The name Dean Devlin is not unheard of in the sci-fi genre. Bringing to the big screen such fan favorite films like ‘Stargate’ and ‘Independence Day’ as well as TV shows like ‘Leverage’ and ‘The Librarians,’ Devlin has etched a place in the hearts of sci-fi fandom. While his latest project ‘Bad Samaritan’ does shy a bit away from the genre, he still managed to inject a little geekdom in the film with the casting of its two main leads David Tennant (‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Jessica Jones) and Robert Sheehan (‘Misfits’). We were able to talk to the director about why he decided against tying ‘Bad Samaritan’ to a big studio, how he managed to get his two stars to come aboard his indie film, and what makes ‘Bad Samaritan’ so unique.
What was it about Bad Samaritan that attracted you to the project?
Dean Devlin (DD): Brandon Boyce who wrote ‘Apt Pupil’ and ‘Wicker Park’, spec’d this script 4, 4½ years ago and he called me up and said he was about to show this to the world and would I read it and give him some notes on it. Well, I read the script and I said I only have one note: Don’t show this to anyone because I want to make this movie! It just blew me away when I read it! It was a page turner. I couldn’t stop reading it and it reminded me of movies I grew up with – the real early Brian De Palma movies when he was emulating Hitchcock.
What made the Bad Samaritan script so different?
DD: I think there’s a lot of great scary movies lately but they all tend to be some supernatural event or there’s a creature or aliens or something… but to do something that really exists in our world… a guy like our villain could move right down the hall from you. That really was terrifying and I couldn’t wait to do it!
What made you decide to make this film totally independent? You just finished ‘Geostorm’ with Warner Brothers…
DD: Because I just finished ‘Geostorm’ with Warner Bros! (laughs) I had actually been independent since 2004 up until the sequel to ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Geostorm.’ That was kinda my return to doing studio work and I realized I’m not the right personality type to work with studios. I do much better work when I have a lot of freedom, and I have a lot of creative control and can cast the way I want and can shot the way I want. I think you can do good work at studios if you have the right personality type but that’s not me.
The film was made and marketed with no big studio involvement at all. So would you say that making Bad Samaritan was a labor of love for you?
DD: Totally! Totally! Even though it’s not science fiction, it is very much like my first film ‘Stargate.’ We wrote the script together, we raised the money independently, and even though MGM put it out at the time, MGM didn’t want the movie. They just had nothing to release for 2 months so we kind of convinced them to release it for us. So it was a very independent project. We ended up doing a lot of grassroots campaigning for ‘Stargate.’
Like you’re doing now…
DD: Like I’m doing now. (smiles) I went to every sci-fi convention in the country and we started talking to the fans directly to convince them the movie [‘Stargate’] was worthy for them to be our ambassadors and just before the movie opened, all the trackings were saying we were going to have a huge failure and it ended up being the highest grossing October opening in history.
Now, I don’t anticipate that happening with this film [‘Bad Samaritan’] but I do think by going to the fans directly and talking to people who actually really love genre entertainment and showing them enough material to show them this is worthy of their attention, I really think we have a chance to succeed.
One of the big draws of the film, you have to admit, is David Tennant.
DD: He is the biggest draw!
I’m a big Whovian!
DD: Me too!
How did you convince him to come onboard?
DD: I did this Skype call – he was in London and I was in L.A. – and I was trying to make him comfortable like I’m this sophisticated and smart and talented director. I’m trying to act. (laughs) And in the middle of this, suddenly I start asking about the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver… I started fanboying all over the place! I saw it started getting a little awkward. And then I opened up my jacket to show I had a Doctor Who t-shirt on, and he pointed out that the logo I had was for the 11th Doctor and he’s the 10th Doctor!
DD: So I had to take my foot out of my mouth but luckily he forgave me and took the part.
Luckily you weren’t wearing a bow tie…
DD: … or a fez!
You’ve mentioned you’ve wanted to work with other stars from the Whoniverse? Any particular ones?
DD: All of them! I’m a HUGE Doctor Who nerd! But for this part, I knew he was the guy. He was it!
Now you also got another sci-fi actor to work on your film, Robert Sheehan from ‘Misfits’ He also worked with you on ‘Geostorm.’ How did that come along?
DD: I was crazy about him on Misfits. My wife and I used to watch the show and say, “This guys’ going to be a huge star!” So when I was working on ‘Geostorm,’ I wrote a smaller part for him and luckily I was able to get him to do the part. But as I was working with him… he’s not just a great character… in other words… he’s not just the guy on that show. He is an incredibly skilled and deep actor. So when I had ‘Bad Samaritan,’ I called him up and asked if he’d do the lead and luckily he said yes!
Sheehan plays a morally ambiguous character. Was it difficult to keep that character straddling that line?
DD: I think that’s what makes the part so interesting! Had I made this movie with the studio, it would have been about a boy who was taking care of his dying grandmother while he works at an orphanage for puppies. They would just go over the top to make him likable. But I thought it was much more interesting to have a character whose own morality was in flux. He thinks he has a moral code, but it gets tested. And it gets tested when he finds this woman.
So what’s next after this?
DD: Right now I’m 100% focused on ‘Bad Samaritan’ which opens on May the 4th. On May the 6th you can ask me what I want to do next (laughs).
And what do you want to tell our readers on why they should see this movie?
DD: DAVID TENNANT! He will blow your mind!
‘Bad Samaritan’ opens today, May 4, in theaters nationwide.