Movies

‘I Broke A Lot Frat Guys’ Hearts’: Seann William Scott On Playing A Psycho Killer And Escaping Stifler

There seem to be two distinct stages to Seann William Scott’s career. He became a break-out star playing Stifler, the loud-mouthed jock in American Pie, a character that will probably overshadow Scott’s career no matter what else he does. Scott naturally played a string of variations on “meathead livewire” in other films, like Role Models and Dude Where’s My Car.

While Scott expresses no regrets about being typecast, in Seann William Scott career phase 2.0, almost certainly ushered in by the sleeper hit hockey movie Goon, he’s showed he can play both introspective and inarticulate — brooding, even. Broody Scott achieves full flower in this month’s Bloodline, a new thriller from red hot horror studio Blumhouse hitting theaters and OnDemand this week.

Almost from the first seconds, you can sense Bloodline is something at least a little different than the movie you might expect. The first scene sees a nurse get her throat brutally slit in the shower. A few minutes later, Scott’s character sees his child being born, complete with a matter-of-fact close up of a child actually emerging from the birth canal — this intercut with flashbacks of disembowelings, Un Chien Andalou-style.

The fact that his character is a killer alone — Scott says it’s the first time he’s killed people in a movie — would make it a departure for him, but Bloodline‘s style differentiates it from similar titles. That’s largely due to director Henry Jacobsen and his cinematographer, Isaac Bauman (“an artist,” according to Scott). But it seems the perfect riff on Scott’s rebirth as a dramatic actor in the second half of his career.

I spoke to Scott by phone this week, and while he’s not Stifler, he does have an excitable golden retriever quality about him. It reminds you more of some of the verbose charmers he played early in his career than Doug Glatt or Evan in Bloodline, though he’s fairly articulate and incredibly candid about his career choices. What can I say, I liked the guy. As cheesy as it sounds, chatting with Scott on the phone actually brightened my day.

Is this the first time you played a character who kills people?

…Yeah, I think so. Let me think about it. …Yep, definitely. First time I’ve killed people in the movie.

What was the pitch to get you to sign on to this project? What made you say yes?

Well, I met with Blumhouse because I wanted to work with them and then they sent me this script and it was originally just pretty rough. It had just the kind of core ideas in there, but it just needed work. And then Henry Jacobson and his writing partner came in with a really fun kind of twisted take on it and they did a great job. So I was kind of a part of this from the beginning and it’s because I always wanted to do something a bit darker and I wanted to work with Blumhouse. That’s kind of how it all came together.

What had you seen of Blumhouse’s that made you want to work with them?

I love these genre films, so I’m trying to think of… at the time I’m not even sure Get Out had come out. Pretty much, dude, almost all of the stuff that they do. I honestly I can’t think of any movies that they’ve put out that I didn’t really enjoy. I’m a fan, but obviously their movies tend to be really successful, and they have a great formula for pairing really interesting, talented directors with actors. A lot of times you’re excited to do something different and find good material, but yeah, I mean, these guys are killing it.

What did you think when you saw the first cut of the movie? The style of it is very unique, but I imagine a lot of that is things you might not have been able to know while you were shooting it.

That’s exactly right. I mean, I knew that when we were shooting it, just because of the team that they had. I’ve never worked with a director who knew more about cameras and lenses and stuff like that. And our DP, it was clear, he was an artist, so I had a feeling that it was going to look really cool and be stylized.

But when I watched it, I fucking loved it. I was like, “Yes! This is so fucked up and dark!” And I liked how the camera moved, I liked the pace… I think if it didn’t look the way it did and I just think it’d be less interesting. I mean it’s already kind of a familiar storyline so I don’t know. I loved it. I’ve never been in a movie that looked like that.

I mean it definitely comes out of the gate hot, right?

Definitely. I wasn’t there when they filmed that scene and I was like, “Oh fuck. Wow. That’s gnarly, man.”

As an actor, I mean there’s a lot of ways that that scene could have gone badly in ways that were sort of out of your control. Is that just part of the job, having faith that they’re not going to make you look bad?

You’re talking about the shower scene or just any of the other scenes in the movie?

I mean that one in particular, but any of them. You could sort of shoot it and then they shoot something that doesn’t involve you that puts a whole different tone to the movie.

Yeah. Well I mean, because this was such a new experience for me, I was so focused on what I was doing and trying to keep it grounded. But I’m sure for that actress you’re putting a lot of trust in everybody to make sure that it’s going to come out the way that they’re explaining it. And they definitely did. And some people could say it was gratuitous, but I was like, “No, it’s perfect. It’s so dark and fucked up.” And it sets the tone immediately. It says “This is a movie that is going to hopefully give you a stomach ache.”

What’s your process like? Are you a method guy?

No, I’m not. I mean even if I was, how could you be a method actor and be like, “All right for the month that I’m shooting this, I’m just going to think like a serial killer.” That doesn’t sound healthy. So I did the best that I could with whatever prep that I had done just to try to stay in the moment. But I definitely went home and tried to have some fun after taking a really long shower.

It seems like in the first part of your career you are sort of known for playing these sort of manic, verbose kinds of characters. And now these days you’re doing less verbose kind of more broody type characters. Was that a conscious decision?

I think it’s kind of how things worked out. When I moved to LA, I never thought about doing comedies. I just got lucky to be in one. And then I was always like, there are so many movies, I’d really love to do this or I’d love to do that, but I get it, you kind of get known for doing one thing. And I just thought, “You know what? I’m going to lean into this and have a lot of fun and try to make people laugh.”

