For Haze, serial killer role ‘performance of a lifetime’
“I knew that this was a role that I had to go to crazy extreme lengths,” Haze said Saturday ahead of the film’s world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival.
Haze’s Lester Ballard descends into violence after being kicked off his family’s land and losing his parents, moving outside the social order into caves, where he abandons himself to extreme degradation. McCarthy’s character was inspired by real-life killer and body snatcher Ed Gein, who also was the basis for the Norman Bates character in “Psycho,” and Leatherface of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
To prepare for the role, Haze said he dropped from 88 kilograms to 68 kilograms (195 pounds to 150 pounds) on the apple-and-fish diet while living in a cabin in the Tennessee mountains, sleeping at times in caves without a sleeping bag until the December temperatures dropped too low.
“I slept in caves many nights with bats all around. It was crazy,” Haze said. “I let everything go, just hung out with the hillbillies and stayed as isolated as possible.”
The only thing he took with him “from society”: an i-Pod loaded with Eminem music.
Director James Franco said Haze took off for the hills without consulting the director and showed up to shoot not only looking the part - undernourished, ratty beard and disheveled - but acting it. Haze “didn’t really talk to anyone, stayed to himself, and was like that for the whole shoot,” Franco said.
The director said audiences may think he “found some maniac in the woods and shot him. But it is Scott giving the performance of a lifetime.”
Haze said he managed to stay “in the mind-state” while filming, conceding he was “not in this world.” He didn’t check his phone, text messages or even how his beloved Lakers were doing.
“I thought, at the end of the day, we’d have a great movie and James and I would hug each other and say we did it,” Haze said. He hopes people will look back on “Child of God” as a film as pivotal as “Taxi Driver,” “which was really shocking back in the day. And we get to say, ‘Hey, we did something special, and I think we did.’?”
Though Haze has had film writing and directing credits and appeared in about dozen films, he isn’t sure if he’s had his breakthrough.
“Maybe James Franco. Maybe,” he said. “It was big. You asked me, what is my big moment in acting. It’s this. It’s this movie.”