Father Lozano (Michael Peña) tries to save Angela’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) soul in The Vatican Tapes. (Lionsgate)
The latest battle between good and evil comes in the form of The Vatican Tapes. The film stars Michael Peña, Dougray Scott, Kathleen Robertson and Olivia Taylor Dudley, and is directed by Mark Neveldine.
The story follows 27-year-old Angela (Dudley), who one day accidentally cuts her finger and goes to the hospital. Her wound becomes infected, and Angela suddenly starts to behave strangely. This is lost on those around her. She progressively gets worse, causing mayhem wherever she goes and hurting all those around her. Out of explanations, her father and boyfriend seek the counsel of a priest who suspects demonic possession. It is then that the priest seeks assistance from the Vatican.
Living Out Loud – Los Angeles was on hand at a press conference where Peña and Dudley discussed the making of the film.
LOL-LA: How did the movie wrap up?
Michael Peña: We actually wrapped a while ago. It’s funny because you almost forget how it was like, people are always asking for anecdotes. I remember we shot in a psych ward, and there were always these weird noises. I remember Neveldine was the most scared of all.
LOL-LA: They say that when you’re shooting a horror film, strange things happen. What was the worst thing that happened while you were shooting that felt “supernatural?”
Olivia Taylor Dudley: Some ladders fell, and I wasn’t sleeping well. People were getting hurt left and right. It happens a lot, if you go back to all the scary movies, there always seems to be some sort of “supernatural” occurrence. A guy broke his leg in the first week of shooting, also someone fainted.
LOL-LA: What do you think about myths and legends about real-life exorcisms?
MP: This is a big Latin thing. My brother would bring home films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Rosemary’s Baby and Friday the 13th when I was 5 years old. Also religion is a big part of our Mexican family, and I remember our parents would do brujería-like things. People don’t usually know what I’m talking about. It was like a cleanse, where they would rub eggs on you and stuff. When I was 5, I remember thinking it was a little messed up and asking my mom if had evil energy.
LOL-LA: Did you ever believe in this kind of stuff?
OTD: I grew up watching these movies, and The Exorcist was my favorite movie since I was little. Since then I’ve been obsessed with any movie that has to do with exorcisms and religion because they terrify me. It feels much more real to me than other scary movies.
LOL-LA: Do you feel this is an origin story of sorts?
OTD: Yeah, I mean, I want to know where it goes. It really sets it up for some serious destruction.
MP: The pope just said last year that he believes the Antichrist is here. For someone who is normally full of joy to say that he’s here just leaves me with more questions. Why would he say that? Who is he warning? It’s kind of unnerving.
LOL-LA: In the film, Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) says, ”A demon’s greatest threat is not to your body but to your soul.” Talking about the Antichrist, do you think he’s a physical form as a person or is it more of a mentality or internal mindset that people can acquire?
MP: I think he’s talking about the spiritual aspect of it. The most destructive people are ones who know they ‘re doing something wrong but do it anyway. It’s like when a serial killer says he couldn’t stop and didn’t know why. Are they just evil, or do they really don’t know what they are doing? That’s scary as hell.
OTD: I think it’s possession. That’s one of the things that attracted me to this role, getting to make that transformation. It was important to me to do it gradually throughout the movie. Finding that stare was one of the first things I did. Once you’re there and working with this kind of material, it just comes to you.
LOL-LA: You said you grew up watching these movies, so how do you prepare for your own exorcism scenes?
OTD: I prepared the same way I do with any other role. I didn’t think too much about what I was going to do in the exorcism phase until I got there. You just have to let it take you over. It’s all in the material. I did watch a lot of movies and videos on the subject … there’s so much scary stuff out there.
LOL-LA: What do you think is different about the interpretation of this film from other movies about exorcisms?
MP: It’s totally different. It’s not a really gory movie. I was watching other scary movies, I won’t say which ones, and I was like, “I don’t believe this.” Those types don’t affect you. This one goes deep into the psyche … and the possibility of this actually happening, which is always much better and stays with you a lot longer. It’s like with A Nightmare on Elm Street, you don’t want to go to sleep because it might happen. It also spoke about how vivid dreams can be and how you feel like you’re falling and then wake up. It taps into the subconscious.
LOL-LA: What was the most memorable moment of working together?
MP: For me, it was the exorcism for sure. It was just so involved – the bed, the chains, the fire …
OTD: I liked it when you got thrown across the room, you were so intense in there. It was hot. Those eight days were so intense, it was like a big blur.
LOL-LA: How did you feel about wearing priest’s clothing? Have you ever done that before?
MP: It felt sacrilegious in a way because I grew up Catholic. There were a lot of priests I would talk to and they were really cool; they weren’t super holy. That’s how I wanted to portray Father Lozano. But as soon as I put the clothes on I said, “What am I doing in this Does this fit right?” Then you think about the priests you know, and you want to do right by them. It does change your viewpoint a little bit.
The Vatican Tapes is now in theaters.