Bad Times at the El Royale: Motel Memories

Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cailee Spaeny discuss their new crime thriller, its setting and its script.

In Bad Times at the El Royale, the new movie from writer/director Drew Goddard, a seemingly random group of seven individuals all intersect at a roadside motel on the border of California and Nevada that has clearly seen better days — like a lot of the characters themselves.

The eighth major character in the film is the El Royale itself, which struck a chord with cast member Jon Hamm. The former Mad Men star, who plays vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan in the film, says that places like the El Royale were a part of his childhood.

“Being from the Midwest, we didn’t have a lot of money, so when you went places, you drove, and when you drove places, you had to stop on the road,” recalls the actor. “And stopping on the road meant you stopped at Howard Johnson’s or Roadway Inn or what have you. It was never, like, the Ritz.”

Hamm, along with fellow cast members Dakota Johnson (Suspiria) and Cailee Spaeny (Pacific Rim: Uprising), sat down recently with Den of Geek to discuss the movie:

Goddard had most of the El Royale constructed as one set, so that the cast members and the camera could move about the entire place as if it was real. Spaeny adds that other elements on the set were real as well and not digitally added later:

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“Everything you see, the rain, the fire, was all really there,” says the young actress. “We had rain machines outside and the fire that you see at the end of the movie was very real.”

All that realism allowed the actors to feel as if they were in a play and immerse themselves in the rich and multi-layered characters that Goddard created for them, with the sparkling cast also including Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman and, in a memorable role unlike his work as Thor, Chris Hemsworth.

Bad Times at the El Royale opens in theaters this Friday (October 12).

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Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye