Wyatt Russell talks about the sinister pool and his troubled character in the supernatural thriller “Night Swim”

night swim

Like his Night Swim character, Wyatt Russell (The Falcon and the Winter SoldierMonarch: Legacy of Monsters) was a former athlete, one of the reasons director Bryce McGuire wanted him for the role of former baseball pro Ray Waller.

For the actor, being able to draw on his own experience as an athlete definitely helped his performance. “There are aspects of this character that obviously I’ve felt before, or seen in people I know, where you’re sort of losing your ability and sense of identity to injury,” says Russell, who played hockey on the amateur and professional levels for six years, until injuries forced him to quit. “I know the feeling of wanting to do anything, even if it’s detrimental to yourself or your family, to keep playing; it’s a hard drug to let go of. There was that element of it that I know Bryce wanted, and I was able to do that because I had lived aspects of that life.”

In Night Swim, based on director McGuire’s acclaimed 2014 short film of the same name, Ray Waller (Russell) is a former major league baseball player forced into early retirement by a degenerative illness. Secretly hoping, against the odds, to return to pro ball, Ray persuades his wife, Eve (Kerry Condon), that their new home’s shimmering backyard swimming pool will be fun for the kids (Amélie Hoeferle and Gavin Warren) 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.

Besides his personal connection to his character, Russell says he was drawn to Night Swim because of the thematically rich story that McGuire had built from its fiendishly simple swimming-pool premise.

“I just love everything that the swimming pool represented – how it gives life and takes it away; how it holds both good and evil – and how it made for a refreshingly different approach to a genre story,” Russell says, adding he also appreciated the trajectory of Ray’s increasingly dark arc and how the true evil that threatens Ray and his family isn’t supernatural but his own flaws. “I liked how his selfishness and his misguided strategies for dealing with everything that comes with M.S. [multiple sclerosis] ends up being the forces that drive him. He’s a nice guy with a nice, normal family dealing with very real human dilemmas, but there’s this little kernel of narcissism that leaves him vulnerable to corruption that can take over his soul. It was just a fun part to play.”

McGuire says Russell was a joy to work with. “From our first conversation, I saw how deeply he understood the psychology of an athlete and an athlete’s struggle to move on from the sport they’ve dedicated so much of their life to,” he says of Russell. “Wyatt was a joy to work with for me because he was completely fearless. Without saying too much, he has to go to some extreme places in the movie and he was never self-conscious. He understands how to connect to an audience and he’ll try five different versions of something to give you options. That’s a dream for a director. He was game for anything, very selfless and always thinking of the movie.”

Dare to take a dive when Night Swim, distributed by Universal Pictures International, opens in cinemas February 21. #NightSwimMoviePh

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