The Black Demon follows oil company inspector Paul Sturges' (Josh Lucas) desperate bid for survival when he and his family are stalked by a vengeful Megalodon. Ahead of the film's digital release on June 19th, we were joined by Lucas as he discusses his latest shark thriller.
This isn't the first time you've had to lead a group to safety. You're quite well-versed in survival films, and really, you're the guy you'd want on your side when you face a disaster. But what is so appealing about these movies as a performer; and having shared the experience with your characters, how do you, Josh Lucas, feel you'd bode in those situations?
It's fun, I actually took my 10-year-old boy to see this movie and, look, we all want our children to see us as these romantic, heroic leading men, but the reality is you never know how you're going to respond in a situation like that and how terrifying and uncomfortable and miserable it would actually be; but I think the fun of it, as a performer, is to try and figure out how to make it authentic and entertaining.
That's why the first Poseidon Adventure is such a terrific movie. The Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters version is so fun and campy. It doesn't have what I think the Poseidon that we did had, which is much more raw and brutal and has a Wolfgang Peterson element as a thriller to it, and so each of these movies I think you try and find what is the core of it from an entertainment standpoint.
If I were actually in a situation like this, I tell you sometimes I hope I would act as well as some of the characters I've played do, but also I think part of it is finding the human moments where you don't act well, where you panic and freak out and you're actually terrified, and you don't respond as some sort of cool action hero. It's finding that humanity and I think that's one of the things in this movie we try to do quite a bit is that he's, from the very beginning, terrified by the situation that he's in.
With this movie, there's certain elements that aren't shown as much as they're implied. This really heightens the suspense and anchors the environmental message of The Black Demon. It's kind of a cautionary tale and as an actor, do you feel you can build a stronger connection to the project and your character when the theme is rooted in reality?
Well, I think there's both, right? There's the entertainment of it all. I always go back to this idea as an actor that our job is to be entertainers. First and foremost is to make a movie that is fun to watch; but at the same time, if it has those elements that people can connect to that are going on, particularly if you're not telling a period piece, in this case it's fascinating to know the truth that happened during the de-regulation of the oil industry right when Trump came into power and they started building these little rinky-dink oil rigs off the coast of Baha.
So there's actually truth to that and there were these really terrible disasters that nobody ever heard about because they were kinda out in the middle of nowhere. I think that's one of the interesting corporate things the movie's trying to say. That these oil giants, these big corporate companies, they damage these other countries and we never hear about it. And so, a guy like I play, he's one of the people who's doing that and turning a blind eye to it. It's hopefully very fun, but at the same time hopefully there's some elements of, like you say, cautionary tale, of the things going wrong in corporate American society these days, particularly when it affects another culture so badly.
Your character, Paul, is a pretty decent guy. He's a family man who knows what he wants, and he's quite self-assured; however, he's also somewhat responsible for what happens in the film, but by the end of it you get your big Richard Dreyfuss/Thomas Jane moment with a great underwater showdown. How did your initial interpretation of Paul change over the course of filming? And how do you develop who you've read on paper to who we see in the final product?
First of all, I like that you mentioned Thomas Jane. He's an old buddy of mine. I remember he took me to see the early screening of Deep Blue Sea and there's that great moment with Sam Jackson.
Anyway, Paul is a decent man, right? I think that's part of the problem that we go to in the politics these days. In the divided world that we live in everyone thinks the otherside is all bad, but the reality is many people who are doing these terrible jobs, they're able to turn a blind eye because in their private lives they're still the little league coach. They're beloved in their community and people wouldn't know that they are signing documents that are damning a whole other village like they are in this case and the environmental damage that's being done.
I think he's able to justify it and I think that's where the movie kind of touches on karma. But somewhere in his heart of hearts he knows what he's doing. I think anytime we do as a human being – that's what's fun about playing a character who has those complexities because we as human beings, you know unless we're a total psychopath – we have consciousness.
“That's what I was trying to figure out, how to play that balance of being a good father and a good family man with idea that he's also really doing something that's deeply damaging and destructive at the same time, and when he gets confronted by it what he then has to face.
In the movie, there's a really good balance between practical and CGI effects. The rig was built, you were in the middle of the ocean, but there wasn't actually a shark chasing after you. I imagine a lot of people find it quite challenging facing off with something that's not actually there, or imagining something's there when it's not.
Has there ever been a moment in your career, even with this film, you've hesitated on how to approach something because you're maybe unsure on how it will look or sound? And how did you overcome that?
That's a great question and the first thing that comes to mind, actually, is working on Hulk. The Hulk was, like The Black Demon, something we didn't know what it was going to be. Ang Lee had such a very specific idea in his head and there were some drawings, and obviously they had the mythology and the look of the comic book, but at that point in the Marvel universe there hadn't been a creation of a character who was so iconic that was going to end up having to be completely CGI.
And so, we were doing these scenes with – I remember they called it – Hulk on a stick. It was literally like a broomstick and they put a little baby Hulk on top of it like a toy, and you'd just spend all of your time working with this Hulk on a stick. You never knew what it was gonna look like and kind of going back to the silly joy of being an actor when you're first starting out, which is cowboys and Indians, right?
“I love Christian Bale talking about it. He goes ‘we play make-believe for a living'. It's funny, Christian's one of the greatest actors in the world and it's not that he's dismissing what he does, but there's a truth to that, which is that it's a silly job. It's in your brain to make it real, right? And to make it seem like something is obviously really there, and it goes back to that early childhood play but also going into acting training where you're pretending to be an animal. At the time you're doing it in acting school it always seems so silly, then you realise damn, actually at some point you're gonna have to pretend to be destroyed by Hulk on a stick or some giant shark that obviously doesn't exist, thank God.
Signature Entertainment presents The Black Demon on Digital Platforms 19th June and Blu-ray & DVD 17th July