Howdy, folks! While this winter hasn’t been quite consistent with its chills, production company DARKSTAR pictures is far more reliable. Their latest offering is writer/director Corey Deshon’s DAUGHTER, released today on digital, On Demand, and In Theaters, starring Casper Van Dien (STARSHIP TROOPERS). Check out the trailer:
DAUGHTER takes a fairly tired trope and draws fresh blood from a younger iteration. Sparingly orchestrated with a small cast consisting of Casper Van Dien as Father, Vivien Ngô as Daughter, Elyse Dinh as Mother, and Ian Alexander as Son, the film has a Pandemic-era claustrophobia to its timeless setting. Shot on film, the experience toys with the viewer’s perception of time, place, and the structure of family. DAUGHTER is Father’s movie, though Ngô’s portrayal as Daughter is certainly a standout.
I personally loved DAUGHTER and found the experience to be vastly different than my expectations. We’ve seen countless iterations of the “Abduct a Pretty Girl and Force Her Into Your Psycho Version of Family” movie, so when I sat down to watch this one I didn’t expect too much. Deshon’s vision is so fully-realized yet intentionally vague, allowing the viewer to get lost within the labyrinthine possibilities in its unfilled spaces. What is real? What is Father’s design? What are the books in which they write? What is the secret in Son’s blood? How many Daughters have come before? Is the Beat truly Hot in Kentucky?
I got the opportunity to speak with Casper Van Dien about his involvement in DAUGHTER, and I can say unequivocally that this is one of the most high-energy interviews I’ve ever conducted. Casper is an ageless and excitable actor, passionate about his craft and having people enjoy his work. I think the last conversation I had with an actor who was this energetic was Lulu Wilson for BECKY and she was fourteen. Casper is 54 and shows no signs of growing up any time soon. He’s also one of the busiest people I’ve chatted with; check out the slew of films he has coming out towards the end of the interview. (Oh, and for the BECKY fans, a sequel is on the way.)
Eric McClanahan - Good morning.
Casper Van Dien - Good morning! How ya doing?
EM - I’m great; how are you?
CVD - I’m good, thank you.
EM - Fantastic! Thanks for talking to me today. We’re talking about DAUGHTER. Tell me how you got aboard this project.
CVD - Did you see it?
EM - Yes.
CVD - Oh, you did. Oh, good. I’m glad. Did you like it?
EM - I loved it.
CVD - Oh, awesome! I’m so glad!
EM - It’s great, and I was wondering if you got the script first and you were captivated by that or if the director talked you into it…
CVD - 100% the script. My manager sent me the script, goes “Your agent really likes this; I’m not sure.” And my agent was like “You HAVE to do this!” and I read it and thought “Oh my God, I HAVE to do this! I love it!” And my manager was like “Really? I don’t know if I get it.” and I said “Oh my God, it’s SO good! It’s SO GOOD! It’s a great script!” And the dialogue! I immediately started to look up the dialogue, get the quotes from the bible, the quotes from the different authors; I was going through it with a feverish hunger, just because I had to know. I was so curious. And then talking to Corey, picking his brain, even on set. That director and writer, Corey Deshon, I’d ask him a question, and he would go [pause, a finger in the air] “... let me get back to you.” And then he’d go off and think about it, and I’d watch him, and he’d be thinking about it, and I’d do other things. He’d come back to me five, ten minutes later and he would explain to me why it would either work, why it wouldn’t work, or what we would have to do to make it work. It was so interesting. He was so creative, and I loved that. I thought he was such an interesting character study and I thought his character, the way he wrote, that he based this loosely off of things, and I know there are people who are always being abducted and whatnot, so it could loosely be based on many things; when you say that, that can be a very loose term. But, still it was interesting for me because all of this was believable and all these people (the cast and crew) were friends beforehand; mostly a Vietnamese cast and then this one old white dude… But, uh, in a creepy way. I just combed my hair down the middle for it and I had my beard and I asked “Hey Corey, what do you think of this?” and he’d go “Perfect!” So I would leave my house and my wife and kids would go “Oh my God, you’re so creepy! Just get away!” They didn’t even know the script, they didn’t read the script, they didn’t look at it, they didn’t know what I was doing. They were like “Why are you doing this?” I’d go to set, and I’d leave the set, and I’d still look like that and they’re saying “You’re so creepy. I don’t get this.” So they were so glad when I wasn’t playing that character anymore, not even knowing what I was playing, not knowing anything of what I was doing. And I just had so much fun, so much fun being him. I know that’s a terrible thing, because “Father” is not such a good person, but I really enjoyed it!
