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Throughout the long history of legends surrounding demonic possessions, there have always been those in every religion and culture who undertake to cast out whatever evil might infest the human soul. Ole Bornedal‚Äôs new movie ‚ÄėThe Possession‚Äô is no exception.
Urgently needing help and with nowhere to turn, Jeffery Dean Morgan‚Äôs character Clyde Brenek engages the services of Tzadok, the street-smart but spiritual son of a Hasidic rabbi who knows the merciless ways that a Dibbuk can devour a human ‚Äď and despite his community‚Äôs paralyzing fears, dares to help. To cast this unusual role, the filmmakers took an unusual route and recruited a non-actor: the Hasidic rap and reggae star who is known around the world by his Hebrew name Matisyahu.
Ole Bornedal says he saw something organic and real in Matisyahu that made him think he could embody Tzadok despite having zero screen experience. ‚ÄúSometimes casting has to do with intuition,‚ÄĚ he explains. ‚ÄúWhen I met Matis, it was clear that he was a very authentically religious young man. He didn‚Äôt having the timing or the training yet of an actor, but he had so much charisma. There is a strong presence that he brings. He‚Äôs a little bit off but Tzadok should be a little bit off, because he‚Äôs essentially from another world outside the family‚Äôs experience.‚ÄĚ
Immediately, Sam Raimi became a big supporter of casting Matisyahu, despite the potential risks. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs not just an unusual choice for shock value, I think he‚Äôs really right for the film and I fought for that choice,‚ÄĚ says the producer. ‚ÄúOle wanted to update the traditional view of the wise, old rabbi; and Matisyahu goes against all those expectations, and yet you believe in his faith. His performance was so true and original, he made the idea of an exorcist new to me.‚ÄĚ
Matisyahu couldn‚Äôt put the script down. ‚ÄúIt was a page turner and I felt this was a part I wanted to do justice to,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúTzadok is a Rabbi‚Äôs son but he is also a little on the fringe in his community; he‚Äôs more worldly, and I could relate to him on that level. It‚Äôs a role that gives me the ability to do what I do ‚Äď which is to sort of connect my heritage with popular culture.‚ÄĚ
The research the writers did on the Dibbuk and the little-known rites of Jewish exorcism impressed him. ‚ÄúThe script was pretty on the money,‚ÄĚ he comments. ‚ÄúThe Torah does speak of different types of demons and ghosts that can attach themselves to people.‚ÄĚ
He was also intrigued by the fact that Tzadok decides to battle this relentless demon knowing he is up against near impossible odds. ‚ÄúTzadok is this family‚Äôs last hope, but at the same time, he really has no clue what he is doing,‚ÄĚ he explains. ‚ÄúAll he knows is that he has to somehow channel this Dibbuk out of this little girl.‚ÄĚ
Robert Tapert, producer, was taken aback by the freshness of Matisyahu‚Äôs performance.¬† ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs so sympathetic and likeable as a guy who chooses to the right thing even though he knows things could turn out very badly,‚ÄĚ he observes.
Tzadok‚Äôs attempted exorcism leads to one of the most menacing scenes in the film. ‚ÄúThat scene was crazy, crazy, crazy,‚ÄĚ recalls Jeffrey Dean Morgan. ‚ÄúIt was me, Kyra, Matisyahu, Natasha and Madison and at a certain point, it was like we were all just taken over by whatever was happening. It was weird, intense, very emotional ‚Äď and I walked away from it a little bit freaked out. Something weird happened, but weird is good for this film.‚ÄĚ
Image Courtesy of ¬†¬†The Possession