Interview: Radha Mitchell of Dreamkatcher

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, Disc Dish hopped on the phone with actress Radha Mitchell, who was amiable and eager to talk about her just released film Dreamkatcher while quarantined in her home in L.A. (just as I was going through the same drill in New York).

A creepy supernatural ghost story directed by Kerry Harris and set in update New York, Dreamkatcher concerns city woman Gail (Mitchell) and her new stepson (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, The Banana Splits Movie) coming to terms with each other while settling into a remote country home. This proves to be tougher than one would have thought when young Josh steals an evil talisman from a weird neighbor and begins having sinister dreams of his dead mother—who commands Josh to murder his new mom!  When Josh’s dad (Henry Thomas, Dear John) returns, he and Gail suspect that their son has been possessed by an ancient, bloodthirsty spirit, and that their lives lie in the balance.

The star of such wide-ranging fare as the sci-fi thriller near-classic Pitch Black, the Silent Hill horror franchise and the underrated Woody Allen entry Melinda and Melinda, Radha enjoyed discussing Dreamkatcher and its production—after we quickly got the obligatory but no less concerning quarantine chit-chat out of the way.

Disc Dish: As I was dialing your number, I remembered that you made a pandemic-themed quarantine movie a while back—The Crazies with Tim Olyphant from 2010.

Radha Mitchell: Exactly. So, I’ve rehearsed all this already. But nobody was prepared for what’s happening now, including me.

DD: Until things get back on track, we’re all diving into the world of streaming movies and television.

RM: There are a lot of older movies to catch up on.

DD: And new ones! That’s my clever segue into talking about your latest film, Dreamkatcher.

RM: A fine segue!

DD: How did Dreamkatcher make its way to you?

RM: It actually made it to my desk a while ago, and I liked what I read. [Director/co-writer] Kerry Harris is a friend who happens to be friends with a very good friend of mind, Orian Williams, one of the film’s producers. I had made a film with Orian a few years back—Big Sur, based on Jack Kerouac’s last novel—and we’ve been friends since then. So, there was a kind of community around this project for a while before it even got financed. Somebody finally got some money, so the movie was greenlit.

Finlay Wojtak-Hissong and Radha Mitchell come to terms in Dreamkatcher.

DD: You shot the film in Delaware County in upstate New York–in Bovina. A small town!

RM: Very small, yes. It’s a lovely culture and community up there, but it’s just out of phone reception. We were very isolated. There were a lot of times where I was alone in a cabin with no car and no cell phone reception. After a few days, I was like “Get me out of here!” But it was fine, and it was an interesting place to explore.

DD: How long were you up there?

RM: It was a couple of weeks. We sort of all ended up in a big, old creepy house, like roommates. Again, the isolation was intense.

DD: As Dreamkatcher is a supernatural thriller, that experience must have informed your performance to a degree.

RM: Absolutely. It also helped with collaboration. We didn’t have a lot of time to shoot the movie and we were all sort of like roommates in this big house. At night we would cook dinner and talk about what we were going to do and then the next day, we would do it. There was a real sense of camaraderie being together like that.

DD: Sound like a very unique situation.

RM: It was. We were kind of riffing on the story as we were shooting it, which most people don’t have the kind of confidence or courage to do because everything is usually so planned out. But we were all comfortable with each other.

DD: What was your experience working with a nine-year-old Finlay Wojtak-Hissong? The two of you were involved in some pretty scary and physically demanding scenes.

RM: He’s a very self-possessed and intelligent boy. The thing is that the kid can’t even watch the movie—he’s not allowed to! So yes, there was a certain kind of carefulness around him. But there was something actually about him that was extremely adult and kind of unnerving. There’s nothing schmaltzy about his performance—there’s a kind of a vulnerability, but we’re not making a big deal about his being a kid. It was definitely weird and kind of interesting. There are exchanges between our two characters and my character doesn’t talk to him like he’s a kid. I enjoyed working with him–I really did.

DD: Looking at all the work you’ve done over the past decade, I was floored by how far-ranging it is—the network television series Red Widow, the Olympus Has Fallen and Silent Hill film franchises, a bunch of acclaimed independents like Bird People, The Shack and The World Without You, a recent high-profile Law and Order: SVU episode… It looks like your eager to dip your feet into everything.

RM: (laughs) Like any kind of artist, you don’t want to work on the same painting every day. It’s all interesting—I don’t like to talk about “preferred formats,” whatever that means these days when it comes to movies and television. It’s all about the different people that you meet. Mariska Hargitay is a great example—Law and Order, that’s her world and it was so interesting. I was in Australia and had planned a holiday and I got a call and they said, ‘Do you want to fly to New York tomorrow and be on the show?’ So much for the holiday because, yeah, I wanted to be on the show.

DD: When Mariska calls…

RM: Enjoying the people you are working with always makes a project attractive. The message is important, of course, and the way that a story is told, and if it’s going to be done in an innovative way. You want to add to the conversation, whatever the genre is. And I will say that independent films is a good place to experiment with the genre. At times [during Dreamkatcher], when it came to the shot list and blocking, it was like playing jazz music, doing it a different way. The ending—we were still trying to figure out while we were shooting it. That began as a sort of uncomfortable situation—but an exciting one!

Dreamkatcher is now available on DVD, Digital and On Demand from Lionsgate.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.