Ethan Embry is an affable ‘every man’ type. He has played in all kinds of films, from major studio blockbusters to smaller indie projects. Regardless of the scope of the production, he always pours his heart into his work and there is always a measure of himself in the parts he plays. We had the opportunity to chat with Embry for a moment about his new film and he could not have been more gracious or engaging. He took the time to fill us in on his involvement with Late Phases, explained how he almost starred in Hostel, reflected on his love for Phantasm and more.
Late Phases (Review) is set in a senior living community. It zeroes in on Ambrose, a war vet with an adult son (Embry) who is relocating to a senior living community after the death of his wife. When Ambrose arrives, he doesn’t fit in with the other residents but they soon realize that he may be just the person to help put a stop to the string of attacks that have been going on in the area. Ambrose quickly discovers that the attacks are being staged by a creature that is neither human nor animal. He quickly begins to suspect that there may be a lycanthrope preying on the community because the elderly are less capable of defending themselves.
Wicked Horror: As a man that I would imagine can pick and choose which roles he takes, what drew you to Late Phases?
Ethan Embry: It was different. And it seemed like a lot of fun. The idea of doing a modern take on the classic strings of the werewolves. When I heard that they were building the suits and making the monsters practical instead of digital, it just seemed like fun. And having Tina Louise and Nick [Damici] it just seemed like a fun way to spend my summer. There wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting for me on this one. I just finished doing this film Cheap Thrills that came out earlier this year and that was pretty intense, that one. Late Phases was something I could do that took a fair amount of risks but didn’t put the weight on my shoulder. Summertime in upstate New York is always a great thing.
Wicked Horror: I loved Cheap Thrills and I loved you and Pat Healy in it. I’ve interviewed him several times. I love Evan Katz, also.
Ethan Embry: [Katz] is a great guys isn’t he? He’s a good leader.
Wicked Horror: I read that when you were getting into character for Cheap Thrills you tried to think of things you didn’t like about Pat Healy to make the tension between you authentic. Did you take a similar approach to attempting to portray the tension between you and Nick in Late Phases?
Ethan Embry: It was more the opposite because his character is written so that you don’t like him. He’s bitter. He’s difficult to deal with. On the page, our relationship was far too strained. It was written as me really wanting to get rid of him. We actually did the opposite where we tried to take what was on the page and tone it down a lot. We wanted it to read as though it wasn’t something that he would let me not do. Because it was already such a strained relationship. We tried to find the things that we could hold on to. It was more wondering what do I like about him? Why don’t I just want to get rid of him. In Cheap Thrills, we start off really close. We obviously had a past and we were good friends. It was more letting the reasons why we decided to stop talking to each other for five years come out. Will, my character in Late Phases doesn’t want to get rid of his dad. He’d like to have him stay at his house if his dad would let him. He would have his dad move in with him but his dad won’t accept the help. So, I was trying to find things that would pull us together because it was written as so strained. I need to see Late Phases, I still haven’t seen it.
Wicked Horror: It’s really good. I gave it a very favorable review.
Ethan Embry: Oh, man. That’s great. I’m really glad to hear that! Awesome! That’s really good to hear – especially because the whole thing was riding on Nick’s shoulders. He put so much work into this. If I’m not mistaken he had been working on this for up to a year and then of course, the special effects guys. The amount of work that they put it! I’m really glad that it came across. Not only aging him 20 years every morning – which they did an amazing job of – but those creatures. They were amazing looking. It’s a craft and and art form in and of itself.
Wicked Horror: So, part of what drew you to the film were the practical effects. That makes me wonder if you grew up on horror films? And might that be what caused you to shift in your twenties and thirties towards doing more horror projects?
Ethan Embry: When I was kid, yeah. Remember Phantasm or The Omen?
Wicked Horror: Phantasm is so good. It’s a surreal, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror all rolled into one. And you got to work with Don Coscarelli on Masters of Horror!
Ethan Embry: Yeah. That was the reason why I did that [Incident on and off a Mountain Road]. When I heard it was Don directing, that’s when I jumped on that one. But yeah, if we didn’t know what to rent at the video store, we would grab Phantasm or The Omen. That does play into my tastes now – the cross between thriller and horror. I did try my damnedest to be in the first Hostel film and I got really close to it. My representatives at the time didn’t understand it. They said it’s going to change shit. I knew it was fucking disgusting and it would repulse people but I told them it was going to work. But my taste now is between horror and thriller and the films that I prefer are closer to The Omen or Phantasm over Hostel or Saw. I’ve never gone out and seen the Saw movies. I prefer the thriller films. I love the original Korean Oldboy movie. That’s my favorite kind of stuff. It’s the thriller films that border on horror that I love and that has played into my tastes lately. Getting the audience to feel emotion – that’s one of the things that I loved about Cheap Thrills. We had the opportunity to make the audience laugh and then horrify them 30 second later. It’s such a great emotion to trigger in people. Fear, laughter, and heartbreak. Heartbreak is one of the hardest to trigger. That’s the one you gotta chase down. That’s the elusive one. But I can make people laugh and I can scare them and that’s a lot of fun.
Wicked Horror: I think that you have great taste in horror. Love The Omen, Oldboy, and Phantasm. It’s great to hear that your influences are coming from such great places and also translating to the screen very well. I’ve seen pretty much every horror project you’ve done and I think you’ve been great in all of them. I think that you put a lot into your roles and in turn, the audience gets a lot out of your performances.
Ethan Embry: That’s really great to hear, man. I really love hearing that. It’s so much fun to be immersed in those worlds. We don’t get to do these things in real life. Horror films and thrillers are the deepest fantasies – people turning into creatures on the full moon – it is something out of a fantasy. If you can immerse yourself to the point where you actually experience that, it’s like I’ve never grown up. Did you ever see The Loved Ones?
Wicked Horror: With Lola, the prom date from hell? Yeah. I really enjoyed that.
Ethan Embry: Yeah. So, I just did a movie with Sean Byrne, the director of that movie as well as the cinematographer and editor from that film. Basically that whole creative crew in their first American film. Whoa. That one – it’s probably the heaviest thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes immersing yourself in that subject matter is not any fun. But if it conveys, it’s completely worth it. That one stayed with me, like twice a week it will pop into my head and it’s been three or four months that it’s been over. I’m still getting over that one, so I hope it was worth it.
Wicked Horror: I have really enjoyed chatting with you. It’s been a real pleasure. I look forward to the chance to chat again.
Ethan Embry: You are so nice, man. Thank you!