Pat Healy is a long time character actor who has made countless guest appearances on a variety of Television shows, as well as appeared in smaller roles in big budget films. Over the past couple of years, Healy has been popping up in a lot more indie films and connoisseurs of independent cinema are beginning to recognize him for the extremely talented and versatile actor that he is. Healy charmed audiences in The Innkeepers, shocked them in Compliance and might just do a bit of both in Cheap Thrills. Healy’s new film Cheap Thrills was the first to receive distribution at this year’s SXSW festival.
FEARnet met up with Pat Healy to discuss exactly what genre Cheap Thrills falls in to, what the scope of distribution is likely to be, and the backlash of playing the villain so well, as he did in Compliance.
For those unfamiliar, the storyline of Cheap Thrills goes a little something like this: “Healy stars as Craig, a father who was recently fired and is facing eviction. As a result, Craig agrees to take on an escalating series of insane challenges in exchange for cash payments from a rich couple with a twisted sense of humor.”
FEARnet: Most of our readers haven’t seen Cheap Thrills, so can you tell us a bit about it?
Pat Healy: Cheap Thrills is a film directed by E.L. Katz. It’s not necessarily a horror film, but you could call it one, I guess. It’s about a husband who is the father of a young child. He doesn’t have a lot of money; he loses his job. He runs in to an old friend and they meet a strange couple that has a lot of money. The couple starts to offer our characters money for silly dares. As the night goes on, the money escalates and so do the dares. It becomes more disturbing, crazy, violent, sexy and fun. We start to see all the things we like to see in a horror movie. Somebody called it a horror movie about the recession. I think that’s pretty apt. Though, it’s probably more accurately described as a thriller or a black comedy, but maybe all three would fit.
I’ve read where you‘ve compared Cheap Thrills to The Hangover if The Hangover characters had to face real life consequences. Would you elaborate on that, a bit?
I really like The Hangover. I think it’s hilarious. However, it’s a movie that doesn’t really show anyone having to deal with any consequences. At the end, everyone is alive and they go home to their wives or fiancés. The approach to Cheap Thrills was to put an ordinary guy through all these extraordinary and horrible situations in one night. As far as Cheap Thrills goes the some of the consequences are quite dire. In the proverbial sense, nobody gets out alive. That statement isn’t true in the literal sense, but everyone does pay a very heavy price for his or her actions.
Congrats from us at FEARnet on being part of the first film out of SXSW to get picked up for distribution. That really speaks volumes about the film and those involved.
It was very exciting, because it’s a film that we shot for very little money, in fourteen days. We actually just finished six months ago. So, for it to come together as well as it has and for everything to be happening so quickly is a bit overwhelming. Even better than landing distribution has been the audience response. I’ve never been in a film where an audience responded like that. It was overwhelming, to the point where sometimes you couldn’t even hear the movie over people screaming, or gasping, or applauding, or whatever. That’s really been exciting and I look forward to the release through Drafthouse Films. I definitely think it’s important for people to wait to see it in the theatre. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve even sat through it four times, because it’s exciting to see the way the audience reacts.
On that note, do you know any details about the scope of the release yet? Is there a possibility of a wide release?
I don’t know the specifics, yet. I do know that there is a guaranteed minimum of twenty different markets and a VOD release of some kind. I’m guessing that the VOD will be same day as theatrical or just after the theatrical release. I think a lot of that is being figured out right now, and a lot of it is going to depend upon what happens at these additional screenings. I would tend to think that if audience response continues to be as overwhelmingly enthusiastic as it was at SXSW, that the release could possibly be wider. I don’t really know for sure at this point. I hope it goes really wide, though. This is the first of these smaller films that I’ve had a significant role in that potentially has mass appeal. As crazy and disturbing a movie as it is, it’s really an audience pleaser.
You and Sara Paxton reunite on screen for Cheap Thrills. I know that you are both playing completely different people in this film, but were you brought back together based on your natural chemistry in The Innkeepers?
I was originally cast. They were having a difficult time casting the female lead in the film for several different reasons. It’s a difficult role for a young actress to get their head around. And, this particular role isn’t the main focus of the film. Fortunately, Sara doesn’t have an ego about such things and she’s really very brave. She wants to try and do all kinds of different things. She did something radically different in The Bounceback, which also screened at SXSW, than what she did in The Innkeepers. I was signed on to do the film, and they had expressed some interest in her. So, I asked her if she would do it. The things that we have to do in the film, particularly together, are quite difficult to do. So, it’s much more pleasant to be able to do it with someone you know. We have a lot of fun working together. We didn’t know each other before The Innkeepers and now we want to work together all the time. The chemistry is very different in this film. I think that people expecting The Innkeepers will be disappointed, or hopefully pleasantly surprised. Everything kind of gets smashed to bits as far as that relationship goes. We’re both doing totally different things in the roles we individually play and we are doing things that are completely different together. We had a lot of fun watching it together for the first time.
Your performance in Compliance was phenomenal.
Have you been surprised by how people have actually gotten angry with you, even going so far as to associate you with your performance in Compliance?
That part of it wasn’t surprising. I kind of expected that to happen. Soap stars who play bad people on soap operas get hate mail, and they are just actors. So, I expected that. But, what I wasn’t expecting was the incredible amount of love and respect that I have gotten. It’s really been the best thing that has happened to my career. To be getting any kind of attention at all from it has been overwhelming and really nice. Mostly, people know that it’s a performance. I think it didn’t hurt that a lot of people had seen The Innkeepers before watching Compliance. So, they were able to see the difference between the two characters and realize that it is performance and that I am an actor. And, a lot of them have been quite impressed. People that know my work realize that character is not who I am. None of us ever expected that movie to be seen by anyone, let alone to be seen by so many people and to be so well liked. I get really nice emails and messages from people. Today, I just got a really nice email from Edgar Wright (Writer Sean of the Dead) who I really admire and would like to work with. We never expected the response to be so strong, but we are really happy about it.
The thing that stood out the most to me was that in some strange way, you successfully humanized your character in Compliance.
That film has many shades of ambiguity to all the characters. They all have some aspect to them that is bad, with the exception of Becky, who is the victim. It was interesting to focus on what was normal about my character. Craig [Zobel’s] instructions to me were always to remember that the stakes are very low. He wanted me not to view him as a psychopath, but as a prank caller. I think that if he saw the consequences that resulted from his actions, he might be sick to his stomach. But, from a distance, he can find it humorous. He can be at home making a sandwich and to him, he’s just making a prank phone call. The worst thing that could happen is that they could hang up on him. That was interesting to me. If you think about it in the context of what actually occurs in the film, it’s sickening. But, he’s just a guy at home making a prank phone call. That’s what I wanted to explore. I wanted to explore there being something banal about him. It’s an interesting character study. I think if you play the mustache-twirling villain, it’s just not interesting.
That’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks for talking with us. It’s always a pleasure.
Thank you, Tyler. I enjoyed talking with you, as always.