Actor Boyd Holbrook chats about his supernatural film Eight For Silver, which just premiered at Sundance, and the upcoming Sandman series.
Eight For Silver, the philosophical take on the werewolf mythos by acclaimed auteur Sean Ellis, had its world premiere at Sundance this weekend. The arthouse horror film stars Boyd Holbrook (Quibi’s The Fugitive) as John McBride, a hunter who is roped into the troubles of the Laurent family when he tries to discover what happened to their young son.
His mission becomes intertwined with a secret the family patriarch, Seamus (Alastair Pierce of Rogue One), is fighting to keep. As John uncovers more of the human horrors that preceded the superhuman ones, neither he nor the family he’s protecting will ever be the same.
Holbrook spoke to Screen Rant about the research he did to understand his character, the joy he felt at working with a director like Ellis, and how his own directing experience informed his performance.
How did you get involved with Eight For Silver, and what was it that drew you to the project?
Boyd Holbrook: I got involved after reading the script. The script is everything; I know it’s cliche to say, but it’s true. After I read the script, I was like, “Wow, this is kind of different. I know who Sean Ellis is, so let’s talk to him for a second.” I was a big fan of his previous films, Anthropoid and Cashback, and I knew that he was an artist. I could sense that from watching his work.
Reading the script that he wrote, I knew that this would be a different character for me. Sean walked me through what he was thinking about doing and then said, “How’s your English accent?” I said, “Give me half an hour, and I’ll send it to you.” I got an old Shakespeare quote or something I pulled out of a book and send it to him. He called me immediately back and said, “This could work. You might be unexpected in this part, which I really like.” I like to do unexpected things, so let’s surprise some people with this movie.
And I really think we have. It’s gorgeously shot. And on an entertainment level, my wife and I are just suckers for scary movies, so we’ll watch the runt of the litter – from top to bottom, good and bad. It works on that level, but it’s really an arthouse horror film, which is cool.
I love Sean repurposed the werewolf myth to speak to a larger point. Did you have to do any research outside of the script, on either the time period, werewolves or the Romani people? Or did you base the performance on what Sean gave you?
Boyd Holbrook: Good question. I bought an anatomy book and plastered my trailer with autopsy photos, surgery photos and post-mortem photos; anything that was alive but about to be dead. Just to live with what hangs over John McBride day in and day out, especially in the 1800s when there is a cholera pandemic going on. And we finished with the month before the pandemic happened, so we were really fortunate. I did my research immediately on that, and I just tried to sit with what it would be like. I’m a new father, and there’s really a lot with the loss that John’s going through and the lack of closure because he doesn’t know what happened to his family.
As for the Romani tribe that was pillaged, I didn’t really research a lot on that because my character was to discover that within the story. A lot of what’s happening to John is wandering and wondering. He doesn’t have an enclosure, so it’s all about trying to find out what’s happened. Could this absurd thing that happened to my family and is happening to Isabelle’s be real?
Speaking of that family, John’s lack of closure means he has really complicated emotions about the Laurent family. Can you talk about his dynamic with Seamus versus Isabelle and the kids?
Boyd Holbrook: Yeah, he relates to what Seamus is going through. And the traditional roles that were set for men and women, John relates to because everything had to be done by hand at that time. That’s a very humbling thing to be reminded of, especially in the very modern world now. I think they related to each other that way, and John is trying to help him because his son is missing as well. What a terrible travesty to have to endure as a parent; it’s a parent’s worst nightmare.
I think there is a tenderness and deep quality of empathy that John shows, and what yanks them out of their friendship is the deceit and agreed, and the necessity to survive. It’s maybe not so easy to relate to now, but it only takes a matter of falling into the story and understand what it took to to stay alive and to feed yourself and your family at that time. This was different times.
With Isabelle, that’s a bond that forms more so over the course of the film, because they start discovering shared experiences.
I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and very excited to see you as The Corinthian in Sandman. Have you already begun working on the series? What are you most excited for?
Boyd Holbrook: We shot one episode. We got to finish that before the break for the Christmas holiday, and I’m really excited for this character and for everybody to see him.
I know how insanely people love Neil Gaiman and his work. The series is so great, and it’s one of the great comics that hasn’t been made yet. So, for me, it’s a really exciting project to be a part of and to do. We’ve got an incredible cast, and the writing’s really great with great directors.
The only problem we have is navigating through COVID. It’s just been trying, because there’s so many added procedures that are constantly causing problems. Or not problems, but there’s already so many things to solve on the production level. Then you start adding in testing every day, and it just becomes a lot. But it’s such a communal job, and we’re just looking to get back to shooting.
Having already debuted as a director yourself, has that affected your work as an actor and opened new doors when you’re on set?
Boyd Holbrook: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a double-edged sword, because there’s something to never looking at the monitor and staying inside what you’re doing, but sometimes in film, you can enhance your performance by technical aspects. That could be anything from posture to composition.
The director and producer in me constantly obsesses about the composition and the pacing, because everything’s 20/20 in hindsight. If i had just moved over a little bit in that frame, that would have made a perfect composition. But some days I care more about that, and some days. It just is in the back of your mind, so you try to get into some sort of flow state and bounce off an imaginary borderline and back into your little game.