After the success of the first two Paranormal Activity movies, actor Chris Smith was a newcomer to the Paramount horror franchise when he signed on for Paranormal Activity 3. For Chris Smith, landing the role of Dennis, videographer boyfriend of Lauren Bittner’s Julie in the horror prequel, Paranormal Activity 3 was the perfect springboard jump from to new acting heights in Hollywood. For a young actor like Smith, landing a role in a film that made over $203 million at the box office isn’t a bad career move.
Ahead of Paranormal Activity 3 on Blu-ray and DVD on January 24, The Deadbolt spent a few spooky minutes with star Chris Smith to get the paranormal scoop on his activity in the film, working on set, and why he feels the Paranormal Activity movies resonate with fans.
THE DEADBOLT: Were you surprised by how well the movie debuted
CHRIS SMITH: No, I wasn’t. They really have that formula down, don’t they? They just know how do it. Leading up to the movie there was the right amount of buzz where I was like, wow, this is going to be big. I had a sneaking suspicion.
THE DEADBOLT: How did you relate to Dennis and what was going on in the house?
SMITH: When I found out what the movie was, it was exciting. The whole home video aspect of it, I actually reached out to a friend to kind of talk me through the history of home video and what it was like in the 80s. That was really interesting. The director also set me up with a guy who did these wedding videos in the 80s, so I got a little background on the technical stuff and that type of jargon. As far as the relationship between Julie and the kid, I’m kind of family oriented so I had no problem relating to that kind of thing.
THE DEADBOLT: What was the most difficult scene to shoot? Was it later on in the movie?
SMITH: Yeah, there were a couple iterations of the ending. Having to repeat it a couple of times became a little tiresome. Especially some of the ways they were thinking about doing it. So that was pretty difficult.
THE DEADBOLT: Since you come from comedy, was it easier to handle some of the improv on set in terms of the unexpected?
SMITH: Yeah, totally. It was a lot of fun for me actually. Ariel [Shulman] and Henry [Joost], the directors, they would let the camera keep rolling after they got what they wanted to get. So that was fun for me. We would try a lot of different things and that was a lot of fun.
THE DEADBOLT: Why do you think these movies connect so much with fans?
SMITH: I think it’s sort of the way people relate to their house, I guess. Everyone’s been alone in their house before. Everyone’s had that sensation. You know, objects on the table or there’s a shift, or something like that. People have these wild imaginations when they’re home alone or when it’s nighttime. I think that’s where people connect to it.
THE DEADBOLT: Were you a big horror guy before you went into the film?
SMITH: Not really, actually. I was the kind of guy when I was a kid who would fast-forward through the tense scenes to get to the gory stuff. The way I would play it off was that I was tough, so I wanted to see the gory stuff. But I just didn’t want to sit through all of the scary stuff before the gory parts.
THE DEADBOLT: Were you intimidated at all going into such a big franchise?
SMITH: I wasn’t. It was due in large part to the group behind these pictures. They’re very cool people, all of them. From the casting directors to the producer, Jason Blum, everyone was very welcoming. They said that it would be a fun summer and it was.
THE DEADBOLT: Is it true that you just came off of The Reluctant Fundamentalist?
SMITH: Yes. It’s a film based on the book of the same name. It’s sort of a political thriller that’s directed by Mira Nair, she’s incredible. It’s independently financed. It was a lot different than Paranormal Activity 3. It was a completely different experience. Mira is just an incredible auteur, a great mind and fun. She also encouraged improv on the set, so there were some slight similarities. It’s just a great movie.