By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Actress/model Olivia Munn plays the wife of a New York police sergeant (played by Australian hunk Eric Bana) who gets caught up in the world of demonic possession while investigating a series of crimes in the Bronx in “Deliver Us From Evil.” The horror film, directed by horrormeister Scott Derrickson (“Sinister,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) is based on the account of real life police sergeant Ralph Sarchie, who wrote a book about his experiences.
The brunette beauty, who is single but rumored to be dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, says that watching a real-life exorcism on tape has convinced her that supernatural forces do exist.
As she prepares to celebrate her 34th birthday on July 3, Munn says she always wanted to be an actress, but her strict Chinese mother, who immigrated to Oklahoma from Vietnam after the war and married an American, wanted her to study something more practical than acting in college, so she majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. The skills she learned in college have come in handy over the years as she has played a (fake) journalist on “The Daily Show” and she now plays a correspondent on the acclaimed HBO political drama series “The Newsroom.” She also served as a correspondent for the Showtime documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” where she interviewed the governor of Washington State.
Movie audiences will remember her as the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Channing Tatum’s title character in “Magic Mike.”
Dressed for an interview in a summery white blouse and gold-colored shorts, she spoke about her new film, her background, and her philosophy on work and getting back to “The Newsroom.”
Q: Your character, Jen, gets to avoid most of the demonic stuff in this movie.
Munn: Until it starts to come into her home. I did get to escape having to be around the exorcism, which is pretty pretty scary. It’s different from other types of horror movies because it’s based on true accounts of an NYPD sergeant where these are unexplainable things. That’s the scary part. I’ve some of the footage of a real exorcism, and (victim) looks haunted and possessed.
Q: Your character has more mundane problems to deal with. As a mother, Jen has to protect her young daughter, whom the demon is coming after.
Munn: And having to provide the emotional support for my husband, who is a police officer. The things that police have to go through on a daily basis and the things they have to see and putting themselves in harm’s way for people they don’t know. You have to provide emotional support for them as well.
Q: What did the real Jen Sarchie tell you she thought when her husband, Ralph, first started talking about supernatural occurrences?
Munn: We briefly talked about it. We didn’t really get into it that much, but she said that when everything was happening, so much stuff had already gone on that when it happened, she was very present and had to just take it in. You don’t fight against it and try to reason how that’s not the truth, you go, “Ok, this is the situation we’re in. True or not true we need to start trying to do the right things and trying to help him through it.” They’re divorced now.
Q: Did “Deliver Us From Evil” change your view on religion?
Munn: I was raised Christian and then somewhere along the way, as I became an adult, I stopped believing in things. Then I did this movie, and I heard about this (actual exorcism) footage. I heard Eric say that he couldn’t sleep for three weeks after watching it, so instantly I said, “Oh, I have to watch this now!” What didn’t make you sleep for three weeks? I want that. And he said, “No, you can’t.” I asked Scott (Derrickson, the director), and Scott said, “OK.” This is not stuff you see on YouTube; this is special stuff. Then Eric found out and he came and he said, “Olivia cannot watch this.” and I was like, “Yes I can!” He was like, “No, you can’t,” and I said “Yes I can!” He’s like, “Olivia, you’re not going to sleep!” You can only watch it if you watch it when we’re done shooting. You’re not going to be able to go to work because you’re going to not be sleeping.” So I finished the film and on the day I finished shooting I went home and watched the exorcism footage. It was like my treat to myself. So I’m watching it and I see this guy sitting in a chair in a straightjacket, he’s shaking and out of nowhere his forehead splits open. I didn’t watch much more than that. I couldn’t. So that opened me up to believing again because there were so many things that are so unexplainable. So, to answer your question, I went into the movie not believing, and now I’m now a believer.
Q: So has this project has changed your life?
Munn: It’s changed my belief. I’m still the same person. I still do the same things. It’s just now I have a faith—a deeper faith—and I have a belief. I think that’s all it is. I also know that I can’t prove anything more than somebody can disprove something.
Q: How was it getting the Bronx accent?
Munn: It was fun. Eric and I had the same dialect coach but his character ha a thicker Bronx accent. I wanted my character to have just a light Bronx accent. I didn’t want it to overpower; I wanted it to be very subtle. I didn’t want to overpower Eric’s energy. She’s not as blue-collar as her husband. Whenever you do dialects, you learn where you do words in your mouth. I talk in the back of my throat, so words are a bit gravelly sometimes, but with the Bronx accent, the words are formed in the front of your mouth.
Q: How did this work in terms of your schedule with “The Newsroom?”
Munn: Two days after we wrapped the last episode of the season, I was on a plane to the Bronx, and we started shooting right away. So there was no downtime. You learn to multitask and prepare. I had worked with my friends on the script to prepare. I look at the notes I’ve made on my script –I call it my sheet music—because every character has it’s own beats and rhythms. I also worked with a dialect coach on it so that helped me break it down in a way so I was able to go (from “The Newsroom”) to “Deliver Us From Evil.” As long I’m prepared, I’m good.
Q: Speaking of which, when do you go back to work on “The Newsroom?”
Munn: We’re shooting it right now. I’m going back and forth between promotion for this and the show.
Q: When do you have time to relax?
Munn: There is time for fun. There are some people who come right into it and get everything so fast. For me, this is the fun part.
Q: You have a birthday coming up?
Munn: Yeah. July 3. And this year “Deliver Us From Evil” is coming out at the same time, so I’m excited about that.
Q: Are you planning to sneak into a theater and see how the audience is responding to your movie?
Munn: I can’t. This year, I’ll be shooting “Newsroom.”
Q: Maybe you can take the cast to see it.
Munn: That’s a good idea!
Q: What’s next?
Munn: I just finished a film called “Mortdecai” with Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp and Ewan MacGregor. It’s an art heist comedy. It comes out February 2015.