Q&A: Actor Stephen Ohl talks On-and-Off-Camera Scares in “HOOKED UP”Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
While Pablo Larcuen’s found-footage shocker HOOKED UP may be notable for being entirely shot on an iPhone, the Jaume Collet-Serra produced film is much more than that. Sporting great scares and greater twists, HOOKED UP is one of the subgenre’s highlights, anchored by a pair of phenomenal performances by the likes of actors Stephen Ohl and Jonah Ehrenreich. The duo add a natural chemistry to the proceedings, and when the other shoe for the fright flick drops, Ohl and Ehrenreich deliver. With the film debuting on VOD tomorrow, FANGORIA caught up with Ohl to talk HOOKED UP, shooting in Barcelona and when life briefly imitated art while filming…
FANGORIA: How did you first get attached to HOOKED UP?
STEPHEN OHL: I had just graduated college and I made a feature with my brother, and I didn’t know what to do after that. I was actually visiting family for Thanksgiving in upstate New York when I came across a Mandy post that said, “Feature Film to be shot in Barcelona by director whose last film was in Sundance.” Right away, I was intrigued by the Barcelona part but then I checked out Pablo’s work and he was super talented, so I submitted my reel and my headshot as well as two audition videos.
The first audition video was just supposed to be me telling a crazy party story or something that had levity to it, while the second audition video was supposed to be me with only a few seconds left to live and give my last goodbye’s to my family members. So I did those two and then they called me in to do a read with other actors. This was before I met Jonah Ehrenreich, and the other actor was a good actor but we didn’t have a lot of chemistry, so Pablo said, “I like you and want to use you for the film, but I can’t unless we find someone you work with.”
So I went in, met Jonah and we had an immediate friendship. I don’t know how Pablo knew, but we hit it off. So he liked us but couldn’t cast us until we met him in person, so he brought us out to New York City on New Years Eve. We all woke up the next day with matching tattoos and that was our contract.
FANGORIA: At what point in the filmmaking process did you get the script, and what was your initial reaction to it?
OHL: When Pablo was casting us, I don’t know if he ever really had a script. We never read or saw anything during the entire audition process; it was all improvisation. So I think he catered the script to us from that, and I didn’t even see the script until I was about to get on a plane to Spain.
The script was not like anything that was pitched to me at that point since Pablo changed a lot of it, so initially, I was very surprised and shocked. But once I gave it a chance to sink in, I realized how awesome it was. So luckily, I did really enjoy it and a week later, I was on a plane to make the film. I think that was a good strategy on Pablo’s part to get us locked in, you know?
FANGORIA: HOOKED UP is one of the first films to be shot entirely on an iPhone. Was there a lot of improvisation and long takes in terms of that, or was it a closer knit project than one might anticipate?
OHL: There was a lot of improv, for sure. English is Pablo’s second language; he speaks it very well but it’s still his second language. Pablo’s girlfriend is American, so sometimes she would help translate. That being said, from the get-go, Pablo was comfortable with Jonah and I putting things in our own words and say things how we would say them. There were also some extremely long takes.
Pablo was open to a lot of our improvisation and our ideas, but we always stuck to his blueprint and what was on the page as long as we adapted it and made it work for us. It was really organic in that way.
FANGORIA: Your character’s arc definitely takes an interesting turn throughout the movie. As to your performance, did you find any inspiration elsewhere to base off of or did you just make those choices naturally?
OHL: That was essentially the biggest change when I got the script; originally, my character’s arc was much different when I was attached to HOOKED UP. So I was a bit apprehensive but then I thought about it and realized it’s kind of a dream opportunity to have that arc. I drew inspiration from some films, like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE SHINING, but when I actually went on set to film, I didn’t think too much about it, which was interesting.
We actually shot the film in sequential order, so that really helped as well. I didn’t have to start with the end of the arc and jump back into the beginning; I was able to just ride the wave throughout the story and that emotional arc just sort of culminated within me.
FANGORIA: Having shot sequentially, what was your reaction when you got on set and saw the make-up SFX and more terrifying aspects of the film?
