‘The Bye Bye Man’s’ Douglas Smith has a ‘La La Land’ moment

Douglas Smith gets touched by 'The Bye Bye Man.' (Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment.

Douglas Smith gets touched by ‘The Bye Bye Man.’ (Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment)

We’ve all had the experience of trying not to think about something: a painful memory, a powerful craving, a strange look from a partner or friend. Often times, it feels like the more we try to push those thoughts away, the harder they try to force their way in. In the end, though, whether our efforts fail or succeed, we get to move on. But what if there was something—a thought, an image, or even just a name—that needed you to let your guard down just once to take root in your mind? And what if that seed grew something dark that would slowly take over your reality, make all of your hidden fears and darkness bloom, and ultimately drive you to do the unthinkable? This is what lies at the heart of the story—and the terror—of The Bye Bye Man.

People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things. But what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the cause of all evil is not a matter of what…but who?

From the producer of Oculus and The Strangers comes The Bye Bye Man, a chilling horror-thriller that exposes the evil behind the most unspeakable acts committed by man. When three college friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, they discover that there is only one way to avoid his curse: don’t think it, don’t say it. But once the Bye Bye Man gets inside your head, he takes control. Is there a way to survive his possession?

Inspired by actual events, The Bye Bye Man is about Elliot, Sasha and John, three friends on the cusp of what should be the most exciting time of their lives. The brilliant but insecure Elliot (Douglas Smith, HBO’s Big Love) has always been driven by a desire for family and community—ever since he was orphaned as a child and raised by his older brother Virgil (Michael Trucco, Battlestar Galactica). Now, Elliot, his beautiful and empathetic girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas in her film debut), and their hard-partying but good-natured friend John (Lucien Laviscount, Scream Queens) are moving in together and sharing their first house. But they soon discover that the house leads to the remnants of the Bye Bye Man, a supernatural force that terrorized unsuspecting victims decades earlier. After a party where Elliot accidentally discovers his name, the Bye Bye Man uses their friend Kim (Jenna Kanell, The Vampire Diaries), a troubled psychic, as a conduit into their minds and into our world. From there, he begins a malevolent campaign of twisting their realities—and worse.

Elliot’s insecurities boil over into paranoia, Sasha begins to waste away, and John slowly transforms into something angry and dangerous. As the Bye Bye Man preys on their minds and souls, he drags friends, family, and the community into his web of horror. For Elliot and the people he loves, life and death soon hinge on knowing what is real and what is not. Desperate to help them all, Elliot begins to investigate the Bye Bye Man’s past while trying to hold onto his own sanity. With help from unlikely sources, Elliot discovers that the only way to defeat him is to eliminate any memory of his name—including anyone who knows it. The Bye Bye Man is directed by Stacy Title (The Last Supper, Let the Devil Wear Black) from a screenplay by Jonathan Penner (Let the Devil Wear Black), based on the “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck. It is produced by Trevor Macy (The Strangers, Oculus), Jeffrey Soros (Rules Don’t Apply) and Simon Horsman.

I recently sat down with Douglas Smith and discussed everything from Michelle Pfeiffer and teen movies to La La Land and, of course, The Bye Bye Man. The interview started off with Smith mentioning it had been a long day after he had done a bunch of TV interviews already with Carrie-Anne Moss.

I remember Michelle Pfeiffer saying she makes movies because she likes to and she gets paid to promote them.

Douglas Smith: I don’t have as much experience as Michelle. I’ve only done a few junkety things like this because I’ve only been in a few movies where I had a large enough role that we wanted me to do it. It’s a bit exhausting. A lot of stuff that I worked on, even if I had a big part, like Percy Jackson, they only asked me to do a small percentage of the interviews. 100% of the interviews were Logan Lerman who played Percy Jackson. I played his brother Tyson so I did like 20% of the interviews that he did. It was fun. I didn’t get exhausted the same way. For me, it’s still unique enough that it’s exciting, but I can see getting to Michelle Pfeiffer’s status, it could get…

Like being asked the same question for the millionth time.

Luckily, I was with Carrie-Anne. We weren’t asked a question for like the millionth time, but maybe the twenty-fifth. We bounced off each other. It was nice to have someone else from the cast.

Well then, what was the first junket you were asked to do?

The first junket I did was for a movie called Citizen Duane. It was at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was about ten years ago. It was in between the first and second season of Big Love. It was a big thing. I don’t know if you’ve been to TIFF before, but you go to the InterContinental Hotel and walk down a long hallway going from one thing to another, passing all the actors from all the different movies. It was wild. I didn’t do another one until The Boy Who Smells Like Fish. It was an indie movie. We did a couple film festivals and then there was a big press junket in Mexico City since we shot in Mexico City. Carrie-Anne Moss was in that one too. It was a love story with me and Zoe Kravitz. Carrie-Anne played my psychologist. I never had to do one for Big Love because they just want to interview the bigger actors like Bill Paxton. I didn’t do a press junket for Ouija. That was more Olivia [Cooke]. But here I am, happy to do it. I can see it getting tiring if you’re like one of the lead actors in Twilight or something.

