Elliot is playing a deadly game in 13 Sins.
Based on the Thai thriller 13: Game of Death, the Daniel Stamm-directed remake finds upstanding salesman Elliot <Mark Webber> deeply in debt, planning a wedding and his fiancé Shelby <Rutina Wesley> expecting a baby. When he gets fired from his job, a cryptic phone call gives a desperate Elliot new hope: Simply perform 13 tasks for increasing amounts of cash. However, what starts off with killing a fly quickly escalates as each sinister challenge tests Elliot's morality and he discovers he can't finish the game until it's finished with him.
Webber recently spoke to FEARnet about Elliot's dark journey in 13 Sins, staying away from the source material, what made him queasy and his next horror project, Jessabelle.
How did you become attached to 13 Sins?
The standard run-of-the-mill way. My agent was like, "Hey, read this script." I read it and was like, "Wow, this would be a hell of a part to play." Then I had to go fight for it. I had to go audition and fight for it to happen. It was an intense process, but Daniel was great at creating a really awesome audition environment. I'm glad I got the role.
What spoke to you about the script and your character, Elliot?
It was just such an amazing arc to start off as this pathetic, push-over guy and then see him get a certain level of dignity through this really contorted way. It was interesting to play this fine line of, "God, this guy is doing some not so great stuff. How do we have the audience not hate me?"
Did you check out the original movie and did that help you inform your performance?
I didn't, and here's the reason why. No disrespect to that film, which I know so many people kind of love. For me, I wouldn't have been a part of a movie that I thought was a true remake, where we're trying to recreate something that had already been done. As an actor, I don't want to go and mimic some other person's performance. Daniel was really clear that the inspiration was drawn from this other film, but we were trying to make a different movie. For me, it was important to stay away from the original and not be exposed to what that other film did and what that other actor did, so I could have the freedom to do my own thing. Now that it's all said and done, I'm curious to watch the other movie to see the similarities and differences.
You've played many loveable guys in your career. Was it challenging exploring Elliot's dark side and keeping up that intensity throughout the movie?
It was cool because from the onset, Daniel was like, "You're really good at presenting this nice, accessible quality and vulnerability and likeability." There's a certain softness that can permeate my work when I really want it to. This guy clearly gets to a certain level that was really far away from that. I got to play two opposite ends of the spectrum. Early on, I'm like, "Remember, I'm weak. I'm really weak here." Then I'm like, "Okay, I'm getting a little bit stronger. I'm going to play with my voice here." And having a director who is really on top of tracking that emotional arc and making sure I was plugging in, and dropping in the right tone, was awesome. He made it really fun to do.
Which of the 13 sins disturbed you the most?
The toughest one is a toss-up between the corpse and a scene that was cut out of the film. I had to convince someone to give me a blow job and it ends up being this crazy drifter guy. That was one of the first scenes that we shot. It was an odd one. Apparently, that scene is ending up on the DVD.
What does a movie like 13 Sins say about human nature?
We live in a world today where the majority of people are living paycheck to paycheck and are struggling to support their families. When times get tough, it's easy for people to start to let their mind wander to, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to get by?" It's tough out there in this day and age to get by. The cool thing about this movie is you get to watch it and be like, "Would I do that? How far would I go if somebody's going to put a million dollars in my bank account? What would I be willing to do?" It's an interesting tale of morality and greed and survival folded into this big genre film.
So how far down the 13 sins list would you have gotten?
I would probably have shot my brother <laughter>. How far would I have gone? The sick thing about the game is you have to finish. You can't walk away and keep what you've earned. I probably wouldn't play. Maybe if I knew I could just eat the fly and walk away with $1500, I'd do that. I'd eat a fly.
This year's Cheap Thrills also featured down-on-their-luck characters performing unsettling tasks for money. Do you feel this is a new genre emerging?
I don't think so. It's just kind of coincidental. A lot of movies have explored these themes before. I really like Pat <Healy> a lot. He's a tremendous actor and all of a sudden it came on my radar. "Oh, Cheap Thrills." It's funny because it premiered at South by Southwest the previous year. Pat didn't know about our movie and I didn't know about their movie until everything was all said and done. It's a little bit of a stretch to say that maybe there's an emerging new genre. If it is, cool. 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills can be some pioneers of it, but there have been similar things before. It's just pretty coincidental that Cheap Thrills and 13 Sins are out around the same time.
Jessabelle is another horror movie you have in the pipeline. Can you introduce us to your character Preston and how he fits into the story?
That was my first big genre movie. I'm grateful to Jason Blum, Mr. Blum. That guy is a powerhouse at putting these films together. I've known Jason through Ethan Hawke since I was younger and doing other films in New York. I've always had an admiration for what he was capable of. It was cool to end up in really good hands. It's like, "I'm making my first genre/horror movie and I'm in a good group here."
Sarah Snook, who plays the main character Jessie in the film, I was her old high school sweetheart. She comes back to our town from some messed up circumstances and ends up reconnecting with me. We go on this crazy journey of torment as she is being attacked, or haunted, by this presence. I'm like her sidekick that helps navigate through that. Inevitably, a little bit of the old romance starts to spark up. I'm really looking forward to the release of that. It was awesome working with Kevin Greutert, who is an editor turned director. He definitely knew how to put this thing together.
How was it filming the supernatural horror Jessabelle, compared to something more psychological and rooted in reality such as 13 Sins?
In Jessabelle, there was a lot more pretending of an unseen force. Whereas, in 13 Sins, it's in my face. There's an arm, a saw and blood spurting on my face. I'm screaming. There are beheaded people lying in the street. Jessabelle was creating that terror through our portrayals as actors.