Anyone who has seen “Lights Out,” director David F. Sandberg’s feature film adaptation of his viral short film, knows that Alexander DiPersia is the film’s breakout. Goofy, ardent, and ultimately heroic, his boyfriend character doesn’t cut and run when things get spectacularly supernatural—even as he’s hanging in mid-air, dangling from the hands of a specter. We spoke to DiPersia about what it’s like to film a scary movie.
On selling scared.
I got the role on a Friday night and was on set 5 a.m. on Monday. You think horror film, and you think campy. You think easy. Out first day was a very romantic scene, but after that was a matter of trying to sell this thing accurately. It’s not easy to look scared 12 takes in a row. How do I act scared? So it’s a lot of working with a coach. And luckily it’s such an unbelievable cast, that I thin k e really made a point to show it without the campy factor. It was great! It was different from anything I’ve ever worked on. We also had the benefit of not having it be a CGI fest. The demon in the movie was actually a stuntwoman, so that was helpful to us as actors.
On working with an acting coach.
When I approached him, I said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.” His advice was, “The best way to do this really dig down and find what would be the most embarrassing thing you can think of happening to you and put that in front of you continually.” And that was what we worked on as far as trying to share the shocks. And it helped. But it’s absolutely terrible! There were some days we didn’t have to go as deep, but me being the fool I an I was saying I’d do a lot of my own stunts, which I will not do again. It’s horrifying to be lifted 15 feet up in the air! So that made it scary just to do those.
On auditioning for a horror film.
The scenes I had to do were mostly between Teresa [Palmer] and I, so the process was interesting. We had a director who was a first-time feature director but under the guidance of James Wan and David put a lot of trust in us to act the film, so the scenes for the audition were trying to find this balance between Teresa and I. I don’t think there were any big scare scenes A lot of work on set was to get us to the place And to work with Mario Bello and Teresa makes a job a pleasure.
On trying to enjoy success.
My first role was a featured extra in “I Am Legend.” And I was not young; I went to college, and after college I worked in banking and in insurance. Acting was an unstable business. I eventually showed I was capable of doing other things, but I ended up pursuing this. And after that, it’s a hustle. I started late and it’s been a real slow, laborious effort to get where I am now I finally got to the starting line of the race. And hopefully I can run a good race. But you never know, you never know where your next job is. You just take it one job at a time and see what you can do.