Although they aren’t household names, both Nick Damici and Adrián García Bogliano are pretty heavy hitters in the genre game as of late. Damici both wrote and starred in recent re-interpretations of both vampire and cannibal genres Stake Land and We Are What We Are and Bogliano has directed Cold Sweat, a segment in The ABCs of Death, and one of my favorite films of last year, Here Comes the Devil. With their newest film, Late Phases, Damici plays a blind, retired veteran having to settle into life at a retirement community. Shortly after his arrival, he realizes there’s something there more dangerous than monotony: werewolves. The film is full of practical effects and the humor/silliness of the horrific situations is offset by the drama of settling into a life of routine and boredom. The film reminds you of monster hunting classics like Monster Squad or Silver Bullet, and the setting of a retirement community reminds you of the more recent Bubba Ho Tep. Believe it or not, werewolf movies aren’t really my favorite genre, but seeing this new approach to the subgenre by some of horror’s current top dogs (yuk-yuk) made for a fun midnight experience. Not to mention it had one of the best werewolf recruitment scenes I’ve seen in any movie. I got to sit down with Nick and Adrián at South by Southwest to talk more about the film.
WolfMan: The movie reminds you of fun monster movies from the 70’s and 80’s, but there’s also drama there about an older guy dealing with the loss of his wife. Was finding the balance between the fun and the drama mostly done in the editing room?
Adrián García Bogliano: That was there in the script to begin with. That was something I loved about the script. It was very difficult to find the balance. I think there were more comedic elements in the script that on-set, we realized it might not be a good choice. Some of those elements we toned down. Some moments were also added.
Nick Damici: Some of it just came from the character of the blind guy. Not playing it funny or trying to be funny, he just walked funny. But I don’t think that’s comedy. I think that’s life.
Nick Damici in Late Phases
WM: I thought it was interesting because, right off the bat, your character is relatively abrasive. He’s not an immediately likable character. By the end of the movie, everybody’s rooting for you because you’re the only one who figures out what’s going on. Through your portrayal of someone who is blind, what did you take away from that? What did you learn from that which you didn’t anticipate?
ND: That it was so technical. Actors always want to go from truth or from their core, the blind thing, I found myself just doing what I could do and then trusting Adrián to make that work. You can’t be blind. You can only act blind, unless you’re blind. Coming to that realization, I wanna be real and it’s your instinct, but realizing I could just act and that’s okay, that’s what I took away from it. That will help me from now on when I act, is I’ll know I can just act.
WM: What was it that interested you guys in the project, having read the script? Was it you were actively searching to do something kind of like this?
AGB: No, I personally never thought I was going to make a werewolf movie.
ND: You didn’t, you made an old blind guy movie. (laughs)
WM: I don’t know, I think I saw a couple of werewolves in there.
AGB: I love all horror films, but I’ve never particularly been a fan of werewolf movies. Then I found this script and I thought there were things and ideas that were really amazing. I was really happy to see something that I could relay. The werewolf element was interesting to explore and to try to push myself as a director. To try to create something I would never think I could do. That’s the challenge.
WM: What drew you into this “Old Blind Guy” movie?
ND: I’m just a ham, man. I just wanna act. They sent me the script and they wanted me to play the lead, so I’m not going to turn that down. I loved the character. He was so fun to play. An abrasive asshole.
WM: You say you’re not too big of a fan of werewolf movies, so what are some of the ones you really like?
AGB: The one that’s my favorite is Silver Bullet. I found a lot of things in the script that were similar. The community, the relationship with the priest, there were some elements there. The leading character having a handicap. You’ve got a boy in a wheelchair and here you have this blind man. There were a lot of elements, and Eric (Stolze), the writer, he was a big fan of Silver Bullet. It was interesting to me.
WM: And do you have any favorite werewolf movies?
ND: I don’t think they’ve nailed the werewolf movie. It’s always a difficult thing. I love the original Wolf Man, that kind of thing.
WM: Well they haven’t nailed it until now, of course.
ND: We’ll see. I like the idea that this wasn’t trying to say we’re making the definitive werewolf movie, which I think they try to do all the time. It doesn’t matter, it’s a movie. First and foremost, it’s a movie and the movie has to tell a story. I think this had a story. You take the werewolves out of it and the story was still there. Ultimately I think that’s more important than the genre element. I love the genre, but if you’re just making it for that.
Gary Busey and Corey Haim in Silver Bullet
WM: I feel like the last really good werewolf movie was Dog Soldiers. That was really similar in tone with all the practical effects. It’s kind of hard not to have comedy in there when there’s a guy in a big furry suit. If you do CGI, like the Benicio del Toro Wolfman, it doesn’t work. Speaking of creature design, was that completely in the hands of the special effects team?
AGB: In the script,t here was a description of the werewolves as having white hair and missing teeth. Things like that. It was really interesting because it was like having these old werewolves. That was the basic thing that I brought to the guys. They started designing from there, and they knew what they were doing. It was interesting, because the biggest discussion involved, was that I really wanted to have these dry effects of the skin. Werewolves are tearing the skin apart, and I needed it to be dry. That was complicated for the special effects team because all of the special effects artists, since seeing Alien, they just want slime. It really helps to sell the effects. It was very difficult for them to try to do it this way.
WM: You had a great supporting cast, too. From Tom Noonan to Ethan Embry, did you get to hand-pick those guys to get involved?
AGB: It was a long process. A lot of back and forth with the producers. Ethan was my top choice. We had a lot of discussions because I think producers were seeing, on paper, the character of the son as a weak person that can’t stand for himself against an oppressive father figure. Both Eric and I were thinking something completely different. We were thinking that it should be a guy who can stand for himself in any situation, but still, it’s his father. He’s not going to punch him in the face. He’s used to taking shit from him. It was interesting to have a tough guy like Ethan. I actually wanted to cast him because of Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, where he plays a total asshole badass. The process was long and intense. All the choices were amazing actors that I knew and loved their work. Then I had the chance to also work with a lot of older actors and actresses that might not be working that much. It was a great chance to include them. People who have been in movies I grew up with.
WM: And of course, being able to bring in Larry Fessenden, he was able to clear up his schedule to pop up.
AGB: Larry was on the production side, and he was a great support for me. As a director, he’s someone who supports a lot. That’s something amazing. When I started working with (Creature Effects Producer) Bob Kurtzman, there were the most heated discussions about things. It was great to have him supporting me.
WM: Lastly, would you guys settle for life in a retirement community if it meant you could become a werewolf?
ND: I always wanted to lick my balls.