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May 29, 2024 21 mins

Mike goes behind the scenes with the star and director of The First Omen. He talks to Nell Tiger Free who plays Margaret in the movie and director Arkasha Stevenson. The First Omen is about a woman named Margret who starts to question her own faith when she uncovers a terrifying conspiracy to bring about the birth of an evil incarnate in Rome. They dive into how making a horror movie affects your personal life, the debate of using practical versus computer-generated graphics, and what Disney classic they’d both want to direct and star in if they made a R-Rated version.

The First Omen it's now available on digital now,  drops on Hulu tomorrow (5/30), and on DVD and Blu-ray July 30! Find here by clicking HERE

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hello, and welcome back to movie Mike's Movie Podcast. I
am your host. Movie Mike have a very special episode
for you today. We're gonna be talking about the First Omen.
I will give you my thoughts on the movie, and
then we're gonna have an interview with the director Akashias
Stevenson and star of the movie Nel Tiger Free, talking
all about the behind the scenes and making of the

(00:20):
movie and what goes into making a horror movie. So chilling,
but even if you're not into horror, I think you
will find it fascinating the dynamic between a female director
and a female lead. So thank you for being here,
thank you for being subscribed, and now let's talk movies.

Speaker 2 (00:35):
In a world where everyone and their mother has a podcast,
one man stands to infiltrate the ears of listeners like
never before in a movie podcast. A man with so
much movie knowledge, he's basically like a walking IMTV with glasses.

Speaker 3 (00:53):
From the Nashville Podcast.

Speaker 2 (00:54):
Network, This is movie Mike's Movie Podcast.

Speaker 1 (00:59):
If you're listening to this pisode on Wednesday, May twenty ninth,
The First Omen is available now on digital. It'll be
on Hulu tomorrow on May thirtieth, and then on DVD
and Blu Ray on July thirtieth, And myself personally, I
need to be in a very specific environment when I
sit down to watch a horror movie at home. I
have to wait for it to be nighttime just to

(01:20):
give me that feeling of darkness, because it's really hard
for me to be scared at this point. So far
this year, a horror movie has not evoked that emotion
in me, and The First Omen was the first movie
to do that this year. Because that's how I had
to take it in. I have to emulate that same
feeling that I get while going to see a movie
in theaters where it's completely pitch black. All distractions are

(01:43):
taken away because if you even stop paying attention to
a horror movie for just a second, you might miss
the scary moment. So that is very important for me.
But depending on how you take it in, I guess
it has to do with your level of wanting to
be scared. I want to go all in. I want
to experience all those things that I think. The First
Omen is a great movie to do that, So I

(02:05):
would recommend turn off all the lights and turn the
audio up, because not only does this movie look great.
It sounds fantastic, and you may think, what do I
care about sound? But for me, this movie took that
next level of not only trying to scare you visually,
which there are some pretty interesting visual aspects that we're

(02:26):
going to get into the interview later.

Speaker 3 (02:28):
That I haven't really seen to this.

Speaker 1 (02:29):
Degree in a horror movie, much less one owned by Disney.
And I was wondering, due to the fact that this
is a Disney owned movie, that maybe they would keep
away from showing some things even though it's rated R.
Maybe they'd be like, Okay, we don't want to have
that image in this movie. But it seems to me
that there were really no restrictions. The only goal was

(02:53):
to make the best Omen movie possible, and I think
that is something that the franchise needs right now. The
first one came out back in nineteen seventy six, so
it lands in that category of how do you bring
a breath of fresh air into a franchise that has
been around forever, that already has this format associated with

(03:14):
it and has this big legacy to live up to.

Speaker 3 (03:17):
It's a really hard thing to do.

Speaker 1 (03:19):
And what I found while watching this movie is it
had a very distinct style and a very distinct voice,
and I think that is all due to director Arkasia
Stephenson's vision. So what this movie is about. You have
a character named Margaret played by Nail Tiger Free. She
moves to Rome to begin a life of service to
the church, and once she gets there, she realizes something

(03:43):
is kind of up. So it's a prequel to the
original Omen, which is all focused on Damien. This is
how Damien's life came to be. So all these weird
things start happening. These authority figures are very, very sketchy,
and she discovers this darkn sspiracy to bring about the
birth of the Antichrist. So it's all about her character

(04:05):
trying to find answers, trying to stop these people from
doing these vicious things, while at the same time trying
to distinguish between what is actually happening in the real
world in Rome and what is happening all inside her
mind or these demonic presences messing with her brain.

