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The LA Film Festival wrapped its 2018 edition on Friday night with a closing-night premiere of filmmaker David Raymond’s dark and pulpy psychological thriller Nomis, and the film’s disturbing, shadowy territory proved to be alluring to actors at various stages of their careers, from esteemed Oscar winners like Sir Ben Kingsley to box-office titans like Henry Cavill to rising talents on the verge of big things like Alexandra Daddario.
The pic’s story — which centers around the efforts of law enforcement agents led by Cavill to trap an online predator, only to discover that the sordid web surrounding the sex crimes is more expansive than they guessed, and potentially more dangerous for them than they imagined — offered Kingsley, playing an ex-judge with violent vigilante inclinations, a role unlike any other he’d previously played in his accomplished career.
“Really, because I’ve been able to explore so much, it’s such a joy to explore so many different faces of humanity,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of what lured him to the twisty tale. “Originality’s very appealing — we don’t like a copy of a copy of a copy. … David is a wonderful writer, and he’s a very sensitive and intelligent director, and I’ve become quite fond of him and associated with his future project. So I think that speaks for itself really: that his originality, I think, is very appealing.”
“He’s so nice — and so scary. I don’t know how to sum it up better than that,” laughed writer-director Raymond, who admitted Kingsley was the only actor he was intimidated to work with on day one.
“I’ve grown up watching Sir Ben — we studied Gandhi in school, Sexy Beast is one of my favorite films in history, and so is Schindler’s List. … When you’re rushing over to give Sir Ben a note — it sounds ridiculous even saying it out loud, but in the end he’s so open and friendly and inspiring as well,” Raymond added. “Because he wants me to be a great director, and you can feel that from him — he’s trying to get the best out of me, too.”
Raymond was also impressed with Cavill, who has proven his larger-than-life bona fides as both the ultimate superhero, Superman, in the DC comic book franchise films and as an antagonist in Mission Impossible: Fallout but retains the ability to disappear into a character.
“He looks at things much more as the picture as the whole and really gets into the script and is aware of what else is going on,” said the helmer. “It’s how you inspire Henry Cavill, I think, is to do things that that I hadn’t particularly seen him have a chance to do onscreen before. He has this incredible presence, but I think when you give him space to act and to create he is formidable. … Henry isn’t here to throw punches. There is a very specific character arc for him in a vulnerable way that we haven’t seen before.”
Raymond has also been intrigued by the potential depths he’d seen in Daddario’s prior screen work. “Alex is one of those very, very intelligent actresses who can do a lot without words, which is great especially with the role that she’s playing. For the most part, she’s analyzing a serial killer,” he said. “She’s absolutely beautiful, but when you really spend time with her you’re like, ‘There’s something so much deeper here, and you’re capable of so much.’ I think she just needed the opportunity to do it.”
“After Baywatch, I was definitely in the mood to do a polar opposite kind of thing, so this was perfect,” explained Daddario. “I’m fascinated by people and why we do the things we do, and definitely I have darkness about me like anyone else, and a dark sense of humor.”
Daddario, whose film We Have Always Lived in the Castle also bowed at the festival, said it is increasingly surreal to see projects gain increased relevance in the wake of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements.
“Both films that I did that are at the festival this year were, when we were working on them, had a lot of women’s issues, and the themes were about things that mattered to me,” she said. “And it’s remarkable how relevant they feel now, because this does deal with the things that women go through sometimes — in a way more bleak and crazy way, because it’s a murder mystery-type thing, but it does.”
After the film screened at the ArcLight Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome, other members of the cast, including Nathan Fillion and Minka Kelly, joined Raymond, Kingsley and Daddario for an onstage Q&A moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell, and, despite the dark subject matter, all appeared to have emerged from the experience as bright and breezy as ever.
“I see myself far more as a portrait artist rather than an impersonator or somebody who takes over another persona,” Kingsley told THR. “My canvas is the camera and I keep myself quite separate from the subject I’m painting, so not a lot lingers.”
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