I know as a reporter, I was nervous when I went to my first press junket. Colin Farrell was there and I didn’t want to make an ass of myself.

I like his work. He’s a good, good actor.

He is.

Did you see The Lobster?

I did.

It’s like my favorite film of the year.

It made my top ten. I still can’t decide if I liked the movie or not, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

I felt that way about La La Land, but I decided now that I love it. I was really mad when I first saw it because it hit so close to home.

What do you mean?

The way they depict the actors and the auditions. It was hard for me to relax and enjoy the splendor of it because it was stressing me out. Her stress of getting her next job and going on auditions stressed me out. I’m a musician and I’ve been in bands and had to go on the road. I was almost like an amalgam of the two characters. Then I really listened to the music afterwards and fell in love with the music and fell in love with the film. You can understand how it can be stressful because it was accurate. When you see the montage of her in all the different audition rooms and in the waiting room where there are all these different versions of you but they all seem a little bit better looking or a little bit better at being you. I feel that all the time in waiting rooms.

So do you have…

A really good or bad audition experience?

How did you know that’s where I was going?

I have a million of them. I should have an answer prepared for this question. Oh, recently I went into the waiting room and the casting agent was here and her associate was in a room over there. They had a room full of actors and they chose to communicate by yelling through the room. One would yell, “how many actors are in the waiting room?” “There are six.” “I don’t really want to, ugh. I don’t know. I’m just going to watch some of these tapes that were sent.” They proceeded to watch the tapes from the actors who were out of town and started to critique them. This was the same role we were auditioning for with the volume up loud enough so the other could hear from the other room. Then they would continue to critique them while yelling to each other instead of going into the same room with each other or instant messaging each other. They did this for like twenty minutes and then they’re like, “we’re ready for you. Come in.” That was like a month ago. It was the most recent. I wouldn’t say it was the worst, but it’s the most recent. So in La La Land when she’s pouring her heart out and you see someone in the background taking a phone call. Sorry, we got off topic.

I like going off topic. Speaking of La La Land, now the Oscar favorites are opening wide. The Bye Bye Man is the anti…

We’re not an Oscar movie.

Well, you aren’t eligible since you weren’t released in December.

It’s counter-programming yes. It’s a good movie for people who are kind of fatigued with the Oscar movies. Maybe you don’t want to watch a searing drama and you just want go to the theater for an adrenaline-fueled fright fest.

Horror movies are great date movies…

It’s a thing. Do I want to go to the movie theater and watch a really important biopic about Jackie Kennedy or do I want to watch some college kids get terrorized by the Bye Bye Man?

And who doesn’t like watching college kids get terrorized?

I think it’s well made if you want to see something that’s scary. We’re not really shooting for the Oscar but that’s okay.

Oh, there have been plenty of times where I didn’t like the movie that won Best Picture. And there might have been some horror movies that I liked that year better than the Oscar winner.

I agree. It Follows was one of my favorite movies of that year.

Mine too. The Babadook was a few years ago and that was a great one too.

That was a good one too. I feel that one made a lot of year end lists. It Follows might have made some lists too. I was really impressed by that movie. I loved it.

What were some other movies that, growing up…

Scream. Scream is a big one. I was in sixth grade when it came out. I was the perfect age. It was an older kids’ movie. I was at the perfect age when there was a whole slew of teen movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, Scream 2. There were other teen movies too like 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That. I was in middle school when those films came out. I think that’s the best age. If you’re in high school, you’ll still love it, but I think you’ll love it even more when you’re in middle school because you’re idealizing what it will be like to be in high school. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell were like my Jamie Lee Curtis. There’s not really a scream queen now. I know there’s the show Scream Queens, but I could go on forever. I’m a movie buff. I think our movie was influenced by some of the horror movies of yesterday.

Like what?

We watched Eyes Without a Face or Les Yeux Sans Visage. We all got together and watched that old French movie. The Pedro Almodovar film, The Skin I Live In, was inspired by that film. Remember that film?

Oh yes.

We also watched Rosemary’s Baby.

Did you watch those movies to get the tone for this movie?

I think we just watched good movies that were in the genre like The Shining. I think we watched the to get inspired. You always want to watch the greats in the genre when you’re making something because you always want to shoot for the stars.

The Bye Bye Man is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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