One of the darling films of last year's genre festival circuit, "Cheap Thrills" is a white knuckle thriller that is filled with surprising humor and chilling desperation that has delighted audiences across the globe, available now on DVD, I got the chance to talk with rising star Pat Healy about what drew him to the project, how method they went on the shoot, the challenges of shooting something so intense in such a short time frame and how leading roles in prominent independent films are helping get more attention as an actor that being a guest star on network procedurals ever did.
"Cheap Thrills" is obviously such an incredible ride and it seems that throughout your career you've always seemed to go for roles that were ever so slightly different, every time out? What was it about "Cheap Thrills" that really drew you to it?
Pat Healy: Well I suppose it is because I'm different and a little left of center myself. I'm interested in projects that are good first of all, but I like it when a character really goes through a full arc and has a legitimate transformation. That is something that had been eluding me throughout my career, due to a variety of different factors and have never really been castible in a leading role up until now, and that chance was attractive to me. Along with those areas of darkness that films like "Cheap Thrills", "Compliance" and even "The Innkeepers" goes to isn't really a conscience effort on my part, but I think because I am a certain type of actor, that those types of filmmakers are drawn to the kinds of things that I can do and it works out that way. And for me as an actor, I really just relish the opportunity to play every possible emotion that I can in any given story and I wanted to have it be the type of character where you can see the tension boiling underneath him, but rather then suppressing it, he gets to unleash it which was very cathartic and fun.
With it being such a short shoot, is it hard to get into that headspace so quickly?
PH: It was very short, but also very challenging because I mean when you have no money AND no time you are really moving quickly and you really don't have the time to think about anything. And on top of that, it was so hot outside, well over 100 degrees and with no air conditioning in the house, I truly believe THAT really helped me. I mean as much as there were times during the shoot where I was just miserable and as much as we may have all been feeling the same way at times, it gives the work this real sense of urgency and drive. We're all locked into this very physical and emotional turbulent story that we are trying to shoot in this short amount of time and get stuff done every day, and that energy we had on set really lent itself to the story. I would never try to recreate that (Laughs) but it just so happened that what little resources we had lent itself to the desperation of the story itself and colours it in a really wonderful way.
And that really speaks to you all as well as actors and filmmakers because I can imagine with someone like a David Koechner on set the temptation to break and laugh must have been huge, but you just couldn't because you can to keep the energy at a certain level and you really only did have a very limited number of takes to get things right.
PH: You know it was so interesting, because everyone David included saw the script and thought that it was just fantastic, but we all knew that there was a way to interpret this material that would have made it very broad and we all agreed from the outset that we just didn't want to do that. We wanted to be dramatic and effective but still have that very funny edge without sacrificing anything else. There was a very conscience effort to not go for the easy jokes and we played everything for real which is why I think the movie just works so well. If it was funny, it was funny, but if it was scary...it was scary so there really wasn't much of a temptation to break, if only because there wasn't any time. Obviously there were some fun moments where we got to laugh, and Sara (Paxton) and I have a good fun relationship where we make each other life. But Ethan (Embry) and I truly didn't get along during the shoot and that antagonism that you see between us both is very real. I really don't what it was to be honest, probably a combination of being under the gun on the shoot and our personality types along with a sort of method attempt to get me to hate him by actually hitting me...but we've talked it all out and have actually become pretty good friends since the movie came out...but it took a good solid year for us to even speak to each other after the shoot.
Well it worked!
PH: (Laughs) Yeah for the movie it worked great!
You've done quite a few movies that have attained a certain level of cult status in your career, but this year alone in things like "Captain America: The Winter Solider" and "Draft Day", there you are. Do you ultimately aspire to do the bigger studio movies or do you prefer to work in the more independent character driven type of material?
PH: Look, I'd be flat out lying if I said that I was an actor that was in a position to dictate where his career goes, I'd love to be able to pick and choose through the scripts that are on my desk, but I'm just not at that level yet. I mean at the lower budget level, I certainly get offered more things and very few of them are the level of a "Cheap Thrills" or an "Innkeepers" kind of script. I ultimately got into this business because I love all aspects of filmmaking and I always have since I was a little kid. My goal has always been to be working in this business as an actor, which is primarily what I do, I'm also a screenwriter, I'd like to direct something one day. I'm really just looking for things that are good. I don't want have to bad stuff for money, I mean sometimes you have to but I'm lucky that is becoming less of a problem these days because the writing side of it took off for me about 7 years ago and I've been able to subsidize my life through that to be able to taking acting jobs, that feature me more prominently like a "Compliance" or "Cheap Thrills" and not have to worry about the lack of money from those jobs and just do the work. I used do a lot of guest spots on network procedural shows, which don't get me wrong was a very good living for me but weren't all that creatively challenging for me and just felt like a lot of lateral moves for me because I wasn't getting a chance to break out. I always wanted to be more than a working actor and get to a place where I would be offered good roles much like the ones in the past few years that I have been very fortunate to get. And even though a lot of these films are pretty small, they do reach a pretty sizable audience, especially within the business if only to casting directors. No matter the size, I just want it to be good.
With something like "Draft Day" and "Captain America" they are both big budget movies but are both really good movies. "Captain America" was directed by two really good friends of mine and that's how that came about, and "Draft Day" while it's small budget from a studio stand point but Ivan Reitman is someone that I have always admired and wanted to work with. I like to work, and I like to work on good stuff, I have been turning down more of these films that don't pay great and just don't count as anything as more than a lateral move and I've the flexibility now to find those projects that can feed me on multiple levels.
At the end of the day, what do you ultimate aspire to be? That character driven guy who picks good work, or something more?
PH: If I could make a living being "That Guy" I totally would, but sadly it also just doesn't pay what it used. If you are a significant supporting player, or a lead you can do well. I am perfectly happy being a character actor, but I also think that I have shown the ability to carry a film as I have done it a few times, especially on "Cheap Thrills" which I think is the best work that I have ever done and I would hope that the people who give out the big jobs in this town will see that and it is starting to happen, slowly but surely. I've always had great confidence in myself and while that doesn't always translates to financial success but it is starting to turn in that direction for me where I can do things that I believe in, because I took a significant risk and pay cut to start chasing projects that were just better and it has rewarded me so far, because people have gotten a chance to see what I can do now.
"Cheap Thrills" is now available for purchase on DVD at retailers everywhere.