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CASE 39

The Detective and the Child Psychologist
Best known for his Golden Globe-winning role as the villainous Al Swearengen on HBO's DEADWOOD, Ian McShane plays a completely different character in CASE 39. He portrays a rough-edged cop with a soft spot for Emily Jenkins and the troubled children she tries to save. McShane might have been celebrated by People Magazine as "TV's sexiest villain,” but Christian Alvart's instincts suggested he would be right for the role of Detective Mike Barron, a good cop trying to rationalize some very sinister and inexplicable crimes. "Ian McShane was the first person who popped into my mind for the role of the detective,” Alvart says. "I think because he's such a grounded actor who can make the most ridiculous things sound completely real, and that's exactly what you need in a horror film.”

Renee Zellweger was pleased to work with McShane for the first time. "People who know him from DEADWOOD kept asking me, ‘Is he lewd, is he crude?' But he was wonderful. He's hilarious, and he kept the energy on the set very light,” she says. "You can see how Detective Barron and Emily share this mutual understanding that the system sometimes fails children, and he can be moved to take matters into his own hands.”

McShane was drawn to the screenplay but notes: "What really drew me was seeing Christian's movie ANTIBODIES, which I thought was terrific. For this kind of horror story, you need somebody who really knows how to do that kind of thing, and Mr. Alvart knows how – without a doubt.” McShane adds: "It's also a nice change to play a good guy. This is a very different role from any that I've done.”

Although Barron is a cop, McShane compares him to a common character in many classic horror films. "If you think in terms of films like THE BAD SEED and THE EXORCIST, my character is sort of like the priest. He's a good and moral man who's trying to help Emily probe the psychological reasons for what is happening to her,” he explains. "He's a 25-year veteran cop who has always helped Emily try to protect children. And with Lillith, he tries to stick to the standard rules, but everything swings around on him.”

It is Barron who first identifies that Lillith might be a more troubled child than she seems on the surface, believing she lied about late-night phone calls that compelled one of Emily's clients to do something shocking. "For most of the movie, Barron still thinks she's just a kid lying and fibbing,” explains McShane. "He doesn't believe there's any more to it than that, until more evil events start happening and it might be too late.”

McShane says he was thrilled to be surrounded by the talent of Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland and especially Christian Alvart. "Christian has an incredible love for and knowledge of movies, so he's able to take elements from all these classic psychological thrillers and put his own twist on it. He storyboarded the entire movie and was using all kinds of interesting tricks, so I think for all of us, a big part of the fun was being part of his creative process.”

While Ian McShane's detective has a paternal relationship with Emily, the man who would be her boyfriend, that is, if she allowed herself time to date, is child psychologist Doug Ames. Taking the role is Bradley Cooper, whose best-known roles include television's hit shows ALIAS and NIP/TUCK, the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy feature WEDDING CRASHERS, HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU and most recently THE HANGOVER.

From the beginning, Alvart was looking for an actor who would provide a natural contrast with Zellweger's intensity. "I was looking for somebody who's very light and funny,” he says. "I even looked at some stand-up comedians, but what I liked about Bradley is that he had done both comedies and more serious roles. He also had a great, flirty chemistry with Renee.” 10 Cooper admits that the chance to face a man's most gripping psychological fear come to life was as irresistible as the screenplay. "I always felt that CASE 39 wasn't just a horror film, but a great story. I always think it's most frightening when reality is affected by fantasy, and that is a big part of this movie,” he says. "It's not horrifically gory, but there is a lot of suspense. And, the chance to do a movie with Renee Zellweger and Christian Alvart, who I think is an auteur, was huge,” says Cooper. "And Jodelle is fantastic, so I knew I better show up with my ‘A' game.”

For Cooper, everything would come to a head on the day he had to show up on set and face a literal hornet's nest – the result of Doug's most mortifying inner fear brought to life. The scene was shot over two intense days. "Bradley was very game to do the scene,” comments Alvart. "He was really thrashing around in the bathroom, tearing the whole place apart. It was pretty impressive.”

"I could definitely empathize with Doug's fear of flying insects,” laughs Cooper. "But the most interesting part of shooting that scene is that Doug is completely losing his mind, which is a very dangerous and exciting thing to play. It was definitely one of the most challenging things I've done, and I knew I'd have to throw myself into it.

"There was no way to fake it, so I had to really believe what was happening,” he notes. "There were some live hornets we used and there were lots of dead hornets. I actually had dead hornets coming out of my ears! It was intense, but it was also quite fun to be part of what is the first great watershed moment of the movie.”

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