Mama ac­tor care­ful about us­ing H word

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

THE movie Mama has a very creepy ghost who can pop out of walls. It has lit­tle feral chil­dren who scut­tle around the floor with ro­dent-like scut­ter­ing noises. It has at least a cou­ple of nasty deaths, or at least as nasty as a PG rat­ing will al­low.

If the movie was in a video store (a doomed, death-is-in-the-air in­sti­tu­tion unto it­self), it would cer­tainly be in the hor­ror sec­tion. But is it, in fact, a hor­ror movie? Ask Nick­o­laj Coster-Wal­dau, who does dou­ble duty in Mama. The Dan­ish ac­tor plays Lu­cas, the pro­tec­tive un­cle of those feral girls. He also plays his own brother, a dis­turbed fi­nancier who turns homi­ci­dal in the film’s open­ing scenes.

On a phone in­ter­view from Toronto, where Mama was filmed, Coster-Wal­dau ad­mits he has ac­tu­ally been coun­selled against us­ing the “H” word when it comes to de­scrib­ing the film.

“I was ac­tu­ally told ear­lier to­day that Cana­di­ans have a big­ger prob­lem watch­ing hor­ror movies than Amer­i­cans, so it would be bet­ter to call this a thriller.”

I ex­press sur­prise at this. Isn’t Canada the coun­try that pro­duced David Cro­nen­berg, one of the key guys to make hor­ror a re­spectable genre?

Coster-Wal­dau, a par­tic­u­lar fan of Cro­nen­berg’s Dead Ringers, con­curs. It is good to re­mem­ber that his own lead­ing man de­but was in the 1994 Dan­ish film Nightwatch, in which he played a stu­dent who takes a job at a morgue, only to be­come a sus­pect in a se­ries of grisly slay­ings.

“I al­ways think of hor­ror films as some­thing with a lot of blood and stuff,” he says. “I think ( Mama) is pri­mar­ily a ghost story. But I don’t mind call­ing it a hor­ror film.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the film is pro­duced by Mex­i­can film­maker Guillermo del Toro, whose genre ex­cur­sions, such as The Devil’s Back­bone and Pan’s Labyrinth, are high art com­pared to the ma­jor­ity of hor­ror of­fer­ings.

“It’s clearly the same world they come from. You could take Mama and put her in Pan’s Labyrinth and it wouldn’t be out of place,” says Coster-Wal­dau, who also stars in the bloody HBO se­ries Game of Thrones.

“He was a hands-on pro­ducer, but he never over­stepped that boundary be­tween di­rect­ing and pro­duc­ing. We were so lucky be­cause he was shoot­ing Pa­cific Rim at the same stu­dio, right next door, so ev­ery day he and ( Mama di­rec­tor An­drés Muschi­etti) would meet be­fore we shot.”

Even with del Toro’s pres­ence, CosterWal­dau ac­knowl­edges the one to watch on the film proved to be his co-star Jes­sica Chas­tain, who has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a me­te­oric ca­reer rise since Mama started shoot­ing in the fall of 2011.

“I had just seen Tree of Life and I thought she was amaz­ing and then I saw Take Shel­ter and for her, ev­ery per­for­mance is dif­fer­ent and ev­ery look is dif­fer­ent. She’s just bril­liant.

“For me, when you’re work­ing with some­one like that, you just hope you’re not drag­ging them down to your level,” he says. “She’s one of the best in her gen­er­a­tion.”

Nick­o­laj Coster-Wal­dau does dou­ble duty in Mama.

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