OHL: It was great. We saw a couple of the costumes for Katia in her villainous appearance, and once Pablo got that right, it was awesome to look at her and she was definitely kind of terrifying. And the place that we shot it was at Pablo’s grandparents’ old house in this village of like 3,000 people, so it was creepy enough just to begin with. It really helps when something just naturally scares you and you can incorporate that into your performance.
FANGORIA: For you, what was the highlight of filming the movie?
OHL: For me, making the end of the film was really exhilirating. Once we got into that, everything else was in hyperdrive and I got to explore some things I had never explored before. So that was my favorite part of shooting, but in general, everything was great. The crew was just wonderful and since it was always night shoots, our lunch breaks were always at midnight, so hanging around those guys and experiencing that was probably my favorite part of production.
I was immersed in that environment where I was living through the third degree because Jonah and I were the only Americans there aside from Pablo’s girlfriend. It was a complete immersion into Spanish culture and that helped isolate us within the film, and that was by far the greatest part.
FANGORIA: Was there anything about HOOKED UP that you were particularly excited to see when the film started playing for festival audiences?
OHL: It was great, but it was also really nerve-wracking because we never really saw anything. Pablo was in Spain and we were in New York, and we only had to go to a Post house in America once to do ADR. So we only saw bits and pieces of the film beforehand, but once it started screening, it was very exciting to see the whole movie play out.
I really enjoyed the film but I can understand that, since it’s a found footage film that defies expectations, people might be a little apprehensive to it at first. Going into it with preconceived notions like, “This is a found footage film and it’s going to be like this,” it seems that people might reject it if it’s not like that. But once they get into the film, they’re hooked, no pun intended.
That was the most exciting aspect: watching the film and seeing how the audience reacts when it’s not what they expected. People shouldn’t go into HOOKED UP thinking it’s like other found footage films; they should have an open mind and just watch the movie.
As for a specific moment, there were several things I did for specific reasons; for instance, the opening of the film. I thought it was very important to make that scene feel real and therefore, making myself really puke. I wanted people to really be shocked by that and be drawn to the reality of the scene immediately. Watching it with an audience, you really get a great reaction because people are disgusted and repulsed by that or think that if that’s where the movie starts, the rest is going to be a fun, wild ride.
Aside from that, there are a lot of great moments that happen between my character and Jonah’s character that are fun, and I was very curious to see how they would play out. I was very interested to see how the more intense sequences between us would play out, and luckily, audiences have reacted to them well.
FANGORIA: You mentioned before that the set itself was naturally creepy. Did anything odd or scary happen while filming?
OHL: Yeah, there was one night that was really scary. There was one night that I had off, which was very rare because I’m in almost every scene of the movie. So I was like, “Great, I can go back to the apartment, take a shower and have some alone time for myself.” So I go back, hop in the shower and suddenly, the power goes out.
So I literally had to grab a knife and my phone, since we received a lot of hostility from some of the locals and I had no idea what was going on. I was really nervous, and so, just like the film, I’m walking around with my phone through a pitch black apartment, just shining my light ahead of me. There was nothing there, but I thought, “Let me go back to set, they probably have power there.” So I go outside and this entire village of a couple thousand people is entirely pitch black.
I couldn’t see anything, and I’d never seen an entire city lose power, so I start freaking out. Luckily, the production coordinator pulls up in a van and yells, “What are you doing? We were worried about you!” So I get in the van and get back to set, and everything was good, but for that split second, I worked myself up to a place where I made myself scared. I was already in a different world, but when something like that happens, the imagination runs wild.
FANGORIA: Do you have anything else going on at the moment?
OHL: I don’t have anything acting-wise but I’m a director myself and I just finished a short film that Jonah from HOOKED UP is in as well since we’re both out in L.A. now. The film is called I WASN’T ME, and I wore a Go-Pro on my head. So I acted, operated and directed, and it’s about a guy waking up with no recollection of the night before after a night of heavy intoxication. It explores some similar themes as HOOKED UP but in a much more dramatic way.
Pablo Larcuen’s HOOKED UP hits VOD on April 7th and DVD on June 9th from Uncork’d Entertainment.