Speaker 3 (04:22):
And when I ended up really loving.

Speaker 1 (04:24):
About the movie and had me invested in it is
the story really allowed the tension to build. With every
sinister event that happens, you get a little bit more
anxious as it goes along. So it's like you are
right there in the perspective of Margaret, experiencing all these
things right there with her, and I thought that was
really well done. Nelle Tiger Free did a fantastic job

(04:47):
of showing a character's descent into madness from moving to Rome,
thinking your life is going to completely change for the better,
and then realizing that there is something really awful going
on here. And the more you try to get answers
from people, the more they push back. There's this girl,
she has a relationship who is being tormented by all

(05:10):
of these people at the church, and it's her relationship
with that kid that really shows you how good of
a person she is, and what really has you invested
in her as a character, and what really has you
rooting for her, because at the inner core of her being,
she is just a good person who got put into
a really, really awful situation. So this movie hits you

(05:32):
on an emotional level, and then you have all the
scary elements that come along with that, which are more dark,
demonic presences, but nothing too gruesome that's gonna make your
stomach churn. It's more about creating this sinister environment and
having these really shocking images that will literally be burned
into your brain. And what I really love is at

(05:54):
the forefront of this movie is a strong female character
backed by a strong female So that is why I'm
excited to talk to director Arkasha Stevenson and Neil tiger Free,
who plays Margaret. You'll hear two people in this interview.
Arkashia Stevenson, the director doesn't have an accent, so you'll
hear two people in this interview, and to be able

(06:15):
to tell them apart. Arkasha Stevenson, the director doesn't have
an accent. Nell tiger Free, who plays Margaret, has an
English accent, so you'll be able to tell both of
them apart. And remember, the first Omen is available now
on digital drops on Hulu tomorrow, and it'll be available
on DVD and Blu Ray on July thirtieth. But right now,
here's my interview with the director and star of the movie.

Speaker 3 (06:37):
I just watched.

Speaker 1 (06:38):
The movie and I loved it, and I'm glad to
be able to talk to you both together because i
think the dynamic of actor and director is really special.
I haven't done an interview like this before, so I'm
really excited to dive into this movie before we get
into just everything I loved about it. My wife hates
horror movies, and it's really hard for me to convince
her to watch a horror movie. She doesn't like anything
that evokes any kind of anxiety. How would you get

(07:00):
somebody who doesn't want to watch a horror movie to
watch the first omen M?

Speaker 4 (07:05):
Bribe them? Well, you know, I think the vagina shot
is a big draw. You know, that's a first I
think in horror films, at least for Disney horror films,
depending on well, actually, I know that might scare her
off even more so. Well, the thing is, you know,
I'm very proud of how pretty I think our film is,

(07:27):
you know, and I think that that's that's a draw
because we do get to shoot in Rome, and I
think that you you really get a sense of the
city and you get a real sense of the period.
Am I selling your wife? Yet? I can't tell she
loves Rome.

Speaker 3 (07:39):
I could convince her that with the imagery.

Speaker 4 (07:42):
Okay, room.

Speaker 3 (07:45):
Sells a romance story.

Speaker 4 (07:50):
Feat vagina.

Speaker 3 (07:51):
Yes, So when I try.

Speaker 1 (07:52):
To find a movie right now with a strong female lead,
I always find myself going back to the horror genre.
I think in the last three years, that is where
I've gone to you to find a true hero story
that's female led. It is just a genre that is
kind of dominating right that right now, And that is
what I got from the first omen And I think
a lot of that comes across ouse screen probably had

(08:14):
to do with your relationship as director and actor. So
how much of that relationship and what was that first
true test of like, Okay, we trust each other. We're
gonna do some crazy things in this movie, but it's
gonna be working.

