The 37-year-old plays Mendoza, who found his calling after battling a substance-abuse issue. The chain-smoking, unconventional man of the cloth helps NYC cop Ralph Sarchie ( Eric Bana) with a string of crimes that seem to have a demonic element. The movie is based on the 2001 book, Beware the Night, written by the real-life Sarchie, now retired from the police force.
“This was very different for me,” says Ramirez from the Soho Beach House. “I think for any actor dealing with the paranormal is intriguing.”
The bright-eyed Ramirez ( Zero Dark Thirty, Che, The Counselor) had a hard time saying no when one of his favorite writer-directors, Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), sent him the script.
“He directed the only movie after The Exorcist that really managed to scare me,” says Ramirez, who adds he saw Emily Rose with Keira Knightley while they were doing press for 2005’s Domino.
“I forced her to go, and I remember her sending me an email saying, ‘Edgar, because of you I can never sleep again. Thank you very much,’ ” he recounted, laughing. “But that’s the reason I go to movies. I am a very active audience member. I want to be moved. I want to be confronted. I want to feel.”
Though it has its share of gore and scares, Deliver Us From Evil also is a story of how the cop and priest help each other heal spiritually.
“I was drawn to it because it’s about self forgiving and compassion,” said Ramirez, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for TV’s Carlos. “That’s what happens in a good horror movie: there are always metaphors of greater subjects like humanity and empathy and compassion. It’s not about the action and scary moments: You really care about these characters because they’re mirrors of our own reflections.”
The feel of the movie, shot throughout New York City in the dead of summer, is gritty and dark.
“We shot entirely on the real locations of where the [supernatural events] took place, like the Bronx Zoo, so that gave us a lot of texture and a very distinctive energy. It wasn’t a set. ”
To set an even eerier tone, the crew often brought out the rain machines.
“Ha! Yes,” Ramirez acknowledged. “Poor Eric, he was very wet and made it very clear,” he says of the Hulk star. “It was also very humid, and I was the one wearing the coat. So not very comfortable. ”
Though they managed to joke around on set, for the most part filming was all business.
“Of course you need to vent, to relax, but timing, like comedy, is very important for the horror [genre],” explains Ramirez. “We took it very seriously to create the illusion and in order to scare you, we needed to be very precise.”