And It Was Night (On Horror & Faith)

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I generally believe a person’s private beliefs are just that: private beliefs.

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On the other hand, if a person ends up on CNN and sees his performance win an Emmy for stalking 100 million strangers, while simultaneously professing strong beliefs in a loving God…

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Bill-Oberst-Jr-Jesus-quote

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…then some explanations may be in order. And, as Mark Twain once said, “That is just my case, my Lord, just my case.”

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The easy answer is to say that I am an actor and that the roles I play mean nothing. That’s a lie. Movies and video and television do mean something. They are flickering images that will still be flickering when we who created them are dust. They are legacies. So why would a man who says this…

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Do this…?

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Excuses abound. Actors have to eat. You play the roles you get cast for. Being bad in films is fun.

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All true. And yet…and yet…and yet. Impressionable young minds are watching this stuff. So on the off chance that there remains in this world at least one young viewer who so isn’t jaded with behind-the-scenes knowledge that the worst horrors have no power to invade the citadel of their cynicism, I should say a word or two about horror and faith.

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I believe in demons. I have played them. And will again. But I also believe in angels. I know that good always trumps evil; that God’s light always trumps the devil’s darkness. And although I may not have the face nor the propensity to play the light, I can play that darkness. I can be that cautionary tale. I can be the personification of evil that makes people a little uncomfortable in their own skin, wondering what might lie beneath. I can play the unexamined life as a cautionary tale for that one viewer who might need to see it. Even if the rest of them just munch popcorn and check their messages.

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And then I can go home and be a normal guy. And a believer in the power of grace.

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Some of the most powerful passages in the Torah and the Bible to me are the ones dealing with doubt and dark nights of the soul; with inner conflict and overt evil. Moses kills an Egyptian in rage and hides the body…King David orders the murder of his mistress’ husband…a naked wildman rushes from the stench of the tombs to confront Jesus Of Nazareth, screaming “My name is Legion, for we are many!” These stories affect me. They ring true to me.

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But so do the stories of grace. Moses is forgiven, and becomes the chosen one to say ‘Set my people free’… Nathan traps David with a story that reveals his crime and sets him on a path to atonement…the wildman is relieved of the burden of his demons and sent home to proclaim a message of mercy. I love those stories, too. But they could not exist without the antagonist.

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I am the murderer. I am the adulterer. I am the wildman. Onscreen, that is. Offscreen I am a middle-aged actor with bad skin and mixed reviews. I like the dichotomy.

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No yin without yang. No moral without a story. No protagonist without an antagonist. No light without dark. I play the night. But I believe in the dawn.

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I’m glad God made me a little dark. I guess He knew what he was doing.

12 thoughts on “And It Was Night (On Horror & Faith)”

  1. Read your latest post and I agree with your interpretation. Does the interviewer think soap opera performers are actually the characters they play? They award psychotic portrayals with Oscars in Hollywood. Did he forget Anthony Hopkins? What about Charlize Theron (excuse my ‘monstrous’ spelling)? She won for playing a brutal serial killer and no one questions her. There’s lots of material out there that children shouldn’t see. But that’s where the parents come in.And I applaud those with strong spiritual conviction, no matter where they roost in the great Judeo-Christian-Islamic Oak Tree. But you have to be subtle about it in Hollywood. God is a verb. Illustrate via acts and not with words. That, they can grasp. It’s the spiritual ‘mushy’ stuff that makes them nervous.(just like little kids)….Also, The Torah IS part of the Bible. It’s simply the First Five Books, or The Five Books of Moses. It contains The Revelation at Sinai. The only group that considers no other Writ are the Samaritans.So just keep on keeping on. You do it well. And even A Christmas Carol has scary ghosts. May the Season of Miracles be a joyous one for you and yours.

    1. I totally agree, should kids be banned from watching harry potter or lord of the rings, poeple need to relax and enjoy things that are made for their enjoyment!

  2. I never saw this at halloween I have just seen it now, its probably the most creepy thing I have ever done in my life – the ending in the car is really sinister. I really hope that everyone who put time into making this did really well out of it!

  3. I can be the personification of evil that makes people a little uncomfortable in their own skin, wondering what might lie beneath. I can play the unexamined life as a cautionary tale for that one viewer who might need to see it. Even if the rest of them just munch popcorn and check their messages.

  4. Although I don’t love watching horror movies but the few I had a glance at are Saw IV, My Bloody Valentine and The Unborn. I just hope that they are not as scary and horrific as I think…just enjoy it.

  5. Hey Bill, just wanted to commend you on your work in Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. Although the movie itself was obviously silly (but fun) your performance definitely elevated the proceedings and was the primary reason I kept watching. Great job capturing Lincoln’s gravitas and quiet authority.

    1. Hey Eric – thanks man! I have admired Lincoln since I was a kid and the chance to play him (even in a zombie movie) was too good to pass up. You make me glad I did!

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