A woman’s struggle to remain dedicated to both her family and career as she tries to balance being a mother and a leader in her work has long provided enthralling conflict in films. That’s certainly the case for the female protagonist in the upcoming UK-set and -shot folk horror movie, Lord of Misrule, whose script was developed during the renewed interest in the subgenre over the past decade.
The drama was written by Tom de Ville and directed by horror genre veteran William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, The Boy series, Orphan: First Kill). Both filmmakers were pitched the idea to work on the feature by its producers, including Nik Bower, Jason Newmark, Laurie Cook and James Tomlinson.
The producers pitched de Ville the idea to craft a story about a vicar who’s also a mother as she loses her daughter to dark forces outside of her control. The scribe took the idea and crafted a truly original script with its own detailed mythology. Bell then creatively adapted that lore as the movie’s helmer once production began.
Lord of Misrule follows Rebecca Holland (Tuppence Middleton), who has recently taken over as priest of a small town. When her young daughter Grace (Evie Templeton) goes missing at the local harvest festival, a desperate search begins.
The closer they edge towards finding Grace, the more secrets emerge from the town’s dark past. Soon, Rebecca must decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice to rescue her daughter from the grip of evil.
Bell, who also served as a producer on Lord of Misrule, generously took the time last week to talk abouLord of Misrulet directing the drama during an exclusive interview over Zoom. The filmmaker spoke about making the feature to help promote its upcoming theatrical and VOD release.
@William Brent Bell, director of LORD OF MISRULE, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Q: You directed the new horror film, Lord of Misrule, which was written by Tom de Ville. What was it about the script that convinced you to helm the drama?
William Brent Bell: I’m always looking for great projects. I wasn’t specifically looking for folk horror, even though I do love it.
My producing partner, James Tomlinson, read the script and told me, “You should read it – it’s great.” He doesn’t usually say that, so I read it immediately. I fell in love with it instantly because it checks so many boxes that I love about making movies and storytelling.
So I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” It took us awhile to get it going because COVID stalled things. Then we got the project back on its feet.
I was excited about immersing myself in a movie in the UK with all UK talent in the cast and crew, as well as locations. So it was a bit of a dream come true in some ways to tell a story like this as authentically as possible, as we were able to shoot in this beautiful village with an all-UK cast and crew. So it was very cool for me.
Q: Speaking about shooting the movie on location in the UK, how did you decide where you would shoot the project? How did the look of the locations help tell the film’s story?
William Brent Bell: A lot of times with movies, you’re cobbling together multiple areas to make it feel like one. I assumed that would maybe be what would happen with this film.
But then there was a great curve ball when I arrived. They said, “This village has shown interest in us shooting there.”
So we walked around this village, and it looked just like how I imagined the movie would look from the script; it was like the script came to life. That’s the great thing about the UK – there’s such great tradition, architecture and structures. The average age of a house where we shot is about 400 years. (Bell laughs.)
I never would have imagined such intricate details as I saw when I started looking at these locations. I saw how strange, old and haunting they are. So it was really inspiring to show up everyday and shoot there.
The location made the design very organic, as both the house and cast and crew have these backgrounds that naturally fit the film’s story. That made it that much more fun to film.
Q: Speaking about the actors, Lord of Misrule stars Tuppence Middleton, Ralph Ineson and Evie Templeton. How did you decide who to cast in the drama?
William Brent Bell: Tuppence Middleton is someone who I was a fan of already, so she was at the top of my list. It worked out that I got to go meet with her. She really responded to the script. Then we worked closely on shaping the specifics of her character. Having her be so invested was so important for me, as she’s a driving force in the movie.
Ralph Ineson is someone who I’ve worked with before. I love working with him and we’re great friends. I knew I wanted him to be involved, but I didn’t know which character I wanted him to play at first, and neither did he.
Originally, Jocelyn was written as a woman. For three or four years, we all imagined a 70-year-old woman in that part.
But then about a month before shooting, I had the idea to ask Ralph to play the character. So that was really interesting, and made the character really come to life in a way that nobody really expected.
Then finding Evie Templeton was left up to casting. There’s so much talent in the UK, but finding a really great child actor involves turning over every stone and looking at as many kids as we could to find the one that really jumped out. She was the one who did.
@Tuppence Middleton in LORD OF MISRULE, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Q: Once the actors signed on, how did you work with them to build their characters throughout the production?
William Brent Bell: Like I said, with Tuppence, she gave extensive notes on the script. So we worked on a draft that addressed the notes she had on her character. We worked on Rebecca’s motivations in every scene and what she was going through, and what would be believable in that respect.
Tuppence was also really involved in Rebecca’s look. It was her idea to get her perm; her hair was straight, and she was like, “Don’t freak out, but I want to get a perm.”
I was like, “Okay,” but I loved it because it was messy and looked the same in every scene. So it gave me a lot of flexibility in how we could edit the movie, if need be.
With Ralph, like I said, the character of Jocelyn was envisioned as a woman. So everyone was preparing for a witchy female character. When it instead became Ralph, we had to shift. I was going to say, he had a strong voice in it, no pun intended – overall, he has one of the strongest voices in the business.
We also discussed the specificity of how this guy dressed, and the fact that he probably didn’t wash under his fingernails. He also probably didn’t take showers, even though he wore a suit, which he probably hasn’t cleaned in a long time because he was lonely. It was really fun bringing that character to life.
Tom de Ville, the film’s writer, was thrown for a loop at first. He thought he was going to have to rewrite the character because it was written as a female. I was like, “No, you don’t have to change anything; let’s just let Ralph interpret what’s on the page.”
With everybody, it was a very fluid process. Things could – and would – change in every scene. We would be rewriting and shifting where we were going during the rehearsals. Everyone’s opinion was heard, as it was a real collaborative process.
Q: Besides working with the actors on creating their characters’ emotional arcs, what was it like collaborating with them as they crafted their physicality and stunt work?
William Brent Bell: Well, with Tuppence, she’s in almost every scene and going through something the whole time. So there’s a certain physicality to that – kind of a stoic intensity and sadness.
At times, the character had solemn, alone moments. But initially in the script, it was those types of moments you might have staring at your reflection in the mirror in the bathroom.
Tuppence was like, “Oh, she would be praying in all of those moments.” So that very much became a theme – she would always turn to her faith.
With Ralph in particular, he had just been injured while doing (the Disney+ fantasy adventure television series) Willow, which is why he was able to do the movie. He had broken his shoulder, so he was stuck not being able to work, which was perfect for the role of Jocelyn. But he also wasn’t used to not being as physical as he’s used to.
He also had to have his clothes off in the movie. So it was a fun process of him letting go enough to walk around a couple of times in the movie without his clothes on. The way he also brought the mask to life totally transformed what was already something cool.
So everyone had interesting perspectives on how they approached the physicality on the movie, especially at the end. Without giving too much away, there were some shifts. Ralph was extremely physical when he needed to be. They were both great in the film, especially when it came to the physicality.
Magnet Releasing is releasing Lord of Misrule in theaters and on VOD this Friday, December 8. The movie’s theatrical and VOD distribution comes after it had its World Premiere at the Screamfest Film Festival this past October.
@Ralph Ineson in LORD OF MISRULE, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Here’s the Trailer of the film.