Speaker 5 (08:26):
I mean, trust is super important, really important, especially with
the like material that we were handling and you know,
some sensitive stuff that we were diving into together. But
to be honest, I don't know if this says more
about me than anything, but I trusted Gosh pretty much
straight away. I Mean we had such a like cool, beautiful,
like first meeting, which was my Zoom audition, and even

(08:48):
though we had like a screen and an ocean separating
our technically at the time, like I just felt so
connected to her and safe and yeah, I felt like
I trusted her straight away.

Speaker 4 (08:58):
And it only thank you for saying that because I
felt the same thing. It's you know, Nell, it's on
set every single day. She's in almost every single scene
of this movie, and so so much pressure was on you,
and so much was writing on you. And what was
so magical is that she approached that with absolute zero fear,

(09:19):
which I think is really rare to find somebody who's
willing to get down and dirty. It's a very physical
role in extremely emotionally taxing and there was not a
single obstacle that you weren't down to tackle. And it
was really special because in this in this our first meeting,
Nell read you were gracious enough to read for us,

(09:40):
and she read the most intense scene, which is in
Brennan's apartment. Actually I won't spoil anything, but it's a
very intense scene. And she did that on the spot
on zoom and I started crying and we were everybody
was just kind of frozen, and we're like, Okay, this
is this is our partner, you know, so we just
knew right away.

Speaker 1 (10:01):
You were mentioning some of the hard things that, you know, Neil,
you had to do. I really loved how your character
kind of evolves throughout the movie of the sinister thing
continue to happen. She kind of just grows and gets
a little bit more kind of demented in a way.
Was that something that you looked at when you first
got the Scriptles Gay, How am I going to kind
of play out this character and show that she's evolving,

(10:22):
that she's starting to become a little bit more hesitant
about what is real what is not real?

Speaker 5 (10:27):
Yeah, And well Cash describes it so well, is that
it's like, you know, it's it's like the descent into Hell.
And I feel like visually there was something that Cash
did too in the movie where it's like, you know,
we start in this picturesque, beautiful place and then we
kind of end in like an inferno, we end in Hell,
And I felt like that was kind of what Margaret's
trajectory had to be. She had to get broken down

(10:50):
so much and beaten so much that she kind of rose.
And I felt like that's I had these markers for Margaret,
you know Margaret when we meet Margaret in the middle
of Margaret at the end, and just trying to piece
piece that journey together. But you know, a lot of
it was on the page, and it was just about

(11:10):
kind of finding the nuance and making it feel real
and you know, we didn't want it. It wasn't like
a like a torture born thing like enjoy watching all
these awful things happen.

Speaker 4 (11:20):
It was like, you know, she had to.

Speaker 5 (11:22):
Go go through all of this to come out the
other side.

Speaker 4 (11:26):
And what was really actually I just thought about this
and what was really interesting is because a lot of
the horror comes from if you took this supernatural element
out of this film, it's still I think a very
terrifying horror film because you're dealing with, you know, repressed
trauma and repressed intuition. And as these things start to
resurface in Margaret, she doesn't know what's supernatural, what is

(11:47):
a past trauma that is now she's now remembering and
experiencing in real life again. And what was so interesting
about the way you performed is Nel never said, Okay,
what is this? Is this real? Is this not real?
Is this a memory? And I loved that about you
because that was what the character was experiencing, this real
ambiguity as to what her reality was.

Speaker 1 (12:10):
I think it's also sometimes in just the Omen franchise,
it's not always the deep dark, sinister monster villain. It's
also the authoritative figures in the movie, and I think
that was also a big part of this, of Margaret
rebelling against the authority there.

Speaker 5 (12:26):
Yeah, totally. I mean, Margaret had been told not to
trust what she saw for her whole life. You know,
it's like she's been gas lit by the people who
are supposed to take care of her. And that's just
a terrifying concept in itself. I think that's so pertinent
and so true what Carsha says that even if you
do take the supernatural element out of it and that
part of the horror away from it, it's still very
much would be a horror film because it's you know,

(12:47):
an abused woman and a woman who is going through
traumas that women have to go through all the time,
and it's you know, that's why that was also why
it felt like such a pertinent story to me, because
it's like, you know, even if this wasn't a part
of the Omen franchise and Damien wasn't the result at
the end of it, and it was something else, it
would still be on the page and off it hopefully

(13:10):
it would still feel like, like true, a true horror film.
So yeah, I just saw what you said.

