The Prodigy marks the third feature directed by Nicholas McCarthy, best known for the critically-acclaimed The Pact.
A self-admitted horror fanatic, McCarthy says his love for the genre was born when he watched The Exorcist for the first time.
William Friedkin’s classic would become a major influence on McCarthy’s approach to Jeff Buhler’s script for The Prodigy that is in cinemas now around South Africa. It boasts a similarly thrilling take on an uncommon love between mother and child.
“So many of my favorite horror films have been about women. Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby; Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist. And even though [The Exorcist] is kind of a chamber piece and has a couple of strong male characters, I always responded to Ellen’s character.
“I think at some point when we were editing At the Devil’s Door, I realised that I had done the thing I did in my first movie: make a movie all about women and the only men who appear in it are these kind of idiots or bastards, you know?
“I don’t really know where it comes from. I [had] a conversation with someone about male-centric horror films and I was trying to think of one. Is there a horror movie about a man that you love?” said McCarthy.
For the role of Sarah Blume, McCarthy knew they needed to attach an artist who had equal parts performance chops and a passion for the material. Enter Taylor Schilling, the critically-acclaimed star of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, who was about to take a hiatus-vacation to India when her reps encouraged her to read for the film.
“I instantly wanted to do it,” says Schilling. “It was so fun. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in 45 minutes. It was exhilarating.”
The second and equally important casting challenge facing the filmmakers was securing a young actor who could convincingly play Miles Blume. Few performers stood out more than Jackson Robert Scott, famous for his incredible turn as Georgie in Warner Bros hit 2017 reboot of Stephen King’s It.
McCarthy says of Scott: “When the camera is off, Jackson’s just another awesome little boy. But when it’s on, he’s like a little Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Because it was filmed in and around Toronto, Canada – doubling for Philadelphia, PA – there wasn’t a better fit to play Sarah’s husband John than local actor Peter Mooney, known for his role as Nick Collins on the hit Canadian drama Rookie Blue.
“John is an interesting character because he is, in a way, a co-star in Sarah and Miles’ world,” says McCarthy. “And what Peter did so well was find his own voice in John in the many challenging and emotionally-charged scenes he has acting opposite Jackson.”
The eerie new film is the perfect anti-Valentine entertainment.