'The Day' cast warned they'd look ugly, go through hell
The cast of 'The Day' from left to right: Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon, Dominic Monaghan and Cory Hardrict.
Published Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:27PM EDT
When looking for actors for their post-apocalyptic film "The Day," director Doug Aarniokoski and producer Guy Danella pulled no punches: the shoot was going to be cold and wet and the cast would have to look ugly, lose weight and work extremely long hours.
Who would agree to something like that?
"We said to them, ‘Look this is going to be hell. This is going to be like going to film war… you are not going to enjoy yourself," Danella tells me during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival.
But actors Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Ashmore, Michael Eklund, Cory Hardrict and Ashley Bell, all of whom are in Toronto for the film's Midnight Madness premiere Thursday tonight, tell me they couldn't get on board fast enough.
"They pretty much tried to convince me not to do it and why it was going to be brutal," says Bell, who won much acclaim for her role in 2010's "The Last Exorcism."
"We were (going to be) shooting in freezing weather at the start of winter in Ottawa, dropping weight, working out, getting covered in mud and I said, ‘Sign me up.'"
Canada's own Ashmore, who scored a breakout role as Iceman in the "X-Men" films, says all of these extreme elements worked in favour of what they were trying to do.
"If you're naturally cold and you're miserable and you're tired and you look like shit, that's exactly what the character is going through so half your job is done for you in that sense," he says.
"I went on a crazy diet," concurs Hardrict. "I just lived every moment of it."
"The Day," which also stars Shannyn Sossamon, focuses on five people fighting for their survival over a 24-hour period. The threat of something is lurking and with a storm coming, the group takes shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. But they soon realize that not everything -- or everyone -- is what they seem.
What has happened to them or the world isn't relevant to this story -- all that matters is the dynamics of what's happening within this group, according to the film's producer.
"We wanted to tell a relatively simple story as far as the A to B but (focus on) all the complexities with the characters and how the story evolves and what happens within the action," says Danella.
To get the most authentic reactions possible from the actors, Danella and Aarniokoski chose not to have rehearsals for the film.
"They heard the words out of the characters' mouths for the first time when we were rolling film so it was very unique in that way," says Aarniokoski.
The film was also shot entirely in sequence, which is also very rare, according to Danella.
"We literally wanted to mentally and physically break them down and you see it in the movie, you can feel it. We all went ‘method,'" he says.
Bell says the result was being constantly surprised by what everyone else was bringing to the table.
"It made it immediate and it had all of us responding viscerally because we had no idea what was really going to come next," she says.
Monaghan, best known for his roles on "Lost" and "The Lord of the Rings," says the guerrilla-style filmmaking is what attracted him to the role.
"This kind of getting down and dirty, not doing a huge amount of rehearsals and doing your own homework and just coming to each day prepared and ready to go but keeping it raw and keeping it fresh," says Monaghan.
Just like the world around them, the hues of the film are tinged with shades of grey.
"There's no warmth in the movie. You're existing. Minute to minute, hour to hour. There's hope internally but externally, the world is just what the world is," says Aarniokoski.
"The Day" is not the only film at TIFF that delves into the subject of the apocalypse and the end of the world – "Take Shelter" and Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" are two other examples.
Eklund, who also hails from Canada, says with predictions that the world could end in 2012, it's a topic that's on many people's minds.
"I think post-apocalyptic films are a sign of the times. There's a lot of talk about it right now," he says.
"In our film it's about bonding of groups and making a choice of how far you'll go to survive and what you're willing to do or not do. I don't think anybody can answer that question unless you're put under those conditions."