The darker side of faith in the RITE

Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Wolfman”) plays Father Lucas, a controversial exorcist known for pushing the darkest edges of his spirituality in the service of God, in New Line Cinema’s terrifying thriller “The Rite.”

Inspired by true events, “The Rite” follows skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), who reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican.  While in Rome, he meets an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas who introduces him to the darker side of his faith.

“Father Lucas is somewhat infamous among the clergy,” describes producer Tripp Vinson.  “He has performed thousands of exorcisms and is the one priest who has been in the trenches fighting the Devil for many, many years.  This is not your average priest.  There’s a sense of ambiguity and danger about him.  To some, he seems crazy, but at the same time, he has genuine warmth and kindness.  Anthony Hopkins plays that duality brilliantly.”

“What intrigued me about Father Lucas was wondering what his own position is in the world of theology,” comments Hopkins.  “He’s a Jesuit, but he’s multi-dimensional.  When Michael meets him, he doesn’t know what to make of him because the older priest is just an irascible and impatient man.  And when this young man challenges his beliefs, Father Lucas says, ‘Relish your doubts.  Nurture them.  Be friends with your doubts because those are the things that will drive you on.’  Father Lucas holds doubts of his own, until terrifying things begin to happen to him.”

As  Father Lucas, Hopkins provided a tremendous center of gravity for the story and its characters.  “Obviously, he brings a lot,” director Mikael Håfström confirms.  “He’s the heart and soul of this movie.  This character of Father Lucas is fascinating in that we don’t really know who he is and what his beliefs are; if he’s just a simple magician or if he is the real thing.  There are so many sides to him, and Anthony captured them all in a very compelling way.  To get the opportunity to work with a great actor like him was fantastic.”

The director’s sober yet visceral approach to bringing to life the world of exorcists and demons made a profound impression on Hopkins.  “Mikael doesn’t overstate things,” praises the actor.  “He wants to make it very mundane where you’re in broad daylight and everything is normal, except that underneath the normality something really horrifying is happening.  He moves his camera very quietly through the room, as if somebody is witnessing this.”

As with Hopkins, for Håfström, making “The Rite” was in some ways a mirror to the journey of its central character.  “We all search for certain things in life, and as a filmmaker, you have a chance to investigate subjects in a unique way,” he says.  “It can be an historic time or special place, or it can be a phenomenon, like exorcism.  I found myself more and more intrigued by this exploration.  It was a way for me to venture into this fascinating world.”

Opening soon across the Philippines, New Line Cinema’s “The Rite” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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