Davis: 'Chris Morris re-wrote scenes over lunch'
Marchant Davis describes his audition for Chris Morris’ latest comedy film as “a four-month dating process”.
He met Morris four or five times while he was being considered for the lead role of naive cult leader Moses in the then untitled project satirising the ‘war on terror’.
Nine years after his last movie, Four Lions, it’s Morris’ comeback film.
Davis tells Sky News they would chat for an hour or so, “just putting stuff on tape”.
Describing the Brass Eye creator as “intuitive and smart”, he adds “the one thing that surprised me about him is that he read so much and he’d talk to so many people”.
But working with such an intuitive director meant he had to be ready to adapt in a heartbeat.
Davis admits: “He would come in and change things sometimes during a lunch break. There was one day specifically where a PA came into my dressing room trailer and was like ‘Here are your sides’.
“And I was like ‘For tomorrow?’ And he goes ‘No, for today’.
“And I was like ‘But we shot the scene already’. He goes ‘Chris re-wrote it’. I was like ‘Oh’.
“I ran into Danielle’s trailer [his co-star Danielle Brooks, who plays his wife in the movie] we read it over really fast and learned it really fast and went up and we did it after lunch.”
It was a swift learning experience for the Philadelphia-born actor.
With this being his first major screen role, he admits: “It teaches you something, to just go with the punches.”
He describes Morris’s directing style as “heavily improvised at times, but also really scripted”.
He goes on: “Chris is sort of he keeps it alive so he would allow you to play especially. Kayvan [Novak] was really great at that but he allowed you play within those given circumstances.”
The Fonejacker star plays a shopkeeper and paedophile in the provocative comedy.
At one point in the film, an FBI officer justifies their increasingly overblown attempts to lure jihad terrorists into the open, claiming without their efforts “the next thing you know, the Statue of Liberty’s wearing a burqa and we’ve beheaded Bruce Springsteen”.
So, is Davis nervous about how such a controversial film will be received.
“Here it seems like you all love Chris Morris and your palates are much different than American audiences. So I’m excited, but also I’m really interested to see how it lands on Americans and other people outside the UK.
“With Americans – our sensibilities are different.
“So we want our drama. We want our comedy. When you put the two together I think we sort of like ‘what’s happening here’. I’m excited for that because it allows people to like see things in a different lens.
“But of course, I can’t speak for the whole of America.”
Anna Kendrick and Denis O’Hare also star in the film, which is out now in the UK.