Interview: Deep, Scary Thoughts from Cast and Crew About ‘The Bye Bye Man’
The Bye Bye Man warns you over and over: Don’t say it. Don’t think it. Because if you do, this evil presence will be forever stuck in your head, urging you to do horrible things. Nice, right?!
The latest horror flick focuses on three friends (Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas and Lucien Laviscount) stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones), a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.
ScreenPicks’ Kit Bowen sat down with producer Trevor Macy, director Stacy Title and star Douglas Smith to discuss the movie, what the Bye Bye Man represents, Doug Jones’ performance and more.
Tell me about the how you developed Bye Bye Man and how it’s based on a true story?
Trevor Macy: A short story called “Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck came across my desk about 2009 or so. It’s one of an anthology, but what came to my attention with the warning that came before the chapter, which basically said if you are skittish or afraid of ideas that won’t leave your head, then don’t read this chapter. So of course I read the chapter. It articulated this amazing idea, and ostensibly, the way the book tells it, it was this oral history of what happened to these three graduate students in 1990 in Wisconsin. To be completely honest, I didn’t check too deeply because the idea that it could be possible was more interesting to me than whether it was or not. I eventually brought in Stacy and [screenwriter] Jonathan [Penner] to work on it and it took about three years. It was a lot of work. We wanted to make sure the script lived up to the potential of the idea.
On that idea then, now I’m thinking it and saying it, so does that mean when I leave the theater, he’s going to be following me?
Stacy Title: That’s exactly what it means. You can’t get rid of him. There’s always that moment in a movie, like Paranormal Activity, where you just go, “Leave the house! Don’t live there!” But [Bye Bye Man] goes everywhere with you because he’s in your head. He can control you and knows you’re thinking about him. And he gets more and more powerful AS you think about him. He feeds on your fear, and then he sees what scares you.
What was it like preparing for your role, Douglas?
Douglas Smith: It was much more exciting to have a greater responsibility. In Oujia, the monster is sort of out there, but with Bye Bye Man, he comes inside you and attacks you from within. So, as an actor, you’re basically going through different stages of mental illness. If I could think of it in a non supernatural way, it’s like schizophrenia became contagious. It was hard but a fun challenge.
The Bye Bye Man also reminds a little of the upcoming HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman, about that super creepy Internet urban legend that turned into real crime.
Title: This story was written way before the Slenderman came out, so we were developing it before, but the Slenderman is creepy, for sure. The Bye Bye Man has a little more power, a bigger swath that he covers. The Internet is a scary place, but that’s sort of the theme of the movie. You put your loved ones out into the world and they’re ill-equipped to deal with it.
As for the Bye Bye Man himself, can you talk about casting the enigmatic Doug Jones?
Title: He’s so amazing that he can act with all that makeup and stuff. And to be able to invert the purity and good in himself into the evil. He’s so channeled and focused and brilliant.
Macy: He’s also the nicest human being you’ll ever meet. Kindest, he’s a big hugger, which is great because he’s arms are so long, they go around at least once. A gentle soul. But he’s got this place inside of him that he goes to for the performance.
Title: There isn’t an explanation for it. He meet him, you see him, and you get to know him. But then when he does what he does, it’s hard to understand. There’s an unknowable aspect to him that’s profound.
When you first saw Jones in full makeup, what was your reaction?
Smith: It was bloody disgusting. He couldn’t talk because of the makeup and couldn’t see because he had contact lenses in his eyes. So, he was just this hooded figure sitting off in the corner.
What are some of your favorite scary movies?
Title: I love science fiction. Probably Aliens is my fav. I love The Fly, The Brood. I love Rosemary’s Baby. And I really love Eyes Without a Face from French director Georges Franju. Do not watch it alone. It’s a very upsetting movie.
Macy: First movie I ever saw that was scary when I was a kid was Creature from the Black Lagoon. I was 8-years-old and I made my mom sit on the couch with me. I wouldn’t stop watching it, but I needed her as a buffer. But my gateway into really scary movies were more sci-fi, like The Thing and Alien.
Smith: I remember as a kid really liking and being scared by X-Files episodes. I also really liked Scream. I was the perfect age when that came out.
So, what does The Bye Bye Man represent then, to a new generation of horror film lovers?
Smith: I think it’s a dangerous game. You have to be really strong mentally, in life to not let your fears overwhelm you. Sometimes you can just listen to much to the news. If you have a kid, you think about all the things that can happen to your kid. If you have parents, you think about all the things that can happen to your parents. You can go down that Internet hole. You can disintegrate. I think it’s a bit of a comment on that, but framed through a scary boogey man that comes into you and infects you. And then you’re just kinda fucked.
Macy: You know what Stephen King says that I think is appropriate? “Ghosts are real. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.”
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