Dark Skies is guaranteed to generate some chills as mysterious otherworldly forces come into play for one family in middle America doing their best to stay afloat. We got to spend a few minutes with co-star Josh Hamilton to see if he believes in those flashing lights in the sky.
Dave Voigt: How are you doing?
Josh Hamilton: I’m good, but I’ve got to say that the name of your site terrifies me just a little bit…[laughs]
DV: Oh, don’t worry we’ll go gentle on you…
JH: Thanks, man!
DV: What was it that ultimately attracted you to Dark Skies?
JH: Well firstly, I already knew the producer Jason Blum and had a relationship with him for years and then when I met Scott Stewart, the writer-director, he talked from the get go how he didn’t want to cast this with people who had done other scary films before and really just wanted it to be this family drama that has all this incredibly messed up stuff happening to them and it appealed to me. He didn’t want any straight-up horror movie acting, and just wanted it very realistic, with these things happening to these people who just couldn’t control it. Plus Keri Russell is obviously not a terrible person to be around… [laughs].
DV: You are really the definition of a working actor with extensive experience on stage as well as TV and film, but this is your first real genre film. Is the fact that it isn’t your standard genre film what ultimately drew you to this project?
JH: Yeah, absolutely! I mean, I certainly have nothing against the standard cut and dry genre picture, but I now have a whole new respect for those people who can look at the take on the side of the camera and scream like their life depended on it, because it is really tricky.
DV: It really was the whole grounded nature of the characters that sucks you into the movie…
JH: I’ve got to stop you right there because to be honest, I haven’t seen the movie yet?
JH: Yeah, so I am genuinely curious to hear what your impressions are.
DV: It didn’t play with any sort of hokey plot devices or histrionics, it was a pure and simple family drama where all this crazy stuff was going on and you simply had no idea how to deal with it.
JH: Oh, good. That’s exactly what we were going for.
DV: I imagine that’s what the ultimate draw was for you.
JH: Oh, yeah. I knew it was there in the script but I just don’t have a lot of experience on how these types of films read but I was totally sucked in by the script. It’s a scary movie that can also serve a purpose for society that manages to tap into the underlying fears of what is going on in the world around them and the psyche of the moment. I really did feel like this film tapped into so many fears from the parents point of view and the children’s point of view. Like not being able to provide for your family and make the mortgage payments, and struggling with not being able to protect your family, and then the children’s fear of the parents fighting and potentially breaking up. All legit fears and then these dark forces come around and it makes it even worse.
DV: All the emotions and scares come from legitimate places and that’s really why it works.
JH: Good, good. Thanks man.
DV: Director Scott Stewart is primarily known for his background in special effects. While still an alien movie, it’s basically a character piece. How was your experience as an actor working with him?
JH: I have to say that it is incredibly rare to find a director who knows how to talk to actors at all, especially one that comes from a visual effects background. You’d assume that he would just prefer working with computers and CGI rather than talking to actors, but it was actually the exact opposite. I remember on one of our first days, we were shooting an argument scene between Keri and myself and we did a rehearsal and he referenced the Ingmar Bergman film Scenes from a Marriage and how he wanted it more like that. It’s not often any director, much less one who does “scary” movies, references a Bergman movie.
DV: I can imagine that came out of left field for you?
JH: Yeah, but it was great! I was thinking, “Yeah, I can really work with this guy!” I really was incredibly impressed with how well he worked with us. He obviously has that side where he’s a master of effects but this was not that kind of film. He was very conscience of making it more about what you don’t see and I really think that makes for a superior film anyway. The scariest movies for me have always been the ones where they don’t show it to the audience like the Nicolas Roeg film Don’t Look Now or Tartovsky’s Stalker. Films that create a palpable sense of unease where you don’t see these horrifying things it just leaves it up to the imagine, but from what I’ve heard Dark Skies has some pretty solid visual effects too.
DV: How long was the shoot on Dark Skies?
JH: It was a normal shoot for an independent film, which was about 4 weeks.
DV: While preparing, were you drawing on any scary movie influences at all?
JH: No, not really. Scott wanted this to be as non-horror as possible, maybe except for some classics like Poltergeist or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, otherwise we just put it out of our heads because if the events in the film were happening in real life, your first thought isn’t that it’s some supernatural force, you’re just wondering why these crazy things are happening to you. Especially for my character who is just resistant to the idea of anything really creepy going on. I just tried to think about things very practically, which is what I honestly think most people would do.
DV: Push comes to shove, do you have a favorite scary movie?
JH: Yeah, I’d have to say Don’t Look Know with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie and The Changeling with George C. Scott. The ones that let you buy into the actor’s dilemma.
DV: After Dark Skies, what’s next for you?
JH: I have a film that is going to be doing the festival circuit that I did with Melissa Leo called Something in the Water and right now I am shooting an episode of Elementary, which is such an excellent show. I’m also going to be doing a pilot, the first one I’ve ever done actually. It will be for Bravo with Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad.
DV: Do you have a preference between television or film, or is just a question of finding the right story?
JH: Well, you know, I live in New York and I have always done a ton of theatre, but to me it is about the material and who you are working with because you can have satisfying or unsatisfying experiences no matter what medium you are working in at any given time. You just have to go with the material that you think is strong and people that you want to work with and hope for the best. I make an effort to mix it up, but this will be the first pilot I’ve done, and it sort of feels like a grown-up step that I am taking. I’ve always been a little commitment phobic about any potential long-term thing and because I do so much theatre I think of three to four months as a long commitment and right after I shoot the pilot, I’m going to be doing another play.
DV: I can imagine it would be a different experience if the pilot gets picked up and you get the chance to play one character over a long period of time.
JH: I’m actually really looking forward to that and have the luxury of exploring a character like that with writers over a long period of time. It’s a great pilot and I’m really hoping it gets picked up. We are all really excited about it.
DV: One last question for you since this is an alien abduction film after all; do you believe?
JH: Do I believe?
JH: You know, I am the kind of person who is prone TO believe, unless it is proven to me otherwise. There is an amazing quote in the film by Arthur C. Clarke, and I don’t know if it made it into the final cut or not, that our two options are either we are alone in the universe or we aren’t and both options are terrifying.
DV: The line is the film…
JH: Oh, good. I mean, given what we know and what we don’t know about the vastness of everything in this universe it just seems highly unlikely that there isn’t something else or some other sentient beings out there, but it’s not something that keeps me up at night either so…
DV: Well that’s it for me. Good luck with the film and good luck with the pilot and everything else you’ve got going on.
JH: Thanks man, we’ll talk again soon.
Dark Skies is currently in theatres. Read our 3 out of 5 star review of it here.
Top image: Josh Hamilton in a scene from Dark Skies. Courtesy Alliance Films.