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Clive Standen & Yeardley Smith on Their New Horror Film Possessions

Clive Standen & Yeardley Smith on Their New Horror Film Possessions

In Possessions, Clive Standen stars as Pete, a grieving father who moves his 10-year-old son across the country after a tragic accident that took the life of his wife. Hoping to get a fresh start, he buys a storage unit facility that he thinks will be easy money but instead contains something far more sinister than people’s belongings. When his young son, Tyler (Mason Wells), begins to exhibit strange behavior, he employs the help of psychologist Dr. Young (Yeardley Smith), but he soon learns that what’s happening to the boy is every father’s worst nightmare.

MovieWeb recently caught up with Clive Standen and Yeardley Smith to discuss the dark, psychological journey of their new horror film, Possessions. We touched on Smith’s role in the film as both an executive producer and an actor and what intrigued Standen enough to say yes to the part. Along the way, we also touched on what it was like to work with a relatively fresh director in Brent Cote and the extraordinary young talent that is Mason Wells.

Dying in a Movie Sounded Like Fun to Yeardley Smith

Yeardley Smith as Dr. Young in Possessions with a concerned look on her face.
Next Entertainment/Paperclip Ltd

Yeardley Smith is an Emmy-winning actress, novelist, playwright, and co-host of the Webby Award-winning true-crime podcast Small Town Dicks, which examines horrific crimes that take place in Small Town, USA. In addition to providing the voice of Lisa Simpson for the past 35 years, she’s also a producer by way of her company, Paperclip Ltd, which she founded in 2014, along with Ben Cornwell. Possessions marks the company’s second foray into the horror genre after Alone in 2020, and for Smith, it was a departure from some of her previous roles as an actor/producer.

“My company, Paperclip Limited, was producing, and I try now when we are producing a film to sort of do a little Hitchcock drive-by. So although this role as the psychologist was bigger than most of my drive-by’s, I just thought, you know,
I’ve never died in a movie, so that sounds like fun
. Let’s do that.”

For those who are afraid of spoilers, don’t cry foul just yet. Smith already let the cat out of the bag in 2021 regarding her death when she was filming Possessions. “I actually posted on my Instagram a picture of me standing next to my colleague and one of the producers, Jordan Foley, with my bloody throat all over my wardrobe and smiling from ear to ear, so it’s not that much of a spoiler.”

Clive Standen Isn’t a Horror Veteran

Clive Standen as Pete in Possessions looking angry while standing outside of a storage unit
Next Entertainment/Paperclip Ltd

With a career spanning 20 years thus far, English actor Clive Standen is perhaps best known for his role in Vikings, where he played Rollo, brother to Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar Lothbrok. He also starred in the TV series Taken as the lead, Bryan Mills, and has appeared in episodes of Doctor Who, as well as the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show. Like Yeardley Smith, however, Standen hasn’t done a lot of horror projects, mainly because he was waiting for the right role to come along and felt that he found it in Possessions.

“Yeardley mentioned Jordan Foley, one of the producers at Paperclip, and I sat there having an interview with him, and I was just telling him that when you get into acting, and you do your first role which gives you a little bit of a name, the offers that come pouring in for you are really, really gory horror films, the kind of ones where you end up with a pitchfork through your eyes and yeah, it’s like the slasher.
I call them sometimes torture porn where there’s sexism, blood and guts and I’m just not interested in that
. It kinda makes me laugh when you see that much on screen.”

Standen prefers his horror to be a little less bloody and a lot more like Hitchcock. He continues, “What I was always interested in is the Hitchcock thing where you use the audience’s imagination against themselves. It’s what you don’t see that almost freaks you out. And John said, ‘Well, we have a project that you might be interested in,’ and it was Possessions, and it was exactly up my street…this is one of these films that I was waiting for.”

Director Brent Cote’s Organizational Skills Impressed Yeardley Smith

Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, writer/director Brent Cote is still relatively new to the feature film space. Possessions marks only his second feature film, the other being the 2020 crime thriller Tainted. Before that, he directed a plethora of short films and the made-for-TV movie Deadly Inferno in 2016. When asked what working with such a fresh director was like, Yeardley Smith says he “left nothing to chance.”

“I would say for me, on the producer side,
Brent was extraordinarily organized right out of the gate
. So when he was basically pitching himself for the job, although he also wrote the script… the script had gone through quite a few iterations and Brent was the one who really nailed it. Then he wanted to direct it, and he came with his shot list already laid out. The dude left nothing to chance.”

“Making movies, as much fun as it can be, it’s a slog. The hours are sh*t, the locations are usually sh*t. And so you want somebody who has all the back end.”

Clive Standen Calls Brent Cote a ‘Great Collaborator’

As someone who has worked with several directors over the years, Clive Standen knows what makes a good filmmaker. While some directors seem to phone it in and produce exactly what’s written in the script, he says Cote is different. Despite his limited experience with feature films, Standen says, “He makes the most of every scene.”

He’s a great collaborator
. I’d say that sometimes I’ve done independent movies where directors come along who are competent, but how I described as a journeyman. They do what’s in the script, they do what’s required and they move on. They never really push it, or make it, and maybe this is just because Brent wrote this himself, and he had more invested in it, but
he makes the most of every scene
. He’s collaborative with the actors.”

He elaborates, saying, “Some people can take what they have and make it look like it costs twice as much. And he is one of these directors. I can’t wait to work with him again. He’s really, really talented, and, as Yeardley says, he comes with a shot list prepared, everything’s ready to go, and then the conversation is just ‘how do we fit Clive’s notes and ideas into this?’ You’ve got time to collaborate because he’s so organized.”

What It Was Like Working With Mason Wells

Mason Wells, who portrays Standen’s son, Tyler, is a phenomenal young talent who has 17 credits to his name over the past seven years, including appearances on the CBS series How We Roll and the Netflix show Brews Brothers. His film credits include The Furry Fortune, Lyla, and the horror anthology movie Evil Little Things. For Clive Standen, he says that although Wells has an “abundance of warmth,” the budding star can, at times, be “terrifying.”

“When we go ‘action,’ I’m acting with someone who just goes [snaps fingers] straight into the scene. I think what comes naturally to Mason is he’s actually got a very lovely warmth.
Film actors have a cold energy, and some actors have a warm energy, and he has an abundance of warmth
. So what he turns on for the camera, is that dark cold twist.”

“I did scenes with him where he’s waking up in bed, and he’s walking around the house almost in a sleepwalk daze. That’s him acting, and it’s terrifying.”

Yeardley Smith, who portrayed child psychologist Dr. Young in Possessions and shared the screen with Mason, echoed Standen’s sentiments, saying, “Totally terrifying, and he’s right… the kid could switch on a dime. It was quite remarkable.” You can see just how remarkable and terrifying Mason Wells is alongside Clive Standen and Yeardley Smith when Possessions hits VOD on May 3, 2024, from Paperclip Ltd and Next Entertainment.

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