain point. I was doing an average of two hours a day weight training, and then three hours of knife fighting."

The second foray outside of New York City and into Long Island was for filming at a Bronx Zoo lion habitat, designed by Bob Shaw and constructed at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The nature of the scene, which involves much action inside of the habitat, demanded that such an environment be built rather than to shoot in real habitats inside of the Zoo...not to mention the extensive visual effects work courtesy of supervisors Robert Habros and Curt Miller. "We brought in all of the old school techniques to bring the habitat scenes together as opposed to just pushing the digital button," explains Habros, including green screen, compositing and split screen. Surprisingly in these CGI heavy cinematic times, Habros claims that "I'm trying to be as invisible as possible. My job is to service the storytelling and I think Scott wants the film to be as natural, believable and as close to real as possible. Any visual effects work that we do has to blend right in."

The company then returned to Kaufman Astoria Studios for major sequences on various sets, including Santino's apartment building hallway, the 46th Precinct communications room and finally, the Precinct's stark observation room, the site of the intensely terrifying, climactic exorcism sequence. All roads led to this sequence, and the atmosphere on set was suitably tense throughout the incredibly rigorous week of filming. Even for hardened New York production veterans, witnessing the shooting of this scene was something to behold, including the ghastly sight of the possessed Santino as portrayed by Sean Harris. "We developed that makeup over a couple of months," explains special effects make-up designer Mike Marino. "Originally it was just a camouflage makeup that slightly morphed into a more demented, evil-looking camouflage, and after some 35 odd designs later, Sean finally came in for tests and we decided at the eleventh hour to put a Latin invocation with occult symbols and cuneiform that appears in the film on his body as if Santino had carved them himself. This became an eight hour a day process in which we applied more than 150 prosthetics to Sean." Luckily for Marino and his makeup team, Harris had developed a close working and personal relationship with them, and had infinite patience. "He entertains us and himself, and we get through it. We couldn't have asked for anybody better than Sean."

Along with other unusual tasks for the film, Marino and his crew also created a cat entirely from fabricated materials. "No animal parts were used, we sculpted and built it from scratch. Totally fake," assures Marino.

As per the overriding philosophy set forth by Derrickson, visual effects supervisors Habros and Miller oversaw extraordinary impressive work on the exorcism sequence, but as Habros notes, "it's a great combination of acting, stunt work, prosthetics and Drew Jiritano's special physical effects. I'm there to help blend the scenes between each of those departments and those disciplines."

Edgar RAMIREZ truly threw himself body and soul into the exorcism sequence, and emerged after the week of filming completely drained. "I loved that Scott envisioned the scene taking place not in a bedroom or a church, but in an interrogation room in a police station," observes the actor. It felt very real and very intense, because we were all very committed. We weren't treating it like a horror scene, but a dramatic scene."

Both Bana and RAMIREZ were impressed with the chilling power which Sean Harris brought to the sequence. "Sean has a fascinating working method and an intensity that I've not often seen on a movie set," observes Eric Bana, "and he did an incredible job. We were all very respectful of his process, but he has a great sense of humor and brought absolute magic to his character." Adds RAMIREZ, "Sean's level of commitment was really mind-blowing. We never met and never talked until we began shooting the exorcism scene. He made me very nervous, in a good sense. He really channeled something dark and uncomfortable, and I feel a lot of respect for him because in many ways Sean is playing the most difficult character in the movie. He really went down the rabbit hole and put himself through a lot."

Although Christopher Young, who also wrote the highly original and sonically disturbing scores for Derrickson's The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister and numerous other films in the horror/fantasy/thriller genre, wrote the film's atmospheric score, the director also incorporated The Doors as an integral part of the story. "I've loved The Doors since I was a kid," confesses Derrickson, "and for this story, I thought about the whole concept of the band's name, which came from Aldoux Huxley's The Doors of Perception. The doors that separates the material and immaterial worlds. There's a textural quality to the music that is very cinematic, it cries out for cinematic love. It wasn't just the value of the songs, or the meaning of the songs, but there are places where the lyrics are referenced in the movie and it becomes part of the narrative trail that Sarchie is tracking."