Speaker 4 (13:16):
No, I love it. I mean it's true. Yeah, it's it.
Margaret's a character who was bred to breed. Yeah, you know,
and that's that's not a foreign Yeah. I came up
with that just I know, thank you, But that's not
foreign for Yeah, that's not a foreign experience for women.
And so I think, yeah, you could have the same
effect even without the demonic elements.

Speaker 1 (13:44):
I think to fully like buy into doing a horror movie,
you probably have to become really invested in the source
material and also believe it yourself. You're living in it,
you're seeing it every day. You're having to experience that.
Do you ever lean into it a little bit too
much to where it starts affecting your mental state? Because
I'll watch a horror movie, I'll go to sleep and
I'll have a nightmare. But you are working, you both

(14:04):
are working in this every single day. Does it ever
just start to affect your personal life?

Speaker 4 (14:09):
No, not at all.

Speaker 5 (14:10):
We are absolutely just completely normal, good, right fully functioning.

Speaker 4 (14:15):
You know, we live we live underground in caves.

Speaker 3 (14:18):
Yeah.

Speaker 5 (14:20):
Yeah, I mean you have to you have to learn
to separate from it because if you take too much
of it in I mean, nobody was living in the
world more than Cash. I mean, it was your every
waking moment for so much longer than anybody else was
involved in it, because you know, you were there at
its inception and they're right until the bitter end. And
I came in for a couple of months and did

(14:41):
my part and left, and you know, Cash is still
there in that world. But yeah, for me, it's just
luckily I have things that can very definitively separate me
from Margaret, like you know, my even something as small
as having a different accent to the character, it can
separate you from them straight away. And yeah, I mean
I think when I was younger, I used to hold
my characters much closer in my real life. But that's actually,

(15:04):
I think a hindrance because you have to be able
to kind of be a chameleon and shed your skin
and then go back in and do it again. But yeah,
I try not to let too much of it in
otherwise I think I'd be alone.

Speaker 1 (15:17):
A big debate online right now is the discussion of
v effects versus practical effects in this movie. What's the Percentagejohn?
What was things that you actually made for the movie
that you could actually interact with and things that happened
in post production.

Speaker 4 (15:32):
Yeah, the only thing that isn't a practical effect is
the jackal at the end, at the very end, So
I'd say it's ninety percent practical, ten percent CG. I think,
you know, something that was really important to us is that,
to the best of our ability to use a practical approach,
just because I think when you're trying to embody the
spirit of nineteen seventies filmmaking, you know that that people

(15:54):
are looking for something very tactile and textured, and I
think also when it comes to horror, it's bringing that
reality into set for something for you to see. The
seal I think has a huge effect on everybody. So
we you know, we really wanted to as much as
possible rely on our makeup, effects and SFX team.

Speaker 1 (16:16):
Another thing I think kind of doesn't get talked about
enough in horror movies is the sound. Which I found
it to be really haunting in this movie, and a
lot of the jump scares that happened as a result
of the sound, the quick whispers, the quick just out
of nowhere in your face moments. What was the idea
behind some of the sound design.

Speaker 4 (16:33):
Yeah, well, you know what I was really excited about
both our score and the sound design, because I think
that there wasn't really a defined line between the two
in this project, because a lot of our sound design,
if you listen very closely, is Nell breathing, or Nell screaming,
or Nell praying, And so a lot of that whispering

(16:55):
is Nell and some of the other women in the film,
you know, muttering prayers almost manically, and a lot of
you know, in a lot of the very intense set
pieces like the birth clinic scene, a lot of that
sound design is is just female breath. And then a
lot of the score was female breath layered with a

(17:16):
lot of female vocals, even female you know screams. So
just this constant paranoia and reminder that there's there's humans
involved in all of this violence was really important to us,
if that makes sense.