EM - Well, Father is such a tightrope walk between being paternal and being menacing, and I thought you did that really well. When we first meet your character, we’d scared shitless of him, but he has to have a paternal manner to him when he’s in the home with his family. So what was that like, making that tightrope walk of making him, in his version “loving” but also a terrible person?
CVD - That’s a great question and I think the reason why he is this way is because he completely and utterly loves and adores his son. Now, he might love Daughter and he might love Wife but those are conditional, and that’s if they follow him. Son he unconditionally loves, but Son does follow him, and there’s something that we’re not sure of; there’s something off in this. It’s so great, because the whole film is shot on film, which I haven’t done in forever. The Polaroids were vintage Polaroids, from the first Polaroid cameras ever. And then the cameras were like what we were shooting on for STARSHIP TROOPERS. Not even as fancy as the ones we used on STARSHIP TROOPERS and that was 26 years ago that we filmed that, 25 since it came out. And then the old camera that we had was a 1970s camera that we’d shoot all the stills on. The clothes, a lot of them were vintage clothes, and some of the things in the house were vintage and some things weren’t. The plates were vintage. Things allowed for this weirdness; this sense of “When is this?” and “What is it going from?” and all of that added to the mystique for me and added to the character. And their relationship, that they all knew each other from before and being friends, that all added to it, too, because it gave them something different from me even though they were in to me and had to listen to me because my character talks the whole time. That’s all I do in this, basically, and when they’re in the scene with me they don’t talk so much.
EM - Yeah, Father does kind of command the room. What I loved about the film was that you’re given so much exposition, you’re told so much about the world, but there are still questions that are unanswered, and I wanted to ask your opinion on some things. *SPOILER AHEAD* Do you think Son is actually Father’s biological son?
CVD - Ah, good question. That one I was debating on while we were filming and I might’ve even asked Corey, and he might have put it back in my boat, to let me just navigate that one myself. I’d like to think that he doesn’t know, but I’d like to think that, at the end, when she takes the mask off, I like to think that something happened.
EM - Oh yeah. It’s very heavily alluded, and I was like “Yeah, it’s not going to end well for her.”
CVD - It might’ve been even more heavily alluded to in the script, and so whereas somebody like you who is very astute and actually is a student of film and its study would see that, other people might not catch it. So I was wondering if it was a mistake not to make it so obvious but when people like you get it I know that it was done right. And when my wife saw it she was like “Oh that’s good” I knew it was done right then, too. Still it’s interesting for me because sometimes, I remember when STARSHIP TROOPERS came out, a lot of the press or publicists, it seemed to go over their heads, and I think a lot of that was the way that Sony originally publicized the film; I think there was a fault somewhere in that; they kind of missed making it a reverse propaganda film, which is what it is, but they shouldn’t have said that. They should’ve said propaganda and then that would’ve annoyed more people but still would’ve made a lot of people get more of the satire, because when it first came out it was missed. This one I was afraid that a lot of people might miss that and a lot of the film depends on that moment, I think, and the fact that you got it makes me so happy.
EM - Excellent. Now, you said your wife screened the film with you; after watching it, did she forgive your physical choices?
CVD - No, she hates that look. Literally, she was like “Thank God, you don’t do that anymore!” Everyday she would plead “Casper, could you please just don’t go with your hair like that and you please not show up with it.” And I’d say “Ah, I need to for me.” She’d say “My God. It’s really disturbing me, and it’s disturbing your daughters.” And I’d go…
EM - “Then it’s working.”
CVD - “That’s exactly what I need to hear.” She goes “I don’t know why you need to hear that. Can’t you just do it on set?” “No, I need to go to set like this. I need to drive like. I need to be in that.” I don’t always need that, but for this one I needed it. And so far the response has been from a lot of people that maybe I did the right thing on this one. I don’t always do the right thing. I fuck up a lot. But, maybe, this one is okay.
EM - I’d agree. One thing I gotta ask and I know all my readers are going to want to know is what is your skin care regimen, you have not aged!
