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Wyatt Russell on Real Life Inspirations, Filming While Sick on Horror Film Night Swim
Night Swim actors Wyatt Russell and Kerry Condon reveal how they were wooed to the pool for a horror/thriller.
First time directors don't often land A-list caliber talent to help them realize their film. That Night Swim writer/director Bryce McGuire managed to enlist both Wyatt Russell (Monarch: Legacy of Monster) and Academy Award nominee Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) speaks to the strength of his screenplay which also earned the dual backing of James Wan's Atomic Monster and Jason Blum's Blumhouse production banners.
While Russell has a smattering of horror films on his resume, such as At the Devil's Door and Overlord, this is a new genre for Condon to explore. Luckily, amongst the hours the pair spent acting in the deep end of several pools, on dry land they also got to craft a poignant and bittersweet tale about the Waller family facing a health crisis around Ray (Russell) that strips him of his pro baseball career and self worth. But he discovers a watery resolution residing in their backyard that comes with a dire cost.
Their waterlogged month of shooting now long behind them (including a case of bronchitis for Russell that wouldn't quit), the two actors sat down with NBC Insider to discuss the pitch that got them to sign on, how they constructed a convincing troubled marriage amongst all the scares and some parallels to Russell's real life.
Wyatt Russell and Kerry Condon embraced the deep end of the pool to make Night Swim
Talk to me about the pitch from Bryce. Did he come at you with the horror angle first or with the really complex family situation that plays out?
Kerry Condon: Well, he came at me with the family because I think he knew that's how he'd to get me to do it. Because if you said the horror stuff, I'd be like, "I have no experience in horror. No, I don't think I'm a good person for that." So he came at me with [family] and it did appeal to me that it was a relationship where there was friction. While they were in love with each other, there's problems. It wasn't a perfect relationship. Which really, I always go for that and feelings as opposed to when people have kids and they're like, "Hi, honey!" Nobody's like that with their kids all the time. Like, come on! [Laughs.] So I loved the reality of it. And then Jason Blum sort of coerced me by saying, "You don't have to worry about the horror. That's my job. You just play it straight and then in the post, I figure out the horror aspect of it." So that made me go, "Okay." [To Wyatt] What about you, he came at you with the horror?
Wyatt Russell: They did not. Well...maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they did come at me with the horror because there was a fear of mine of how do we make a swimming pool scary? But Charlie Sarroff, who shot the film, and I shot a movie with before this, I had conversations with him before I signed on to do the movie because so much of it is in the camera and how you're gonna move the camera. Bryce, being a first time director, knows what he wants. But everybody always needs help the first time you do anything. He was amazing and accepting of that, also keeping his vision strong and what he wanted to do, which is what a great director needs to do anyway. But my conversations with Charlie were really great because I knew that whatever it was, he was going to really angle to make it something that was at least interesting looking and sort of eerie.
KC: Yeah, not cheap.
WR: Not cheap.
Night Swim asks both of you to be in the water for more than half of the film. Did any sequence personally push your limits and make for a rough shoot day?
KC: I suppose there were hard days. But I liked the physicality. Sometimes being emotionally drained is way more tiring than being physically drained. So I liked that. I would do it again, to be honest. I loved learning all about underwater stuff and holding my breath and the camera stuff. But Wyatt was kind of sick during the shoots, it was more it was tricky on you.
WR: I got like bronchitis about halfway through so then getting in the water was more difficult. I couldn't really get healthy. Towards the end was hard more because of my ears. You had to dive deep in the tented off pool, the public pool. And so that was actually difficult because equalizing my ears was very hard to do. But yeah, it was all kind of challenging and fun.
How Wyatt Russell's real life sports career was woven into his character's life
Ray's baseball career is interesting because you were on your way to a professional hockey career when an injury ended that chapter in 2010. Did that aspect of the character come when you accepted the role?
WR: Definitely. And Kerry was great because she'd ask questions like, "How much money do you make for that kind of character?" And I'd be like, 'That's a good question."
KC: Yeah, how much savings?
WR: So we were doing the math, like, how much would this house be? And how much would they have left? Because that was a large element of the driving factor of their relationship, money problems. And they followed him around forever, so now it's his turn to give back. Then he ends up not doing that. It surrounded [the story] and that was the core of it in a cool way.
KC: It made me think about how lonely it would be to be married to an athlete in many ways.
WR: It is. Well, it's not lonely. I mean, some guys are better at it than others. But you're married to the game. Imagine being a baseball player. It's 162 games a year!
KC: I'd be like, "Whatever! You've got another one next week!" [Laughs.]
Night Swim is in theaters exclusively as of January 5. Get tickets now!