Will Beinbrink stars as Father Peter Williams, an American exorcist, in Alejandro Hildago’s horror film The Exorcism of God.
Father Peter Williams, an American exorcist, hides a shocking secret: possessed by a demon he was trying to expel, he committed a terrible sacrilege. To atone for this sin, Peter devotes his life to charity work in a small town in Mexico. Eighteen years later, his deeply buried secret comes to light when the demon from his past returns, possessing a girl and unleashing a deadly disease. Now Peter must choose between saving his own soul and saving the people he loves most in one final, epic battle against the evil within.
Check out my interview with Will!
How did you come to be a part of the movie?
Will: Alejandro Hidalgo, the director, was working with Barbara and Andrés Muschietti on a remake of his film House at the End of Time, and while they were discussing this, he was in the middle of getting this other film going. He talked to Barbara and said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for an actor who can do X, Y, and Z.’ And Barbara suggested me. I had just been in It Chapter Two with her. I feel like Alejandro was like, ‘well, if Barbara recommends him, then that’s a high accolade.’ And so he said, ‘alright, I want to meet with him, and then let’s roll.’ It was great. I feel like I owe this, in a way. to Barabara and then to Alejandro for being open to hearing her opinion.
How did you prepare for your character?
Will: I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked because we had like a week and a half, maybe, and with so much material and having to learn Latin and having to learn specific Spanish, I spent a lot of time looking at the things that I have that are aligned with him. So, I feel like I’m a good person in general, I feel like I can lead from that place. I have a strong connection with Hispanic culture. I spent a lot of time in Mexico as a child and I love the Mexican people and their humility. So, I took those things that I felt were already innately there, and then I looked at the things that I felt weren’t as much there, literally, and found things that were. I’m not Catholic, I’m spiritual. So I took my belief in a spiritual existence and I kind of infused that into Peter’s belief as a Catholic. So I was kind of doing a little bit of patchwork, and then for things that I needed to go deeper on, I would use my imagination.
How hard was it to learn your Latin and Spanish lines?
Will: I speak Spanish, so the Spanish wasn’t that hard. There were just certain things that he wanted me to say in a particular way that was not how I learned them. So, I had to do some relearning, which was a little bit tricky, because I’ve been taking Spanish from classes for about eight years, and when I was in high school in junior high. But Latin was just a language I was just absolutely not familiar with. So, having to speak Latin in those scenes where I’m speaking Latin, those are pretty crazy scenes and that was the challenging part. Remembering Latin phrases while you’re being attacked by someone who’s possessed and pushing them back was the challenging, and fun part of it, too. Yeah, it was a wild ride, and I was like, this film is gonna be amazing or it’s gonna just not be what it could have been.
Where was this filmed?
Will: It was filmed in Mexico City. Mexico City is a great place to shoot because it’s surrounded by mountains. So it’s got great locations. It has all these locations that have probably never been seen in the United States, like the Spanish convent we used, that’s from the late 1600s. They still kind of use it today for events but no one’s ever seen that church before in film, I think, at least probably not in the United States. So you get these cool locations and there’s just so much within Mexico City that is available to you. I always enjoy shooting on location because it takes me out of my daily life and the distractions that are part of being in your daily life. Like cats. I love my girlfriend’s cats, but, you know…
Why do you think exorcism horror films are popular?
Will: I don’t know enough about the history of exorcisms to answer historically… and I think in the Catholic Church, it goes back to Middle Ages when people were having blood infections and all these things that were causing them to be so feverish, you know, ‘the devils inside you.’ They were actively using those as stories and examples of the power of Christ and how it saves people. I’m not sure if I actually believe that people get genuinely possessed by a demonic force. I mean, I had that happen to me once, at least in my mind. I was like 10 years old and I went to church, I was a Protestant, with my family and I did not like church, really. And I was standing outside the church after another, what I thought of as a boring Sunday sermon, I felt this presence come inside my body, that was really dark, and kind of take over my body. I was like, ‘the devil’s entering me right now.’ It was weird, but I was like 10 years old, so I don’t know what that was. I don’t think the devil was inside me, but that was an interesting experience.
These values of saving people and bringing people from dark to light is such an important story or ethos in our psyches that I feel like it takes people, especially because they are children when they experience these things. Alejandro wrote this stuff because he saw these images when he was a child and they scared him. He didn’t feel safe in church. He was scared of Jesus and he was scared of these figures and the way they were. They’re big, they’re imposing and they tower above you.
What do you think sets The Exorcism of God apart from other exorcism movies?
Will: I feel like a lot of things to be honest. One is, without giving too much away, I feel like Alejandro did some really cool things where he did homages to the original Exorcist in terms of some of the shots. They either take inspiration from or literally are shots like The Exorcist. So I thought that was really cool. And then I feel like there’s the typical things that people love in horror movies that are there. And then there’s things that I feel like have, I don’t want to say reinvented the exorcist genre, I don’t know, but it’s taken the exorcist genre films to places that has never been before and I feel like that’s really exciting. I feel like people love these movies and they’ve never seen an exorcist movie like this one.
I am not a jumpscare person at all, so there were a few moments where my laptop almost went flying across the room. Were there ever times where you got scared on set?
Will: You know what, to be honest. No. I’m not superstitious that way… I mean, that church is pretty incredible because underneath it are catacombs, and there was a super scary, almost demonic, like drawing on the top of this room- it was like a small church that had this dome and the top of the dome was a super freaky looking drawing or carving or something. I don’t know how the heck it got up there, but I was a little uncomfortable by that. But yeah, I mean, some people have said they felt some things that were uncomfortable or that scared them and then they’d come home and have nightmares about the scenes they were in or come back and feel like they’re afraid of noises outside and stuff. But I didn’t feel that way personally.
Do you have any standout memories from filming?
Will: One of the standout memories I have is on the roof of the house that we were all standing in. A few days before we started shooting, we would go up there with Alejandro and we would work together with our scene partner not on the scene, but on building our relationships. And I feel like that was something that was really cool and really smart of him to do and I feel like that showed up on the screen with a lot of the characters. I feel like there’s a history that a lot of us had. I will say some of that was fortunate due to casting and then some of it, I believe, was because of those exercises. Those were the exercises to exorcize God
Is there anything else that we didn’t touch on that you would like to add about The Exorcism of God?
Will: This is an independent film and it’s a film I’m really proud of. All the energy, all the heart, everything we could put into the film is in the film. I feel like people will see that when they watch it. It’s on the screen, especially in those exorcism scenes, and I want people to go see it because it’s definitely a movie you want to watch in the theater.