But the entire time it’s like, of course there are so many different kinds of characters that I would have loved to have played, but… I feel so lucky to even be in this business. So for me, on a personal level, this movie was just a blast because I finally got a chance to do something quite different. And I really loved the film. I don’t know if it’ll open up any doors, but I kind of don’t give a shit.

Momentum Pictures

Do you think there was a period of your career that you had to prove that you weren’t Stifler?

Not really. I think in the beginning I was anxious to try to do more dramatic work and stuff like that. And then very quickly it was like, that’s not going to happen, you know? You play a character that’s so outrageous and then you do it again and then you do it again and you do it again. It’s like as much as I know what I can do, I wouldn’t have hired myself for something drastically different. It’s too risky, you know? I mean, I always wanted to play the kind of characters that I tend to watch, but I have always had perspective about this and knew that I was really lucky to be in movies and I’ll do the best that I can with whatever opportunity that comes my way.

Do you give Goon credit for expanding the public perception of the types of characters that you could play?

Definitely. I love that movie and I was really grateful for the chance because that character was, as much as Doug Glatt is an idiot and I’ve pretty much made a career out playing idiots, this was a different kind and he just had a big heart and it was a very different speed compared to what I was used to doing and what people are used to seeing me do. And so, yeah, I really love Doug Glatt.

Had you seen Dale Dickey in anything before you got to work with her on this?

Oh, for sure. It was like when they said that they hired Dale. I was like, “What?” It was pretty awesome, man. I think the first movie I saw her in was Winter’s Bone. Now that was a ball. I mean, I think she’s a fantastic actress and she’s just a super sweet, wonderful person.

What was happening in your life when you booked American Pie? Did you have any idea what that would become at the time?

I was working at Home Depot, dude. I mean, I was, like so many actors, just trying to pay my bills and hoping for the best. But at that point I’d been in LA for three years. I was getting better at auditioning, but still thinking I could be out here for 15 years and still be working in the plumbing department. And so when I got that script — it was one of the first times I ever got a whole script for an audition. Usually, I just got the scenes. But I remember being like, “Holy shit, this thing is so fucking funny.” But I was like, how can I get this part? I’ve always looked 50, I certainly didn’t look like a high schooler.

But since I’m not going to get it and the character’s written to be such an unlikable asshole, I’m just going to improvise and make him the guy you hate to love and steal things from all my high school friends and put them into this character and give it a whirl. And I ended up getting the job. I was like, “Holy shit, man! I got to get myself into as much of this movie as possible.” But I remember when we were filming it, I was like, “I think this movie could do really well.” I didn’t think we were going to do four of them.

Do you think of auditioning as a skill separate from acting?

I think so. I think some people are just great in a room and great auditioners and then they get hired for something and the studio’s like, “Oh shit.” It’s hard. It’s a weird thing. It’s necessary but it sucks. You’re trying to create something that’s believable and memorable in the most unbelievable, unnatural atmosphere — which is an audition room with three people just staring at you. And you have somebody reading the lines… it just fucking sucks. You have to just kind of go for it. But thankfully I haven’t had to audition that much since.

Other than American Pie, what do people that recognize you on the street, tend to recognize you from?

Goon. I think that movie really resonated with people. I also get a lot of people who come up to me because they like Role Models. I loved doing that movie. But typically it’s for American Pie. I think now after 20 years people realize that I’m actually not Stifler. It took about two decades for that. But I love that character so much, when anybody ever says it to me, it always makes me happy.

Have you had to turn down a lot of shots because of that movie?

In the beginning for sure. I think that broke a lot of frat boys’ hearts because they really thought that I was that character. And when they realize that I’m not at all really like him, I could tell that they were confused and kind of sad. And then I realized, I can’t do this to these guys. They’ve given me a career. So, I would take some shots with them.

Well, that’s nice. So you’ve had that kind of stubble beard in the last couple of movies I’ve seen you in. Is that something that you get to do yourself or is there a hair and makeup person that’s in charge of making sure your beard grooming is consistent for a whole shoot?

This stubble beard. That’s classic. I can’t man. I honestly, I always have facial hair. I think the last time I shaved was two years ago and I’m was like, “Oh fuck, who are you? I don’t like that.” No. I got my own little setting. I groom my own beard. It’s a very George Michael, perfectly number two or number three in my settings. That’s kind of where I like it.

That’s cool. What do you think, with these genre movies that are about killers, what do you think that we enjoy about them as audiences?

That’s a good question because I don’t know. I’m just trying to think of Norman Bates or even Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, which I remember seeing in the theater like 10 times. I’m like, “Holy shit. This is incredible.” You’re not supposed to like this guy, he’s eating people, but you kind of love him. You want him to break out of prison or break out of the mental institutions. Just be like, “Go off, man, keeping eating people. This is great.” I don’t understand why, honestly. What do you think?

I mean, I definitely think we like to be outside of our normal boundaries of acceptable behavior, I guess, vicariously.

That’s a great answer. I’m going to use that.

You’re welcome. So what do you think makes Bloodline different than your average genre horror or slasher movie?

Well, I think the pacing of it. And definitely the way it was shot and lit and just it’s very stylized. I remember Henry, the director, wanted to have it be kind of a throwback to old Brian De Palma movies. So there’s a lot of little things he put in there and it’s, I think a quieter film. It definitely has a Dexter vibe, but it’s a little bit more of a psychological thriller and it really goes for it. I think that they’re like let’s not make it violent for the sake of being violent, but let’s try to make it look real and kind of shocking. I think it definitely feels a little bit different than the typical kind of slasher movie.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

 

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