CVD - Ah, you are so kind! I don’t really - my wife sometimes puts some things on me, usually I just use soap and water, but whatever soap she has me using nowadays, she cares about me, so does things right. When I’m in a hotel I just use the hotel shampoo and water; I don’t carry my own, but she puts some little things to try to make me do it, but I never can remember, so she has to do it for me when we’re together, so I don’t remember. I just - I don’t eat bad food, I’m a vegan, so I only eat vegan food. I don’t drink alcohol, I haven’t for 29 years, and I don’t do drugs, and I drink a lot of water. I think that’s what it is. I don’t know what else to say. I had acne when I was younger, but I’m not as hormonal as I was.
EM - I figured it was outside assistance or there’s a painting in your basement that has aged horribly.
CVD - I tripped over my dog the other day and hit my eye so I have a little scar under here right now.
EM - Can’t see it. You’re doing okay.
CVD - It happened on my birthday, on my 54th. I tripped over my dog and landed right on my post and almost knocked myself. I had to get my eye glued back together and everything; it was really gross.
EM - That’s not the best gift.
CVD - No, it wasn’t. I didn’t look so good,
EM - So DAUGHTER is being released, I think, later this month. What else do you have coming out?
CVD - DAUGHTER is released on February 10th it’ll be On Demand and on DVDs on May 9th and it’ll also be in select theaters on the 10th as well. MAD HEIDI is out right now on MadHeidi.com. I play a crazy Swiss dictator. You’ve got to check that out. They do some STARSHIP TROOPERS references in it. It’s awesome. I do a German/Swiss accent, it’s insane. And then COUNTY LINE: NO FEAR with Tom Wopat, who played Bo Duke from “Dukes of Hazzard”. I play the antagonist in that; I get to wear a black Cowboy hat. That’s out right now on Amazon and VUDU. And then I’m in HEART OF CHAMPION, it’s a horse movie I did with Edward Furlong and that is out on February 21st On Demand and in select Theaters. BATTLE FOR SAIPAN is out right now, on Amazon, a great war movie with Louis Mandylor, he’s great in it. and Jeff Fahey. And then MONSTERS OF CALIFORNIA, that Tom DeLonge directed, is coming out soon. Tom DeLonge from Blink 182?
EM - Yeah.
CVD - It’s kind of like an AMBLIN movie, you’re gonna love it, it’s so cool. It’s got all that alien stuff in it ‘cause he loves all that. So that’s so cool. Then I’ve got HUNT CLUB coming out with Mena Suvari and Mickey Rourke, too. I’ve got a lot of things.
EM - Yeah, you do.
CVD - I did all of these films over the last four years and they’re all coming out right now! People are going to think “What is he doing? Is he doing so many films at once?” but really, like, this movie, DAUGHTER, we shot before the pandemic.
EM - Oh, wow!
CVD - We shot it, actually, pre-pandemic, and people think “No, you couldn’t have done that. This fits for a pandemic film.”
EM - Yeah, it’s so prescient.
CVD - But we shot it all before, and I think it’s so interesting, just because of the air quality issue, with him going outside and taking the mask off. But, even then, it’s just interesting that that was coming up just before all of that other stuff was coming down.
EM - Yeah, sounds like Corey has his finger on the pulse.
CVD - Yeah, he’s so interesting. He’s such a smart man, and so fun to listen to, too. He’s a good looking guy who can write and direct, comedy and suspense; he’s got a lot going for him. The guy’s going to have the whole world in his hand, I think.
EM - Well, it sounds like you will, too, with all the things you’ve got coming out, so congratulations on your renaissance, Casper.
CVD - Oh, thanks, Eric, I really appreciate it. And thanks for talking to me.
EM - IMy pleasure. I think we are out of time so best of luck on the movie, thanks for talking to me today, and I can’t wait to talk to you again next time.
CVD - Yeah, thank you. And if you tag me in any of the Twitter or Instagram or any of that let me know and I’ll repost and follow back and all that other crap.
EM - Will do!
CVD - Eric, thanks, man. Great to talk to you. I’m glad you liked it.
EM - I really did. Thank you.
CVD - I’m so glad! Did you see MAD HEIDI yet?
EM - Not yet. I’ve seen the propaganda posters pop up on my social media with the cheese backdrop and it looks very interesting.
CVD - It’s insane.It’s bonkers. That one and DAUGHTER have just been cleaning up at festivals all over the world. And I just think that’s great.
EM - All right. Take care.
CVD - Thanks, Eric!
DAUGHTER is available now In Theater, on Digital, and On Demand. It will be released on DVD May 9th.
Until next time, take care and stay sane!
-McEric, aka Eric McClanahan-