Bad Times at the El Royale: Surprises Left and Right

Jeff Bridges and others from the cast of the new noir thriller say the script and characters hooked them in.

Bad Times at the El Royale asks this burning question: what happens if you put a handful of terrific actors in front of a camera, give them some meaty characters and plot points to work with, and then let them do their thing?

The answer is that you get this noir(ish) crime thriller directed and written by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods). The set-up is a classic one: seven different people show up at the El Royale, a one-time hotspot and roadside motel on the border of Nevada and California that has seen much better days. But who are these people, and are any of them actually who they say they are?

“When I read a script like this or watch a movie like this one, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before,’” says Jeff Bridges, who plays the elderly Father Flynn. “The rhythms are all off — different, you know, and there are surprises left and right. You never know what’s gonna happen. You’re constantly surprised. I love that.”

In addition to Bridges, the cast includes Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailie Spaeny and Chris Hemsworth. Have a look:

“Every person’s character was specific to them,” says Erivo, who plays a nightclub singer named Darlene Sweet. “Each detail was part of each character from the discussion that (Goddard) had with each one of us.”

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All of the actors get a chance to shine in Goddard’s rollercoaster of a story, in which even the shabby, enigmatic and oddly empty El Royale itself is not what it first appears to be. But the fun is figuring out the real story and how all the pieces fit, and in Bad Times at the El Royale, they fit in ways you might least expect.

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