James Remar made a big impression in 1979 with the second film he appeared in, The Warriors, and he’s never looked back. He’s appeared in dozens of films like The Long Riders (1980), 48 Hours (1982), Band Of The Hand (1986), Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (1990), The Phantom (1996) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). He’s also appeared in various television shows like Walker: Texas Ranger, Nash Bridges, 7th Heaven, The X Files, Sex In The City, and Dexter. His rugged good looks and distinctive voice have made him one of the best & most recognizable character actors working today. His latest film, The Blackcoat’s Daughter made a successful festival run last year where it was praised by critics across the country. It’s getting a limited theatrical release on March 31st, and he was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about his work on the film.
Gruesome Magazine: First off, let me thank you for your time. All of us at Gruesome are big fans of your work.
James Remar: Thank you. I never get tired of hearing that [Laughing].
GM: I’ve seen the movie a few times now, and enjoyed each viewing. I was wondering what it was about the script that made you want to appear in the film?
JR: Well first off, it was an intriguing script. The connection that I had with Osgood (Perkins. The film’s director) was really quite instantaneous. When we started talking on the phone there were a lot of very interesting parallels in our lives. I just found that I really wanted to work with him.
GM: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in what some of those parallels were…
JR: Both of us lost very significant people in our lives on September 11th, 2001. He lost his mom, and I lost my best friend.
GM: I’m very sorry.
JR: So that was something we bonded over instantly.
GM: You’re a veteran actor, and you’ve appeared in dozens of films and television shows. I think it’s safe to say that you’ve worked with a lot of the best talent there is to work with. But was there any trepidation on your part having the son of one of the most iconic actors who ever lived directing your film? (Osgood Perkins is the son of the late Anthony Perkins).
JR: [Long pause] Why should it?
GM: Well, I find his background fascinating, and he’s shown that he has a very singular vision in the films he’s directed so far. He’s really rather unique in that sense.
JR: He’s his own man, a very intriguing and unique guy. He’s got a great legacy of horror behind him as well. He wasn’t just standing around while his dad was making movies. Sometimes it’s more intimidating to work with someone who doesn’t know anything about movies. Actually, it’s irritating, not intimidating. Besides that, there aren’t any directors that intimidate me anymore. If a director intimidates you, he’s probably not a very good director.
GM: There are directors that seem to thrive on intimidating their cast and crew though.
JR: That’s their problem! The directors who work that way are unpleasant to work for. We’re all just people, we’re not on the front lines of a war – we’re just making a movie. Directors that are inspirational are the ones who have their cast/crew eager to work for them. They turn out the best work.
GM: I’ve read reviews where critics called the tone of The Blackcoat’s Daughter “Cerebral”, and I’ve read others where it was described as “Macabre” in its tone. How do you feel about the film’s tone? Would you call it more cerebral, or more macabre?
JR: I wouldn’t use those adjectives at all, it’s a movie that draws you in. It does require some thought, but I wouldn’t describe it as cerebral at all. Visually, the girls are all very nice to look at, and their situation in that cold, stark environment is also very intriguing. The staging is very good as well, it’s really quite frightening when Emma (Roberts) cuts my throat. The visual experience of seeing Kiernan (Shipka. One of the co-stars of the film) when she’s really nuts and in the grasp of a demonic possession is really creepy! I found the film to be much more visceral than cerebral, I wouldn’t call it macabre either. It’s just a scary, tense film.
GM: I got a 70’s satanic thriller vibe off of it. A slow burn 70’s satanic thriller.
JR: I don’t put things in those kinds of categories. It sounds to me like you’re trying to pigeonhole the movie.
GM: Not at all! This is just my personal take on the film.
JR: Well…that’s how I’m hearing it. It stands on its own. Of course, Osgood has his influences, as do we all. If it can stand with some of those movies you’re alluding to, then that would be great. But in the end, I just think it stands alone just fine as is.
GM: It definitely stands out. Especially when you consider what kind of stuff it has to compete against, it’s very unique in that sense.
JR: It doesn’t rely on a lot of splatter, or shrieking. The tension builds, and when it gets bloody it becomes very upsetting. If anything, there’s a psychology to the setting, I wouldn’t call it cerebral, but it’s definitely upsetting. That’s what a satanic horror film is supposed to do – unnerve you. It’s supposed to make you afraid of what might be considered an ordinary circumstance.
GM: It’s interesting to hear you say that, because you’ve made a ton of films, and more than a few scary ones. It sounds like making this movie affected you on a deeper level.
JR: Well, I try to invest myself emotionally, intellectually & physically in every film I do. I try to have a deeper experience in all of my work. I don’t live with my roles afterward anymore, though. I used to take them home with me, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to leave them at work when I’m done with them.
GM: Were you surprised when the title of the film changed from “February” to “The Blackcoat’s Daughter“? Did you have a personal preference to either title?
JR: I came into it as “February“. And while I liked that title, I also like “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”. Ultimately, my take on the title change is that it’s something that’s out of my realm. I’m not the writer, the producer or the distributor. But it’s a classy title, not a goofy one like “Murder in a Girls School in the Dead of Winter” [Laughing]. It’s a classy, evocative title that fits the piece.
GM: The film seems to be very polarizing. It’s one of those “Love it or hate it” kind of films, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. How do you feel about that?
JR: In the end, it’s all vanilla man, what can I say? My work is done, it’s there for people to sample, and if they like it, great! If they don’t, that’s up to them. Is it nice to be in a movie that people like? Of course, it is! It’s much nicer than being in a movie that people don’t like. Hopefully, the people that like it will let me know, and the people that don’t like it will keep it to themselves. No actor wants to hear, “Hey man, I didn’t like that movie you were in!” [Laughing].
GM: What are you working on now?
JR: I’m currently working on a series called “The Path” that can be seen exclusively on Hulu. I also play Commissioner Jim Gordon’s uncle Frank on Gotham, which can be seen on Fox.
GM: You’ve been in so many films, playing so many characters. Is there a particular role that you’d like to play that you haven’t gotten a chance to as of yet?
JR: As I get older, I’ll be playing older roles I guess. But if I had my druthers, I’d like to play Charles Darwin in his later years with the bushy eyebrows, and the big white beard.
GM: I gotta admit that I wasn’t expecting you to say that!
JR: I don’t think there’s been a really cool biopic on Darwin, that’d be cool. I’d also love to play a biblical character like Moses! I look really good in a beard. I’m a really big Game Of Thrones fan too, hopefully, they’ll read this and throw me a bone!
The Blackcoat’s Daughter opens on Friday, March 31st in theaters and On Demand.