This year at New York Comic Con, I interviewed Bryce McGuire, who wrote and directed Night Swim. The supernatural thriller, which is also based on his short film, is coming soon to theaters.
Based on the acclaimed 2014 short film by Rod Blackhurst and Bryce McGuire, the film stars Wyatt Russell as Ray Waller, a former major league baseball player forced into early retirement by a degenerative illness, who moves into a new home with his concerned wife Eve, teenage daughter Izzy, and young son Elliot. Secretly hoping, against the odds, to return to pro ball, Ray persuades Eve that the new home’s shimmering backyard swimming pool will be fun for the kids and provide physical therapy for him. But a dark secret in the home’s past will unleash a malevolent force that will drag the family under, into the depths of inescapable terror.
We discussed which member of the cast stood out to him, what the pool is meant to symbolize, how the water scenes were approached, and more. Keep reading for our full chat!
The first thing I want to ask you about are the performances. Was there someone that surprised you the most when it came to embodying their character?
Bryce McGuire: Good question. I actually would say the teenage daughter Izzy, played by Amélie Hoeferle, has become kind of like a breakout star in this and you can see her in the trailer there, she is phenomenal in the movie and has gained a lot of like, you’re going to see her in big things coming up because I think this performance is kind of gonna put her on the map. It’s grounded, she’s really feeling all of those emotions, and she’s having to do some very intense physical stuff and she kind of goes to this crucible of this haunted pool in different ways. Everyone’s great but she’s definitely someone that had a depth to what she did that everyone’s kind of like, “Woah, okay, she like turned a gear there.” It was very exciting to see.
I think that’s always cool, especially when it comes from a younger actor.
Yeah, because she’s never been in a feature really before.
Are there any themes you were most excited to explore when it came to telling the story, either based on the short or a new concept?
Yeah, definitely, not really so much in the short because the short’s really just an exploration of a vibe, an environment, and what can make that scary. For the feature, it’s a family that’s trying to start over and they’re kind of asking the question like, what version of our life makes us happy? In a way, [it’s] like a pursuit of the American dream, they want stability, they want togetherness, they want to kind of build roots basically. And in a way, a pool is a symbol of that, a pool is synonymous with suburban America and synonymous with like, you can’t be traveling all the time and have a pool, right? There’s some level of a pool house is a house that you’re spending time and you’re building a life around that. And so, there’s definitely an exploration of what we’re willing to do to have the version of life that we think we want and the pool kind of becomes a symbol of that, and without saying too much more, it’s a great symbol of the American dream and the kind of cost of that.
Was there a scene that surprised you when it came to the amount of work that it took to do or made you think like, the audience is never going to realize just how much went into this one scene while watching the final version?
Well, I’ll say this, any scene that’s in the water is about twice as slow as you think it would be. The amount of prep, the communication from above water to underwater, you have a dive team down there, you have a safety team down there. You have to do a whole breathe-up exercise before you can go under. They had to do breath training and they worked with a team from Avatar, so all the stunt people from Avatar were doing stunts on this movie, so it’s the best of the best. It’s the best water people out there and they’re sometimes holding their breath for minutes at a time in unbroken takes. There was a test screening we did where someone in the audience passed out because there’s this feeling of like when you go under — when you start above water, you go underwater with someone, you’re holding your breath with them to this degree and I think, for me, I was like, I don’t want anyone to be hurt, but also, that’s exciting to feel like it’s immersive on that level. That waterwork was brutal. It was really time-consuming and really challenging. And so, I’m excited to see that it’s paying off on this big experience on the big screen.
Lastly, I feel like if I was involved in making a movie, I’d want to just go to the theater and see everyone’s reaction to it. Do you plan on doing that at all?
Oh, I’ll definitely be popping in from theater to theater. You never know if I’m going to be there, so look around, you might see this guy cresting out of the water like the guy in Marco Polo. Just try this: sometime, walk into an empty room or empty hallway and say Marco, and just wait. See what happens. If you’re in the pool by yourself at night, just say Marco and see what happens. Fuck around and see.