In the end, despite the rigors of filming on the New York locations, the company agreed that the film could not possibly have been done any other way. "It was so special to be able to film in the Bronx," confirmed Eric Bana. "We've been through storms, a heat wave, mostly night shooting, and whilst it's been extremely challenging and made it harder from a physical production standpoint, the production values, the sights, sounds and people of the Bronx were fantastic. In this day and age, where the audience has to put up with so much fakery and CGI and cities that are cheating for other cities, it's really special to be in the proper world of the story. We were in real places every single day, and I think we got great mileage out of that in the film."

The final leg of the Deliver Us From Evil shoot, took the company some 6,842 miles away from the Bronx in far-off Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for the film's opening sequence, set in 2010 Iraq. Abu Dhabi has become very film-friendly in recent years, with an active film commission and expert local production personnel attracting such films as The Bourne Legacy, The Kingdom and Syriana. "We always like to film where we can get the most production value," notes Jerry Bruckheimer, "and Abu Dhabi had everything we needed: a great desert landscape, terrific accommodations, a very cooperative film commission and really wonderful crew."

While still in New York, the three actors, portraying Marines engaged in a desert firefight before coming upon a mysterious underground chamber, received military training from one of film's foremost experts in that field, Harry Humphries. A former Navy SEAL, Humphries has a long and storied history with Jerry Bruckheimer, having applied his expertise to The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, Bad Boys II, King Arthur, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, as well as the television series, Soldier of Fortune, Inc. "Harry showed up in New York and basically said "I'm going to give you guys eight weeks of basic training in four hours," recalls Chris Coy, "and he succeeded. By the end of it, I felt like if the zombie apocalypse happens next week, I'll be fine. He taught us everything from how to properly hold a sidearm, how to patrol, call out contacts, how to go from linear to flat formation. Considering that I come from a military family, it was an incredible experience for me."

The subject matter of Deliver Us From Evil raised questions to be pondered not only by audiences, but also by the filmmakers and actors who starred in the film. "During pre-production," says Eric Bana, "I was exposed to some materials and tapes about exorcism which, on the one hand, were beyond fascinating, beyond interesting and beyond scary. They are materials not for public consumption, so I had mixed feelings about seeing some of them...one in particular did have an effect on me, and I found it extremely difficult sleeping and being in a room by myself for a week after seeing it.

"My thoughts are that there is definitely something that exists which, unfortunately, leads to a very large amount of human suffering," continues Bana. "However that's described or diagnosed is actually completely irrelevant. At the center of it is a massive amount of suffering and pain. Ralph Sarchie, in doing what he calls 'The Work,' goes and helps people deal with these things. I have no doubts that there will be moments when audiences will be truly scared, but it's really something truly different, which is always exciting. I think that a lot of Sarchie's journey in the film, whilst sometimes brutal, is fascinating, entertaining and thought-provoking."

Adds Edgar RAMIREZ, "In his previous films, Scott Derrickson gives you the chance to believe that whatever happens in the movie was either the creation of a sick mind, or the influence of an evil force or spirit. So depending on what your beliefs and background were, then you could pick one of the two. In Deliver Us From Evil, Scott offers us the same choice. I like the possibility of completing the information myself. . I think there is a huge amount of evil out there, evil that we cannot understand or grasp. But at the same time, this journey of playing Mendoza also taught me that there's a huge amount of compassion and solidarity, and people who want to do good for the world."

"Whatever your beliefs," says Jerry Bruckheimer, "there are some phenomena which cannot be entirely explained by science or medicine. Deliver Us From Evil explores the gray areas which may or may not be supernatural or paranormal. If you are already a believer, then Ralph Sarchie's story will confirm what you know. And if you're not, then the story is perhaps food for thought...but at the very least, a really exciting two hours in the movies."

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