Interview: Emile Hirsch Talks New Thriller State of Consciousness

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Written By Sedoso Feb

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to State of Consciousness star Emile Hirsch about his latest thriller, which is now available in theaters, on demand, and digital.

“Where do you turn when your nightmares become reality? Stephen and Alicia are a happy young couple living a simple life until Stephen is accused of a mysterious murder,” reads the synopsis. “Small town justice lands Stephen in a shady mental facility where an experimental treatment causes a year-long gap in his memory and an inability to separate his horrific hallucinations from real life. As he fights to regain the fragments of his old life, Stephen begins to realize­ the truth is more frightening than anything he could imagine. Emile Hirsch stars in this spine-chilling psychological thriller.”

Tyler Treese: What was most exciting about being in this mind-bending thriller? It really takes viewers on a ride. So what creatively perked your interest about this?

Emile Hirsch: I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan and Inception and that kind of film, and also the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy. The idea of these movies where there are multiple realities, and you’re not really sure what’s going on.

And it was a really well written script. It was just one of those scripts where when I read it, it was just a page turner and I just devoured it. As a concept, I just immediately liked the idea of this guy’s set up, and he’s framed for this crime. They’re telling him he’s crazy and he has to go to this institution. And then suddenly he’s out of the institution a year later, and he feels like not even a day’s gone by.

So he is trying to piece together what happened with all that time. And I really liked the director Marcus Stokes. He’s just a really intelligent, great guy. And a badass dude, like, he’s such a badass. I remember our stunt coordinator — this guy Simone — he was a fighter. We were rehearsing stunts, and Marcus was like, “You do jiu-jitsu?” and the guy is like, “Oh yeah.” And he is like, “Oh, you wanna roll?” And he is like, “Yeah, let’s roll.” We were in this gymnasium, and I saw Marcus and Simone grappling on the ground. It wasn’t, like, a fight. It was a playful match. Afterward, I was like, “Dude,” and Marcus won. He’s really, really good.

I just really liked working with Marcus. He always had a positive attitude and cool ideas and we had like the full gamut of adventures on this film. Half of it we shot in Bari Italy, and the other half we shot in Antigua, Guatemala. And I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Antigua place, but like, it is absolutely amazing because they have a volcano there — Vulcan De Fuego. It’s right on the city. And every 20, 30 minutes or something, it explodes lava.

So I’m in the middle of Guatemala, and I’m literally outside my hotel room, watching lava explode out of a volcano at night and dripping down the mountain. It’s a real thing. I didn’t know that there was a city in the world with an active volcano that you could go to. I’m not kidding. It was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen being around this volcano.

It really made a big impression on me. And I mean, that’s not really part of the movie, but that’s just like such an adventure. We were on set, and we heard a huge rumble, and we looked, and we all saw the volcano erupting.

And I look over to the Italian producer and he has this delighted gleam in his eye. And I was like, “So that’s an active volcano.” And he was like, “Yes, yes, I love volcanoes.” And I was thinking to myself, I was like, for a second I was like, is this guy like some crazy dude who just like picked this location? ’cause He has like a volcano fetish and we’re all gonna die or something. I mean, it was like, it was like a moment like that where I was like, the movie, like the paranoia of the character and state of consciousness, like, was starting to wear on me. And I’m like, is this all a setup?

I’m really excited about rewatching this movie just to pick up on more of the breadcrumbs. I was curious how it was filming. I assume communication with the director is very key in figuring out where your character is in each of these moments. There are a lot of twists and different timelines.

It was a feat. You’ve got to remember — we shot it in two different countries, and we’re shooting it completely out of sequence. The schedule is entirely based on what works best for the schedule and the budget, right?

[…] I had a mental map of who the character is, and just [tried] to put myself back in that and talk with Marcus. Really try to keep track of where he’s at. I won’t give any spoilers, but there are a couple of different characters you’re playing, and one character’s almost like discovering another character as you play it. There was a certain manic tone to the character that is – you know – the character.

The closest to the performance wavelength I chose was [2018’s] Freaks. [In that film,] there’s this heightened intensity to the character, which the genre supports. I think sometimes, when actors go a little too subtle with some of the hysteria on some of these genre movies, they’re just not as entertaining in a way. They’re not as interesting. And I don’t get as invested in the character.

So we went big – in a lot of ways – for a lot of scenes. […] If someone’s really like cracking up, you really want to see ’em crack up, you know what I mean? You don’t wanna see someone sort of crack up. If you’re gonna see someone split, you want to see’em split down the middle.

You’ve been very active a as an actor these past few years, and you actually have Prey also out. It’s wild to have two movies coming out at the same exact time. What’s been most rewarding about just keeping such a busy schedule here?

First and foremost, I just am thankful to the universe and to God. Anything to be able to work in a field I love and that I’m fortunate enough to be able to get jobs in. It’s still — for me — the best job in the world. have such a good time making movies. I’m someone that genuinely just loves making them. And I always have a good time. Nobody has more fun on set than me, you know? I’ve worked on enough films to where I know that for whatever reason, I get a fulfillment out of the work and a sense of wellbeing that… to be honest, there’s a lot of actors and, and artists I’ve worked with [who] don’t really get that reward from the work.

Some of ‘em, even really talented artists… the work almost takes something out of them and they really need to take a long time to replenish their supplies, you could say. […] I’m not really like that. I actually find that I do my best work the more kind of in practice my instrument is – to use the actor lingo. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. And you know, one of the biggest things for actors is just getting comfortable enough on set to where their talent can flourish or take over.

[When most people get on a film set,] there’s a certain nervousness and a self-consciousness that’s hard for a lot of people to let go. So what I found is the more the more that I work, the more I’m able to access a certain level of comfort in my performances that I think that is more than I’ve had in the past, even, you know?

When you have an ability to be truly comfortable in a scene as an actor and exploring, and you’re not nervous or self-conscious or feel pressure… I think there’s a De Niro quote out there where he says, you know, “relaxation is like one of the most important parts of being an actor.”

This blew my mind today – The Girl Next Door turns 20. That film didn’t do huge at the box office, but it’s had this cult following over the years. How has it been seeing that develop?

I think it’s pretty great that The Girl Next Door has the following that it still does. I think it’s really cool. And it’s a funny movie. It’s an entertaining, funny movie with heart. And so people discovering it for the first time is great. I can’t believe it was so many years ago. It’s kind of crazy. How many years did you say?

It’s gonna be 20 years old.

Wow. I mean… I would just call that just a testament to how well I’ve aged, right?

Oh, for sure. For sure.

I’m just kidding. Just so you know – I am kidding!

You and Paul Dano have both have had such interesting, great careers since then. What was it kinda like working with him when you were both so young?

Oh man, I love Paul. We did the Girl Next Door together, but before even the Girl Next Door had done The Emperor’s Club together — with one young Jesse Eisenberg, as well. I had a really great rapport with Paul, and he was one of the guys when I was a kid actor, I was just great buddies with. And he’s hilarious and brilliant and dedicated to his craft. Just a good dude and a good freestyler too, actually.

Like rap freestyle? I wouldn’t expect that!

Yeah. I remember we had like a couple of like teenage hangout sessions, where like we would just be like freestyling for like a really long time. Paul was really good.

That’s incredible.

Some actors are actually surprisingly good at freestyling, like Shia LaBeouf. He’s very good. Yeah, I freestyled with him. He’s amazing. Zac Efron? Amazing freestyler as well. Actually, it’s kind of funny how good they are. I’ve been in really long, like ciphers with them and they’re good.

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