Speaker 1 (17:32):
Yeah, you talked about the human part there. The other
part that I found kind of enjoyable that I haven't
really seen in a horror movie is there's what I
feel is kind of a win for Margaret's character of
just having a little small moment of levity whenever she
goes out for that night, even though she's reluctant to go.
It's like oh, here are all these crazy things happening,
but then she goes gets to go out and have
fun and dance. What was the idea behind that scene?

Speaker 4 (17:55):
Margaret is I would say a very sheltered character, but
she's not stupid, you know, and that it was really
important for us to create a really three dimensional, dynamic
character who felt very grounded. And so if this conspiracy,
she was going to fall into this conspiracy, she had

(18:17):
to be seduced into it, and I think in a
really relatable way. And so having Nell's character at the
disco was not only I think one of my favorite
scenes just because you're so endearing and delightful, but you
actually start to root for her and Paolo and their romance,
which I think you need to do that to not
undermine the credibility of Margaret. But yeah, how did you feel?

Speaker 5 (18:41):
No, I mean that's exactly it like that. It was.
It was it was when you see it went watching
shooting it. Certainly it was a beautiful thing to shoot,
and there was so much levity there in those moments
with me and Andrea, who's fantastic, and it makes it
all that more heartbreaking when you find out, you know
the truth behind his character and the true behind the
intent of the disco. You know, that is probably the

(19:03):
scene with the most levity, but then it also leads
to the most grueling elements of the film. And she
it's kind of it's sober, so sweet because she's given
this moment of freedom and experience and youth, and it's
all it's all there to manipulate her, and it's all
there to suck her in and yeah, seduce her into this,
into this world. So she's just being manipulated or left

(19:24):
right center.

Speaker 4 (19:25):
And if you're not in love with Margaret at that
point when she dances onto the dance floor, you definitely
are just how I dance melksher at the club.

Speaker 1 (19:38):
Like, yeah, we mentioned this about being a Disney well,
a Disney owned film. If you could go back now
and star in the horror remake of a Disney classic,
what would you want to be in Disney classic? They're
going to do a R rated horror aducation. What would
you want to start in?

Speaker 5 (19:57):
I know this, I would want to do like the
Hands Christian and version of The Little Mermaid where me
become knives, like the ground becomes knives and she becomes
foam on the water and it's like, it's very dark.
The original fairy tale is very very dark. So if
they made that version, I would.

Speaker 4 (20:15):
Love to tell it.

Speaker 3 (20:16):
And then how would you direct that version?

Speaker 4 (20:18):
Oh my gosh, well, you know it's so lovely? Is
I grew up on that version? Yeah, and I actually
have a mermaid tattoo because of that. That's so crazy
that you bring that up.

Speaker 5 (20:27):
I had the original storybook and it was so I
feel like it could be easily a horror God, why
has nobody made this?

Speaker 3 (20:34):
I think we just found the next film.

Speaker 4 (20:36):
It's your idea about.

Speaker 1 (20:40):
You give me a small part in it and we're
all good.

Speaker 3 (20:44):
Well, I appreciate the time.

Speaker 1 (20:46):
I hope everybody goes and watches the movie because I
really enjoyed it. It has made me want to go
back and revisit all the omen movies and me I
feel like it's the biggest breadth of fresh air in
the franchise. And just congratulations on the movie.

Speaker 4 (21:00):
Oh you.

Speaker 3 (21:03):
Appreciate it. Thank you guys.

Speaker 4 (21:04):
You bye bye.

Speaker 1 (21:06):
And that is going to do it for this special
episode of the podcast.

Speaker 3 (21:09):
I hope you enjoyed that interview.

Speaker 1 (21:11):
If you did, be sure to go comment on my
Instagram and TikTok or on Facebook with the screaming face emoji,
you know, the one that looks like mcaulay Colchin in
Home Alone with his hands on his face, screaming comment
with that emoji. That is the secret emoji this week,
because every time we have an interview, have that secret
emoji to let me know you enjoyed it and.

Speaker 3 (21:30):
Made it to the end of the episode.

Speaker 1 (21:32):
And make sure you're subscribed because new episodes every single Monday.
Will be back next week with Kelsey and I's best
and worst of the month of May. Till next time,
go out and watch good movies and I will talk
to you later.
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