In the dark and unsettling thriller The Barber, a young man shows up in a small town, having tracked down a local barber, named Eugene van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn), who he believes is hiding a dark secret. Throughout the film’s twists and turns, you’ll keep trying to put the pieces together, always wondering if you’ve truly unlocked any of the mystery.
At the film’s press day, held in barber’s chairs at Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop in Los Angeles, actor Scott Glenn spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about being attracted to the unpredictability of this story, wanting to get the thumbs up from his wife before signing on, why he likes being surrounded by the energy of young people on set, and bringing the vision of first-time feature director Basel Owies to life. He also talked about signing on for Marvel’s Daredevil (premiering on Netflix on April 10th), having no prior knowledge of the comic book world, wanting to tackle the challenge of playing a blind man, and how anxious he is to see how it turned out. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
SCOTT GLENN: What I liked about it was the unpredictability of the story and the character, and the amount of colors that I realized I’d be able to pain with, with this guy. Having said that, when I finished reading the script, I thought, “This is such a dark tale.” In some ways, it’s the darkest I’ve ever read. Looking back on it now, I realize that that’s only one way of looking at it. What I saw, among other things, is that it’s a primer on how to pick up and murder young girls. And then, I thought maybe it’s also a cautionary tale for people to see and realize they should never trust the kindness of strangers. I’d done so much research when I did The Silence of the Lambs, and that told me that the FBI calls it sexual homicide. These guys all use what I call the disguise of normalcy. There’s nothing off-putting about them.
Did you have anyone that you wanted to talk about this script with, as you were getting a handle on this guy?
GLENN: As soon as I finished reading it, I gave it to my wife and I said, “Should I do this? I don’t know.” She’s really smart and a great artist, and she read it. She was less than 30 pages into it when she said, “You’re crazy, if you don’t do this role. You may never, in your life, get another chance to do a part like this.” It’s such a chameleon and goes in so many different directions. What she saw and I saw was that it got to spin a lot of things on their head. Ideas about physicality and old age, relationships between fathers and sons, mentors and students, needer and needed, hunter and hunted. It takes all of those relationships and constantly reshuffles those cards. When I was reading it, as the audience, I realized that I couldn’t predict how it was going to end. I never felt like I was on solid ground, emotionally. You realize that the ground you thought was solid is quicksand and you’ve sunk a little deeper. So, all of that turned me on, but I did give it to my wife to read first. It’s a very dark ride. In order to work as that kind of a genre, a thriller needs to scare people. People go to watch a thriller to deal with fear. I knew that part of it was there. I really did need the courage of someone else’s conviction to commit to it.
Were you hesitant about doing something like this with a first-time feature director?
GLENN: When I found out it was going to be done by a first-time director and young people, it was a turn on. I knew I would be around people who were drooling to do it, and the men and women involved really cared about it. At the end of a 16-hour day, they weren’t looking at their watches. They were like, “Let’s go all night!” I loved being around that kind of energy. I’m way more comfortable around kids than I am people my own age.
When you work with a new director, like Basel Owies, do you like to communicate with the director to see what type of vision he’s going for, or do you like to do your own work?
GLENN: Both. Basel was perfect. I wanted him to specifically tell me where he wanted me to wind up. He’s telling the story, not me. My metaphor for acting in movies – not on stage because it’s completely different on stage – is to put colors on an easel for the director to paint his own painting with in the editing room, long after I’ve left. You buy me for red and black, so I better give you really great red and black, but if I can give you purple, pink, green and brown too, I will. In that way, I always asked Basel where he wanted me to wind up, but I never asked him how to get there. I’ll work out how to get there. That way, as a performance artist, I get to create, too, and we can work together.
What attracted you to the Netflix series, Daredevil? Were you familiar with that world, at all?
GLENN: Not at all. I’m not a comic book guy. I’ve never been to Comic-Con. I don’t know anything about that. It’s a whole different world. On the set, there were people in their 70s and people in their late teens, and all of them knew this world and were obsessed with it. It was up to Marvel to decide which superhero they wanted to start with. I know they wanted one of the first three or four to be a woman, but they knew they wanted to start with Daredevil because they thought it had been given such a disservice when it was made into a feature. I never saw that film, so I don’t know whether it was good or bad, but I know that that was their feeling. For me, it was just getting to do something I had never done before in my life, which was play blind. I’ve never played a blind person.
What can you say about who Stick is?
GLENN: I play a blind assassin, who is the mentor of [Matt Murdock]. So, all it took for me was to read the script of this one episode that I’m in – Episode 7 – and I just totally loved the character. I thought it was going to be hard and physically demanding and just fun to do, and it was. And then, I got to go to New York and spend some time there. I’m a little scared of it because I haven’t seen it yet. The trailer is great, but I’m still going to be super nervous on April 10th. I’m probably going to watch Episode 1, and then skip right to Episode 7 because I don’t know whether I pulled it off or not. Everyone tells me I did, but I saw none of that footage. It was the first time I’d ever played a blind person, let alone a blind person who was super physically capable, so we’ll see.
The Barber is now available in theaters and on VOD.